This winter and spring we hear again disastrous news from sudden temperature rises and falls, leading to thick ice-crusts on reindeer pastures that block reindeer’s access to their pastures. While the most famous of these events happened in 2014 in the Centre of the Yamal Peninsula, West Siberia, the phenomenon is known probably to reindeer herders all over the Arctic, and several of our colleagues have extensively published on this. In Yamal, however, this does not endanger reindeer herding as a livelihood altogether. The scale in the world’s number one reindeer herding region is different from more marginal regions, which also have less possibilities to help with emergency measures in comparison to the Yamal government that is one of Russia’s richest financially. The winter/spring 2021 icing event in northernmost Yamal raises to me a new question on how we study the movement of adaptation-knowledge between wild animals, domestic animals and humans. Read below how.Continue reading “Rain on snow – how do people and reindeer learn to survive?”
Piers Vitebsky and Roza Laptander are going to give an interesting example on how to de-provincialise Arctic social sciences. This time on a topic that could hardly be more timely: they refer to their elaborate ethnographies of indigenous Siberians’ communications with the fire spirit to explain why apps to track the corona virus may fail.
They hold their talk virtually on May 4, 2021, 4.30-6.00 PM (London time) in the University of Cambridge MIASU seminar series. The link was sent to the email list of MIASU only. If you want to listen to their talk, please contact one of the authors ask them if they can share the link with you directly. The event is announced at the MIASU website here
Below is their abstract. I have read a draft paper and can only recommend it. It’s thought provoking for its link of two so contrasting settings, and for its reflections on theories of subjectivity, privacy, anonymity and – of course – spiritual encounters.
Abstract: “We contrast how the UK’s Covid-19 track and trace system gives warnings about exposure to infection, with how the domestic fire in a nomadic reindeer herder’s tent crackles warning about dangers of the Siberian landscape. This is an issue less of epistemology than of signalling, trust and coherence. We locate differing configurations of trust and suspicion in social and political context. The technocratic Covid app de-personalizes tracing, as individualism and concerns about privacy block channels of knowing and narrativity, and encourage non-compliance and conspiracy theories. In its sociality and acute attention to the environment, the nomad’s fire evokes not the epidemiological model of the besieged bounded body but a divinatory openness to space, time and event which ironically resembles an alternative model of the viral encounter.”
This has been a long journey and a lot of work several years: jointly with a number of interdisciplinary colleagues, we published our article on the ranking of Arctic extractive industries in terms of environmental responsibility. We might think “how is this related to Arctic Anthropology?”, but it actually is a lot, both because of the content the method we applied are anthropologically inspired. On top of that, we also run an applied agenda with this article, and will be happy if readers further disseminate it in their own networks and make this ranking an “influencer” for the extractive industries, motivating them to perform better for the sake of the environment and the people inhabiting it.Continue reading “The Arctic Environmental Responsibility Index – oil and gas better than mining?”
This is dedicated to a long term and very good friend, Konstantin Ochepkov, who passed away in Siberia way too early yesterday, just a little over 50 years old. His body was not able to retain victory over covid-19. I have known Kostya (how most of us called him) since I first came to Yamal in the late 1990s, when he lived in the then small village of Yar-Sale, the administrative centre of the Yamal Peninsula.
Just found out from the local news that in the Novyi Urengoy hospital two Nenets elders survived covid-19 and recovered from pneumonia, at the age of more than 100 years! These elders are so tough! I have also had the honour of meeting quite many people over 100 years old in the tundra particularly during our oral history project, who lived most of their lives with minimal imported stuff: eating mostly meat and fish, bread and tea. Little sugar, being outdoors 24/7 in Yamal, or in the chum, which in terms of fresh air is basically also outdoors:) . This shows that a lifestyle like that is perfectly healthy for the human body, much more so than a life in towns, let alone apartment blocks in skyscrapers… I dedicate this entry to all elders friends I have encountered throughout my field trips since the 1990s, and thank them for their openness, cooperation and their teachings.
Dear readers, the University of Lapland offers four full-time PhD positions in an open call. So basically any topic in Arctic Social Sciences go. I would very much hope that we get many really good candidates from Arctic Anthropology to these jobs, and can fill some of these positions with anthropologists. The positions are probably tied to moving to Rovaniemi, full or at least part time. Please read the job ad here and hopefully compose a good application. If any interested anthropology candidates have background questions they can contact Florian Stammler too.
In spring we were proud to host the world’s first anthropological PhD defence in english by a Nenets colleague, Roza Laptander. Now we are happy that she got her first postdoc employment in the big EU Charter project that looks at biodiversity changes, reindeer herding and the climate. We continue working with Roza in work package three of that project, and in this function she shared thoughts on socio-linguistic research, the Yamal Nenets and her work on silence and stories in a video, which you can watch here.
Listening to the presentation of Ms Kanae from the Japanese cabinet office at the Japan-Finland Joint Committee meeting on Cooperation in Science and Technology, I was impressed how human social evolution as a concept continues to play such a significant role even in concrete decision making. Japan accepted a holistic radical development plan called society 5.0 which bases on the idea of human evolution since the early hunter-gatherer societies to the future.
According to the presentation of Ms Kanae, the distinctive feature of society 5.0 is how cyberspace is integrated with physical space in a sophisticated way. And how economic growth is reconciled with resolution of social issues, which was not as high on the agenda in the previous social development models. The aim is a “human-centered and inclusive society” . The Japanese government plans to work towards this with what they call the “Moonshot Research and Development Programme “. It consists of seven goals, the first of which being mainly about well-being, namely ” Realization of a society in which human beings can be free from limitations of body, brain, space, and time by 2050″.
I liked the unconventional way in which a government official presented this vision of their society of the future, where they want to work towards creating conditions where “everyday life is happy and fun”!
This makes me think that with the prominent position of happiness and fun not only purposeful and eaudaemonic notions, but also hedonistic notions of well-being play an important role in the society of the future. This is probably also very good news for young people, who in our current research project have emphasized the significance of opportunities to enhance the fun-aspect of life in the North, as particularly Lukas Allemann and Ria Adams shall emphasize in their forthcoming publications.
for many of our readers Markku Lehmuskallio won’t need an introduction. He is a world acclaimed film maker, and a friend of our team. Some of you may remember their previous visit, when we hosted them with some reindeer meat. See here https://arcticanthropology.org/2012/08/31/anastasia-lapsui-and-markku-lehmusskallio-guests-of-the-team-in-rovaniemi/
This time Markku continues his loyalty to us in the North and comes on Friday 30 October to Rovaniemi for screening his most recent film, “ANERCA-, BREATH OF LIFE“. The screening itself is in the Rovaniemi cinema BioRex at 16:30. But before that we have the honour to meet with Markku and his colleague, Juha Elomäki, for an hour, at 15:00, in the Thule room in the Arctic Centre. Due to covid-19 we cannot invite everybody, but a limited number of people to this event. If you want to come and you are not a member of the anthropology team in Rovaniemi, please write a short note that you intend to come, to fstammle(at)ulapland.fi , so we can keep track of the numbers of people (also for cooking enough coffee:))
Here some background about the film, which is a co-production between father and son – Markku and Johannes Lehmuskallio:
ANERCA-, BREATH OF LIFE (Finland 2020) 86 min, JURY PRIZE RÉGION DE NYON (CHF 10’000): MOST INNOVATIVE FEATURE FILM
A history of conquests and land exploitation we never heard of. A film where ethnography is looking for a new mesmerizing language, giving us the complexity of reality.
A narrative film about the world of people living in the Arctic, their situation as it is right now.
The film progresses through the power of music, dance, performance and depiction of everyday life. Gaining your daily sibsistence, the ordinary life is the central source for music and other kinds of selfexpression. It is life itself breathing.
Markku Lehmuskallio has devoted the majority of his films to the indigenous people of the Arctic Circle, co-directed with Anastasia Lapsui, his Nenets partner. In Anerca, Breath of Life co-created with his son Johannes, the Finnish filmmakers set off to discover, among others, the Chukchi, Inuit, and Sami peoples, who have had to learn to live, from Russia to Alaska, on territories whose borders are redefined by white conquerors in the name of a deadly ideology of progress. Bringing together testimonies, archives, sung or danced performances caught on camera, the two directors are not exploring the traditional lifestyles of these nomad communities—in the manner of Flaherty and the seminal Nanook of the North—mistreated by predatory policies that have sought to deny their irreducible difference, but what they call a “vital breath”. Their poetic and contemporary ethnography focuses much more on the inner world of these peoples, inseparable from forms of existence shaped over time, like so many seeds in a shared imagination that continues to animate bodies and spirits. (Text by Emmanuel Chicon)