We don’t survive – we live here!

These were the introductory words of Alexandr Ivanov, the head of the Olenek district in Yakutia, in his discussion during our session on indigenous people’s territorial governance under industrial development at the Northern Forum for sustainable development in Yakutsk, 25 – 26 September 2019 (full session programme).

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practicing governance on the land: herding reindeer through a gold deposit in Neryungryi District, Yakutia

He thought it is useful to remind researchers from any field and country that there is a tendency in scholarship to portray indigenous life in the Russian Arctic as a struggle for survival, rather than a quest for harnessing opportunities, achieve well-being and happiness, and just living at home. This stems from the old idea that the Arctic is a resource frontier with a tough climate rather than home for people. Social scientists doing Arctic Studies have acknowledged this long ago, and published on it before. Continue reading “We don’t survive – we live here!”

Call for Workshop contributions “Gender in Polar Research: Gendered field work conditions, epistemologies and legacies”

A two-day workshop in the framework of

Arctic Science Summit Week 2020, Akureyri, Iceland, 29-30(TBC) March 2020

funded by IASC – the International Arctic Science Committee

Gender in the Arctic

The IASC Social Sciences and Humanities Working Group (WG), together with IASC’s Cryosphere, Marine, and Terrestrial WGs, invites you to a unique cross-disciplinary workshop attempting to bring together the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities in order to discuss and reflect on the gendered nature of Polar research.
The workshop will combine three strands of debate that have thus far not been discussed systematically: (1) Doing science in the 21st century in a way that departs from but also pays careful attention to the history of exploration and colonial endeavours as “heroic” and masculine activities – while a masculine image still seems to dominate the methodologies and practices of Arctic and Polar research. (2) The still existing gender gap when it comes to female researchers in hard sciences, their career prospects, and their sometimes difficult working conditions as women in the field. Critiques of the gender gap and gendered research work have thus far neglected the diversity aspects of queer and gender minority (LGBTQI) researchers. They face particular challenges while working in a still largely heteronormative research environment as it is described for research stations, vessels or tundra/taiga camps. (3) The gendered composition of researchers as actors and the gendered spaces of conducting research, including the field sites, have an important impact on research interests, research design, research ethics and epistemology. The gender bias affects the research subject and methodology, and Polar research can learn from and communicate with other fields of science about how to ensure a high standard of equality, sensitivity to issues of marginalization, and ethical production of science.

We invite participants of the ASSW 2020 from natural and social sciences to pop by at the workshop and to join the discussions and break-out groups. Participants will be engaged through alternative formats to gain a maximum of knowledge exchange as well as to map out the state of the art and ideas about where to go from there.

We invite abstracts for a great variety of contributions in conversation with the three themes outlined above: besides as a set of classic academic papers (15 min) and short inputs (5 min) (e.g. sharing experiences or introducing NGOs and movements).

In particular, the workshop facilitates discussions and break-out group work for examining pressing issues in the thematic fields based on individual, group and scholarly experience and activism. Audiovisual or artistic contributions are very welcome. Also join us for volunteering as an organiser of a break-out group.

Submission of proposal and request for funding

Describe your contribution with an abstract of max 250 words and submit at the latest on the 1st of October 2019 to: gertrude.saxinger@univie.ac.at and otto.habeck@uni-hamburg.de

We can fund a limited number of participants up to 800 euros each. Priority will be given to early-career researchers. Please, indicate your financial need in your message to us.

For more information see IASSA Working Group Gender in the Arctic

https://gender-arctic.jimdo.com/

 

Arctic youth well-being reserach project WOLLIE goes to Kola Peninsula

Last week, the mid-term meeting of our research project on youth in Arctic industrial settlements (WOLLIE) took place in Kirovsk and Revda, two mono-industrial cities in the Murmansk Region, North-West Russia. While discussing our project goals and achievements so far, we also visited several places. Being highly industrialised, densely populated and relatively compact, the Murmansk Region showcases the huge diversity of mono-industrial settings in the Arctic.

The WOLLIE team in Revda, where the local teenagers showed us their favourite hang-out place: the ruins of a Soviet-time building project

Single-industry towns are widespread all over the Arctic. What can they offer to their young generation inhabitants? Why do young people want to leave, or to stay? What can be done to make them stay, or return? These are the main questions that WOLLIE is trying to answer. Continue reading “Arctic youth well-being reserach project WOLLIE goes to Kola Peninsula”

The perfect place for comparative border studies?

Being here in Blagoveshensk (for a conference on a different topic), I realise how cool this place is for border studies.

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On the left side the Chinese skyscrapers of Heihe, on the right the Amur embankment. The tower is a control tower, I guess for the border, but also for the safety of the swimmers in summer, because it’s placed at a public beach:)

Continue reading “The perfect place for comparative border studies?”

Do animal livelihoods in the Arctic suffer from global warming?

This was one of the questions covered in an interdisciplinary exhibition on the effects of global warming and melting permafrost in Yakutia, on display in the Hokkaido museum of northern peoples. The exhibition with the title Thawing Earth – Global Warming in Central Yakutia is a nice example of co-production of knowledge between natural and social scientists and outreach experts, in a Japanese research project entitled “Arctic Challenge for Sustainability (ArCS)”. Organisers Atsushi Nakada from the Hokkaido Museum and Hiroki Takakura from the Centre for Northeast Asian Studies in Japan connected the available science evidence on climate change in Central Yakutia with practitioners’ knowledge on the effects. For a western visitor to the

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these bumps are one of the reasons of less grazing land available for hay-making

Continue reading “Do animal livelihoods in the Arctic suffer from global warming?”

Arctic Youth well-being project participating in circumpolar comparison

The team of the joint Finnish-Russian project studying well-being among youth in Arctic

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Ria Adams presenting her work within WOLLIE on opportunities and threats for young people’s well-being, on the example of the Pyhäjoki fieldwork

industrial cities (WOLLIE) was invited to participate in the circumpolar study on Arctic Youth and sustainable futures, headed Joan Nymard Larsen, and the Arctic Human Development Report and Arctic Social Indicators editors team. At a meeting in Stockholm in the beautiful building of Nordregio, we talked among 17 Arctic social scientists about the determinants for well-being among youth in the Arctic. Continue reading “Arctic Youth well-being project participating in circumpolar comparison”

A new book about Yukaghir people

Our anthropological team would like to congratulate Dr Cecilia Odé on her new book Life with the Yukaghir: North-East Siberia’s oldest tundra people. The book was published this summer in the Netherlands. Cecilia wrote it as a diary about her linguistic fieldwork trips to the far Northeast of Siberia.  Continue reading “A new book about Yukaghir people”

Assessing damage to indigenous cultures by industrial development with maths?

I just read an interesting post by the Russian news agency TASS (in Russian) announcing proudly the launch of a new method for assessing damage to indigenous culture and livelihood during industrial development of the Arctic. Russian scholars in this field know that there has been long a discussion about how the only Russian law on the anthropological expert review (etnologicheskaia expertiza) in Sakha (Yakutia) does not duly consider damage to culture and instead has a clear focus on compensation of material damage to natural resources that indigenous people use, as Ivanova has shown (2016:1237).

Now it seems that the working group of scholars and parliament committee members that want to push ahead with a Russian-wide law on the etnologicheskaia expertiza want to focus on assessing impacts with a participatory method that bases on a mathematical model. However, from the one article that I found by one of the authors it remains unclear to me if there would be aspects considered such as loss of spiritual knowledge, language, values and other aspects where indigenous cultures differ from the dominant societies of the state they live in.

While this is certainly a timely discussion, I wondered from reading that news post how the new scientific method advertised there wants to reliably assess such damage using mathematical formula only? The text says that researchers from the Russian Economic University and Kuban University have developed a mathematical formula allowing to consider the interests of all stakeholders around investment projects in the Arctic. In the text, economics Professor Violetta Gassiy is quoted as advertising this new method as a good replacement, because the method according to which damage has been assessed so far considers 101 criteria and therewith would be “very complicated”. But I wonder, isn’t it dangerous to simplify impact on local and indigenous cultures according to a ‘one fits it all’ formula? Countless anthropological research has shown that cultures are hugely diverse and function in a very tightly integrated reciprocal relationship between people and their specific environments.

I don’t want to dump the method of our colleagues prematurely, but I want to raise awareness of the fact that just by considering what local people express as their immediate interest in an industrial project may not necessarily be the best assessment of its possibly detrimental effects to culture. So far I thought that one of the advantages of the etnologicheskaia expertiza model in Russia is that it actually relies on trained anthropologists to assess JOINTLY with local experts the long-term impact of an industrial project on culture. This, I think, goes BEYOND the hopes of members in a community to get one-off payments as compensation or employment in the industry during the project life-cycle. I am not arguing that the hopes and opportunities for local people from industrial development projects are not important to consider. It is great if colleagues in Russia have come up with a good formula to do so.

All I am saying is that by no means does this replace the need for thorough assessment of cultural impacts by trained anthropologists together with local practitioners using our main method of participant observation.

A fair impact assessment must consider hopes, opportunities as well as threats and dangers of industrial development for indigenous societies. It must not be limited to assessing compensation payments for damage that occurs on the way, but should show avenues for PREVENTING such damage to happen in the first place. Together with colleagues we have highlighted this need for going beyond damage compensation towards damage prevention in social and cultural impact assessment more than a decade ago. With continued exploration and extraction of energy and mineral resources in the Arctic, this need did not diminish but increase, but the prevalent extractivist approach to natural resource governance does not always consider this need, as we have shown recently in a special volume on the topic.

I really welcome if this new method in Russia, if it becomes applied, is going to be seen as a tool to meet the need for participatory action together with local people in assessing their immediate needs, but that it would not replace our longer term joint challenge of trying to maintain culturally specific lifestyles of local and indigenous peoples in the Arctic basing on their unique adaptation to the Arctic environment and their knowing how to use the renewable natural resources in it in a reciprocal and sustainable way.

Воспоминания коренных жителей Севера о национальных и вспомогательных школах-интернатах – Testimonies about boarding schools among indigenous people in Russia’s North

English text see below.

The native boarding school in Lovozero –
Национальная школа-интернат в Ловозере

Цель данной статьи – предоставить слово бывшим ученикам интернатов Севера России, с особенным упором на вспомогательных школах-интернатах советского периода, в народе приобретавшие печальное прозвище «дебилки». Материалы являются свидетельством событий с 1960-х по 1980-е годы. Я собирал эти материалы в проекте по устной истории в течение последних лет и решил опубликовать здесь небольшую часть в связи с недавним постом на фейсбуке о вспомогательных школах в местах проживания коренного населения Севера России. Пост этот за три дня вызвал более ста реакций и тридцати комментариев. Это было для меня окончательным подтверждением того, что истории о вспомогательной школе в Ловозере Мурманской области не единичные случаи, а вспомогательные школы Советского времени – больная тема для многих жителей по всему Северу России. Ниже приведенные материалы также являются дополнением к моим научным статьям на тему вспомогательных школ на Севере.

В отличии от Канады, Аляски и скандинавских стран, в России тема интернатского школьного обучения коренных детей Севера широкого общественного резонанса пока не получала – хотя есть что обсуждать, как наглядно показала упомянутая дискуссия на фейсбуке. Но особенно для западного читателя важно отметить, что среди бывших учеников в России полностью отсутствует аналог распространенному в Северной Америке дискурсу «сурвайверов», в котором общепринято называть выпускников интернатов «выжившими». Такая терминология казалась бы неуместной большинству бывших учеников в России, так как она заведомо исключает положительные воспоминания и оценки интернатов, а такие воспоминания безусловно присутствуют. К ним относятся, например, положительная оценка профессиональных перспектив и возможность подняться по социальной лестнице; также чувства благодарности и привязанности к бывшим учителям и воспитателям (не ко всем, разумеется!), относившимся к своей работе с приверженностью и с пониманием к стрессу ребенка вдали от дома. К отрицательным моментам в воспоминаниях относятся предвзятость персонала и стигматизация обществом, вклад интернатов в ассимиляцию коренного населения и утерю коренного языка и традиционного образа жизни, психологическое давление и даже насилие, вплоть до отправления подростков в психбольницы в качестве наказания. Для некоторых детей школа показала путь к социальному опусканию.

At the native boarding school in Lovozero –
Национальная школа-интернат в Ловозере

В подборке приведены воспоминания в основном от саамских, но не только, выпускников национальной и вспомогательной школ-интернатов в Ловозере. Кроме того, я включил беседу с бывшим директором вспомогательной школы; она тоже по национальности саами, что само по себе наглядный пример возможностей (или подводных камней) советской системы образования. Отобранные материалы дают представление лишь об одной, но самой темной стороне этой системы среди коренных жителей Севера – попадание здоровых детей во вспомогательные школы, использование этих школ как бы «не по назначению». Определялись такие дети в такие школы в основном в 70-е годы, часто из-за слабых знаний русского языка и советской, городской культуры. Такие «пробелы» соответствующими комиссиями часто определялись как олигофрения. Причины видятся многие, в том числе: предвзятость; заинтересованность в сохранении рабочих мест и повышенной зарплаты; улучшение жилищных показателей (дети выписывались из квартир, многие из которых были переполнены переселенцами из ликвидированных деревень). В связи с данной тематикой отрицательные моменты в этой подборке воспоминаний явно преобладают, но важно еще раз отметить, что в целом среди всех собранных мной материалах об интернатах также присутствует много положительных воспоминаний.

Транскрипция ненаучная, является компромиссом между легкой читаемостью и близостью к оригинальной речи. Это значит, что оборванные предложения, отражающие перескакивание мысли, передаются без сглаживания. Одним словом, передаются все обычные признаки живой речи. Жирный шрифт означает громкую речь, троеточие – оборванную речь (незаконченное предложение). Все имена в текстах изменены. О=отвечающий, И=интервьюер.

Публикуя данную сборку воспоминаний, хочется в первую очередь благодарить всех, кто со мной поделился. Я надеюсь, что эти голоса дадут толчок дальнейшему развитию обсуждения интернатской истории Севера и ее последствий для местного населения.

Цитаты из интервью на русском языке опубликованы ниже после англоязычного перевода этого текста.

*****

In this contribution, which will be mainly in Russian, I want to give the floor to the numerous voices about boarding schools among indigenous people in Russia and the former Soviet Union, which I have collected during the past years during my oral history research. The discussed period is mainly the 1960s to 1980s.

At the native boarding school in Lovozero –
Национальная школа-интернат в Ловозеро

This is complementary material to my research articles on the oral history of boarding schools (references below) and to a discussion on facebook, which I came across recently. To this day, in Russia there have been far less public discussions on the past of residential schooling among indigenous children than in Canada, Alaska and the Nordic countries. The mentioned discussion on facebook, which gathered over one hundred reactions and thirty comments within the first three days, shows, however, that there is a need to sort out the matter.

At the native boarding school in Lovozero –
Национальная школа-интернат в Ловозере

There seems not to be a demand for a discourse coined by the concept of “survivance”, contrary to for instance Canada. Such a terminology would seem inadequate to most former pupils in Russia as it would preclude the widespread recollections on the positive sides of the system. But this doesn’t mean there is no demand for talking about those schools, which heavily changed the lives of individuals and communities to this day. In my research in Lovozero, Murmansk Region, North-West Russia (also known as Russian Lapland) one of the most negative aspects of the Soviet boarding school system among indigenous children was the local, so-called remedial school for mentally disabled children, which officially had no ethnic dimension whatsoever. It existed from 1970 to 1994. The bigger school though in the village was the native boarding school, which was opened in 1959 and closed a few years ago. This was a general school with some additional elements focusing on (mostly visual and material) features of the local indigenous cultures. This latter type of schools was designed for healthy children. During my oral history research, I found out that there were many wrong appointments to the remedial school among indigenous children due to their lower level of knowledge of the majority language and culture (more information on this in my articles, see references below). However, as this was a qualitative case study in a spatially limited area and there is no other research on those schools, I had difficulties in assessing how widespread this practice was across the whole, immense Soviet North. The timely discussion on facebook gave me an answer. The initial post was about one such school in Russia’s Far East, and it triggered a cascade of comments and accounts on exactly such schools and such practices in many different places of Russia’s North. Continue reading “Воспоминания коренных жителей Севера о национальных и вспомогательных школах-интернатах – Testimonies about boarding schools among indigenous people in Russia’s North”

Care, assimilation and revitalization in Deanuleahki, Sápmi

We have the pleasure to host at the anthropology team Annikki Herranen-Tabibi, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University.

She is doing research on  kin-based forms of care, and the ecological and political context thereof, in Deanoleahki, Sápmi, and going to talk about her anthropological fieldwork plan, as well as answering any possible questions someone might have about Harvard.

The talk will be at 23 November, 14:00 in Rovaniemi, Finland in the Arktikum house, in the meeting room “THULE”. Coffee and cookies will be served.