Puzzling about sustainability: Coastal economies – sea water interaction

EU ACCESS project – Arctic Climate Change Economy and Society

November 11, 2014, Borealis, 10am. Organized by Arctic Centre, Dr. Anna Stammler-Gossmann

access-workshop-photoThe sustainability framework has become a powerful concept in shaping national and international objectives. Nevertheless, the concept may face considerable challenges in putting together pieces of the sustainability puzzle. There are still several uncertainties over its underlying meaning as well as effectiveness in addressing emerging social and environmental problems.
What sustainable development actually means is one of the important issues for the Northern coastal economies and international political agenda of the last decade. During the workshop practitioners and researchers will discuss the sustainability concept as applied on the regional level in the fisheries and marine mammal hunting in Russian, Icelandic, Norwegian and Canadian context.

Everybody is warmly welcome

10:00 Anna Stammler-Gossmann, (Arctic Centre). Welcome and opening remark.

10:10 – 10:45 Dmitrii Klochkov (Marine Informatics, Murmansk). Sustainability and climate change issues in the Russian commercial fishery sector

10:45 – 11: 20 Halldór Þorsteinsson (Seafood Quality, Iceland). Sustainability in Icelandic: Mackerel war

11:20 – 11:55 Nikolas Sellheim (University of Lapland). Sustainability in a Canadian commercial seal hunting community

11:55 – 12:30 Nina Messhtyb (Arctic Centre). Fishing reindeer herders of Yamal peninsula

12: 30 – 13:00 Anna Stammler-Gossmann (Arctic Centre). Arctic fisheries and sustainability discourses

13:00 – 13:45 Discussion

More information: Anna Stammler-Gossmann

Meeting old and new friends in Inari

For us from the Anthropology Research Team here in Rovaniemi the Sámi Cultural Centre SAJOS in Inari became a place where we regularly meet friends from the indigenous movement in Russia. Galina Platova from the Association of Nenets people “Yasavey” told me already in Naryan-Mar, that she will come soon to Inari for a conference. The ORHELIA team used the opportunity to meet up with our research partners on occasion of the conference organized by the Sámi Educational Institute “Traditional Knowledge of Reindeer Herding Peoples as Basis for Education and Research” in Inari.

Vlad Peskov gives a speech and shows the documentation of reindeer nomadism in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug

On the 17th of August Roza Laptander and Stephan Dudeck drove the 330km to Inari and where surprised how many familiar faces they recognized in the audience and among the speakers. Stephan ran into Dina Vasilievna Gerasimova, who appeared to celebrate her 70th birthday that very day. And we met Dmitry Ottovich Khorolya and delivered Florian’s greetings.

It would be tiresome to name here all the VIPs from Russian and Fennoscandian institutions dealing with traditional knowledge and reindeer herding and most of the papers contained well-known statements about the importance of safeguarding traditional knowledge for the future of reindeer husbandry. Of course we were proud that the director of the Arctic Centre Paula Kankaanpää mentioned prominently the work of the ORHELIA project as one of the activities of our institute to research and maintain indigenous knowledge in the Arctic.

It is of course a riddle how all these non-traditional institutions, bureaucrats, and highly educated people could contribute to the transmission of knowledge that is so highly rooted in everyday practices, nonverbal communication and rural livelihoods. But there were some examples that could give an idea that it’s possible that scientific knowledge and traditional knowledge can be mutual supportive. One example was the educational initiative of language nests, where preschool children learned again the almost abandoned Inari-Sámi language, which led to a real language revival. Vladislav Peskov from the Association of Nenets People , mentioned that it became nowadays a must that scientific research on traditional knowledge returns the collected materials and the results to the communities where it stems from. This should happen in a form that people could understand and use the materials provided by scientist for their community purposes.

But one unusual story stacked in our minds and we were discussing it on the way back. It was a fable told by Rodion Sulyanziga from the Association of Indigenous people RAIPON. When he once asked an old man about the past and the knowledge of the ancestors, he got the answer that he can tell him only one story about a cat that took a little tiger to nurture. One day when the tiger was full-grown he just wanted to strike away the small cat with his paw. But the cat jumped on a tree and told him: “You know, I taught you everything except for one thing: how to climb on a tree!”

After the conference we “kidnapped” Galina Platova from Yasavey and Galina Nazarova, the director of the Naryan Mar college for humanities, to Rovaniemi to discuss in detail a project to publish oral history materials and make them available for the people in the regions we are working in. Our dream is to have once a website where people can listen to the stories of the elders and learn something about the history of different places and indigenous communities from Finnish Lapland to the Yamal peninsula. Of course we will let you know more about it as soon as we decided how to finance and organize the work.

Oral history – Mapping Endangered Oral Cultures Cambridge

Will he listen to the story of his grandfather Anniko Khorotetto when he grows up? Tambei Tundra, Yamal 2011

For those interested in oral history, heritage and archiving: Here are some impressions of the “Charting vanishing voices” workshop, held by the Cambridge World Oral Literature Project .  The workshop is on recent developments all over the world preserving oral cultural heritage. people from academic projects, practitioners, and data archiving specialists working with advanced multimedia technologies talked about archiving, questions of access for future generations, and recent research

I was there there from the ORHELIA project because I wanted to find out from professionals like google, UNESCO and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics about their technologies of data accessibility, archiving mapping. Continue reading “Oral history – Mapping Endangered Oral Cultures Cambridge”

Workshops series on Identity, Politics and Place in relation to indigenous peoples in Leipzig.

Friday 22 June 2012 I participated to a workshop in Leipzig, at the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, on the theme: “Identity, Politics, Place and Representation”.
The workshop had been preceded the day before (21.06.2012) by a public lecture given by Oren Yiftachel, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, with the title of – Urban Regimes and ‘Gray Spacing’: Between Privatizing Democracy and ‘Creeping Apartheid’.

Professor Oren Yiftachel during the public lecture.

An interesting lecture that touched upon “the impact of structural economic, identity and governance tensions on urban regimes. It draws attention to the pervasive emergence of ‘gray spaces’; that is, informal, temporary or illegal developments, transactions and populations. ‘Gray-spacing’ has become a central strategy to manage the unwanted/irremovable, putting in train a process of ‘creeping urban apartheid’” (Lecture abstract -2012, Yiftachel). This issues were analysed by referring to research findings related to various cities around Europe, Africa and Asia, and “with special focus on the ‘ethnocratic’ cities of Israel/Palestine”(Lecture abstract -2012, Yiftachel). Continue reading “Workshops series on Identity, Politics and Place in relation to indigenous peoples in Leipzig.”

Conference in Riga “Oral History – Dialogue with Society”

I’m just back from the conference “Oral History – Dialogue with Society” in Riga that took place from 29th till 30th March. The conference was hosted by the Latvian National Oral History Centre of the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at the University of Latvia in cooperation with the Association of Oral History Researchers of Latvia Dzīvesstāsts” (Life Story) and the department of History at Stockholm University.

View from my window in the old city of Riga

I presented the ORHELIA project there and got some new and useful impressions what’s going on in oral history research at the moment. One of the big advantages of the oral history research is that it’s by nature interdisciplinary, but this is at the same time one of the main obstacles. Historians, anthropologists, museum practitioners, political activists, artists, sociologists, folklorists and social workers are working with oral history. There seems to be no common opinion what oral history is first of all. Is it a research method, a research result, a historical source, a folklore genre or social activism or all of that? Have scientist have to take an objective, neutral position towards oral history, should the stay detached or engage politically or even emotionally as much as possible? The involvement of so different disciplines and people with their own standpoints make it almost impossible to come to final answers to these questions.

Keynot speeches in the Aula of the University
Keynot speeches in the Aula of the University

History is a contested field and oral history helps to bring the perspective of people that where silenced in historical sources of official discourses back into science and then into the public. That was one of the reasons why oral history became so prominent in Latvia 20 years after soviet ideology lost its power here.

A visit in the “Museum of the Occupation of Latvia” let me realize another limit of the oral history approach. A part of the exhibition presents the history of the extermination of around 70 000 Jews in Latvia during the German occupation (90% of the Jewish population in Latvia and around 5% of the population Latvia had at that time). There occur moments in history when practically nobody is left to transmit the oral history of the people anymore! The exhibition lacks material about the participation of Latvians in the Holocaust because it tries first of all to present Latvian suffering and resistance under foreign occupation. As I learned during the conference Latvian collective memory is still deeply divided along the old front line of the Second World War and the search of the “right heroes” of the war.

The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

I can summarise here only the themes that came up during the conference that resonate problems we face in the ORHELIA project.

Vieda Skultans, an anthropologist from the University of Bristol, emphasised in her presentation the personal involvement of the researcher in the production of the telling of oral history itself. The shared authorship and authority between the storyteller, the community he belongs to and the researcher was touched in several of the presentations. Oral history becomes understandable only if one is able to understand the life context of the story teller and the life context of the listeners to whom the story is told, including the researcher her-/himself. The term history suggests in its folk etymology that it is always his-story, the story of somebody. But also the real etymology of the word history reveals an origin that is linked to the process of knowledge transmission. Greek “historia” means learning or knowing by inquiry.  Several presentations during the conference mentioned the importance of the anthropological method of participant observation. Becoming part of a social interaction allows for a contextual understanding of oral history as a form of communication.

Riga was for a long time reluctant to establish a university. The main building is the former Polytechnikum.

What I missed during the conference nevertheless was a discussion of the “multivocality” or polyphony of the voices that speak through a story. I believe the interviewing and research process must even facilitate this multivocality because it is easily silenced by the official discourse. The concept of multivocality comes from the Russian philosopher Mikhail Mikhaĭlovich Bakhtin who wrote that Dostoyevsky’s novel “is constructed not as the whole of a single consciousness, absorbing other consciousnesses as objects into itself, but as a whole formed by the interaction of several consciousnesses, none of which entirely becomes an object for the other” (Bakhtin 1984, 18). The same could be said about the oral stories that are told often in a non-linear way containing different interwoven and sometimes even contradictory accounts of historical events.

In some of the presentations during the conference I observed certain blindness towards overarching power structures the performances of oral history are embedded in. Often it seems as if stories emerge only out of the single memory of the storyteller who communicates with the single personality of the researcher. But our experience is that stories are always linked to recognition, respect and legitimation or want to question them. They try to legitimise the claims and aspirations or the identity of the storyteller her-/himself but also of overarching collectives and institutions the storyteller is embedded in. Which symbolic capital is at stake in oral history for the story teller and her/his community? Oral history research remains somewhat naïve without knowledge and analysis of the configurations of political power oral history is embedded in at the micro-level of the local community as well as at the macro-level of society.

Visual material and objects are crucial not only for the representation of oral history but also for remembering and story telling in general.

The conference title already suggested that its focus will be on questions of public presentation and dissemination of oral history research. I listen to some very interesting presentations about new forms of museum exhibitions involving oral history like for instance Candice Lau (United Kingdom) “Accessing Estonian Memories: the ‘Memories Passed’ Exhibition”. It opens up another huge field for analysis with practical consequences for our research. It is obvious that already the recording of stories detach them from the original context of performance. Every representation of oral history includes the process of re-contextualisation of the stories.  I believe that scientists have to enter a dialogue with professionals in media and museums to work on appropriate forms for the presentation of oral history that give power to the voice of the people we record.

Bakhtin, Mikhail Mikhaĭlovich. 1984. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. Ed. Caryl Emerson. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Call for papers: Arctic Crossings

Please see the call for papers below, and consider joining us at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting in San Francisco in November!

CFP: Arctic Crossings
American Anthropological Association
San Francisco, CA
November 14-18, 2012

Panel organizers: Sara V. Komarnisky (University of British Columbia) and Lindsay A. Bell (University of Toronto)

The global circumpolar north is often produced as distant, empty, and isolated, far away and disconnected from powerful economic or cultural centers further south. However, the north is becoming an increasingly central site in both globally interconnected processes and in the global imagination. The north has always been an important strategic region: past human migrations and government relocations, colonial exploration, gold rushes, and government megaprojects have shaped the social and geographical landscape. In addition, a range of processes are increasingly producing northern locales as global sites: environmental panics, resource exploration and extraction, military exercises, scientific investigation, conservation efforts, highly valued art and craft production, labour migration, and many others.

“The way we imagine space has effects” (Massey 2005), and the implications of the ways in which the global circumpolar north is imagined and produced will become of central importance to the many and different people who live there as these emergent processes unfold and grow. This panel brings together research that does not fit within the usual global imagination of the circumpolar north. We seek case studies and/or unlikely ethnographies which track what we call “arctic crossings”. That is, those uncommon, yet productive theoretical spaces in which to examine linkages between space, politics, identity, and imagination. As the circumpolar north is produced through connections with other geographies, the idea of arctic crossings provides a unique vantage point for talking about northern life – the crossings between long time resident and newcomer, between locations north and south, between local livelihoods and transnational global capital. We invite papers that explore the meeting places, crossings, and encounters in the circumpolar north today or in the past.

Please email abstracts (250 words maximum) to sarakomarnisky@gmail.com and liberty.bell@utoronto.ca by March 31, 2012.

More information regarding the AAA annual meetings can be found here.