The Arctic is a region that is commonly associated with animals. It is typical for people in the south to imagine (sub)arctic inhabitants living together with polar bears and reindeer (if not with penguins). Indeed, for thousands of years, human life in the boreal regions has been dependent on animals, probably more than anywhere else in the world. As a result, human-animal relations vary from domestication to avoidance, from socialization to demonization, and from symbolization to ignoring.
Following the success of the last workshop, we plan to continue discussing these different qualities of human-animal relationship through the notions of symbiosis and symbolic value. In biology, symbiosis (from the Greek “living together”) refers to the interaction between two organisms that are in a mutualistic, commensalistic or parasitic relationship. We believe these different aspects deserve a closer look as heuristic conceptual tools for social scientists when discussing domestication, consumption, cohabitation, transportation, diseases, and pet ownership in the Arctic. How do people imagine their relationship with animals? In which situations are these seen as mutually beneficial or parasitic? How are these relationships represented through symbolic means?
Many Arctic regions have animals on their coat of arms. However, as most people now live in settlements, they have rarely seen these animals in person. This also increasingly applies to the descendants of indigenous pastoral nomads and hunters, as once mobile families have given up their traditional livelihoods in the Arctic regions. In these changing settings, what kind of relationships with animals exist in urban islands of the North? What is the animals’ economic or spiritual value (as transport animals, sources of fur, companionship, hunting game, means of sacrifice, tourist attractions, accumulation of wealth, etc.)? What is the symbolic value of animals which once were present and are now represented by folklore dance groups or artists as part of their indigenous culture? What is the role of familiar human companions such as dogs in the changing patterns of northern livelihoods? How is the food of indigenous communities (reindeer, whales, bears, birds, fish, etc.) valued and used in the transformed social, legal and environmental contexts? We wish to address these and related questions in the workshop in Tartu.
Our goal is to assemble a truly interdisciplinary collection of presentations that will focus on the cultural and social side of the topic, contributing to a better understanding of the economic, political or ecological aspects in general. Therefore, we encourage participation not only by anthropologists but also by economists, political scientists, historians, human geographers, biologists and others. The informal nature of the workshop is suited for senior scholars discussing their research results and also for PhD students who have fieldwork experience in the region.
As a keynote speaker, we are proud to announce Riina Kaljurand from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia. She is one of the coordinators of the application of Estonia to join the Arctic Council as an observer and will deliver a speech about Estonia’s vision of the Arctic policy.
We kindly request you to send your abstract (up to 300 words) to Aimar.Ventsel@ut.ee by the 20th of March 2020.
It is well known that ethnographic fieldwork and participant observation are central to anthropological research. In practice, this means that the scholar lives in a particular community, participates, makes observations, and documents their findings. Therefore, the published research is usually associated with the scholar and their ability to collect data and analyse it objectively. In reality, the success or failure of the fieldwork often depends on a great number of people, who consult, help, support, or translate for the scholar. It is not unique to the Arctic, but extremely important for the Arctic, that a foreign (and even domestic) scholar has these people who usually receive their acknowledgement in a modest footnote of the publication. Notwithstanding the modest presence of such helpers in academic publications, their role in shaping the fieldwork is often impossible to underestimate. Local scholars, friends, or even relatives, are essential for the success of a research in the Russian Arctic, and probably in other Arctic countries as well. They help to organise transport, prepare the necessary documentation, find key informants, or advise what supplies one needs to take on a trip. Moreover, it is not unusual for students researching for their PhD thesis in another country, to be in a situation where they have to rely on local experts.
In anthropological vocabulary, such local helpers are usually called ‘gatekeepers’, and this year we would like to discuss in the Arctic Workshop the role of the gatekeepers in academic research. We ask participants to consider and conceptualise various aspects of the phenomenon called the ‘gatekeeper’. How much do/can gatekeepers shape the content of a research? What is your experience, why are gatekeepers essential, and where can their role be negative? How altruistic are gatekeepers? What are the motives of gatekeepers to engage with foreign scholars; apart from money?
The Arctic Workshop of Tartu University is an annual academic event where the results and methods of Arctic research are discussed in an informal and intimate setting. Therefore, the organisers of the workshop also welcome PhD-students who want to discuss their ideas prior to their fieldwork, or who are at the beginning of their careers.
Please send an abstract of 300 words carrying the title of the presentation, the name and affiliation of the presenter, by 20th of February 2016 to Aimar Ventsel, Aimar.Ventsel(at)ut.ee.
We especially invite you to submit your paper to the session “Moving memories: Oral histories about people’s movements across social, temporal/spatial and ideological borders”, which will be chaired by arcticanthropology authors Lukas Allemann and Stephan Dudeck.
Oral history research among indigenous people in different parts of the circumpolar world revealed certain commonalities when it comes to movement. Storytelling addresses the movement of people in multiple ways. Firstly, people remember physical and social movements (as well as social mobility); secondly, stories and recollections themselves can move among people and places, e.g. between generations, social groups or geographical regions. Lastly, remembrance can as well trigger movement, e.g. move people in an emotional, political or even physical way. Just to name one example, the stories about resettlements of Sami people on the Kola Peninsula in Russia’s North-West move people emotionally but as well literally in the form of a roots tourism to their places of origin, which mobilizes a sense of shared identity and is part of a revitalization movement.
Practices linked with memory and storytelling have the capacity to act (agency) and the ability to change things, a quality which is often used deliberately in order to mobilize people and resources. Social mobility, the movements of memories and the traveling of discourses are closely interconnected. We invite scholars as well as activists who have been collecting oral histories (not only from indigenous people) to contribute to the development of new insights about the interplay of these different aspects of how movements are remembered and remembrance is moving.
The call for papers is open until 31 may 2015.
Please submit your paper proposal up to 300 words through the online form.
CONTACT: Lukas Allemann, PhD Cand., researcher at ORHELIA Project, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, firstname.lastname@example.org, +358 40 48 444 18.
EU ACCESS project – Arctic Climate Change Economy and Society
November 11, 2014, Borealis, 10am. Organized by Arctic Centre, Dr. Anna Stammler-Gossmann
The 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
Roza Laptander presented a poster about the snow terminology in Nenets language and the traditional environmental knowledge of tundra nomads in the Arctic. The poster of Stephan Dudeck presented the planned project of the Anthropological Research Team “Nomadic Memories” – Implementing public access to Arctic peoples’ oral history – bringing endangered knowledge back to Finno-Ugric and Uralic minority cultures.
Natural science and social science research in the Arctic is carried out together at these French institutions but real multidisciplinary and joint research agendas are still rare. For the Alfred Wegener Institute the social sciences are a new territory even if natural scientists are well aware of the consequences of their research for the life of Arctic inhabitants and especially indigenous people, as Prof. Hans-Wolfgang Hubberten the Head of AWI Research Unit Potsdam stated. Particularly in the so much important research on climate change in the Arctic the importance of juridical and economical circumstances as well as the consequences for human inhabitants are more than obvious for natural scientists, who search to understand the natural processes in the Arctic environment, as was stressed by Renate Treffeisen, the main organiser of the seminar from the AWI Bremerhaven.
At the moment there are only a few and quite dispersed social scientists in Germany, most of them in the Siberian Studies Centre of the Max-Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale, who do research in the Arctic. Collaboration with natural scientists, who have much bigger resources and an impressive infrastructure at hand, could be very beneficial for social science researchers but also for local communities and indigenous partners, social scientists are working with. Precondition for a fruitful multidisciplinary research is of course that social scientists don’t feel reduced to a pure attachment of environmental studies as the “human dimension” or worse if they feel together with indigenous informants to be used just as guides, door openers and interpreters for researchers who are interested in the live of Arctic inhabitants only so far as it concerns their scientific research.
Another serious obstacle is of course the difference in research methodologies and different epistemologies used in the research. As we learned during the discussion, natural researchers are much more self-reflexive and aware of the pitfalls of positivistic approaches than social scientists suspect. A more holistic view on the interplay of political, economical and natural phenomena is necessary especially in the Arctic, where human live is so dependent on nature and nature so vulnerable.
As anthropologists we know that often we lack an adequate understanding of the highly specialised knowledge of our informants in the Arctic. We are missing environmental knowledge about weather phenomena or the biology of animals and plants in the Arctic. We are unable to grasp how much the Arctic inhabitants know about the ecosystems and cultural landscapes they are part of, because we can’t translate their knowledge in our own languages. Collaboration with natural scientists could provide us with instruments to become seeing in that blind spot. We as anthropologist at the opposite could provide the instruments to understand the different forms of environmental knowledge and how they and the epistemologies they are based on are embedded in social and political contexts. Indigenous people are often quite aware of the fact that the abilities, instruments and perspectives to look at and understand the world of different groups of people (and in general all beings) differ a lot but have to be respected and judged on their own merits. It was refreshing to see that natural scientists start to recognise the highly developed forms of empirical knowledge inhabitants of the Arctic have and their farewell to the hierarchical epistemologies that place insights derived by western science on top of the development of knowledge.
But I should not hide the fact that there is not yet so much interdisciplinary research at least in Germany and France. The only exception was probably Alexandra Lavrilliers research from the CEARC about the way Evenk and Even people in Siberia observe changes in the climate and how these knowledge is embedded in the social and religious universe of the reindeer herders, hunters, and fishermen.
The rest of the talks and posters presented served at least the purpose of getting to know better each other’s research agendas in arctic research. This is all the more astonishing as the strong division between the humanities and the natural sciences in Arctic research is something quite new in the history of science, as was mentioned several times during the seminar. Prof. Günther Lottes from the University of Potsdam for instance spoke in his talk about Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, the French mathematician and Lapland traveller who became the first president of the Prussian Academy of Sciences in the 18th century.
Concrete suggestions about joint research in the Arctic were rare. Before this background it was all the more surprising when a colleague from the geochemistry asked Roza Laptanders who did research on Nenets knowledge about the phenomenology and terminology of snow if she could imagine a joint field-research about the different manifestations of snow.
The need to continue the discussion for the search of possible multidisciplinary research themes and a further understanding of scientific methods used in research was stressed by Jan Borm, the director of the CEARC. A seminar organised by the French Polar Institute (IPEV) will therefore follow next year in the French city of Brest to continue the initiated dialogue. The talks of the director of the AWI Prof. Karin Lochte and the Head of the AWI Research Unit Potsdam Prof. Hans-Wolfgang Hubberten who took very active part in the discussions gives reason to hope that the institute will foster the dialogue and multidisciplinary projects between social and natural sciences in the future.
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.
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
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’.
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.”→
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org by March 31, 2012.
More information regarding the AAA annual meetings can be found here.