Conference on religious studies 2012

Rudolf Havelka, who is working on religion, ecology and spirituality among the Forest Nenets hunters and herders, brings the following to our attention:

Dear colleagues,

I would like to draw your attention to this upcoming EASR (European Association of the Study of Religions) conference held at Södertörn University, Stockholm on 23-26 August, 2012. The general topic of the conference is “End and Beginnings”. So far, there are two possible panels for us: Anthropology of Religions and Religious Minorities in the Soviet Union. For your inspiration, I shall join the first one with paper “Is the indigenous religion of the Forest Nenets finished?”

The deadline for submitting the abstracts is April 30th.

Please visit their website for more information. Looking forward to some interesting discussions there.

Rudolf Havelka

Jokkmokk Winter Market and Conference

Anthropology Research Team guest and Fulbright Grantee to Finland Paul R. Burgess tells about his experience at the Jokkmokk Winter Conference and Winter Market, Jokkmokk, Sweden.

Welcome to Jokkmokk; in Sweden’s northernmost county, a wonderful village, with under 3,000 people, at any time other than the first week of February. This is when the village surges with up to 40,000 people. Why? All to experience a 407 year long tradition; the Jokkmokks marknad.

The market has been preceded by a ‘Winter Conference’ for the past five years, focusing on social and scientific issues in the Arctic. The conference aims to provide a forum to discuss issues in the far-north, and a platform to influence decision makers. This year various government and industry officials were present to watch research presentations, and hear the voices of the people.

Performance venue and night-time bar.

Visitors come to the market to buy a wide range of goods: from wool sweaters, fur pelts, hand-made knives, Sami duodji, to goods not otherwise easily available in an isolated village the rest of the year: cables and wire, an array of kitchen utensils, other mass manufactured items, Cambodian cuisine, German sausage, doughnuts, and more. This may surprise some visitors, but the reality is the market does not all but bend to a tourist’s wish. There are local people here who use, need, or appreciate these products. Hand-made leather or plant-fiber ropes are often practical; but their practicality and durability seem to only go so far.


I found very interesting at the conference discussions of ‘Sami identity’, and the opportunity to speak with Sami youth. As tourists are making up a larger and larger portion of visitors, the goods that they buy come into question. As many Sami handicrafts, traditional and modern, are for sale, one wonders what is appropriate to buy and wear? The gakti (main tunic-like clothing, covering chest and arms), hats, shoes, jewelry…? Opinions of course differ, as one cannot expect an identical Sami voice. The sale of handicraft, or duodji, has high economic value, and makes a livelihood for many. The Sami Education Center had exhibition and stall space for current and prior students. One stall sold woolen felt by the meter for those wishing to sew their own designs, others ranged from traditional products of leather, wood, and reindeer bone, to modern interpretations of the pea-coat and sport jacket; examples of global influence and style preference. A sense of pride in tradition (and evolving tradition) and craftsmanship was certainly felt from the vendors.

Some have put forward an idea of the Sami community as ‘imagined or created’, as the Sami are a group of people native to four current nations, who will not necessarily ever interact with or know each other in their lifetime. (B. Anderson) The validity of this argument is debated, but events like this conference and market, bringing many Sami together from near and far, certainly serve to unite.

Industrial development impact assessment – seminar

“Anthropological and legal aspects of industrial development impact assessment”

  • Organisers: Arktis graduate scho
    "We don't care about your sanctions, Mr Reagan: gas and politics, pipeline in Yamal, Russua, 1980s. Photo credit: the Gazprom Museum, Novyi Urengoi

    ol, Arctic Centre NIEM and Anthropology Research Team

  • Time: 19 December 2011
  • Place: Arctic Centre, Rovaniemi, Finland
  • Registration abstract submission, travel, logistsics and practical organisation: tahnee.prior[at]
  • Deadline for abstracts: 7.12

The anthropology research team in Rovaniemi together with the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law gratefully acknowledges support by the Arktis graduate school in organizing a one-day seminar just before Christmas, 19.12. We will have two Russian experts on this topic from Salekhard and Yakutsk, respectively, and our expert on South America, professor Rene Kuppe from Vienna joining us.

All are most welcome to the seminar. If you want to present a paper, please send an abstract as early as possible, but not later than 7.12.2011 to fstammle(at), anbd to tahnee.prior(at) Tahnee Prior is in charge of travel arrangements and overall logistics for the seminar so please contact her if you need more info on these.


From the Arctic to the tropics – industry advances to ever remoter areas in the search to satisfy the thirst for resources in the global economy. However strong the talks about climate change and alternative energies may be, in the closer future still fossile resources will remain the mainstay of economic development. This focused one day seminar will bring experts from social sciences (mainly anthropology) and legal scholarship together to comparatively analyse the principles in which impacts of industrial development can be studied and regulated. The remoter the locations for possible resource extraction, the more frequently is a marginalised population in the periphery and a vulnerable natural environment affected. As a result, the benefits often go to the centres, while the costs remain in the periphery. Specialists in the field of impact analysis and legislation will introduce lessons learned from their respective cases in the Arctic and South America. Discussion is encouraged to focus on ways, instruments and tools to ensure that extractive industrial activity in remote areas brings benefits for the people living there and is less costly for the environment.



Arctic Science Summit week March/April 2011, Seoul

The 2011 Arctic Science Summit Week ( seems to be a real ‘no brainer’ for not only for us Arctic anthropologists, but for social sciences in general. There are many nice words among some science politicians about acknowledging that social sciences can importantly contribute to understanding Arctic change, but the hard sciences are still largely neglecting the role of humans, with some prominent hopeful exceptions, as I will mention below.

Still a long way to take down barriers between North&South Korea, and between social and natural sciences in the Arctic

Karin Lochte, AWI Director, talked in her keynote about the need to understand not only the physical changes in the Arctic, but also ecosystem changes, e.g. what lives on the seabed of the Arctic Ocean, Acidity of the ocean etc. Then she makes the link of how this is going to impact the food chain, and refers to all these organisms from plankton to large sea-mammals. However, she does not seem to have noticed AT ALL that humans are actually the final users of this food chain. They are completely left out from any of her considerations. If we think about how much money a big European research power like Germany invests in an institute such as AWI, and these people can not even acknowledge that the Arctic is inhabited, this is a heavy drawback. We have written about this elsewhere (IASSA northern notes number 34, page 7-14).
The nice exception to this ignorance is Philipp Wookey, (Sterling, UK, also a member of the scientific advisory board at the Arctic Centre, Rovaniemi), taking a MUCH more advanced view on ecosystems. He incorporates both goods and services in to his analysis. Services are the things that satisfy needs of society. New literature also acknowledges that these are cultural, spiritual etc services. He argues that these servies are particularly vulnerable to change. So here we have somebody from global change science acknowledging the important role that humans have in the changing Arctic. He just uses a different language than we do in anthropology. I would call people in Arctic change both agents and victims, in an organically intertwined relationship in the one total environment including all social and spiritual dimensions too, which is constantly being re-enacted through peoples ways of moving in and knowing the environment.  Wookey puts it in terms of ecosystem goods and services, and Social-Ecological system, drawing on a recent paper by Bruce Forbes, myself and colleagues (2009, PNAS). He admits himself that he is not the expert to tell us the deep content about the spiritual and cultural consequences. But that’s not the point. What he does emphasizes is how important a research approach is that acknowledges the unity of the the social and the ecological in the environment. In fact, it is up to us Arctic anthropologists to be active and work with such people in natural science who are open to us.