Circumpolar Ethnography

Many ethnographers are struck by the similarities in the worldviews of people living in communities across the Arctic. Among the enduring themes of circumpolar ethnography are the themes of personhood where landscape forms or non-human animals are ascribed agency; the phenomena of shamanism where knowledgable specialists move powerful forces from one animate agent to another; and the discipline of 'knowing' where individuals work out rules of thumb for understanding their world.


  The members of this project have concentrated on how agency and sentience are ascribed to animals, peoples and to landscape. Ethnographic work was applied in salmon hatcheries and pedigree reindeer stations to capture how technicians learn to know a new or modified species. We were interested in documenting local, hear-say categories of behaviour (‘agitated’, ‘hungry’), emotion (‘confused’, ‘angry’), intention (‘ready-to-bolt’, ‘homebound’), as well as the unique spatial classifiers that people associate with the possibility of human-animal co-presence.
Our research on local ethological terms introduced more detail in the debate in the sciences on whether or not domesticative relationships are ‘conscious’ or not, not to mention the question of consciousness that moves between species. Our work on ‘emplacing’ these relationships provided an important effort to consolidating recent work on landscape ethnoecology, the ‘built environment’ and niche construction. Ethnographic fieldwork was conducted in Alaska, Canada, Fennoscandia, and the Russian Federation.