Panels and Abstracts in Detail
Panels and Abstracts in Detail
Keynote by Piers Vitebsky: Why Do Spirits Want Relations with Humans?

The 2023 Westermarck lecture

Piers Vitebsky
University of Cambridge

"Homer made his humans into gods for their strength, and his gods into humans by making them suffer conflict, revenge, tears and bondage" (paraphrased from Longinus, On the Sublime, 1st century CE, section 9.7). 

How can we think that non-human entities resemble us, and that they want human-like relations with us?  How does one regulate such unstable contacts with such intangible realities?  And what happens to these when societies change religion?  I shall examine some examples of mutual desire and neediness between humans and a range of gods and spirits, expressed through genres of communion such as sacrifice, prayer, and sexual intercourse.  Religious change erodes some relations and creates others, and conversion or enforced atheism can do this suddenly, leading to ontological confusion and emotional derangement.  Among nomads of Arctic Siberia, spirits of places and animals partly survived the Soviet state's destruction of the shamans who managed relations with them, and they still regulate human movement.  Among Sora of tribal India, the landscape and cosmos were entirely ancestorised and it was the dead who set the emotional tone of relations with the living; Christian and Hindu conversion now blocks relations with one's own ancestors in favour of more distant gods, while emptying the immediate environment of relatable entities altogether.  Homer's gods, made obsolete by the Orthodox church or turned into local folklore, have adapted themselves into literary and psychoanalytic archetypes far beyond the Greek world.  I shall contrast styles of mutual relationality in animistic or polytheistic cosmologies with those of monotheism, and suggest that the current global loss of biodiversity is paralleled by a loss of the diversity.


Keynote by Tim Ingold: Rethinking Intergenerational Relations

Tim Ingold
University of Aberdeen

The root of much of our difficulty, when it comes to facing the future, lies in the way we have come to think about generations, as layers succeeding one another. Historically, this is anomalous, yet it is mostly taken for granted as an unquestioned backdrop to discussions of evolution, life and death, longevity, extinction, sustainability, education, climate change, and a host of other matters of intense contemporary concern. This talk suggests that a return to the idea that life is forged in the overlap of generations, in ongoing relations of collaboration, might not only ameliorate some of our anxieties, but also offer a lasting foundation for coexistence. But it will also mean having to abandon some or our most cherished convictions, including our faith in the inevitability of progress, and in the ability of science and technology to cushion humanity from environmental impacts. A perfect world is not around the corner, nor will our troubles ever end. Nevertheless, for as long as life continues, there is hope for generations to come.

Keynote by Marilyn Strathern: Non-Relations and Disconnections

Marilyn Strathern
University of Cambridge

Suppose we were to explore one of the furthest reaches of the concept of relations, at least as it is articulated in English.  One boundary that has been recent cause for discussion (in addresses to ‘detachment’ or ‘rupture’, for example) lies in the delineation of ‘non-relations’ and its apparent companion ‘disconnections’.  Whether or not it is logically possible to imagine a negative form of relations in the abstract, when it comes to social relations there is ample ethnographic evidence of the way people under certain circumstances seek to disengage from one another, to the point of denying any relationship between themselves.  Why should indifference or antagonism take this anti-relational form?  Anthropologists, too, have experimented with doing away with the concept in their theorizing, or with deliberately displacing relations with substitutes.  Is there anything more to their aversion than a reaction to familiarity or over-use?

While the concept of relations offers innumerable facets for investigation, there is nothing simple to its apparent negation either.  In a conference devoted to relations, it might be illuminating to map out some of the kinds of resistance that the relation has met.  This talk comes with a dash of the tropics, drawing on materials from Amazonia and Melanesia among other places.  


1) Fluid Realities of the Wild in Human-Animal Relations
Florian Stammler, with Nuccio Mazzullo and Lukas Allemannfirstname.surname@ulapland.fi

Panel abstract:

Many of the people with whom anthropologists have worked traditionally practice livelihoods dependent on animals, especially in harsh environments where cultivating plants is not possible. Correspondingly, human-animal relations has been a field of anthropological enquiry where insights from the Arctic have resonated well beyond the circumpolar world. Entire societal typologies have been conceptualised according to specific sets of relations between people and their animals, such as hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, ranchers. More recent studies have challenged such generalisations and come up with alternative theoretical concepts such as the hunting-herding continuum (Layton et al), the gradients of familiarity between humans and animals (Takakura), symbiotic domesticity (Stammler and Beach), architectures of domestication (Anderson et al), or intermittent coexistence (Stépanoff et al). Along this line of enquiry, this session proposes as a next step to revisit the category of the wild and of the domestic in human-animal relations. This session invites papers with a focus on the relativity of such categories. Papers are encouraged specifically about ethnographic evidence of the 'wild' in relations of people and animals that are usually considered domestic, and vice-versa, notions of 'domesticness' in relations with animals that are usually considered wild. Such 'borderline notions' invite us also to revisit our ideas about domestication as an ongoing process, and relations of anthropological, biological, archaeological and genetic research on domestic, wild and hybrid animals. While some of the papers in this panel are going to draw on Arctic examples, we also specifically encourage contributions basing on other field sites and theoretical enquiries.


Session 1: Tuesday 10:30 - 12:00


1) Herding hunters: Inuit animal husbandry in South Greenland

Florian Stammler, University of Lapland, fstammle@ulapland.fi

The first five minutes of this speech attempts to ‘set the scene’ for the presentations in this panel, outlining some general theoretical lines of enquiry in human-animal relations as outlined in the panel abstract. The second part shall give one example for ‘fluid realities of the wild and the domestic’ from recent fieldwork among Inuit sheep and reindeer herders in South Greenland. Based on this fieldwork data I shall show the path dependency between the livelihood that Inuit are usually known for (hunting of terrestrial and marine animals) and contemporary practices of herding domestic animals in a challenging Arctic environment. This material shows the innovativeness with which Greenlanders approach their domestic animals and herding by using traditional ways of knowing the animals that base on their hunting and gathering culture.

2) Human-muskox relations beyond the wild

Janne Flora,  University of Aarhus, jakf@cas.au.dk

The many thousands of muskoxen that live in different areas of West Greenland are all descendants of an original group of 27 muskox calves that were translocated from Northeast Greenland in the 1960s. Before the calves were released into the wild, they had spent several months at Copenhagen Zoo, enjoying the attention of the adoring public and zookeepers rendering the muskoxen that were eventually released into the wild, transformed by movement between the wild and domesticated. Though conceptually obscure, the descendant muskoxen today are generally considered wild, and are hunted like other wild animals in Greenland. Everywhere however, the muskoxen have adapted differently, and been welcomed with varying levels of enthusiasm, embraced by some and disliked by others.  

Taking a broad view on the wild-domesticated continuum, this presentation seeks to explore the different configurations of human-muskox relations in different regions in Greenland: Northeast Greenland from where muskoxen were translocated; Northwest Greenland where muskoxen have created their own pastures and taste better than other muskoxen; and Nuuk Fjord where a herd arrived by their own accord causing much hostility. While each setting blurs the wild-domesticated continuum, human-muskox relations are not necessarily configured within that continuum but beyond it, thus testing the analytical boundaries of the wild-domesticated in human-animal relations.

3) Getting to know muskoxen: relations and their excess in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Astrid Oberborbeck Andersen, University of Aalborg, aoan@ikl.aau.dk

The 27 muskox calves that were set free as yearlings near Kangerlussuaq in West Greenland in 1962 and 62, after having been caught as month-old calves in North East Greenland by a Danish zoologist and his team, and translocated to West Greenland via Copenhagen Zoo as a conservation effort, can be seen as not quite domesticated, and not quite wild. The animals exceed both categories, just like they defy strict taxonomic classification. This paper follows the population of muskoxen in Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland, which has since their arrival grown to more than 20,000 individuals. Formerly strangers to this landscape and community, the muskoxen now underpin central activities in the local community and national economy: hunting for meat, wool production, and trophy hunting.

To become what they are today, muskoxen had to be known: zoologists, local and international hunters, Kangerlussuarmiut, and wildlife managers had to become acquainted with these animals: care for them, their character, behaviours, tastes, and properties. I explore different registers of getting to know muskoxen and analyse their relational consequences. Such process, ultimately, entail a transformation from non-relation to complex modes of relating. What forms of wild and domesticated configure these relational becomings, and how can we ethnographically grasp the properties that exceed our categories? Getting to know is premised on a condition of not knowing (de la Cadena 2021), or a non-relation. What are the limits to ethnographic knowing, and how do we deal with it?

4) Wolves between the wild and the domestic

Doris Friedrich, University of Vienna / the Arctic Institute,  doris.friedrich.at@gmail.com

Wolves are a species that often serves as an impetus in conflicts between different human interest groups. While conservationists are in favor of protecting wolves, other groups such as livestock farmers and hunters tend to favor their “management”, often with lethal force. The wildness of wolves is an important factor in these conflicts. Considered an archetypical wild animal and symbol of free and unbridled wilderness, wolves are viewed as intruders into domestic, human-dominated spaces and as threats to domestic animals, such as livestock and dogs. However, in many – especially more densely populated – regions, it can be questioned how wild they are in terms of behavioral and locational wildness. Wolves have been severely affected by human actions and most of their habitats are impacted by human settlements and infrastructure, which is why they might be considered as “liminal”, occupying spaces between the domestic and the wild, rather than as fully wild. Relational ethics consider humans’ obligations towards non-human animals as dependent to the relations and the specific context, a major part of which is non-humans’ wildness or closeness to humans. Such a perspective can help shed light on humans’ relations to the animals entangled in wolf-related conflicts, from domestic to wild or liminal animals, and associated ethical considerations underlying different human interests. This presentation will examine the place of wolves in the wild-domestic spectrum in Norway and Austria, its consequences for multi-species relations, as well as potential ethical implications.

5) Wild Good Dogs: Virtues of Guard Dogs and Their Decline in the Tibetan Pastures in China

Yufei Zhou (She/her), London School of Economics, Y.Zhou43@lse.ac.uk

Since the 1990s, the Tibetan pastoral guard dog (t. drokqe) , renowned as the “Tibetan Mastiff” (c. zang’ao), has become a valuable commodity and status symbol for wealthy, powerful Chinese consumers. In the market, one selling point of the Tibetan Mastiff is its undeniable ferocity (c. xiongmeng). However, in the Tibetan pastures, ferocity (t. zanbo) is only one among two types of treasured quality of the drokqes. Indeed, ferocious drokqes fight and expel intruders, but non-ferocious drokqes are not entirely useless. Those drokqes that are xohyeng (t.), roughly translated as “attentive and responsive”, excel at detecting and alerting of danger, albeit not-good-enough fighters. Both zanbo and xohyeng are “virtues” (t. yondan) of good drokqes. Counterintuitively, however, these two types of good drokqes are also both praised as being “wild” (t. godpo), even though drokqes are accepted as family members, in other words domesticated, by pastoralists. The reason is that in Tibetan pastures, “wildness” as a virtue is not about domestication, but indicates capability of an actor, either human or nonhuman, to independently and critically tackle their assigned tasks. A pastoralist who is good at herding or managing housework is a “wild” pastoralist, while the “wild” dogs they own are regarded as their good match. Since the 2000s, government-led development, urbanisation, and marketisation has accelerated in Tibetan pastures. Faced with these challenges, pastoralists are lamenting the decline of their own “wildness”, which is also reflected in the decline of their dogs’ “wildness”.


Session 2: Tuesday 14:00 - 15:30


6) Mink, Boars and Borders

Sarah Green, University of Helsinki, sarah.green@helsinki.fi

Mink, boars and people usually live parallel lives, but recently, they have bumped into each other a bit more.  During the recent pandemic, farmed mink easily caught Covid-19 from infected humans. In adapting to the mink, the virus developed new variants, which were then passed back to humans. That was not okay for the Danish government, so all the farmed mink there were ordered to be slaughtered. The inevitable happened anyway in other parts of the world: in the US, the farmed mink passed the virus on to wild mink, so that’s the end of the matter: mink, wild or farmed, will carry the virus from now on. Meanwhile, wild boar, which have been a feature in northern hemisphere forests for centuries, have become pests in recent years. There are a lot more of them, they are larger, breed more often, and boldly wander around towns and cities, as well as digging up and destroying crops. They are annoying people to such a degree that some are calling them an ‘invasive species,’ even though they are the same species as farmed pigs, at least genetically. This paper takes some ethnographic fragments from research in the Mediterranean region to explore the parallel worlds of wild animals, domesticated animals and humans, and what happens when they overlap with one another.

7)9 Un/doing “the Wild” - Pandemic relations in the context of the African Swine Fever Pandemic in Brandenburg

Laura Matt, University of Bayreuth, laura.matt@uni-bayreuth.de

In September 2020 the first case of an African Swine Fever infected wild boar was confirmed on German territory in Brandenburg (North-Eastern Germany). Since then, veterinary authorities in Brandenburg try to (re)gain control over the spread of the virus. In my presentation, I reflect on the way the pandemic renders visible the multiple entanglements of wild and domestic pigs-worlds, be it through spatial proximity, through farmers who are also hunters, or through fodder. At the same time, following the logic of the outbreak response, the biosecurity measures employed to fight the spread of the virus work to establish, uphold and reinforce a strict boundary between the domestic and the wild by extending sanitary logics from farms to entire landscapes. The unfolding of the pandemic and the pandemic response renders visible complex and embedded (historical) relations of humans, wild boars, and pigs in Brandenburg.  I will draw on my ethnographic material and reflect on how establishing and maintaining the disease boundary (which is what the biosecurity measures try to achieve) is a constant and simultaneous un/doing of categories/boundaries such as pure and impure, inside and outside, domestic and wild.

8) Becoming Racing Pigeons: An Ethnographic Reflection on the Non-Ferality of a Pigeon

Dixiao Chai, KU Leuven,  dixiao.chai@student.kuleuven.be

Based on my ethnographic research on the industry of pigeon racing in Belgium, this paperoffers insight into the discourse of the difference drawn by pigeon fanciers between feral pigeons and racing pigeons. A racing pigeon is a pigeon that is expected to put on a homing race, but what is believed to distinguish it from a feral pigeon is more than the match itself. Reviewing my journey as an anthropologist who was an outsider to the industry, this paper describes how I have come to learn such a distinction in the first place and how the professionals make sense of the superiority of racing pigeons during my visit to the lofts. The paper ends with an interesting case of a lost racing pigeon interacting with feral pigeons that I encountered on the street, which may initiate further discussions on the interface of feral pigeons and racing pigeons, revisiting the conception of the non-ferality of a racing pigeon

9) Making the Yunnan Snub-nosed monkeys: human-primate relations in China

Danhe Yang, University of Hongkong, maxinedh1226@yahoo.com

In China, Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus bieti) are endangered species, yet are framed as the endemic symbol of the “harmonious coexistence of humans and nature”. On-going humansnub- nosed monkey interactions are under interventions such as ecotourism, the creation of national parks, and community conservation. The search for a more comprehensive study not only can reveal how humans’ ideas about monkeys' conservation strategies, but also how those strategies affect monkeys’ lives. By conducting fieldwork at Baima Snow Mountain Nature Reserve (BSMNR) in the northwest of Yunnan province, China from 2018 to 2021, I explore how Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys contributed to shaping environmental, social, and cultural landscapes in history as well as in current conservation projects. I adopted ethnoprimatology techniques and multi-species ethnography approach, viewing BSMNR from a local perspective and acknowledging monkeys as agents living alongside them with ancestral and historical links to their landscape. These ethnographic data offer insight into the agency of monkeys, and how monkeys and humans have been intertwined. Moreover, The paper seeks to understand the complex intimacies between humans and Yunnan snub-nosed monkey, showing that the division between wild vs tamed is ambiguous and constantly shifting.

10) Reindeer becoming cows - cows becoming reindeer? On the different shades of the wild and the domestic

Nuccio Mazzullo, Päivi Soppela, University of Lapland firstname.surname@ulapland.fi

Full abstract missing. This presentation reports from research on the Arctic cow breed of Lapland (Lapin Lehmä) and the ways of knowing these animals among their farmers. They mirror in their narratives of the cow’s behaviour the autonomy and endurance of reindeer as reported by reindeer herders.


Session 3; Tuesday 16:00 - 17:30


11) Trained and de-trained reindeer among Evenki

Evelyn Landerer, affiliate, anthropology research team, Arctic Centre , University of Lapland evelanderer@googlemail.com

This presentation emphasises the fluidity of human-reindeer relations using the example of reindeer training among Evenki taiga herders in Siberia on a spectrum between de-trained and skilfully trained. This particular reindeer herd i want to base this talk on consists of about 50 animals belonging to 4 families. The families have adopted  a different combination of training the reindeer and moving about in the forest. I want to focus on de-trained animals as well as half trained ones and their influence on herd behaviour and human mobility and lifestyle.

12) Reindeer on the Border of the Worlds Nenets Pastoralism, Wildlife, Science and Spirits

Alexandra Terekhina (terekhina.yamal@gmail.com), Alexander Volkovitskiy (alvolkovitskiy@gmail.com) , Labytnangi, Yamal.

This presentation focuses on the different “roles” of the reindeer in Yamal (North-Western Siberia), and various ideas and discourses on the reindeer. We are basing on our long-term anthropological fieldwork among the Yamal Nenets and on relatively experience of work as members of interdisciplinary study projects with ecologists. The Yamal Nenets reindeer pastoralists maintain family nomadism and preserve close ties with the nature of the Arctic, permanently living in the tundra. Reindeer still remains the measure of all things for tundra people, because the stability of the herd determines the well-being of the family. The state and behavior of reindeer are indicators of the environment for Nenets (changes in the weather and climate, abundance of predators, conditions of pastures, etc.). Along with the profane sphere, reindeer are also a part of a sacred environment and a mediator between people and spirits. In the field of natural sciences, reindeer become the object of ecological studies in Yamal, as the largest and numerous herbivore. However, researchers often face methodological problems, as the reindeer keeps manifesting its “dual” nature and the boundary position between the wildlife and human world. Discussions about approaches to reindeer research start even with terminology: whether to use "semi-domestic" or "domestic" referring to non-wild populations. In our presentation, we would like to look at this complex problem through the eyes of the tundra people.

13)  “Our” and “Alien” Wild Animals: Domestication of the Tundra Space

Alexander Volkovitskiy (alvolkovitskiy@gmail.com), Alexandra Terekhina (terekhina.yamal@gmail.com), Labytnangi, Yamal

We will present field data revealing the problem of domestication of the environment in Yamal, Russia. Using the example of Yamal reindeer herders and scientists, we will consider several cases and discuss the mechanisms of domestication in different situations. The first case concerns neighbourly relations with wild animals, potentially dangerous for reindeer herd. The Yamal Nenets have ideas about “own”' and “alien” predators, and different status determines the behaviour of these animals in relation to reindeer and humans. Besides the behavioural features, the Nenets narratives have explanations on “alien” populations of wild animals, which they identify by their exterior. The case relates to the practice of keeping wild animals as "pets" in nomadic camps. Finally, working in the same team with Arctic ecologists, we observed how scientists domesticate their environment during long-term field work in the same places. We will analyse the emergence of emotional bonds between humans with different backgrounds and wild animals.

14) Discussion: Fluid realities of the wild

Paul Keil, Institute of Ethnology, Czech Academy of Sciences (<keil@eu.cas.cz>), Kieran O'Mahony, Institute of Ethnology, Czech Academy of Sciences (<OMahony@eu.cas.cz>), Virginie Vaté, Chargée de recherches au CNRS (GSRL) and Czech Academy of Sciences (virginie.vate@netcourrier.com)  

The discussants will explore common ground among the papers in this panel and outline possible implications for a general theory of the ‘wild’ and the ‘domestic’ in human-animal relations. Special attention shall be paid to the ways in which wildness and domesticity are similarly or differently conceptualised with different animal species and regions. The discussion shall explore whether there are common most preferred 'flagship properties' that people appreciated across different domestic animal species. Evidence from the Arctic may indicate animals' autarky and sturdiness on the one hand, and their herd instinct and capacity to self-organise on the other as such most valued properties. Comparing this with evidence from other animals and regions presented in this panel may allow us to establish whether an anthropology of human - animal relations in the Arctic must consider more prominently the significance of the wild as a trait of character in human relations to their domestic animals, as well as to their human counterparts

15) general discussion

Besides general discussion of the presentation, we may also explore possibilities to publish a volume based on the presentations in this panel, and whether or not it makes sense to join forces with other panels on human-animal relations at this conference.

2) Affect in Sociality: Relational Dynamics in Motion

Kenneth Sillander
Ivan Tacey (ivan.tacey@plymouth.ac.uk) and
Isabell Herrmans (isabell.herrmans@helsinki.fi)

This panel addresses relations through sociality, the active, processual, companion concept of relations, once glossed by Strathern as “the relational matrix that constitutes the life of persons,” and by Ingold as “the constitutive quality of relationships.” The aim of the panel is to explore affect in sociality: its forms and modes of expression in social contexts, its role in shaping the tenor and direction of interaction, and its significance in mediating the impact of lifeworld and larger world conditions on social relations. Affect is useful for studying sociality by sharing its focus on the emergent qualities of social life, those that arise in its concrete practice and the passing moments of its enactment. By adopting the framework of affect, we seek insights into the dynamic processes whereby actors relate to each other in ongoing sociality in motion. 

Particular consideration is given to contexts of pronounced motion, such as contemporary political or economic change, environmental transformations in the Anthropocene, or processes of cultural reorientation. We especially welcome contributions which explore the dynamism of sociality through affect’s potentiating or debilitating qualities: how it encourages or inhibits agency, enchants or disenchants, unites or divides. However, panellists may explore any of the ways that sociality participants are moved by affect, which is understood broadly as sensorily transmitted and experienced formative influence, including tactile and embodied experiences and the moods and atmospheres of social events. Contributions may concern either state-peripheral small-scale societies, or large-scale modern state societies. 


SESSION 1: Tuesday 10:30–12:00


1) The Tenor of Sociality: Affective States of Being in Interaction 

Kenneth Sillander, University of Helsinki

How are we to approach social life? Dominant theoretical traditions have tended to focus either on forms of social organization or collective representations, on observable “objective” patterns of social relations or behavior, or “subjective” cultural constructs. This paper considers a third dimension of social life denoted by the term “tenor”. By this I mean something like its enacted style, aesthetics or sensorial form, and its experienced mood, timbre, or feel. I argue that particular forms of sociality may be associated with particular affective states of being and that these are central to sociality. Studying these states may be a productive way to make use of affect theory, and may help sharpen the implied focus of sociality on the practice of real ongoing social life and the experience of participation. By means of illustration, I discuss two distinct forms of sociality among the Bentian, an indigenous group of Indonesian Borneo. Indexed by the vernacular concepts of mengkelotes (“roundabout,” “indirect”) and rengin meroe (“coolness,” “tranquility”), they consist, respectively, of an orchestrated and formalized and a more informal and unorganized variant, which occur mainly in distinct contexts, publicly and front stage during communal events, and privately among intimates in everyday settings. Both are valued practices, associated with important cultural values, and contextually invested instrumental interests and pragmatic goals, but the reasons for their valuation and importance arguably rest less with values or any ulterior functions than the immediate sensuous- material conditions of their realization and the affective modes of being that participation entails.

2) Affective Images: Precarity as an Emergent Form among the Luangan of Indonesian Borneo

Isabell Herrmans, Center for Advanced Study, Friedrich-Alexander University

In this paper, I follow Kathleen Stewart (2012) in trying to write precarity as an emergent form. Writing in my case is inspired and elicited by photographs, which often render momentary affects and sentiments visible in ways words may fail to do. Set among the Luangan Dayak of East Kalimantan, the paper is composed around portraits of scenes and encounters in which the tactile, sensuous, often involuntary way my interlocutors were affected by others – or the ‘absent presence’ of others (Low 2020) – became particularly palpable, allowing for the exploration of precarity as an affectively charged condition of human intersubjectivity. A picture of a man posing with his young daughter while holding a photograph of his dead wife materializes an all too common Luangan experience of being subjected to illness and premature death, registering an everyday yet singularly charged sensation of loss and longing. Attending to the embodied effects of being-in-relation and the vulnerability caused by such a constitutive relationality, the paper draws on Judith Butler (2014) in aspiring to a broader notion of relationality, which involves a dependency on what she terms ‘infrastructure’, ‘understood complexly as environment, social relations, and networks of support and sustenance’. Notably, interrogating precarity as an emergent form here not only pertains to ontological vulnerability, which is destructive of life, but also to the potentiality emergent within it, to the transformative capacity of that which is still unfolding (as seen in Luangan healing rituals, for example).

3) Weathering Disaster: Contagious Affect among the Jahai and Batek of Malaysia

Ivan Tacey
University of Plymouth

In recent years, anthropologists have documented an explosion of shamanic activities among indigenous peoples attempting to regain control over extreme weather events in contexts marked by widespread environmental degradation and socio-economic marginalisation. But what happens when people, weather events and the spirits get really out of control? In this paper, I explore how ecological degradation and meteorological conditions can trigger involuntary, disturbing, and often highly contagious, affective states. While controlled trances and rituals may be used by shamans to temporarily slow down, retune, and readjust the “the chaotic qualities of reality” (Kapferer 2004), I suggest that spontaneous involuntary trances and affective states, by contrast, often amplify socio-environmental anxieties causing ontological disorientation and vertigo. Importantly, they often have a contagious nature that resonates through other subjects beyond the immediate context. This encourages me to discuss affect’s contagious nature, which although initiated by environmental catalysts at particular sites, can quickly spread between people and across locations, generating debilitating socialities marked by withdrawal, disengagement and restraint. The paper draws upon two case-studies. The first considers a young Jahai woman spontaneously entering an uncontrollable trance state triggered by a thunderstorm. This event took place in a resettlement village amidst a landscape of intense resource extraction where social life is marked by extreme levels of poverty, marginalization and tensions with neighbouring Malays. The second case considers an elderly Batek woman spontaneously breaking down into a state of trembling, weeping and lament, triggered by place-based nostalgia and anxiety about environmental degradation. 

4) Affect in Spirit-Human Sociality, and A Warming Sahel 

Conerly Casey
Center for Advanced Study, Friedrich-Alexander University

Spirits of the Sahel have long had the ability to impede or block the will or actions of humans and other beings or things, but also to act with them, as affective forces, with trajectories, inclinations and intensities of their own.  Spirits who, for centuries, had dwelled in the coolness of trees, rocks, holes, and water, by the 1990s, began to complain to Bori healers and to malams about being displaced as humans cut down trees, leaving them vulnerable to the extreme dry heat of a warming Sahel.  Spirits also abhorred sprawling industries, and their caustic chemical smells, which drove them away and into human settlements.  Such affective qualities of sensoria to “call” and “push” spirits, into and out of shared ecologies,  co-created new forms of sociality with known and foreign spirits, and pathogens, moving more rapidly in winds, blowing across barren land. Though angry spirits progressively touched, beat and possessed humans, they also felt drawn to humans whose hot anger elicited their affectionate care.  I consider such affective qualities of spirit-human sociality—the forms and modes of affect that draw spirits and humans together, shape the magnitude and flow of their feelings, and impact  lafiya (health, well-being and balance), in ways that extend beyond humans.  The relational affects, ontologies, and ecological circuits of sociality—the rhythms, intensities and frequencies of where, when, and how spirits and humans engage one another, co-produce the futures of health in a rapidly changing Sahel.  

5) On the Affect of Oil 

Judith Bovensiepen,University of Kent

Oil in Timor-Leste, like elsewhere in the world, provokes strong responses. It conjures up a contagious excitement about the prospect of immense wealth and prosperity (‘oil fever’), just as it induces fear of climate disaster, oil dependency, and political and economic instability (‘the resource curse’). The Tasi Mane project, a large oil and gas infrastructure development project initiated in Timor-Leste in 2011, provoked similar affective responses. Proponents of the project enthusiastically advocated that the country’s oil wealth would enable a profound societal transformation and lead to full independence through resource sovereignty. Critics warned that the project was economically and technically unviable and that it would have detrimental effects on local residents, including loss of livelihoods, and the destruction of sacred sites. To persuade affected communities to relinquish large stretches of land for the project, politicians and oil company employees thus mobilised the spiritual powers of the land, drawing on customary practices traditionally associated with ritual authorities. The politicians’ ability to regulate ‘nature’ came to be seen as a sign of their legitimacy to implement this mega project. By examining the affective power of oil, alongside the affective potency of the land, and the forms of sociality in motion, this paper analyses the intertwinement and affective dynamics of modern and non-modern forms of ‘miracle-making’. 


SESSION 2: Tuesday 14:00–15.30


6) Enskilment as the shape of sociality at the sea

Montse Pijoan   

The ocean is movement, a force in the creation of sociality and relationships. This paper presents data gathered through participant observation of the process of enskilment aboard traditional ships at sea. Social relationships at sea are fundamentally impacted by both the movement of the sea and the crew’s working together to adapt and continuously respond to the fluid ocean environment. Life on board a ship at sea entails an ever-changing relationship with the ocean, including, for example, continuous response to adjust body position, constant awareness of the demands on deck such as coiling ropes and tightening or easing lines, and unrelenting attention to the wind’s intensity and direction. The ocean, a world defined by weather and water, shapes each interaction on board and also shapes the form of the sails; simultaneously, it shapes both the affect and social life of crew members. It may awaken deep emotions sometimes stuck by life on land. Movements up and down and back and forth define the constant motion of the boat; in this context, the strengths and weaknesses of each crew member in dialogue narrate the story of the group on the boat. This paper argues that sailing entails building a relationship of affect to those sharing the experience, to the boat through which the experience is lived, and to the environment that affords movement, sound, light, and presence. Enskilment as the shape of sociality entangles a vivid expression of the relationships on board with the constant motion of being at sea.    

 7) Affects and Memory work among Fashion Designers in Johannesburg

Tuulikki Pietilä,Social and cultural anthropology, University of Helsinki

The paper discusses three young Johannesburg-based fashion designers’ work as aesthetic objectifications of their affective memories and meditations on the broader Black history and present. In bridging personal and collective reminiscences, each designer contributes to the ongoing memory work in South Africa in their distinctive way. Rather than a realization of a pre-planned design, their creative work is often a dialogical process in which the maker’s perception, the materials’ affordances and the garment are shaped simultaneously. Each designer uses different material devices to kindle their experiences and imagination and different materials to express them(selves). They have identified specific methods, patterns and/ or fabrics as especially apt for conveying their ruminations because of their experienced metaphoric and mnemonic qualities. I will argue that the materials and methods chosen by the individual designers have connotative efficacy because they resonate with the more collective pool of affective experiences, with the eventual garments sometimes creating sensations that after Benjamin (2007 [1935]) could be described as ‘flashes of recognition’. I will view the materialized, mnemonic associations as ‘qualia’ or ‘qualisigns’ (Munn 1986; Chumley and Harkness 2013). This approach challenges those strands of new materialism and affect theory that view materiality and affects as agentive, presocial or acultural forces preceding consciousness and signification (e.g., Pinney 2005, Bennett 2010; Massumi 2015). 

8) The affective other: Finnish executives adapting in India

Jukka Jouhki

Because of its skilled labor force and low costs, India is a lucrative destination for many international companies to do business. Hence, also many Finland-based companies have branched out, established, founded factories, created joint ventures with India-based companies etc., and many Finns have moved to India permanently or temporarily to work as an executive in India. However, India is not a particularly desired location for Finnish executive level professionals looking for assignments abroad, because many associate it with negative affective elements such as dirtiness, diseases, smell, noise, crowds, heat, insects, violence, and general insecurity. On the other hand, some find such matters rewarding challenges to experience, and appreciate India’s other “colorful” stimuli that are largely absent in Finland. Moreover, to work as an executive in a company with Indian co-workers is to navigate different understandings of workplace hierarchy, time-use, monitoring, work ethic, initiative and so on. Cultural and social adaptation of Finnish executives in India is also an affective adaptation process in that being in charge in an Indian working environment means one experiences and comes across frustration, anger, joy, fear, sorrow, exhaustion etc. in working relations in a way that requires special affect management. This paper is based on 12 thematically structured interviews conducted in India and Finland about the experiences and adaptation processes of Finns living in India and working as executives in companies located in India. The aim of the paper is to describe and understand what working as a Finnish executive means as an affective experience. 

9) Desire for activist sociality: Detaching and rediscovering personal backgrounds, engaging in St Petersburg LGBTIQ+ activism

Pauliina Lukinmaa, PhD,University of Eastern Finland

New social circles enable exploring oneself anew and in various ways – both by detaching and rediscovering ones’ backgrounds and in turn rediscovering them, while grounding anew in the material surroundings and social settings. Being involved in activist circles may enable to badge oneself as different, this time more in one’s own terms. In my paper, I analyze why and how St Petersburg LGBTIQ+ (lesbian, gay, transgender, intersex and queer-identifying) activists move towards (and at times away from) activist sociality, meanwhile approaching anew their manifold personal backgrounds.

I approach this processual movement through Claire Hemmings’ (2012) adaptation of affective solidarity, a concept developed by Elspeth Probyn (1993). It refers to a mode of engagement that starts from the affective dissonance experience instead of rooting it in identity or other group characteristics. I approach activist relations as a rhizome, concept defined by Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1987), evolving in a horizontal network without clearly defined leaders, and consisting of leads, hubs, and cuts.

My paper draws from my ethnographic data collected for my PhD dissertation, consisting of observations, participation and interviews with LGBTIQ+ activists in St Petersburg during the years 2017 – 2019. I analyzed their various tactics to realize their activism that attempted similarly to elude the Russian regime’s discerning eye.

10) Building, Working and Dreaming in Late Socialism. An Ethnographic-Historical Study on Affective Labour in Poland

Tomasz Rakowski, Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology,University of Warsaw

In this paper I am going to propose a theoretical framework for ethnographic- historical research on some processes that occurred in late socialist Poland and were related to rapid industrialization and modernization. Drawing from my field studies carried out in central Poland I will present and interpret some of experiences of the workers like common building, constructing, making and participating in socialistic ‘social deeds’ (czyny społeczne). I set my view in a broader context of  history of Polish state socialism and especially the Party-led process of modernization (Fidelis 2010, Kenney 1997, Zysiak 2016). However, the main task is to introduce an experimental, theoretical framework that could touch on intensive relationships/assemblages of the workers, built constructions and building materials: airbricks, timber beams, gigantic steel elements, also devices and machines. In this way I am going to reveal some absent elements of  history of state socialism in Poland that for decades were kept locked-in and masked under the ongoing conflicts of memories and hierarchies of knowledge. Following this direction I will argue that such experimental ethnographical-historical studies may lead to establishing a category of ‘valid’ historical-ethnographic facts that could be called affective facts, and are directly related to experiences of enthusiastic building, affective labour (see Schwenkel 2013), vernacular creativity, and various forms of (pre)solidarity that emerged during late socialism in Poland, and were also visible afterwards.  

3) Urban Corrosions: Why Matter Matters?

Venue: Lapponia (Arctic Centre, 2nd floor coffee room). Wednesday 22.3. 2023. 8.30-11.30 am.

Soile Veijola
, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lapland (soile.veijola(at)ulapland.fi)
Teemu Loikkanen, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lapland
Monica Tennberg, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland

Panel description:
Stemming from Old French and Latin, the noun of action of the word “corrosion” –  corrodere in Latin – means “to gnaw to bits, wear away” (etymonline.com). Today, corrosion commonly refers to a natural process or a conversion whereby materials such as a metal are gradually deteriorated by a chemical or electrochemical reaction. Thus, corrosion is an act, a process, and a reactive relation of a process with its material environment.

The notion of urban corrosions is used metaphorically as a contestable ideology and policy of urban planning as well as the manifestation of the latter in everyday experience. When it comes to infrastructures, cycles, and processes linked with architecture, public decision-making, and urban planning, corroding (or even corrupting) tendencies are increasingly over-ruling deliberate promoting of common good for and through multispecies co-existence. Corroded aspects of urban development affect and can harm local landmarks and sites that materialise transgenerational attachments and engagement. When lost, historical landscapes, architectural forms, and biotic substance, are often beyond repair or restoration.

The panel will move in-between indoors and outdoors whilst attempting to illustrate how planning processes could become corrigible and corroborating ones. How can processes correct, amend, and even redirect themselves in order to prevent regrettable decisions and reactive relationalities? How can planning be a vehicle of restorative growth of the experienced, lived, shared, and known?

The panel welcomes submissions of academic and/or artistic presentations exploring imaginative ways to invigorate, strengthen, and support urban living by respecting past, current and future relationalities in building, repairing, and dwelling.


Session 4: Wednesday 8.30-10.00   

Chair: Soile Veijola


1) Heritage futures for place-based sustainability transformation

Katriina Siivonen, University Lecturer in Futures Studies, Adjunct Professor in Cultural Heritage Studies 

The unfolding of future places is affected of individual and shared memories and images of futures.  They include experiences, hopes, fears, values and worldviews, as well as relationships to human made material environment and nature. As a part of the constantly changing culture, in current era of Anthropocene, they are corroded, corrected and amended to give new and renewed meanings to places and to them related actions and practices. Ecological problems are destroying prerequisites for human and non-human life in different glocal places. The notion of leverage points directs our actions to societal structures through which the needed sustainability transformation could be most effective. There is a need to operate, not only on the level of policy interventions, but also on the deepest levels of leverage points, which consist of worldviews, human-nature relationships, and from them arising goals, actions, and practices. In practice this means changes in our intangible cultural expressions, connected to the tangible human made environment and nature. As the core of cultural sustainability transformation can be seen the right of people to take part in and have an impact on the cultural change in their own cultural environment together with other people. The possibility to take part and have an impact can be seen as a condition of sustainability transformation.  As a further solution, I suggest heritage futures, based on intangible cultural heritage, to tools for cultural sustainability transformation. Heritage Futures are intentionally co-created human-environment relationships including new types of meanings and actions to co-produce sustainable futures.

2) Arctic garden as a heterotopia: between urban utopias and dystopias 

Monica Tennberg, research professor. Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Finland

The Arctic garden, located in the city centre of Rovaniemi, Finland has been and continues to be a fountain of great ideas, wishful thinking and unfinished plans. The area was built in the mid-1990s when thousands of tons of earth were moved, hills and valleys, a marsh and an artificial island were built, and seeds and seedlings were brought from far away to build the arctic botanical garden and arboretum near the Arktikum house. After years of poor care, a new era in the garden started in the 2010s with renovation. Now the area is managed as a park. It is a popular site for locals for recreation, including a beach and a place to see northern lights, but it is also yet again a site for further development, now for tourism. In this presentation, I examine the development of the Arctic garden with Michel Foucault's concept of heterotopia. Heterotopias are concrete, everyday, intermediate spaces located in between utopias and dystopias. The Arctic garden in this sense is always an incomplete, constantly changing site, contributing to popular contemporary utopias and dystopias of urban human-nature relations, but also a site to see how the city of Rovaniemi struggles with its arctic identity. The presentation is based on archival and media material, interviews, photographs of the different stages of the area's development, and personal observations in the garden at different times of the year. 

3) The political ecology of Arctic circular city

Teemu Loikkanen, junior researcher in sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lapland

The city of Rovaniemi has been selected as one of the pioneer circular economy cities. These cities aspire to become “circular”, meaning essentially to recycle larger amount of waste, and to advance circular economy by for instance generating new business activity and co-operation with various actors including citizens. Moreover, Rovaniemi aims to become the first Arctic circular city. The purpose of Circular Economy is to transform the material economy of society from linear to circular. In critical examination Circular Economy has been claimed to be unclear and ambiguous. (Corvellec et al. 2021). This paper examines Circular Economy as an intervention on the material flows and circulation of Rovaniemi city. The author has been following the aims of Rovaniemi city to become circular for over three years and conducted interviews with the central actors of the project. Other forms of data, such as road map of the city towards circularity and other public communications are utilized. The concept of metabolism (Swyngedouw 2006), developed on the field of urban political ecology, is used as a heuristic methodological instrument, a lens through which these interviews are carefully read. The transformations made on the metabolism of the city in urban planning and public decision-making affect, not only to the dwelling and lives of the citizens, but also to the multi-species communities inhabiting the city.

Works cited:

  • Corvellec, Herve & Allison Stowell & Nils Johansson. 2021. “Critiques of the circular economy.” Journal of Industrial Ecology. s. 1– 12.
  • Swyngedouw, Erik. 2006. “Circulation and Metabolism: (Hybrid) Nature and (Cyborg) Cities.” Science and Culture, 15(2), 105-121.


4) Corrosive Instrumentality or Transgenerational Corroboration?  Encounters that demand response in built environments  

Soile Veijola, professor of Cultural studies of tourism, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lapland  

This paper discusses landmarks of cultural heritage of travelling built by The Finnish Railway network. These sites of arrivals and departures have evoked and created memories of and attachment to a place since the 1950s. They could also be called memorials of Finnish wood architecture and handicraft, with their history of skilful coordination of planning, building, and maintenance. Today, this heritage is however, sadly, largely lost: sold out, or abandoned and left to ruination. Many of these cultural environments have already been replaced by towering blockhouses containing small apartments handy for short-time-renting, or wait their turn to meet the same fate. Historically formed cultural landscapes and social meeting grounds between locals and visitors have thus been corroded – gnawn to bits – and disintegrated into privatized, commercialised, and socially and culturally “empty meeting grounds” (MacCannell 1992).Two serendipitous moments of visitation in and perception of a site of this kind in Rovaniemi have pushed the author of this paper into what Deborah Bird Rose (2013) calls slow writing in which the trigger of writing is an encounter (with the world) that demands response. Fast writing, in contrast, according to Bird Rose, is strategic-instrumental, and often leads into “disengaged and fragmenting forms of knowledge”. It also often means disengaged planning. The methodology in this paper wants to feed ethical imagination into urban planning instead of dulling both. It uses the methods of slow conferencing, and slow writing, in order to enhance transgenerational and inter-species connectivities.

Works cited:

  • Deborah Bird Rose (2013) Slowly – writing into the Anthropocene.
  • Dean MacCannell (1992) Empty Meeting Grounds. The Tourist Papers.


5) Experiencing the forgotten layers on the urban landscape 

Riikka Vuorenmaa, master of arts (theatre and drama), master of arts (digital media), artist, lighting designer, Piste ry and Miia Kettunen, visual artist, master of arts (clothing design), Piste ry

Finnish Land Use and Building Act requires urban planners to hear the inhabitants and other concerned parties during the planning process. Current means usually require a good ability of written and spoken expression and understanding of the process, leaving numerous groups of people voiceless. The requested participation might also concentrate on measurable benefits or harm, especially in economical or commercial extent, forgetting many non-measurable factors. Artists Riikka Vuorenmaa and Miia Kettunen have been working in multidisciplinary, location-based art projects and on themes of past-present-future of a place. They have experienced artistic methods making diverse knowledge of the place surface: multisensory, emotional and aesthetic values for example. Could this knowledge be taken into consideration by urban planners? What kind of collaboration is needed to ensure any real impact? Rovaniemi-based artist association Piste Collective and the cities of Rovaniemi and Kemi are to examine these questions in their joint project in 2023. The project starts by interviewing urban planners in all four cities of Finnish Lapland, Rovaniemi, Kemi, Tornio and Kemijärvi. Three artistic pilot concepts are designed and then tried in the field. Collaborators see the project as a novel effort to co-create knowledge that could shape the arctic cities’ future.  In the panel the project’s first findings and some applicable artistic methods will be presented. The framework is that of artistic research, artistic interventions and community-engaged art. Would the paper be presented outdoors, rather than indoors, the event would consist of a workshop on multisensory perception and place-specific non-lingual expression.


Session 5: Wednesday 10:00 - 11:30

Chair: Teemu Loikkanen


6) Crumbling materiality and unintended afterlives: transdisciplinary approaches to the study of ruins and lost places

Joachim Otto Habeck, professor, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

This paper will combine a personal empirical approach to exploring the afterlives of Soviet army barracks around the city of Berlin and a literature-based outline of divergent transdisciplinary discourses on ruins and derelict places (“lost places”). In the first part, I shall illustrate suburban cases of corroded military architecture and infrastructure that initially were built and symbolically adorned to serve a grand long-lasting mission, but then underwent gradual dilapidation, replacement of memory, and subversive reappropriations. This is the basis for discussing more generally the nexus of temporality in architecture and materiality in memory. Both come to the fore in academic writings on lost places and ruins, yet they do so in three rather separate discourses. Each of these is transdisciplinary: (1) an aestheticized discourse most common in art history and classical archaeology; (2) a discourse of cultural and social critique in literature studies, cultural studies and philosophy; (3) a somewhat phenomenological discourse in human geography and social anthropology. Taken together, these three discourses enable us to reunite seemingly disparate views on ancient civilisations and ongoing ruinations. They also help us understand contested notions of aesthetics, memory, and temporality in the maintenance of cultural heritage as well as in urban development.  

7) Urban Corrosions as a political tool and political effect

Agnieszka Halemba a.halemba@uw.edu.pl Polish Academy of Sciences

This presentation addresses a process of corrosion as a toll used in urban planning and public decision-making in relation to architecture. The notion of corrosion is not used here metaphorically; instead, I show how the physical and biological process of corrosion and deterioration is used to enforce changes in urban landscape – some things and buildings are left there to rot and subsequently be replaced; while others are classed as worthy of intervention and restoration. What is seen as worth of saving and what are the tolls which make the arguments for restoration impossible? What are the moral arguments used in urban planning that relate to corrosion and restoration and how is a question of sustainability played out? My ethnographic examples come from eastern Germany, the former GDR, most importantly from the city of Potsdam but also from other parts of the country of Brandenburg. Many kinds of buildings have been restored there in the last 30 years; while many other have been purposely left to corrode and still others destroyed. They are also some cases of buildings that were first left to rot but then, for a complex of reasons, restored and in this process changed beyond recognition. I want to make visible architectural forms, relations and attachments that are lost in what is ostensibly presented as restoration.

8) Zigzag clover, sand, and moth: Embedding endangered nature into living urban infrastructure

Helena Leino, Tampere University helena.leino@tuni.fi & Jere Nieminen, Wild Zone association, jere.nieminen@villivyohyke.fi

Anacampsis fucella is a rare and endangered moth species listed in the threatened species red list. This moth lives in Europe in Sweden and in Finland, other living areas can be found from Russia on southern Ural area. What is striking in the living areas of the rare moth, is that it lives in the heart of the rapidly growing city of Tampere. Moth enjoys esker areas, and the city centre has these to offer. With this paper we participate to the discussion on urban areas’ potential to provide habitats for rare and endangered species. The empirical case study area has been nationally identified as a successful example of biodiversity offsetting within urban planning. Usually, habitats for different species are mapped and protected in regional or master plan processes or when formulating the cities’ biodiversity strategies. In our case study, the scale is on detailed plan illustrating the importance of micronetwork enacting for the protection of the moth. Our starting point to urban infrastructures stems from the studies of technology and science, where nature can be understood as an urban infrastructure (Carse 2012; Morita 2017). Infrastructures are not only built and constructed, but they also grow and vegetate. Moreover, we analyse the diversity of the infrastructural work that is taking place when nature is embedded inside other infrastructures.


4) Relationships and Resilience

John P. Ziker, Boise State University (jziker@boisestate.edu),
Elspeth Ready (elspeth_ready@eva.mpg.de)

Panel description:
Resilience is the capacity of a social-ecological system to absorb or withstand perturbations and stressors while maintaining stability through typical adaptive cycles – phases of growth, conservation, release, and reorganization in a system (Holling 1973, Gunderson & Holling 2002, Walker et al. 2004). Connectedness and potential are the two dimensions in Hollings’ model of adaptive cycles. Much research in anthropology is relevant for understanding connectedness and potential, and thus, such work is relevant for understanding socio-ecological resilience in environments that are experiencing perturbations such as rapid climate change, industrial development, or both. Where resilience is low, a system can be pushed into an entirely new configuration, and this impacts lives and livelihoods. Connectedness is about the intensity of relationships and interdependencies, while potential can include wealth, skills, values, and processes of cultural reproduction within and between communities. Connectedness and potential can involve both human cooperative networks and human/non-human relationships.

In this session, papers might explore one or both of these dimensions and focus on human networks or human/non-human relationships. We invite papers approaching these topics from a variety of perspectives, including qualitative and quantitative studies as well as explorations (and critiques) of the concept of resilience. We are particularly interested in papers exploring resilience in rapidly changing environments, whether these changes are social, economic, and/or ecological.

Session 9: Thursday 13:00-14:30


1) Separating the family for the sake of collective wellbeing: Processes of social resilience in the context of an economic crisis in Argentina                   

Sara Kauko, sara.kauko@genus.lu.se

According to Neil Adger’s now classic definition, “social resilience [is] the ability of groups or communities to cope with external stresses and disturbances as a result of social, political and environmental change” (2000). It follows that social resilience is easily deemed a product of communal collaboration in adverse circumstances or both a marker and an outcome of a strong sense of social/familial cohesion. This paper argues that social resilience is not a product but instead a dynamic, context-specific social process. Second, while we can observe processes of social resilience in, say, how communities organize themselves in the face of a disaster, we can also observe them in contexts where the community must be fractured to ensure its (and its members’) collective wellbeing.

This paper focuses on how families in Santiago del Estero, North-Western Argentina, strategize to manage the economic crisis that currently plagues the country. It discusses the omnipresence of the expressed wish to ‘just leave this place’ in people’s narratives and, moreover, the mothers’ wishes to see their children leave. The dream/plan of sending one’s children away (whether to a bigger city or directly abroad) challenges the primacy of family unity that characterizes Santiago’s sociocultural canons and ideals. At the same time, it evidences the malleability of social resilience processes and how the act of separating a social unit –the family–may, in fact, enhance the family’s collectively experienced sense of resilience and cohesion.

2) Resilience to Whom? Conflicts of Wind Resilience Between Agents on Penghu archipelago, Taiwan

Yaqing Zhan, zhanzhan.ya.qing@gmail.com

After fifty years of Holling's publication, a growing body of literature in different disciplines recognises the importance of resilience. However, there needs to be more understanding of resilience between academic discourse and community implementation. In academia, besides debating on operationalising, measuring and evaluating resilience, recent developments in resilience research have highlighted the need for cultural perspectives regarding risk management. On the one hand, resilience is a promising concept which can be optimised by including the notion of 'culture'. On the other hand, understanding the research area's culture facilitates cooperation between the community and researchers. This paper looks into wind resilience on the Penghu archipelago, Taiwan. Penghu archipelago is also called 'wind islands'. Besides tropical typhoons, people suffer from half of a year of monsoons, in addition to tropical typhoons. Monsoons' gusts sometimes reach the level of mediate typhoons. Therefore, the Penghu government and people invent various responses to winds. This research uses qualitative approaches, such as interviews and GIS, to map wind responses with cultural perspectives. This paper focuses on the power issue by classifying agents into institutions, communities, and individuals. Examining the conflicts and cooperations from agents to clarify how different power levels influence resilience. As a resilience researcher, this paper reflects on bridging the gap between the theoretical concept of resilience and its implementations.

3) Maps and Search and Rescue in the Arctic: more-than-human interactions in an incident response

Virga Popovaitė, virginija.popovaite@nord.no

Search and Rescue efforts in Northern Norway face challenging conditions: responders must consider unpredictable weather, surface features, infrastructure scarcity, technological capacity, and immediacy of finding the missing people. Norwegian rescue services are based on cross-organisational collaboration, thus bringing digital maps at the forefront for action coordination, as they contribute to decision making, information communication, and situational awareness. With this presentation I aim to discuss what my angle of analysis – maps as processes – reveals about a community’s capacity to react to incidents in fast-changing surroundings. My study is based on New Materialism, which pays attention to interactions. I investigate maps as processes, focusing on how they are constituted through practices. Therefore, I follow heterogenous entanglements of more-than-human actors. In this presentation I focus on localities related to Svalbard archipelago where maps are practiced. This includes incident response on land, air and sea, Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, and map modelling institutions in Norway. Employment of maps cuts across different fields, such as remote sensing, avalanche tracking, drift model calculation, bathymetry, funding, human and national security, standards and regulations, local knowledge, and infrastructure. Fluid landscape of the archipelago does not allow itself to be translated into a map, thus it requires additional means of knowledge making and sharing. Mapping practices of SAR responders reveal how local knowledges at play when it comes to overcoming navigation challenges. Even with localised practices, technological capabilities of mapping tools are highly interconnected with what happens in the Norwegian mainland, from map modelling to decision making.

4) Towards a Resilient Neo-animist Paradigm of Resource Circulation

Eric Arnould, eric.arnould@aalto.fi

Reformist interventions in the circulation of “natural” resources over the past 50 years like green consumerism, the sharing economy, or conventional environmental preservation have not contributed substantively to improving ecological resilience in the Anthropocene. The limitation of neoliberalism is evident in the evolution of COP27 towards exclusion of activist voices and business-as-usual techno-capitalist approaches. Consequently, climate change, loss of biodiversity, habitat destruction, and human suffering amongst those most affected by declining ecological resilience worsen. Rather than continue to feed failed neoliberal approaches to resilience, I argue for neo-animist “lines of flight.” Transformative neo-animist “lines of flight” aim to increase resilience. Neo-animism rejects the nature-culture binary and recognizes all living actors as interested parties in ecological resilience. Neo-animist system of resource circulation would interrupt the fiction that nature can be owned and exploited without replacement by those who “own” the land; extend the principle of shared sociality (a capacity for social life) to all living beings; recognize that all living beings provide and integrate resources to create ecosystemic value; harness biological science to improve communicative feedback between human and non-human actors; compensate pertinent non-human ecosystem actors so they can continue to provide resources to one another and to human actors; and, foster the extension of neo-animist mechanisms of resource circulation and value creation. Neo-animist lines of flight refocus interest on gifting relationships, reciprocal exchange and redistribution, and symbiosis as relational pathways to resilience. By excising neo-liberal principles that treat nature as a free good and economic growth, i.e., expanded accumulation, as inviolate, neo-animist principles can also help de-fetishize markets. Proposals for action research based on neo-animist principles and lines of flight will encourage a shift toward a neo-animist paradigm.

5) Somatic traits and economic transfers: giving and taking strategies across social gradients

Karl Mertens, karlmertens@boisestate.edu

In marginal environments where people depend on subsistence production, there is a difficult balance between looking after one’s self and one’s family, and giving and taking from others.  Work on generosity and punishment across societies has focused on explaining behavior as a result of economic system, affiliation, kinship, reciprocity and other factors, while giving little focus to explaining why individuals in the same environment behave differently and what individual traits are predictive of behavior. Using the RICH economic games (Gervais, 2017), I examined the relationships between generosity, punishment, and costly punishment across male and female networks in a village in rural Mozambique. Measurements of body mass and dimensions, grip strength, 2d-4d ratios (proxy of basal testosterone), and numerical STROOP provide measures of embodied wealth that may also be related to risk disposition. Variation in embodied wealth likely has complicated relationships to decision making about transferrable wealth. Keeping game resources could be seen as savings, where as transferring could be reciprocity or generosity. Decisions about transfers could be impacted by current somatic state and risk disposition toward giving or taking from others. Furthermore, noetic wealth could indicate capacity for balance keeping and strategic complexity and 2d-4d ratios for risk seeking behavior. Ethnographic interviews indicated variation in willingness to vary punishment and costly punishment behavior decisions across alters: some people were completely unwilling to punish, while others did so readily. Understanding the relationship of embodied traits to social behavior will help to clarify why individuals and strategies are differentially successful.


Session 10: Thursday 14:30 - 16:00


6) Resilience as selective independence in the Canadian Arctic

Franz Krause, f.krause@uni-koeln.de

Aklavik is a hamlet with around 600 inhabitants in the Gwich’in and Inuvialuit Settlement Regions in the Canadian Arctic. The hamlet has seen an eventful history from interethnic encounters and economic booms and busts (including those of the baleen rush, the fur trade and hydrocarbon explorations) to political watersheds (from a largely neglected treaty to land claims and self-government negotiations) and infrastructural tides (Aklavik going from small trading post to administrative center of the region to peripheral settlement in half a century). Today, Aklavik is one of many Indigenous settlements in the region that is highly dependent on government subsidies, such as housing programmes and income assistance. Many elders deplore this situation and emphasise that they have, in their own times, learned to distrust government agencies and to remain independent. This presentation argues that resilience can be understood as a form of independence. Amongst discourses and experiences of a changing climate that is liquefying the very ground in and around Aklavik, continued struggles for meaningful and viable livelihoods, and uncertain political futures, Inuvialuit and Gwich’in elders sometimes say that “hard times are coming”. Their stories suggest that in order to face these challenges, young people must re-learn to depend on the land, dogs, their networks and their own bodies, and to become independent from inherently ambiguous government support. Resilience, here, means more dependence on some things, and less on other things. The selectivity of independence reflects understandings of what is – and isn’t – really “dependable”.

7) Variation in foraging returns among Inuit harvesters

Friederike Hillemann, friederike_hillemann@eva.mpg.de
Elspeth Ready, elspeth_ready@eva.mpg.de

Involvement with traditional subsistence activities and sharing of country foods is variable within Indigenous Arctic communities today. People not only need capital to finance harvest activities (specifically, equipment and transportation), but also to adapt to changing travel and hunting conditions due to climate stressors. If people differ in their capacity to maintain access to harvest activities depending on their income, because harvest activities differ in their affordability, economic inequities may exacerbate inequalities in subsistence participation, with consequences for peoples' food security and socio-cultural identity. We previously analysed socio-economic correlates of Inuit foraging patch decisions (i.e., harvest method and target species) in the Canadian Arctic, and found that age, gender, income, and the number of ties in food-sharing support networks affect the choice of harvest activities. Here, we focus on another aspect of subsistence behaviour: variation in harvest returns (edible weight). We analyse foraging returns of more than 250 foraging trips involving 23 Inuit harvesters from Kangiqsujuaq, Nunavik, using a Bayesian approach that simultaneously models patch choice and the combined harvest return, which depends on both the success probability and the size of the harvest, and specifically models heterogeneity among foragers previously not accounted for. Using post-hoc analyses, we highlight the role of social factors on the risk-sensitivity of harvesters' patch choice decisions, and socio-economic factors determining harvest returns of Inuit hunters. Understanding the relationships between individual-level factors and hunting activities allows us to make predictions about how people are differently affected by ongoing environmental and societal changes, and we discuss expected implications of apparent economic barriers to harvesting on the long-term resilience of Arctic food systems.

8) The structure of subsistence risk-management networks

Elspeth Ready, elspeth_ready@eva.mpg.de
James Holland Jones, jhj1@stanford.edu

Risk-management, here referring to strategies that reduce variance in resource availability, is one of the key components of socio-ecological resilience. Based on a review of network research across the biological and social sciences, we identify general trade-offs in the management of risk on networks, and consider how these apply to the exchange networks that are common among subsistence populations. We predict that subsistence risk-management networks should have high rates of transitivity and a core-periphery form, and demonstrate that these patterns are present in the food-sharing network of an Inuit community. Our theoretical approach suggests that high connectivity in a productive network core is critical to the risk-buffering function of sharing networks, and accordingly, we consider what aspects of contemporary ecological and social change might threaten the persistence of the sharing network core in Inuit communities.

9) Social Support Networks, Household Structure, and Changing Livelihoods in Ulukhaktok, NT

Peter Collings, pcollings@ufl.edu
Friederike Hillemann, friederike_hillemann@eva.mpg.de

This paper examines social networks of support in Ulukhaktok, NT, Canada.  During June and July, 2015, Food Security, Household Economy, and Social Network data were collected with 78 heads of household in the settlement.  For the Social Network component, interviewees were asked to identify other households in the settlement from which they received support in the following domains: (a) country food, (b) store food, (c) money, (d) subsistence equipment, (e) assistance with daily tasks, and (f) advice/knowledge.  Preliminary analysis of these networks in the community suggest that exchanges tend to be restricted within nuclear-family household groups, with senior households acting as the nexus of social relations.  This pattern is different from the early-contact and contract-traditional Inuinnait pattern, which emphasized ties with age mates at the expense of ties with more senior kin.  The paper considers the sharing and support network as an example of resilience both within the context of household structure, household livelihood strategies, and food insecurity and in the context of profound socioeconomic and environmental change.

10) Connectedness and Social Capital in Taimyr

John Ziker, jziker@boisestate.edu

Food sharing practices are widespread across indigenous communities in the Arctic, particularly in those communities pursuing hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering for a significant portion of food intake. Reflecting the risks and uncertainties commonly experienced by Indigenous Arctic inhabitants, food sharing has been conceived of as a feature of resilience and adaptive capacity. This paper presents comparative information on four phases of food sharing within one Indigenous community in a region formerly known as the Taimyr (Dolgano-Nenetskii) Autonomous Region during the years following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Into the early 2000s, community members’ hunting, fishing and trapping contributed to a significant portion of family livelihoods. In this paper I present a new analysis of sharing by participants in joint hunting and fishing excursions from 2002 and 2003. I compare and contrast this study with three previous studies: 1) primary distributions following the hunt (Ziker, Rasmussen, and Nolin 2016); 2) secondary sharing by non-hunters who received portions in those primary distributions (Ziker and Fulk 2019); and 3) an earlier analysis of interhousehold sharing at meals (Ziker and Schnegg 2005). Together, the four studies demonstrate common and unique factors play into patterns of connectedness across each nexus of sharing. I conclude with a brief description of the local system of social capital – shared values and their propagation. Connectedness and social capital are the two major dimensions of resilience, contributing to the ability of people living off the land to conserve resources and deal with risks in rapidly changing Arctic environments.


5) Sacred Sites in the Anthropocene

Francis Joy (druidman1962@yahoo.co.uk)
Thora Hermmann

Panel description:
This panel is convened by the Sacred Sites Research Group, a consortium of Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers and rightsholders representing different cultural and disciplinary perspectives on places that have spiritual significance. Consortium members will give presentations on the challenges of protecting cultural heritage and living traditions in a multitude of contexts and cultures, focussing on questions such as: What makes a place sacred? To whom is it sacred? Should these places be ‘protected’ and, if so, what legal status would they have? What is it that we actually ‘protect’? Who should exercise rights over them? What responsibilities would the wider community have towards them? How would any legal framework be generated? The panel aims to share and discuss current results of scientific work in the field of sacred sites, cultural heritage and regional policy.


Session 1: Tuesday 10:30 - 12:00 

1) To be or not to be? Voice of the river and tourism development plans

Dr. Anna Stammler-Gossmann anna.stammler-gossmann@ulapland.fi

As in other places in the world, the tourism sector is regarded as having the potential for increased employment and income in a remote northern community in Sakha Yakutia (Northeastern Russia). In recent times, the small village with its dramatic watery scenery, picturesque natural surroundings, and sandy shores, has attracted more and more non-organized tourists. For the residents, closeness to water flow brings different ways of thinking and experiencing the river, which involves taking the river beyond its physicality. However, differently from a “man-made” place of worship or a natural sacred outcrop, a river as a “natural sacred site” might be perceived by tourists as just another place in the landscape. The development of the place as a tourist attraction linked to the river's sacredness is a challenging task. How could the hard-to-grasp river’s voice be submitted to those “out-of-place”? The proposed account presents a story where the human-river relationship seems to involve a pronounced reciprocal agency, where the river appears as a visible source of power and not just a backdrop of human action or a resource. The paper is concerned with the relationship between human experience with the river and the creation of undercurrents of meaning that also permeate the community’s attitudes towards developing local tourism.

2) The Dimensions of Culturally Sensitive Tourism in Sámi Sacred Sites

Eleonora Alareisto eleonora.alariesto@gmail.com

Growing and expanding tourism land use in sacred sites and areas causes different kinds of effects, such as contamination and erosion, which affect the very sacredness of the sites. The aim of the research is to explore the theory and concept of culturally sensitive tourism by examining the spatial and socio-cultural dimensions of Sámi sacred sites. The research focuses on the case example of tourism entrepreneurs’ land-use development plans to expand the company’s snowmobile and fat bike activities at the sacred fell area of Ailigas, in the northernmost municipality of Utsjoki, Sápmi. Sacred sites and areas hold great meaning to Sámi cultural heritage, and thus to the identities of Sámi communities. For this reason, the protection of sacred sites and areas needs to be acknowledged, since some sieidis (Sámi sacred sites) are still used for different kinds of sacred rituals, such as negotiating with spirits or reconnecting with ancestors. Sacred areas as sacred cultural landscapes have a great meaning to generational cultural heritage in means of traditional livelihoods, duodji (Sámi handicraft), and vitality of the Sámi language.

3) Preserving Sacred Sites in the Arctic: Lessons from Elsewhere?

Ayonghe Akwoni Nebasifu aayonghe@ulapland.fi

Questions about preserving Sacred Sites in the Anthropocene can be complex in situations of multiple actors with varied land uses. Thus, an outlook is needed on suitable approaches and theoretical underpinnings to understanding the ways people relate with Sacred Sites in complex settings of park management. This echoes in systems of resource management; the case of “co-management” –defined by partnership, power-sharing, and cooperation among various actors, and exemplified by collaboration between State authorities, local and indigenous residents, and the non-State such as conservation agencies, planning together on how best to preserve biodiversity. I present a case of multi-faceted relations (i.e., the co-existence of spiritual relations with other relations of park management attributed to the agency and cultural resilience among a people) using excerpts from a six-year ethnographic work with the Bakweri of the Mount Cameroon National Park in sub-Saharan West Africa. I reflect on the potential for combining methods and theories to conduct an anthropological inquiry about Sacred Sites and what implications this has for the Arctic and elsewhere with similar experiences. For more on this study’s publication, see: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-337-307-5

4) The Challenges of Appropriating Sámi Sacred Sites into the Tourism Industry in Finland

Francis Joy francis.joy@ulapland.fi

Across northern Fennoscandia, sacred sites have been at risk of exploitation because of how as holy places being connected with Sámi pre-Christian religion and cultural heritage as well as being places of reverence for other local cultures and people they were outlawed as evil by the State and Church, and thus, making offerings to them and any kind of worship was forbidden. Despite this ban, in some areas, people have secretly continued to make offerings and pay reverence to the spiritual powers of their culture, meaning there has been some level of continuity where fishing and reindeer herding are still subsistence activities that are maintained. Today however, we see, new kinds of threats emerging in connection with sacred sites, particularly in northern Finland where the Sámi people have earlier had settlements or still presently have. These threats come from mining, land development, and the development of the tourism industry, whereby, sacred sites are now being appropriated into tourism as destinations to visit because of how the pre-Christian religion of the Sámi people, which is where beliefs, traditions, and practices are tied to their culture are made exotic in order to attract business. The consequences of policies as such are that fires, litter, drunkenness, erosion, and leisure pursuits continue to harm these culturally significant and sensitive places. to the extent, irreversible damage is evident at some locations. The aims of the research are to outline how these issues are evident and in what ways current levels of protection from the Antiquities Act (1963) are inadequate and why.


Session 2: Tuesday 21 14:00 - 15:30


5) Singing the Sacred: Building a Relationship with a Rock Art Site

Ulla Valovesi ulla-marja.valovesi@utu.fi

In my study of 140 rock painting sites in Finland, I have applied a method that starts from a place as an open process. The embodied experience forms one level of observation at these sites: how do they look, sound and feel in many ways – in other words, what are the affordances for the selection of these places instead of some other?
My study has revealed a constant pattern in the landscape and soundscape at Finnish rock painting sites where rock paintings are regularly placed on anthropo- and zoomorphic forms in cliffs with exceptionally good songscape. Often the paintings seem to indicate exactly the best singing place with the echo of the cliff. This opens an active process of co-singing which evolves for a powerful feeling of a relationship with the stone people found present in the cliff. The songscape contributes for the relational epistemology and ontology where a knowledge
formation process starts from the place. In this framework the rock painting sites appear as central places for experiencing and maintaining the relationship between the human and other people which share the world with us. In this respect they resemble the Saami sacred sieidi sites where the yoiking with Gedgge olmush, the Stone people, has been an important part of maintaining a balanced way of life in the relational environment

6) How Secret Should Spiritual Knowledge Be? Human-Spirit Relations in the Nenets Tundra

Florian Stammler florian.stammler@ulapland.fi

The majority of the Arctic human population is not considered indigenous, yet sacred sites and indigenous cosmologies relating to them are increasingly known also beyond the indigenous world. This presentation analyses how indigenous practitioners get the message of sacred sites and their spirits across social and cultural borders to incoming people, such as industrial workers, truck drivers, or others passing by. While animist believers may not purposefully act as missionaries promoting their religion, research materials from the Russian Arctic show ample evidence for animism as a worldview to be accepted by believers in other religions or former atheists. The presentation explores possible explanations for the attractiveness of an animist worldview among people in coming to the Arctic.

7) Indigenous customary laws concerning sacred sites or heritage sites

Dawid Bunikowski dawidbu@uef.fi

Regarding the topic of protection of sacred sites, the paper aim is to combine the theory of cultural ecology with the theory of legal pluralism. The broader idea is to help recognise indigenous customary laws in the Arctic, including laws concerning sacred sites. In terms of legal pluralism, there are different normative/legal systems (customary, local, indigenous, state, European, international; written, unwritten; secular, religious, etc.). There are tensions between them as well. While coming with legal pluralism to cultural ecology, it is clear that “cultural ecology is concerned with the reciprocal interactions between the behaviour of people and the environments they inhabit” (Dillon). In the paper, two case studies from Canada and Finland are presented in the context of the protection of sacred sites. The Nisga’a people are aboriginal people living in British Columbia in Canada. They have an agreement with the federal government. The treaty also regulates protection of sacred sites. In comparison, in Finland, there is no such agreement between the Sami people as Indigenous People and the central government. The Sami people are still struggling for some decent level of self-determination while in Finland. When it comes to the protection of sacred sites, there is a very old-fashioned law concerning the protection of “antiquities”. The framework of both legal pluralism and cultural ecology helps us understand that the Western legislator often is to depreciate sacred sites, especially those of indigenous peoples.

8) Sacred sites – Destruction or Counter-Hegemonic Resistance?

René Kuppe rene.kuppe@univie.ac.at

The existence and integrity of the sacred sites of Indigenous Peoples are not only triggered by economic development projects and insensitive behavior of foreign visitors or tourists. We are also currently witnessing, in many parts of the world, the radicalization of religious missionaries and believers of Evangelical Christianity and, partly, also non-Christian (Hindu, Muslim) fundamentalist groups, for whom so-called "traditional ethnic religions" are an expression of a primitive and pagan way of life; a way of life which these fundamentalist groups are attempting to combat.

In many parts of the world, traditional indigenous believers are threatened or intimidated in order to stop them from practicing their ethnic religions; sacred sites and sacred areas and rives are desecrated or access to them is denied. Starting from a few short case scenarios, the paper shows how these religious attacks on the integrity of indigenous cosmovisions and spirituality violate late modern principles of international human rights law. Finally, it will show how Indigenous Peoples and their organizations are developing strategies to ward off destructive attacks on the spiritual dimension of their cultures, and how much the international and national legal system can provide a robust basis for counter-hegemonic resistance.

6) Beyond speech: toward a northern sensory ecology of animals, plants, and humans

Alex Oehler (alex.oehler@uregina.ca),
Victoria Peemot (victoria.peemot@helsinki.fi)

Panel description:
This panel is based on the premise that animals, plants, and humans share an ancient history of nonverbal communication, and we seek to document such interactions as they are observed in day-to-day situations. For most Western thinkers, the human ability to speak and to express abstract thought separates people from animals and plants who are often considered inferior because of their different communication methods, which are largely imperceptible to (Western) humans. Rather than focusing on the communicative differences of humans and other beings, we explore our shared capacity for sensory nonverbal communication through a study of posture, gesture, scent, sound, and intuitive modes. Informed by northern Indigenous and non-Indigenous experiences with animals and plants, we hope to learn more about the material and intangible heritages of multispecies collaborations in the North.

Session 4: Wednesday 8:30-10:00

1. Interdisciplinary Prospects for the Study of Nonverbal Interspecies Communication

Alex Oehler, University of Regina, alex.oehler@uregina.ca

This paper is based on a combination of extensive multispecies fieldwork in South Central Siberia and two years of dialoguing with scholars of diverse disciplinary backgrounds on the topic of sensory ecology and nonverbal interspecies communication. It gauges the potential for a constructive dialogue between (1) northern circumpolar ethnography and its historical emphasis on Indigenous cosmology in interspecies communication; (2) the resurgence of semiotic theory in more than human anthropology; and (3) a growing interest in the research and scholarship of intuitive interspecies communication in the environmental humanities. It asks, what are some potential points of friction between these three approaches, and where do their concerns and methodologies overlap in promising ways? How can multispecies ethnography contribute to the further development of (bio)semiotics, and conversely, how can the work of multispecies ethnographers benefit from classical semiotic insights? Finally, how do the narratives of contemporary practitioners of intuitive interspecies communication dialogue with northern Indigenous accounts of more than human communication? These reflections are intended to conceptually position papers given at the panel “Beyond speech: toward a northern sensory ecology of animals, plants, and humans.”

2. Agreements with Bears: Evenki Reindeer Herders and Taiga Conviviality

Donatas Brandišauskas, Vilnius University, d.brandisauskas@gmail.com

In my presentation I will show how nomadic Evenki reindeer herders and hunters create and maintain their mutual interpersonal relations with bears in taiga environments. While, most of the ethnographic literature assert the role and importance of bears in Evenki cosmologies, I aim to elaborate how Evenki interact with bears as diverse individuals that have specific personal characteristics and social abilities. I will show how humans and bears align their lives sharing their living environments and resources based on their experiences of mutual communications, reading intentions, spatial respect and face to face interactions. This taiga conviviality between the social bear and indigenous herders also relies on established relatedness, trust and partnership that is referred as agreement by Evenki or “commonwealth” (see Shirokogoroff 1935). At the same time, such relation shows how ethics of taiga conviviality also preconditions maintenance of certain balance, when less cooperative and dangerous beings are to be eliminated for opening potentialities for other more social relations. 

3. Sensory Ecology in Arctic Beringia

Jaroslava Panáková, Slovak Academy of Sciences, haliganda@gmail.com

In this presentation, I aim to show how odours – the mental representations of odorous stimuli – structure social relationships and thinking about the world in a Yupik-Chukchi community in Chukotka, Russia. I will explore how the smells associated with particular emotions encode communication among human beings, plants, animals, and such elements of nature as the ice, sea, or tundra. The differing olfactory patterns are conceptualised within the broad socio-political processes of Soviet and post-Soviet modernisation. The study draws on David Howes’ (2002) and Constance Classen et al.’s (1994) argument that the cultural politics of olfaction intensify under changing social regimes. In addition, David Chaney’s concept of lifestyle (1996) proves to be helpful in enhancing the investigation of the interrelation between social differentiation and aesthetic patterns in the context of the Soviet mission civilisatrice. In the analysis of the impact of Soviet (and post-Soviet) policies on Native olfactory practices, the study shifts focus from deodorisation (a concept that refers to the elimination of odours that colonizing western discourse finds socially unacceptable) towards sanitation (a process in which cleanliness as a synecdoche for civility may lead to, but not necessarily does, a repudiation of certain odours). I shall demonstrate how the ongoing process of odour differentiation (including acceptable and non-acceptable smells, useful and redundant odours etc.) effects the sensory dialogues within the community that, in turn, may influence the perception of any ecological risks and a potential burden on basic food security and survival.


Session 5: Wednesday 10:00-11:30

5. Building (S)kinship in the Steam Bath – Sauna Becoming in Two Case Studies

Mari Keski-Korsu & Dalva Lamminmäki, Aalto University, mari.keskikorsu@aalto.fi

Steam bathing can be found in many cultures in different forms. Both Northern sauna culture and folk healing have strong historical, communal, and mythological connotations as they belong together. The mythology behind sauna culture has its roots in an animistic worldview and later in folk beliefs. Sauna is not just a building; its elements are tied to a worldview which still finds expression through the sauna today. Contemporary sauna practices are researched through its physical effects, including cardiovascular health (Laukkanen & Laukkanen, 2020), which are offered as wellness services within the capitalistic economy. If heritage is a material structure for the ‘accumulation of affect’ (Ireland & Lydon, 2018) what are the affects of it today? How can embodied knowledges be facilitated in sauna? Sauna is a holistic, communal and sensory experience, a space for tangible interdependence with more-than-human and vital materiality. Can sauna be a transcendent place to re- and unlearn through kinship and towards (s)kinship? In this interdisciplinary study, which draws on anthropological and artistic research methods, these questions are analyzed in two case studies. One study looks at the becoming of sauna in a Findian family, while the other focuses on the becoming of sauna ritual(isation) with local plants and soils. The methods used are (sensorial) interviews, observation, practice-based research and artwork, including empathic and intuitive inter-species communication in combination with folk healing. The paper is guided by participatory research, actively involving research participants in the creation, production, and dissemination of its findings.

6. Beyond the Eye of the Angler: A More-than-human Communion Through the Sonar-o-graphy Technique

Vesa Markuksela, University of Lapland, vesa.markuksela@ulapland.fi

The cultural logic of the sport fishing mode of trolling is arranged into an overlapping and iterative sequence: to locate, become familiar with, and ultimately connect with fish. Such simplified sequencing also provides a trajectory for multi-species underwater ethnography. The angler endeavors to connect with fish via a technology-enable gaze—that is, by monitoring the screen of an echosounder-system. The subsurface observation of fish, water, vegetation, and bottom is a messy combination of sensory and multi-species ethnography. I refer to this novel technique as sonar-o-graphy. It seeks to engage with fish via a “distant” technique, without an actual close “contact zone.” Echosounder-systems enable “hyper-extended” visual perception, offering new ways of sensing the water world. My analysis is less concerned with the echosounder as an object, and more interested in the assemblages of vertical depth it renders, as well as in its creation of a point of connection for human and nonhuman agencies. Digital technology leverages data from more-than-human bodily movements and sensations, increasing our multi-species and sensory knowledge practices. Embodied sonar-o-graphy emerges when we apply emphatic perspectives to a new postnatural sensorium. This enables a degree of reflexivity in the observer, while allowing them to witness meaningful experiences of nonhuman others. It also provides an approximation of what humans might feel to be animal sensations. The technique enables human-animal communication through sensory-rich body language, generating a body of relational sensory wisdom. It also provides an embodied understanding between the studied nonhuman and the human.

7. Glimpsing a Moment: The Use of Photography in the Study of Nonverbal Communication Across the Living World

Jette Rygaard & Susan B. Vanek, University of Greenland, jery@uni.gl

Although the vast majority of social science research continues to privilege only humans and human-to-human relations, often in the form of verbal and written speech, an increasing number of scholars have highlighted the limitations of this focus and instead have advocated for multispecies approaches that draw attention to interaction across the living world. This paper explores the use of photography as tool to both document and explore such shared nonverbal communications across species and the environment, highlighting its utility as well as its limitations. This work draws on research conducted over a five-year-period in conjunction with local schools in Greenland, during which students were asked to document their lives, communities, hope, and dreams through photographs. Although limited to static snap-shots of moments divorced from other sensory input, these photographs still provided a glimpse into the mundane instances of interaction between humans, animals, and plants that form the foundations of daily life. Far from only being images of the built environment or family and friends, these photographs displayed interactions with dogs, ravens, plants, and broader environment that were not separate from but intrinsic to life, demonstrating a sense of community facilitated through communication that extends far beyond relations solely between humans. This paper advocates for the incorporation of photography into the broader toolkit needed to explore interaction and communication beyond words.

8. A Plan and a Fair: Practices of Pomorian Wooden Boatbuilding and Seafaring

Nikita Karbasov, University of Oslo, nikitaka@student.sv.uio.no

This paper focuses on the tension between the ‘building’ and ‘dwelling’ perspectives (Tim Ingold) concerning wooden boatbuilding and seafaring practices in the Arkhangelsk and Murmansk regions of northwestern Russia. It deals with the complex ways of interacting with today’s environment by challenging the dwelling perspective, while simultaneously keeping its basic logic of seeing in the world. Contemporary processes of building and navigating wooden ships include diverse digital technologies (GPS, cart plotting, computer-calculated schemes, etc.). Yet, the traditional ‘eye-ball’ method remains an important aspect in the study of the relation between world and map (in navigation), and between idea and realization (in wooden boatbuilding). I observe how boatbuilders and myself interact with wood, roots, and trees, and how navigators interact with changing waves, wind, and the sun's shadows, all the while using meters and GPS. The paper is based on two periods of summer fieldwork. First, I participated in boatbuilding at the Arkhangelsk yards and in two old fishing villages on the White Sea Coast (Letnya Zolotiza and Lopshen’ga). Subsequently, I trained as mate in a sailing expedition on the traditional boat, karbas, in Murmansk district. Participant observation was supported by interviews with local boatbuilders, navigators, activists, fisher-people, local government, and national park officials. The paper also touches on local environmental and technical features, regional historical features of boatbuilding and seafaring, relations between Natives and sea animals, bureaucratic and power relations, and the problem of cultural heritage preservation. 


Session 6: Wednesday 11:30-13:00

9. “Seeing” Plant Rhizosphere Through Moving Images: Changing Visions of Soil

Virginia Vargolskaia & Biplabi Bhattarai, University of Vienna, virdzhiniia.vargolskaia@univie.ac.at

In recent years a line of literature in the social sciences has turned its attention to soil, new ways of conceptualizing it, and alternative approaches to human-soil relationships. In soil ecology and related disciplines, the shift to understanding soil as a process has assembled human and non-human elements in new ways, challenging not only existing ways of knowledge production but turning soils into a ground for testing and contesting these assemblages in-the-making. Drawing on ethnographic material from an international training network experiment based in the geothermal fields of Iceland, our case study deals with subarctic soils as a ground of an “unseen” climate change. We thus witness the emergence of a new knowledge infrastructure, which (a) challenges existing ideas about how people can sense nonhuman actors in soils, i.e., re-envisioning the embodied and sensory work performed by root ecologists, and which (b) opens a space for creating more inclusive and participatory relationships with soils.

10. Human-tree Collaboration in the Framework of Affordances

Kaisa Vainio, Tuomo Takala, Karoliina Lummaa, Juul Limpens, & Eeva-Stiina Tuittila, University of Eastern Finland, kaisa.vainio@uef.fi

Trees and humans are entangled in multiple ways. In this study, we apply the theory of affordances by James J. Gibson to understand the complex nature of human-tree relationships. In our analysis, affordances are action possibilities to utilize benefits and avoid harms that the environment provides for a perceiver. We examine affordances provided by trees and perceived by humans. Our survey data of Dutch people’s relationships with their favorite trees (n=158) was analyzed with a combination of quantitative multivariate analysis and qualitative content analysis. We identified three distinct types of human-tree relationships that all emphasized positive affordances loaded with emotions. In nostalgic relationship, the favorite tree formed a bridge to warm childhood memories. In nurturing relationship, the favorite tree framed the scenery of everyday life and provided diverse possibilities for horticulture. The tree was often located in the respondent’s own garden. In empowering relationship, the typically big charismatic favorite tree provided feelings of admiration, solace, and strength. In our analysis, we expand the concept of action possibilities to cover also immaterial action, such as memorizing or enjoying beauty, and widen the concept of perception to cover mental images. Favorite trees seem to have similar positive benefits to human well-being as do favorite natural places and natural environments in general. Affordance theory opens up these benefits and potential harms in an interesting way that seems to have a lot of unused potential in the analysis of human-nature relationships and nature use.

11. Spiraea Söösken: Its Status, Use, and Place in Land-based Human-nonhuman Kinship

Victoria Soyan Peemot, University of Helsinki, victoria.peemot@helsinki.fi

This study explores Indigenous knowledge about plants among mobile pastoralists in the Tyva Republic, North Asia. It focuses on the pastoralists’ understandings of söösken which are embedded in their relationships with sentient and superordinate homelands (Humphrey & Onon 2003 [1996]). The diverse Rosaceae family’s genus Spiraea is represented by several species in Tyva and corresponds with the taxon söösken in folk nomenclature. Pastoralists in southern Tyva recognize three Spiraea species all of which have Tyvan names. Tyva pastoralists approach söösken as a respected plant. Its high status is revealed in several practices: asking for permission from homelands before gathering it, leaving offerings in exchange, restricting the gatherers’ age, and limiting the amount of söösken gathered. These practices draw attention to the plant’s capacity as a mediator between human-nonhuman communities and sentient homelands. The study reveals factors which inform the Tyva-speaking pastoralists’ relationship with söösken, its use as a crafting material, as medicinal herb, and as protection against potentially harmful nonhuman nonanimal beings. This paper draws attention to challenges in the coherent translation of the noun söösken into other languages as encountered in linguistic and ethnographic sources.

12. Subsensorial Wefts

Pia Lindman, Independent researcher, piuska@mac.com

The subsensorial refers to a realm of experience, that is beyond the capabilities of our human everyday sensory equipment. It refers to events interweaving our minds, bodies, and environments together. These events are registered on a molecular and cellular level, yet, usually do not rise to human consciousness. Nevertheless, these events have an effect on our minds, bodies, and our sense of belonging to this world - our sense of connectivity. The subsensorial is a realm where molecular prosesses and micro-messaging between cells, matter, and energy within and outside living bodies meet with a mind’s imagination and weave a weft of artistic expression. The subsensorial realm, in its nature, belongs to the field of sensory experiences, however, it traverses through surfaces, skin, even bone, stone, and water. For a human, to tune in to the subsensorial realm produces a deep embodied environmental awareness mediated by one’s senses. I create and give subsensorial sessions as part of my art practice.  During these sessions I see visions of the subsensorial in my mind’s inner eye and I paint these visions. These visions appear uniquely the way they do only in a particular session and interaction with a particular human being or other entity. During this work, by methods of artistic practice, I have gained a deeper understanding of how the subsensorial realm affects our lived experience - not only in the interaction between humans - but in all our relations, be it microbes, animals, plants, landscapes, minerals, or waters.


7) Minority Rights, Culture, and Anthropology

Livia Holden, Université Paris 1 Panthén-Sorbonne, livia.holden@univ-paris1.fr
Reetta Toivanen, University of Helsinki, reetta.toivanen@helsinki.fi

Panel description:
What is the place of social and cultural anthropology in the field of human rights law and minority rights? Such concepts as culture, tradition, ethnicity, nation or race are core concepts of anthropological thinking and analysis. Simultaneously, they play an important role in international legislation on human rights, especially when lawyers deal with minority right issues. Thus, jurisprudence may legally entitle peoples to their cultures or may deny them the corresponding rights. As the concepts used in the courtrooms are never of a neutral origin, anthropologists are increasingly paying attention to the problems related to "struggles over cultural rights" and “expertise on cultural rights”. How can anthropology help us to engage and rethink the powerful of frameworks of human rights and to take the concept of equality seriously, as well as reconsidering its own core analytical constructs in the process? The workshop aims to take recent case law produced by the European Court of Human Rights and by the national courts in Europe as an empirical basis for conceptual and theoretical discussions. We encourage potential contributors to submit paper proposals (no longer that 250 words), tackling with questions of minority rights, anti-racism, and anti-discrimination, cultural experitise in courts and litigatigation and initiating an in-depth debate on the use of the above mentioned "core concepts" of anthropology and their possible consequences as they relate to the field of human rights and its practice today in the world and in particular in Europe.


Session 7: Wednesday 14:30 - 16:00


1) Cultural Expertise and Indigenous People

Livia Holden, liviaholden@culturalexpertise.net

Cultural expertise as special knowledge which assists decision-making authorities in the assessment of evidence is proposed as an innovative theoretical framework resting on strengthened ethics and comprehensive awareness of structural inequalities, which also includes the claims and protection of Indigenous people. This paper overviews the international legal framework which governs the provision for Indigenous expertise scrutinizes the anthropological practices that have established a division of competencies between anthropologists and Indigenous people and compares three representative ways in which Indigenous voices have been received as evidence by law courts. This paper will conclude with considerations of the voices of Indigenous people as a condition for cultural expertise to adequately support the claims of Indigenous people.

2) Indigenous language rights in Japan

Madoka Hammine (madoka.hammine@gmail.com),
Saana Santalahti (saana.santalahti@gmail.com),
Tatsiana Tsagelnik (taciana.by@gmail.com)

Though Japan is often perceived as a monolingual nation-state, recent scholarship highlights Japan’s multilingual, multicultural and multi-ethnic reality. In this presentation, we will discuss the policy and education of the Indigenous languages of Japan. These include the Ryukyuan languages native to the Ryukyuan archipelago, as well as the Ainu language native to the present-day Hokkaido prefecture. Even though Ryukyuan and Ainu languages do not share linguistic similarities and are geographically located in the opposite extremities of Japan, the speaker communities have experienced a similar history of colonisation and linguistic assimilation. Currently, they face comparable issues related to language rights. The language rights of Japan’s Indigenous communities are not taken into consideration in the official school curriculum, which is focused on Japanese or kokugo, ‘the national language’, and foreign language teaching, which is mainly English. Neither Ainu nor Ryukyuan speakers and learners are guaranteed the right to receive education in their heritage languages as recommended in international documents such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples. Despite these difficulties at the policy level, there are an emerging number of grassroots initiatives to support language reclamation and revitalisation in both Ainu and Ryukyuan language communities. These activities are often conducted in language classrooms and study groups, both offline and online. We explore the ongoing challenges and community solutions to teaching Indigenous languages without adequate support from the central government.

3) The practice of the right to heritage in the Izhemsky district of the Komi Republic (Russia).

Karolina Sikora, karolina.sikora@ulapland.fi


4) Being Komi in the city: identities and belonging

Maria Fedina, Doctoral student/researcher, University of Helsinki, maria.fedina@helsinki.fi

Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi Republic (Russia), is the region’s largest and allegedly most promising city. A quarter of the city’s population (i.e. approximately 62 thousand) is comprised of ethnic Komi people. The Komi people are the Finno-Ugric ethnic group that inhabits, apart from the Komi Republic, several other regions of the Russian North and amounts to approximately 230 thousand in Russia. The Komi Republic is an ethno-territorial entity with the Komi people being its titular people. The region’s political and legal status is directly connected to the living of the Komi people, and therefore the vitality of Komi communities is directly related to the sustainable development of the region and its population. The Komi people have experienced drastic urbanization; nowadays, more than 47% of them are urban dwellers. Most relocated to the cities from the rural areas; a small share is born urbanites. Syktyvkar is not only the most Komi-populated city, but it also hosts the biggest share of the region’s urban Komi people (65%).  This work investigates 1) how urban-dwelling Komi residents perceive themselves in urban space, 2) what meaning they engrain in being Komi urban residents, 3) how they sustain and renounce their Kominess, and 4) how urban area and Komi people interinfluence each other. The present contribution is based on the interviews and field notes collected and recorded during the fieldwork conducted by the author in Syktyvkar in 2021-2022.  This contribution is a presentation of a work in progress.

5) Correct evidence? A problem with the United Nations Human Rights Committee

Reetta Toivanen, reetta.toivanen@helsinki.fi

The national laws of Finland identify criteria for belonging to the Indigenous Sámi in order to protect their cultural heritage and identity. In Finland, the electoral committee of the representative organ of Sámi Indigenous Peoples, the Sámi Parliament, decides who fulfills the criteria for being Sámi and thus is included in the electoral roll. Since its establishment, the Sámi Parliament has rejected hundreds of applications by persons not recognized as Sámi. Unsuccessful applicants can appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland (SAC). In 2015, the SAC overturned 93 rejections. This led to an internal crisis of the Sámi Parliament and to the question, of who actually has the cultural expertise to decide who is indigenous in Finland. Sámi activists filed two complaints with the United Nations Human Rights Committee regarding the violation of Sámi rights to self-determination. In 2019, the Human Rights Committee concluded that Finland had violated the rights of the Sámi. This paper analyzes what is cultural expertise for ascertaining Sámi identity and who exercises it. The focus is on the evidence required by the SAC and the question of whether identity can be decided by legal experts, and independent judges of a Finnish judiciary, without any involvement of cultural experts. It is argued that the legal instruments adopted to protect Indigenous Peoples lack cultural expertise on the diversity and heterogeneity of the real-life contexts where rights are negotiated, leading applicants to repeat essentialist arguments of how Indigenous Peoples stereotypically would be. 


8) Making “good relations” in more-than-human worlds

Panel organisers:
Dr Anna Krzywoszynska, University of Oulu, thisisannak@gmail.com
Dr Agnese Bankovska, University of Helsinki, agnese.bankovska@helsinki.fi

Panel description:
Anthropology and sister disciplines have seen a growth in studies of more than human relations, that is, of the ways in which humans are meaningfully entangled with other living and non-living entities, from microbes to elements. Investigations of such relations often take on a special normative intensity, especially when set against the background of climate breakdown and other socio-ecological catastrophes. Consequently, more than human scholarship increasingly goes beyond just following and celebrating relations, but seeks to understand and even intervene in the logics and mechanisms of relationality: aiming to create better relations and so better relational futures for humans and more than humans alike. From ethnographic approaches, to collaboration with citizen scientists, artists and colleagues from the natural sciences, anthropologists and other social scientists are opening up a new arena of relational experimentation.


Session 4: Wednesday 8:30-10.00


1) Mining soils: political ontological foundations of soil extractivism in Europe

Saana Hokkanen, University of Helsinki, saana.hokkanen@helsinki.fi

Soils are a foundational part of relational and interdependent planetary existence; almost all local and global multispecies relations are somehow connected to the functioning of soils. Regardless of their centrality for life, soils and soil health are under an ongoing systemic threat, which is representative of the wider multi-crises that include climate emergency and cascading extinction. The wider implications of systemic soil abuse and its significance for world-systemic dynamics have only recently become an object of interest in social and multidisciplinary science. To fill in part of this gap, this article examines how specific (non-relational) political ontological understandings of soils are incorporated into agricultural politics in Europe, and introduces a novel theoretical contribution of “soil extractivism” to describe current institutionalized ways of relating to soils, along with the related dynamics of power. Through an integrative literature review, the article links existing social scientific and multidisciplinary research on soils with the development of modern industrial agriculture and agricultural politics in Europe. The theoretical contribution of soil extractivism provides conceptual tools for understanding currently dominant ways of treating soils as a key part of modernity and industrial capitalism, as well as part of wider destructions of multispecies relations. Soil extractivism is therefore in direct opposition with relational, ‘care-full’ and sustainable (‘good’) ways of relating with soils and all other life. The article shows how thinking with soils can offer vital openings for holistic understandings of the global multi-crises, and provide frameworks for alternatives that foster more care-full ways of relating to other-than-human-life.

2) Urban Kittiwakes in Tromsø – a challenge for multi-species co-existence in the Antropocene

Ingeborg Solvang, University of Tromsø, ingeborg.solvang@uit.no

The desperate screams of a kittiwake trying to get to the nesting site of last summer is overwhelming. Her old nest is covered with a net. Again and again, tirelessly, she attacks the net covering her nest. The desperation of the kittiwake in this multi species contact zones can illuminate the diversity of encounters in a more-than-human theoretical approach. What are the human responses to her efforts, and how can her actions and constraints be interpretated as meaningful contributions to multispecies co-existence? The Kittiwakes, the small black-legged seagulls (Rissa Tridactyla), have collectively left their original habitats out in the North-Atlantic Ocean: The decline in the population is severe; almost 75 % the last 30 years, and the population is still falling. Tromsø, Vardø, ammerfest and other coastal cities of Northern Norway have during a decade become the home of thousands of migrating kittiwakes. The bird’s presence is causing tension in the communities; The smelly and acid guano is etching the buildings and the loud squeaks in the summer season is causing friction between bird protectors and building owners. The city’s answer to this challenge is to wrap in the buildings completely, covering public owned institutions in the area including the High North Research Centre for Climate housing not less than 21 institutions doing research on for instance highly endangered species like the kittiwakes. This study is exploring the potential affordances of the urban landscape she meets, different management practices, citizens, activists’ and artists’ reactions and the researchers’ actions during a nesting period, drawing on experiences from other coastal cities in the north.

3) Anxiety and enchantment: encountering soil life

Anna Krzywoszynska, University of Oulu, anna.krzywoszynska@oulu.fi
New understandings of soils as living ecosystems are opening the door for a transformation of soil knowledges towards more responsive, situated, and humble models. Encounters have long been theorised as affectively charged events capable of transforming ethical, epistemic, and ontological positions, and so as crucial to the transformation of ethico-epistemic systems.  Encounters are understood ‘work’ as spaces of ethical and epistemic transformation because those who come together in encounters affect one another, put one another in motion in such a way that the relationships are reconfigured in a, hopefully, positive way. This paper investigates the concept of encounter in the context of human relations with living soils. Drawing on ethnographic work with regenerative agriculture farmers in the UK, it explores how encounters with soil life suggest the need to revisit theories of encounter. It specifically draws attention to both the value and the risk of placing enchantment at the heart of encounters. It further calls for work on encounters to engage with the collective structures within which encounters occur in order to cultivate the space for enchantment.

4) “The relationship that you have with the things that you fish.”: The antagonism & shared survival of fish and fishermen in the Lofoten islands.

Nafsika Papacharalampous, SOAS, University of London, nafsikacooks@gmail.com

This paper draws from short ethnographic fieldwork and collected oral histories in the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway in 2019. In this paper I follow “skrei”, the Norwegian codfish (Gadus morhua). I explore the “good relations” and what I call the “nomadic symbiosis” of islanders and skrei via their diachronic entanglements, as these appear in historical and present narratives, in changing ideas around economic development and progress, but also in the changes in the physical and political landscapes. These moments of connection, all challenge human-centric views arguing for skrei’s agency in cuisine-making, but also vis-à-vis identity-making, as skrei became recognized conjuring a newfound sense of belonging and becoming part of an imagined community within the Lofoten islands and beyond. I argue that these meaningful interactions create worlds that decenter human agency and revisit the notion of cuisine and nation-building processes as truly multispecies Entanglements.


Session 5: Wednesday 10:00-11:30


5) Ecological grief as relationship

Marzia Varutti, University of Geneva, marzia.varutti@unige.ch

Ecological degradation is causing increasing emotional distress, pain and sadness – what has been called ecological grief (Cunsolo & Landman 2017). This paper explores ecological grief and the mourning enactments that express it, as valuable frameworks for establishing ‘good relations’ – more equitable and respectful – with the more-than-human worlds. Drawing on examples of ecological mourning (such as memorials for melted glaciers in Iceland and Switzerland) and art-science collaborative projects (bringing together artists with paleontologists, glaciologists and zoologists at the Museum of Natural History, Geneva), I aim to cast light on what ecological grief and mourningas cultural, political, ethical and affective processes –  do to our relationships with what surrounds us.

I weave together theories on affect (Ahmed 2013), loss and mourning (Butler 2004; Barnett 2022; Cunsolo & Landman 2017), care (Puig de la Bellacasa 2017) and environmental ethics (Morton 2016; Ingold 2020, 2021), to support my argument that ecological grief and mourning can positively transform our relationships with more-than-human beings. Firstly, they require acknowledgment of ecological loss, thus countering denial and fostering an ethos of attention and ecological awareness as ontology and research method. Secondly, they promote individual and collective healing by creating affective communities of shared ecological concerns and emotions, able to move beyond guilt and despair, towards empathy, resilience and action. As a result, ecological grief and mourning are acts of care: they substantiate an ethics of care which helps us to think through the notion of ‘good’ relationships, and opens a path towards mending our broken relationships with the planet.

6) The mosquito swarm: relating to monstrous abundance in the age of insect decline

Eemi Nordström, University of Helsinki, eemi.nordstrom@helsinki.fi

“Can we develop a healthier relationship to the mosquito?” ask Marcus Hall and Dan Tamïr in Mosquitopia: The Place of Pests in a Healthy World (2022). The same could be asked about human-insect relationship in general, as recent studies suggest that global insect populations are experiencing a drastic decline. Despite the growing interest in multi-species relationships, human-insect relations have remained somewhat in the margins of anthropology and related disciplines. One reason may be that the theoretical and methodological tools in more-than-human studies tend to focus on a rather narrow pool of non-humans, representing body shapes, scales, and sensory experiences similar and/or familiar to the researchers themselves. Thus, they may be difficult to apply to contexts involving creatures deemed more “alien”. 

This paper approaches the question of a healthier human-mosquito relationship by defining the mosquito as two distinct beings with different ontologies and ways of relating to the more-than-human world: firstly, as a singular and bounded biological entity, and secondly, as a multitude more than the sum of its parts – that is, a swarm. By focusing on the multi-sensory and temporal aspects in historical and contemporary encounters with northern mosquito swarms, the paper suggests that theories and methodologies for more sustainable human-insect relationships may benefit from discussions with anthropological studies involving “spirits”, monsters, and other multi-sensory, transgressive beings. The paper is based on an ongoing PhD research project in anthropology that will include an ethnographic fieldwork in the near future.  

7) Forgotten fish: A Swedish civic experiment in reconstructing “good” more-than-human relations

Maris Boyd Gillette and Viktor Vesterberg, University of Gothenburg, maris.gillette@gu.se, viktor.vesterberg@gu.se

This paper examines Forgotten Fish (FF), a Swedish civic experiment in reconstructing “good” relations between chefs, coastal fishers, food artisans, local and heritage food activists, fish, and local marine ecologies. This participant-action research project took place in five Swedish locations during 2021-2022. Designed by the food heritage organisation Rutabaga Academy, of which Vesterberg is a member, and funded by the Swedish Agricultural Board with EU monies, FF intended to “reconnect” fish, coastal fishers, chefs, and ecologies in place-based networks of “good” relations, as opposed to the “broken” connections that Rutabaga Academy argued characterised Swedish seafood provisioning. The project invited chefs, fishers, and other food activists to explore the local abundance of “forgotten” fish, defined as fish that were plentiful in local marine ecosystems yet rarely consumed in Swedish restaurants or homes, as opposed to the scarcity of local fish in the dominant food system. While motivated by concerns about the environmental, economic, and socio-political challenges faced by coastal fishers and the human practices and policies that degrade Swedish waterways, FF explicitly focused on joyful exploration of the taste and quality of local fish to initiate “good” more than human relations. It involved taste-tests and conversations about seafood qualities and their relationships to marine ecologies and fishing practices, seasonality and commensality. We draw on ethnographic research to investigate the advantages and disadvantages of this methodology for building “good” more-than-human relations.

8) Handcrafting multispecies relations without proximity

Minna Santaoja, University of Eastern Finland, minna.santaoja@uef.fi

Relational approaches highlight the multiple ways human and nonhuman lives affect each other directly and indirectly. Relationality may be interpreted as multispecies engagement: becoming familiar with the other allows seeing similarities, appreciating differences, and including the other in moral consideration. Direct engagement with nonhumans may be difficult for various reasons. For instance, people experiencing insect phobia are unwilling or incapable of directly relating with insects. Human-nonhuman encounters may involve a risk to the bodily integrity and health of the human, such as in the case of a wasp sting. Limited mobility may restrict engagement with nonhuman others. Direct encounter with humans may be harmul to the nonhumans. Cognitive reflection on nonhumans’ ecological importance and right to life, education and information may allow cultivating understanding and affection that may lead to more inclusive ethics and practices. But cognitive approaches alone are not enough. Following Donna Haraway, it is necessary to develop intimacy without proximity and different modes of indirect engagement for experiencing and understanding the lives of the nonhuman others. Handcraft, such as crochet, may function as a method for cultivating attentiveness and constructing multispecies relations without proximity. A well-known example is the Crochet Coral Reef project by Margaret and Christine Wertheim. I discuss handcraft as 1) multispecies negotiation for living with wasps, and 2) as learning to appreciate Sphagnum moss as formerly invisible but important part of wetland ecosystems and landscapes. Handcraft may allow for new multispecies agency, material knowledges, playful politics, and relationality as an appropriate distance.

9) Ethical striving with other-than-humans in two multicultural examples

Caroline Gatt, University of Graz, caroline.gatt@uni-graz.at

From dominant western perspectives, debates around ethics are conducted along anthropocentric modalities of relationship: only persons with the capacity for self-awareness, autonomy and rational judgment are considered able to engage in ethical behaviour. Even though there are increasing instances of legal processes attempting to expand definitions of personhood to non-humans, these retain an anthropocentric understanding of personhood, as Elizabeth Oriel shows. In animal rights movements and animal studies, it is human behaviour towards animals that is discussed in terms of ethics. And despite attempts of Object Oriented Ontology and New Materialism to decenter anthropocentrism, a central critique of these approaches is that intimate relations between humans and other-than-humans become even more unlikely.

In this paper I present two examples from multicultural contexts in which the humans involved are open to different subjectivities and knowingly engage together in forms of ethical striving; human and non-humans enter into relation for ‘doing good’. The first example comes from my doctoral research with Friends of the Earth (FoE) activists and the second is from my current research with improvising musicians. Both examples are characterized by a striving to relate with non-humans. In these examples the different subjectivities that emerge are not known in advance. What the efforts of both activists and musicians show are different strategies for how ‘good’ relations beyond anthropocentric positions are sought. I ethnographically explore how the humans involved, both individually and collectively, perceive and evaluate this ethical striving. I also suggest how we might describe more-than-human collective ethical striving in such contexts.


Session 6: Wednesday 11:30-13:00


10) Re-making relations with corn in pandemic era Mexico

Owen McNamara, Université Libre de Bruxelles, owen.jude.mcnamara@ulb.be

In Oaxaca, Mexico, there is a growing interest in cultivating and making use of native corn varieties (rather than standardised hybrids). Farmers, cooks, and others interested in native corn commonly use kinship terminology or suggest consubstantiality to describe their relationship to corn. While various Indigenous Mexican creation stories posit a human descent from corn, the relationality I observed is as much about current health and economic exigencies as it is about Indigenous cosmologies. Taking my lead from feminist anthropologists who have emphasised the active making of kinship, I explore how human-corn relations are pieced together. To do so I contextualise this uptick in native corn revivalism as intensifying during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in part responding to the Mexican government’s resolute failure to provide adequate healthcare measures to its citizens. I focus on how humans and corn are alternatively depicted as facing existential threats, requiring the care of the other in order to survive. It is this perceived need of care, within a moral-economy built around mutual aid, that serves to render human-corn relations into kinship.      

11) Mutualism on Australian Heritage Breed Farms

Catie Gressier, University of Western Australia, catie.gressier@uwa.edu.au

As we grapple with the ecological crises precipitated by climate change, conceptual tools beyond anthropology’s boundaries offer analytical frameworks that offer novel ways of understanding our predicament, while challenging the discipline’s historical anthropocentrism. Through bringing a multispecies anthropological approach into dialogue with biological understandings of interspecies relations, this paper explores mutualism within the domestication nexus. For millennia, humans and domesticated animals have lived interdependently. In return for shelter, feed and care, animals have provided people with diverse material and symbolic resources within high-stakes mutualistic relationships. However, mutualisms are always susceptible to 'cheaters', where one partner enjoys the benefits without providing adequate reciprocation. When considering mutualisms on an ethnographic scale, industrial agriculture's reduction of animals to unidimensional commodities arguably constitutes such cheating. By analyzing the practices of nourishment, procreation, and protection on Australian heritage breed farms, where breed diversity and convivial interspecies reciprocity are valued above profit, this paper offers a case study of a more honest mutualistic relationship. Since partner species tend to face a shared fate, I argue that protecting the integrity of these relationships is critical in an era where climate change and ecosystem decline are both hastened by and detrimental to agriculture.

12) Relationship of care in native, endangered and rare breed poultry farming

Domenico Volpicella
My paper takes on the finding of my present doctoral research on farmers of native, endangered, or rare poultry breeds in Italy and Australia. With this ethnographic research I am analysing how the degrowth movement and thought ('a planned downscaling of energy and resource use to bring the economy back into balance with the living world in a safe, just and equitable way' Hickel 2020) informs the lives of these farmers. They are rediscovering and carrying forward ways of relating to nature and animals that are in contrast with what happens in intensive farming typical of the capitalist agri-food system. At the basis of their actions and beliefs is the care and preservation of poultry breeds that are slowly disappearing as they are replaced by more productive commercial hybrids. This caring relationship takes various forms: in the search for specimens in various parts of the country, in spending a lot of time with the animals, in various demonstrations of affection (i.e. giving them names, referring to them with expressions of tenderness, cuddling them), in providing good quality food, in disseminating their work to ensure that these breeds are better known and protected, in the interest of giving these animals the best life possible and the most painless and dignified death possible, giving these animals’ produces a worthy use and a minimum of waste. This caring relationship is often evident also towards the environment surrounding their farms, whereby sustainable practices are implemented and a vision of interconnection is often present.

13) Making good relations with symbiotic ontology 

Veera Kinnunen, University of Oulu, veera.kinnunen@oulu.fi,
Emily Höckert, University of Lapland, emily.hockert@ulapland.fi,
Outi Rantala, University of Lapland, outi.rantala@ulapland.fi 

The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the discussions on relational ontologies by reflecting on the possibilities of moving beyond human-, nature-, nettle-, mosquito-, rock- or weather-centered orientations. With this aim, we embrace symbiotic thinking as an example of a radically relational model of theorizing being-in-the-world. We take Gilbert et al’s (Symbiotic view of life, 2012) provocation “we are all lichens” seriously and re-think our basic concepts through a lichen-like symbiotic ontology.  Symbiotic theory argues that no animal or plant is an individual, but rather, a heterogenous entanglement of symbionts all the way down. By questioning the basic idea of the individual, symbiotic ontology has not only remodelled the evolution theory but questions the very basics of human and more-than-human existence; what it is to be together in this world. Therefore, symbiotic models, metaphors, and concepts are ripe with political and ontological potential. They carry possibilities for a different world. As Merlin Sheldrake (Entangled Life 2020, 239) muses, how different would our societies and institutions look, if we thought of fungi, rather than animals or plants, as “typical” life forms.  With this provocation in mind, we reconsider our basic scholarly concepts through symbiotic ontology. By using empirical examples, we ask, what does symbiotic ontology do to the central concepts in our research, such as care, proximity, and hospitality? The paper draws from ongoing collaboration within Intra-Living in the Anthropocene research group (ILA, ilarctic.com).  

14) Human bean: More-or-less-than-human relations

Joonas Vola, University of Lapland, joonas.vola@ulapland.fi

This post-humanist reading of a film on human-bean-relations looks into the more-than-human relations establishing somebody as a recognized member of society, and how the traces left by more-than-human engagement may dehumanize and marginalize individuals. The paper presents how “good relations” may be care-fully made while care-full way of being in the world gives meaning and defines the humanness through humility and humane acts towards the Others. The analysis derives from a Japanese film by Naomi Kawase (2015), Sweet Bean (あん An), based on the literal work of Durian Sukegawa. The film exemplifies an alternative to the making of relations in the industrialized society that neglects care-fully build more-than-human relations through the character Tokue. For Tokue, the way to be in the world is to listen Others, to ease their way of becoming and perfecting themselves to fulfill a reason, meanwhile making meaningful relations to herself as well. This materializes in the art of preparing tasty sweet bean paste. To establish ties care-fully the sweet bean paste is prepared with great care and time, made with love. Lovelessness in the process equals with bitterness or lack of taste. While the human-bean relation engages Tokue to other humans, the signs of her long-term relation to bacteria Mycobacterium leprae declares her as less-than-human among the people. This stigmatic otherness emerges as relativity to other Others, while also excluding her from humankindness, revealing the paradigmatic characteristics of forming good or meaningful relations in the more-than-human world. 


Session 7: Wednesday 14:30-16.00


15) Sustaining life through human and more-than-human work: The case of litter-raking forests in Bela Krajina, Slovenia

Barbara Turk Niskač, barbara.turkniskac@tuni.fi

The litter-raking forests of Bela Krajina in Slovenia are taken as a reference point to examine the entanglements of human and more-than-human worlds through the concept of work as an activity that places humans in a relationship with other living beings. In the domestic agricultural economy of the past, the litter-raking forests were used as pastures for livestock in the spring and summer. In the fall, people gathered litter and cut bracken for bedding the livestock that returned to the barns before winter. The practice led to soil degradation and acidification, so that only sparsely growing birch, pine, and undergrowth of bracken, spring heath, and common heather grew on these lands. In the process of modernization and de-agrarization these activities were abandoned since the 1960s, and most litter-raking forests have since become overgrown. Today, some of these forests are protected as natural heritage under Natura 2000. They are home to various birds, butterflies, insects, fungi and orchids and are cut only to preserve biotic diversity. Fast reforestation in this context thus points to the importance of moderate human disturbances for bio-diversity conservation. Based on a case study of litter-raking forests, this paper acknowledges the ethic of care as inherent to work as a life-sustaining practice where human and non-human well-being are entangled (Krzywoszynska 2020). Furthermore, it explores whether it is possible to consider work as a life-sustaining practice embedded in a more-than-human relationality, reciprocity, and care that recognizes “work of nature" (Battistoni 2017) for ecosystem maintenance as well.

16) Knowing landscapes: Tracing more-than-human relations in practices of regenerative agriculture

Galina Kallio and Will LaFleur, University of Helsinki, galina.kallio@helsinki.fi, william.lafleur@helsinki.fi

What kinds of relations are “good relations”? Does representational knowledge imply good relations? In regenerative agriculture, representations of soils and soil health—satellite images, carbon tables, men with shovels—dominate the way regenerative landscapes become known. In our presentation, we want to question whether and how producing ‘more’ or ‘better’ knowledge of soils, results in “good” more-than-human relations in regenerative agriculture. We trace more-than-human relations in regenerative agriculture, showing that representational knowledge is but one particular type of relation that is detached from the situated relational dynamics that give rise to, materialize in and shape agricultural landscapes. In doing so, this presentation develops the concept of knowing landscapes in two senses—landscapes become known and come to know— and posits that it matters how and through which kinds of relations landscapes unfold. Through ethnographic fieldwork conducted at farms practicing regenerative agriculture we show that knowing is intimately connected to relational dynamics of balancing between control and cohabitation, caring for and taking care of and attending to multiple rhythms of (re)production. Examining these dynamics is not only to acknowledge the sensuous ways of knowing that exist alongside scientific representational knowledges, but that there is a need to further reflect on the kinds of relations that acknowledge the aliveness, the needs and the knowing of more-than-human others. Making this shift enables us to critically inquire into what good relations might entail—whose living and dying is allowed, favored or eschewed in relation to whose interests are ultimately served.

17) A new bird in town. Place transformations and shifting more-than-human alliances in times of planetary emergency

Anniken Førde and Brynhild Granås, The Arctic University of Norway, anniken.forde@uit.no, brynhild.granas@uit.no

Recently, the endangered seabird kittiwake has started migrating into villages and urban environments along the northern coasts of Norway. There, they nest on roofs, window frames, and other suited physical structures available and mark the urban atmosphere through the infamous penetrating cries of the kittiwake as well as its bird droppings.This new cohabitation between humans and seabirds unfolds in different ways in different places. In the town of Vardø, the immigration of kittiwakes happens at a time when enthusiasts have worked for more than ten years to enhance local knowledge and awareness of the rich bird life of the area, within the frames of the tourism economy and strategic place development thinking. How can accounts of traditional knowledge and traditional ways of practicing human-seabird relations be used to mobilise people to act, based on new discussions of ethics of care for the kittiwake? While bringing an archival material from Tromsø Museum on such traditional knowledge back to Vardø, we explore this question while considering mutual dependencies and alliance potentials between humans and seabirds, in a place where the periphery community and the endangered kittiwake both rely on the fish to survive.

18) The Forest in and as the archive: more-than-human relations in the Nordic Museum Collections

Lotten Gustafson and Flora Mary Bartlett, reiniuslotten gustafsson.reinius@nordiskamuseet.se, flora.bartlett@nordiskamuseet.se

The forest in Sweden is emerging as a multifaceted site of contested more-than-human relations. This interdisciplinary paper interrogates the vibrant materiality and agency of the Anthropocenic forest within the Nordic Museum. We aim to expand the frames of heritage beyond modern dichotomies of nature and culture through two theoretically interlinked case studies. Forested landscapes have left residual traces in the museum collections. Apart from thousands of tools and artefacts, there are also archival answers to questionnaires on the know-how of forest dependent tasks and rites. How can the vibrant material agencies of more-than-human-forest- relations be traced and read through all of this? What is the role of a cultural history collections in the era of large-scale forest loss and growing calls to historicise the Anthropocene? Beyond its walls, the museum owns living forest, increasingly inhabited by the spruce bark beetle. They thrive on the even-age monocultures of the cultivated spruce plantations that are rapidly replacing old growth forest, their migrations aided by increasingly common storms and drought caused by climate change. One major thread of the project ethnographically examines the more-than-human relations unfolding in these landscapes. How do we critically approach these Anthropocenic landscapes and competing claims through a posthumanities perspective, towards “good” relations? In this paper, we present the results from a pilot study addressing these two intersecting perspectives concerning the forest and the museum. We critically examine the role of the museum and cultural heritage in the Anthropocene, in the past, present, and future.

19) Building good relations out of stone: dry stone walls as multispecies habitats

Geoffrey Gowlland, University of Geneva, geoffrey.gowlland@unige.ch

Dry stone walls – built without the use of mortar – have been used for millenia to contain domestic animals, and to keep other animals off cultivated lands. They are barriers for some, but in intensively cultivated landscapes, and as alternative to concrete or wire fencing, they also offer havens on otherwise inhospitable land: they afford surfaces for lichen and moss to grow on, cavities where small mammals and birds can find refuge and nest, and corridors between woodlands for animals to move along in safety. Eight European countries (including Switzerland, where I am conducting fieldwork) came together to list the ‘knowledge and techniques’ of dry stone walling as UNESCO intangible heritage. With ecological concerns as a significant element of revitalisation practices, building and training initiatives involve (still limited) conversations between scientists and builders. Making ‘good relations’ as part of building efforts involves not only addressing the structural needs of agriculture and infrastructure, but imagining the lives and biographies of walls and of their dwellers. As part of this reflection on good relations mediated by stone, I propose a broader reflection on the relationship between efforts to protect the diversity of craft practices, and protection of biodiversity.

9) Anthropologies of failure

Tiina Järvi, postdoctoral researcher, Tampere University, tiina.jarvi@tuni.fi

Panel description:
Failure disturbs relations. Were it failures of relationships, failure to address impending crises, state failure, failures of infrastructure, failure to achieve one’s aspirations, or failure to initiate social or political change, failure interrupts and reconfigures the relations we have to our social and material surroundings. As Arjun Appadurai stresses, failure is always contextual and presents itself not as a fact but as a judgment, revealing the norms on what should be attained. There is a tendency to conceptualize failure as a possibility, as ‘a tool for being better’, as something ‘productive’, or as ‘a political resource’. However, failure nevertheless reveals agency as constrained by showing us the limits of what can be done and what can be achieved. Therefore, while failure surely can offer room for thinking and being otherwise, at times it can simply be crippling, incapacitating, and damaging. Moving beyond vitalist and affirmative perspectives on failure that consider it as productive and enabling, this panel invites papers that explore the negative effects of failure. Both papers that explore ways to theorize failure as well as papers that address failure in its diverse forms and in different ethnographic settings are welcomed.


Session 7: Wednesday 14:30 - 16:00


1) “If I would not give a birth to a son, my husband would leave me”: Son preference and reproductive failure in Montenegro

Diāna Kiščenko, Rīga Stradiņš University, PhD student, diana.kiscenko@rsu.lv

Based on eight months of ethnographic fieldwork (2017/2018) in the central and northern part of Montenegro, in this paper I explore how failing to bear a son is experienced by women in the society, where “the idea of men andmale offspring asmore valuable thanwomen and female offspring” persists (Kiščenko 2021, 87). Historically, Montenegro’s traditional social and kinship systems were male-centred: men had a central power and resources in society; family name and assets were inherited by male lineage; sons were expected to live close to father and take care of aging parents. Being a woman in Montenegro meant getting married, moving away from the family, moving with, and taking care of husband’s household, serving new family, and giving birth to children (Durham 1928, Denich 1974, Boehm 1984). Not only in the past, but also nowadays Montenegro is experiencing son preference and sex-selective abortions (Stump 2011, United Nations Population Fund 2012, Muižnieks 2014). I argue that in the society where sons are prioritized, it is not the sex of the foetus that is seen as failure, but the gender potentiality of the foetus - ideas and practices associated with gender. The failure of reproductive aspirations can cause the avalanche of other potentially unwanted events for woman. Based on the ethnographic explorations, I show how carrying female foetus can create a feeling of failed expectations, influence woman’s position and relationship in the family and place her in a vulnerable economical position.

2) Weaving Pashmina in Kashmir: weavers entangling threads of their dreams and failed aspirations.

Mir Zeeshan Hyder, MA, Central European University, mir_zeeshan@student.ceu.edu

In the winter of 1999, Showkat Ahmad, aged 17, passed the high school exam and dreamed of becoming a computer engineer. A week later, his father got a heart stroke. The incident left Ahmad’s father, a pashmina weaver by profession, half-impaired. Being the only son and eldest of siblings, the responsibility to take care of the family fell upon Ahmad. With no assistance from the state and devoid of any resources, Ahmad decided to quit his education and become a pashmina weaver in order to feed his family. Kashmir’s pashmina, a premium form of cashmere, enjoys a global reputation as a symbol of luxury and grandeur. However, the weavers who make pashmina products have been surviving on stagnant wages. Since the Weavers Revolt of 1865 in Kashmir against exorbitant taxes and state discrimination, the socio-economic conditions and subjugation of weaver’s rights have received little scholarly attention.

In this paper, based on the 4-month ethnographic fieldwork in a pashmina weaving workshop in Kashmir, I reflect on how, as precarious labours, the lives of pashmina weavers are shaped by failed aspirations. Using the case of Ahmad’s specific life events as an example I show how the pashmina weavers as a marginalised community make sense of their lives as they fail to achieve their daily/life aspirations.

3) Fear of failure in the indigenous animistic context of the coastal Chukotka as a forming factor of the ritual everyday life 

Dmitriy Oparin, University of Bordeaux – CNRS, dimaoparin@hotmail.com

The paper is devoted to the fear of failure in ritual in the indigenous animistic context. I approach the fear of a mistake in the ritualized communication with spirits as the forming factor of the ritual everyday life of the indigenous inhabitants of coastal Chukotka. Loss of tradition and, as a consequence, uncertainty of one's own ritual expertise and fear of doing something "wrong" makes people refuse ritual at all, seek "ritual" authorities, invent and construct «new» relations with spirits. In addition, insecurity of one's own knowledge, annoyance about interrupted continuity, insufficient ritual baggage handed down by elder relatives are all key reasons for people's secrecy in the ritual sphere. People may not want to talk about what they themselves believe they do not understand. The paper is based on fieldwork in Chukotka (north of the Far East) from 2011 to 2020 among indigenous coastal Chukchi and Asiatic Yupik. 

4) Uninscribed Heritage: Reflections on the Unaccomplished Nomination of the Local Weaving Tradition of the Hancavičy District (Belarus) on the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory

Siarhiej Makarevich, University of Tartu, PhD Student / Junior Research Fellow, siarhiej.mak@gmail.com

Introduction of the UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003 Convention) has set a new framework of dealing with living cultural practices where inventorying is seen as a valid tool for their safeguarding. Being among the first State Parties to the 2003 Convention Belarus declared readiness to adopt proposed approaches both in theory and in practice. As a part of the Master’s project in “Folkloristics and Applied Heritage Studies” at the University of Tartu I explored the possibility of practical application of the new heritage policies in Belarus on the example of the nomination of the local weaving tradition of the Hancavičy district on the national Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory and the State List of Historical and Cultural Values. However, a year after the project’s completion the inscription process has not progressed any further. The presentation is going to reflect on the unaccomplished nomination that can be seen as a failure from the perspective of the bureaucratic intangible cultural heritage management. Looking closer at the factors that influenced such an outcome I will consider the roles of different stakeholders involved into the process and interrelations between them. Moreover, I will examine how broader context affected various aspects of the project and contributed to its (un)achieved results. I will also explore the possible impact of the failed inscription on the living practice itself and prospects of its further development in the future.

5) Failure in the ethnographic research of homelessness

Matija Krizmanić, Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar, Matija.Krizmanic@pilar.hr

In this paper, I argue that failure is a constitutive part of the ethnographic encounter and always figures through interpersonal relations and positionality when researching homelessness based on three connected accounts. The first account is the context and narrative of failure and blame among people experiencing homelessness. Many people participating in our research have experienced failures in the forms of family breakdown, job-loss and/or violence in the past and the present, reflecting the cumulative nature of life-long adversity leading to destitution. The second account relates to the present-day lifeworld of people experiencing homelessness in which NGOs’ day centres in Croatia play an important role. Based on fieldwork notes and experiences, I argue that failure/success from the position of NGO service providers is articulated quantitively and through different interpretations that tend to be fluid in definition and practice. The third account of failure is the failure of ethnographer in the field in which failure is a constantly shaped and reshaped through ethnographic encounter, affect, reflection and analyses in relation to research participants and day-centre employees as well as it is always negotiated in terms of partial personal and professional success. This research is based on qualitative materials gathered from the CSRP project Exploring Homelessness and Pathways to Social Inclusion: A Comparative Study of Contexts and Challenges in Swiss and Croatian Cities (No. IZHRZO_180631/1).


Session 9: Thursday 13:00-14:30


6) ‘They always seemed to be disappearing’: the failure of ethnography with the Baining, New Britain, PNG

Enzo Hamel, University of East Anglia, PhD Student, E.Hamel@uea.ac.uk/ehamel@hotmail.fr
Before his “successful” ethnography among the Iatmul (Sepik, PNG), Gregory Bateson visited the Uramot-Baining in Latramat (New Britain, PNG) between April 1927 and March 1928. This experience was described by Bateson and, later, others as a “total failure and waste of time”: the Baining were deemed “unstudiable” because of the “lack of any formulable culture of social organisation.” Bateson was not the only one to face this ethnographic failure in the region as similar difficulties have been highlighted by more recent ethnographies (Pool 1984, Fajans 1997, Lattas 2020). The scholarship on this “Baining problem” has been focused on understanding and examining the reasons for these failures, either caused by the Baining culture itself, the ethnographers and their inabilities or by the relationship with the neighbouring group, the Tolai. Engaging with this discussion, my paper will look at the various ethnographic failures with the Baining from the perspective of Bateson’s photographic archives held at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Cambridge, UK). Following Arjun Appadurai’s discussion on failure, Bateson’s example reveals what an ethnographic study is commonly expected to be, therefore making visible anthropology’s central assumption about relations (Moutu 2013, Strathern 2020). Through this paper, I aim to challenge the lack of acknowledgement of Baining agencies in the production of anthropological knowledge. This paper will showcase how the Baining make themselves “unstudiable” and opaque to ethnography, following Édouard Glissant’s notion (1997), but also challenge anthropology’s epistemology rooted in the nexus of transparency, knowledge and power.

7) meanders of accountability. The management of failure in a corporate environment

Marta Songin-Mokrzan, University of Lodz, marta.songin@uni.lodz.pl
The cosmology of corporations is based on the idea of continuous improvement. However, this process, contrary to popular belief, does not rely solely on advancing products, production processes, machines and workers competence, but largely about managing failures. In the presentation, I would like to take a closer look at what failure means in a manufacturing environment, where machines, materials and other elements of the shop floor often misbehave. Also people’s actions are not errors-free. Moreover, in the corporate setting, all incidents when things go wrong, when machines brake, when material is wasted, and when workers make mistakes, are meticulously catalogued and analysed, and are often the cause of disputes. In the paper, I will particularly focus on the following questions: what counts as a failure, how is it interpreted? What consequences does it carry? Who and what fails, and how the failures are handled? I will also present an argument that arose between workers due to machines failed behaviour. In discussing the issue, I will refer to the research I conducted at a manufacturing plant located in Poland. The company in question is part of a global corporation where the work environment can be viewed as a type of an “ergosystem”: a special network of dependencies, relations and negotiations, which includes both human and non-human actors.

8) Failure as a negative relation: car accidents on the Kolyma roads

Asya Karaseva, University of Tartu, PhD student, asyak@ut.ee, anastasiia.karaseva@ut.ee
The anthropology of infrastructure considers failure as a disruption in circulation the infrastructure is bound to provide. Disruption can be analyzed as a normalized event (Björkman 2014; Graham 2010; Kallianos 2018; Stamatopoulou-Robbins 2021 et al.) but the focus is still on the breakdown of circulation, which is the relation between different actors. In my presentation, I aim to analyze failure as a moment of “negative relation”, i.e. painful or destructive transformation within the relationship. My material is interviews and publications on car accidents on the Kolyma roads in Russia. “Kolymskaia trassa” is widely known for its Gulag origin (“road of bones”), as well as for its driving riskiness. Within the region, “trassa” refers to multiple roads, and each road has its own record of car accidents. I will analyze these stories of car accidents through the lens of a negative relation with a state to show them not as isolated tragic events but as a part of continuous history.

9) Failures of a state: approaching state failure anthropologically

Tiina Järvi, DsocSci, Tampere University, postdoctoral researcher, tiina.jarvi@tuni.fi
There are moral and normative dimensions in naming something a failure and, as Arjun Appadurai has stressed, failure “is not a fact but a judgment (Appadurai 2016). Moreover, this judgement is always positional, as failure for some can be a success for others (el Houri 2018). When used in describing a state, failure is a judgement made from a normative position on what a state is and how it should function, which usually sets the European state model as the prototype (Bøås and Jennings 2005). However, when made from a position of ‘an ordinary citizen’, judging state a failure also designates the care that is expected from it and its (in)ability to provide it. In this paper, I explore how ‘a failed state’ emerges as a concept of analysis when we move beyond political science definitions on a functioning and dysfunctioning state. Does it make sense to use such a normatively loaded term at all? In which cases the use of term ‘failed state’ would be justified, or should it be abandoned all together? Furthermore, how to conceptualize the very real rupturing and incapacitating realities that are behind the judgement of ‘failed state’, without falling into too strict and moralistic account on what that ‘failed’ mean? I consider these questions – and the analytical difference between ‘a failed state’ and ‘failures of a state’ – in relation to Lebanon, which has faced multiple crises over the past decade, and which has in recent years been described as ‘a failed state’ by international observers and local civil society.

10) Approaches to psychedelics and altered states of consciousness in the contemporary world

Aila Mustamo, aila.mustamo@utu.fi
Vesa-Pekka Herva, vesa-pekka.herva@oulu.fi

Panel description:
Mind-altering substances and techniques have been used for various purposes in indigenous communities, counter-cultures and also in contemporary mainstream society. Psychedelic substances are usually defined as illegal drugs and the use of psychedelics takes place underground. During the last decades, medicalization has radically changed public representations of psychedelics. Due to promising results of clinical trials, they have been considered as promising therapeutic tools for various psychiatric conditions. There is also a growing interest in psychedelic experiences on other domains of society, for instance start-up culture where psychedelics are assumed to increase creativity and boost efficiency.

Relationality is an essential part of psychedelics and a growing interest in altered states of consciousness in general, which challenges social and cultural assumptions about reality. Psychedelic experiences can be lifechanging and transformative of social and environmental relationships. Indeed, psychedelics have even been regarded as a potential solution to the existential issues of modernity.


Session 3, Tuesday, 16:00 - 17:30

1) “Recognizing Reality with Vegetal”

Zuzanna Sadowska, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology Polish Academy of Sciences

While approaches toward altered states of consciousness have gained lots of attention from researchers in multiple disciplines, the concept of sobriety is less often discussed in scientific literature. Drawing on the long-term ethnographic research conducted in the addiction treatment center Via da Paz, I want to discuss the relation between sobriety and reality. Via da Paz is located in Rio Branco, the capital city of Amazon Brazilian state Acre. The center combines the União do Vegetal religious rituals with psychotherapeutic methods mostly grounded in Twelve-Step approaches and community-based support. During the 9-month therapy people undergoing treatment drink vegetal – the herbal brew containing DMT. Though DMT is schedule 1-substance, classified within the UE Drug Conventions as a hallucinogenic drug, in Via da Paz  practices related to consumption of vegetal play a central role in the recovery from addiction. Moreover, patients differentiate the state induced by the brew from “intoxication” with other psychoactive substances and experience it as sober. Within the majority of western therapeutic approaches the sobriety is understood as the abstinence form the excess of alcohol and drugs as well as state of accurate self-inside. Though the definition of sobriety in Via da Paz is consistent with this understanding, what is considered a sober experience stands in contrast with epistemological assumptions of those approaches. This is mostly related to understanding of reality as coming into being through relationality.

2) Repetition in empathy: a simple but hard condition for co-creating psychedelic relations between members of live rock bands in Seoul, South Korea

Sung-Hoon Hong, solegen2@snu.ac.kr

Although Seoul is seen as a cultural wasteland for psychedelic rock music, some local musicians try hard to develop their own performance techniques to better understand what is in psychedelic experiences with live music. Why are they curious about that? Having attracted to psychedelic music for a long time without knowing why, they happened to produce altered states of consciousness with repetitious practice in the modern form of electric rock band during the making of their own music. Furthermore, they have often felt the presence of psychedelic relations lively on stage with an audience in front of them. It is certain that the doors of perception, to borrow Aldous Huxley’s words, were opened wide for a short time. They call these visionary experiences as psychedelics without difficulty, but the literal meaning of psychedelics is not their main concern. All they need is the key to unlock the doors of perception quiet freely. After many experiments with electric instruments to generate psychedelic rock music, they finally found at least one simple condition for co-creating psychedelic relations between members. They usually call it repetition, but it is so hard to understand and reproduce because what exactly the repetition of the same thing is itself still ambiguous. To clarify what this condition of psychedelics really is, I theoretically discover the idea of empathy from Humphry Osmond’s famous paper in 1957 which invented a new word psychedelic beyond this world, and ethnographically appreciate the practice of repetition in this musical world.

3) Better living through psychedelic-induced mystical experiences?

Samuli Kangaslampi, Tampere University, samuli.kangaslampi@tuni.fi

The potential of psychedelics for “experimental mysticism” was recognized already in the 1960s, and the concept of mystical experiences entered psychedelic research early. In contemporary research, according to standard psychometric measures, around half of people administered the psychedelic psilocybin in a laboratory report a complete mystical experience. Further, it has become almost a truism in the field that those who have such experiences are more likely to report positive changes in well-being later. I first assess the evidence for this claim based on a comprehensive review of the literature and find some suggestions that other, more personal-psychological features of the experience might be equally or more predictive of long-term outcomes. Then, drawing on recent criticism from philosophy and religious studies, I argue that, though many psychedelic researchers have taken the concept for granted, the meaning of mystical experience in psychedelic research is contingent on the idiosyncratic history of the field. As a result, it may be simultaneously too broad as a multi-dimensional umbrella concept and too narrow in attempting to capture a perennial common core of mysticism.

Finally, I maintain that the issue of mystical experiences reflects wider gaps between psychedelic-specific and general enquiry in several scientific fields, e.g., between clinical psychedelic research and psychotherapy process research, that call for more interdisciplinary work.

4) Are psychedelic value changes caused by contextual factors? 

Juuso Kähönen, University of Helsinki, juusokahonen@gmail.com
Psychedelic substances have been in recent studies observed to change values, for example to increase valuation of nature and spirituality, and prosocial behavior. Still, we struggle to understand these changes. One unresolved question is to what extent these value changes are caused by cultural context. Psychedelics are known to be especially sensitive to ‘set and setting’, i.e. one’s personal past and dispositions and contextual and cultural factors surrounding the experiences. Thus changes in values might be  caused by cultural and contextual factors. I argue against this notion. 

Based on recent empirical evidence, it is unlikely that all directionality in the value changes could be explained by cultural factors. Although value changes are likely to be heavily influenced by cultural context, and mediated by the culture-bound worldview and epistemic and ontological belief, psychedelics likely have at least some cultural inherent directionality in how they change values. I suggest that at least one higher-order change is a change towards self-transcendent values, tied to psychedelics' capacity to reduce the sense of self and enhance the sense of connection. Finally I tie psychedelic value changes to the double-edged potential of altered states of consciousness both as potential tools for cultural transmission of beliefs or values, and as potential sources of subversive dionysian elements of disrupting or dialectically changing or creating new cultural conceptions. 

11) Ethical Selves and Spiritual Others: Relations with the Beyond

Igor Mikeshin (igor.mikeshin@helsinki.fi),
Toomas Gross (toomas.gross@helsinki.fi)

Panel description:
The focus of this panel is on relations between human selves and supernatural agents, spiritual beings, God or gods, energies, powers, etc. We are interested in how relations between worshippers, believers, and practitioners of various religions and spiritual practices with spiritual entities are mediated through ethical self-transformation (Keane 2016) and by the porousness of the self (Taylor 2007). In different religions and spiritual practices, deities and spiritual beings are perceived as powers which influence the material world, and, conversely, can be influenced themselves by certain human actions. The latter may be achieved through pious behaviors, rituals, and spiritual practices that establish, break, maintain, and mediate relations between humans and supernatural entities. This panel focuses on the work that human selves do in these relations, approaching it as ethical self-transformation and/or a dynamic between the porous and buffered self, to use Taylor’s terms.

How are the relations between human selves and spiritual entities constructed through the ethical learning and unlearning processes (e.g., learning to sense spirits vs re-interpreting relations with supernatural agents) (Luhrmann 2020)? How do these entities construct or shape the ethical self? What are the practices, rituals, and behaviors that establish these relations? We invite papers that demonstrate the construction, transformation, and/or making of the self with the ethnographic examples of religious and spiritual groups, communities, and practices across different cultural contexts.


Session 4, Wednesday, 8:30 - 10:00

Location: Aurora


1) “And then, the plant showed me…”: Ayahuasca Rituals and Relationality among Indigenous Peoples of Northeast Peru

Sidney Castillo, University of Helsinki, sidney.castillo@helsinki.fi

My presentation examines notions of ritual and relationality in the context of shamanic rituals and ayahuasca practices in the Peruvian rainforest. I aim to address the ways in which interaction with supernatural agents of visionary plants, such as ayahuasca, toe, and tobacco, shape the way in which ethical well-being is understood, along with the ritual practices that are necessary for achieving it. In Amazonia, plants and animals are deemed to have spirits, personalities and relationships of their own with their peers. Studies that highlight this “more-than-human” agencies and relationalities abound in topics related to agriculture, hunting, and ritual plant use. However, they lack an approach anchored on ethics, ritual, and relationality to explain how these relations become effective as such.

In this paper, I will depart from the Taylorian concepts of porous/buffered self to discuss how supernatural agents, feelings, and intentions are able to have a direct influence in people’s well-being. Then, I will analyze through Lurhmann’s notion of learning and Keane's ethical affordances, how the perception of supernatural agents becomes increasingly more effective with each iteration of taking part of an ayahuasca ritual, while it provides a template for ethical self-making based on local notions of well-being. My data is based on my ongoing ethnographic fieldwork (03.2022-07.2023) with indigenous communities -Awajun, Kichwa-Lamista- and mestizo people in urban/periurban spaces in San Martin, Peru. My observations are supported by qualitative techniques in the form of thematic, semi-structured interviews, and field notes.

2) (Re)construction of self in Kalevala-metric incantation registers

Tuukka Karlsson, University of Helsinki, tuukka.karlsson@helsinki.fi

Kalevala-metric poetry is an oral-poetic system that was shared by various Finnic groups as common medium for specialized communication. In addition to epic and lyric, one of the main genres of the oral tradition is formed by incantations. While Kalevala-metric incantations were to a degree shared by wider populace, the most prominent of their users were Finnish, Karelian and Ingrian ritual specialists called tietäjät. The incantations used by the specialists regularly invoke different non-human agents, to whom the performers issue directives such as commands and requests. The paper examines the ways the ritual specialists construct and reconstruct discursive self in the course of incantation performances. The issue is approached by analyzing the ritual moves described in the incantation texts as different registers. The paper argues that the performer of an incantation employs various reflexive registers in order to present themselves as a potent practitioner of magic relying on their own power or as a person threatened by supernatural forces and in need of help from their assisting non-human agents. The research material combines Finnish and Karelian incantation texts that have been collected and archived during the 1900th and early 20th century. The texts have been published as a part of the anthology Suomen Kansan Vanhat Runot (Ancient Poems of the Finnish People), which has been digitized and forms a searchable corpus of approximately 89,000 texts and fragments. In addition to the texts, the paper utilizes available ethnographic information on the tradition.

3) Becoming one with the other during Spiritual Festivals

Toomas Gross, University of Helsinki, toomas.gross@helsinki.fi

One among various implications of the “festivalisation” of religion has been the recent mushrooming, in many countries, of what could be loosely termed as “spiritual festivals.” These events often combine under the same temporal and spatial roof tantra, shamanic, breathwork, ecstatic dance, meditation, yoga, and various personal development workshops, to name a few. These events are catered for increasingly heterogeneous crowds whose motivations to participate in such festivals can range from long-term dedication to esotericism and “new spirituality” to a more modest self-seeking or simple curiosity.

In the ethnographic example of various such festivals in Estonia, this paper approaches these as embodied events of boundary-crossing, self-transcendence, and “becoming one” with the “other.” The “other” can take a multitude of forms – it can be the other person, other-than-human species, ancestral spirits, “life force,” nature, or, in fact, the dimensions of one’s own “self” that everyday modern lifestyle is deemed to discipline and suffocate.  Building on Elias’s concept of “civilising process,” Taylor’s distinction between “porous” and “buffered self,” Foucault’s conceptualisation of “the technologies of the self,” as well as Gibson’s term “bodily affordances,” I argue that various rituals and workshops during these spiritual festivals constitute acts of embodied learning. Establishing a relationship beyond the “self” and with the “other” entails a potential for experiencing oneself as being what anthropologists in other contexts have called “dividual” or “partible” (eg. Marriott, Strathern, Wagner), and, through immersing oneself in the other, to reach a more “authentic” if not “ethical” way of existence.

4) God in, Spirits out: (Un)welcome Encounters and the Mind/World Boundary among the Tijani Mbororo of Cameroon

Tea Virtanen, University of Helsinki, tea.virtanen@helsinki.fi

Drawing on Charles Taylor’s (2007) distinction between buffered and porous selves, the paper looks at how the Tijani Mbororo (Fulani) of Cameroon move between distinct experiences that involve a different degree of permeability of the boundary between mind and world. Taylor’s notion of buffered and porous selves refers to a distinction between two ways of understanding the boundary between what lies in one’s mind and outside it. While, in Taylor’s view, the self was earlier conceptualised as porous, that is, open and thus vulnerable to spirits, demons, and cosmic forces, the modern era has brought about a new sense of invulnerable, bounded self. Whereas Taylor’s classification was to capture the way selves are experienced in different social worlds, the ethnography of this paper illustrates how differing understandings of self can also determine the ways people conceptualise their different experiences within the same social universe. The experiences to be discussed relate to Muslim Tijaniyya worship, the Mbororo indigenous behaviour ideals, as well as encounters with evil spirits. The paper reflects on how the Tijani Mbororo conceptualise and handle the challenges posed by these diverse spiritually and culturally framed phenomena, each of which being determined by distinct forces and demanding different texture of the self/outside boundary. A further question to be highlighted is the authenticity of these experiences.


Session 5, Wednesday 10:00 - 11:30

Chair Toomas Gross (University of Helsinki, toomas.gross@helsinki.fi)


5) Russian Baptist relationships with God as ethical self-transformation

Igor Mikeshin, University of Helsinki, igor.mikeshin@helsinki.fi

My paper addresses Russian Baptist relations with God through ethical self-transformation. Adhering to a sola fide (justification by faith alone) soteriology, Russian Baptists nevertheless see their religious conversion and everyday Christian life as a fulfillment of their relationships with both God the Father and Christ. In doing so, they go beyond a universal Christian principle of serving God by serving others, regarding God as an active participant in their conversion and family life. I will discuss Russian Baptist conversion in the context of "making peace with God" using the example of my ethnographic fieldwork in the Church-run rehabilitation ministry for addicted people in Northwest Russia. I will emphasize repentance as the essence of a Russian Baptist conversion. Repentance is not merely an act of accepting one's sinfulness and declaring oneself Christian but a direct response to God's calling and an acceptance of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross. I will illustrate my second point, the everyday Christian living as building and maintaining relationships with God, with my other ethnographic fieldwork research focused on gender, family, and sex in the same Baptist community. Russian Baptists see a married couple as the cornerstone of a family; meanwhile children are regarded as a great blessing and responsibility, but secondary and not something that defines a family. The Russian Baptist married couple build their relationships with God first, and through these relationships they relate to each other.

6) “A Chaste Church of Christ in the North <...> Escaped from the Beast to the Desert”: Change of Place as a Spiritual Practice and an Ethical Challenge of Russian Old Believers in Siberia

Danila Rygovskiy, University of Tartu, Estonia, danila.rygovskiy@ut.ee

Dubcheskije skity (Dubches monasteries) is a contemporary spiritual center of Chasovennye Old Believers (Russian Orthodox dissenters). This presentation is focused on spiritual communication of this group Old Believers that lead to emergence of Dubches monasteries and frames the movement of their population. By spiritual communication, I mean narrativized interaction with spiritual forces, accessible to Old Believers in forms of oral or written stories, which represent the core of materials used for this research. It is important to consider this issue, because the skity are scattered in the Siberian taiga along the banks of the eponymous river Dubches. Commuting between them is a daily routine of monks, nuns, and the Old Believer visitors of the monasteries. People are also traveling back and forth from the Dubches skity to fellow lay settlements both nearby and as far away as in other continents. Historically, the skity were also on a constant move from the Urals to the east and south of Siberia, until they all ended up on the banks of the Dubches. Therefore, the change of place has been an important part of the historical and everyday experience of Chasovennye. However, monasteries’ inhabitants face an ethical dilemma between a rooted pattern of traveling and a demand to stick to one place. They are tempted by evil forces to leave the monastery for the “world” or to join another monastic “family”, where they would be treated better. In its turn, accounting with the divine helps to fulfill moral requirements and restrain from moving.

7) “Being seen”: Encountering saints and the self in a Bashkir Sufi circle in Russia’s Urals

Lili Di Puppo, University of Helsinki, lilidipuppo@gmail.com, lili.dipuppo@helsinki.fi

This paper explores my attempt to come closer to experiences of divine presence in a Bashkir Sufi circle in Russia’s Muslim Urals. Reflecting on my connection with my Sufi interlocutors, I explore the theme of “being seen” in the field, seen by God and by the “dead” saints and ancestors whose presence I am invited to acknowledge and who guide the living including me, the researcher. My Sufi interlocutors cultivate this awareness of “being seen” to experience God’s proximity in their religious rituals. The theme of “being seen” also refers to the way my interlocutors direct me to my own heart and soul when I ask them about their experiences of the divine. My own encounter with my self, my heart and what the Sufis call “heart-knowledge” mirrors the way in which my interlocutors encounter their selves and a different mode of knowing in the presence of Sufi saints. As in the saying “Know yourself, know your Lord”, the “heart-knowledge” is a process of unlearning through which the disciple becomes aware of the “true self”, the fitra or original bond with the divine. For my interlocutors, the process of connecting with the heart also implies a connection with their “dead” ancestors, who are guiding them in the revival of a sacred geography and the experience of the divine origin.

8) Coming-of-age narratives and patterns of formation in Indonesia’s Islamic universities

Timo Kaartinen, University of Helsinki, timo.kaartinen@helsinki.fi

If relations are a tool that allow anthropologists to move between conceptual and interpersonal descriptions of social life (Strathern 2005: 8), could they also be helpful for analyzing how conceptual and interpersonal accounts of the social world fold into each other as people construct self-knowledge and reflect on the formative events of their life? I address this question with reference to autobiographic narratives of teachers and students in Indonesia’s Islamic universities. These narratives were elicited by asking how these people ended up studying in the Islamic university system, and almost all took the form of coming to age stories that compared various “traditional” Islamic practices with the reformist, cosmopolitan outlook of contemporary Islamic movements. While the transition from “traditional” to “modern” Islam is an almost self-evident reference to the upward social mobility pursued through education, many stories dwelled on relations to significant relatives, authority figures, as well as conflicting social expectations and norms. These interpersonal accounts were an essential device for articulating the narrators’ personal choices and convictions and their understanding of higher education as a formative, ethical experience. The autobiographies analyzed here suggest that ethical self-knowledge does not merely consist of a “conceptual” relationship to a morality system. Narratives revolve around unfolding interpersonal relationships, which often fold back into a reflection of moral principles and choices. Such movement creates a reflective distance

12) (Un)relating and (un)learning with more-than-humans during ethnographic practice

Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen, pirjo.virtanen@helsinki.fi, University of Helsinki
Minna Opas, University of Turku

Panel description:
More-than-humans can affect ethnographers' experiences and research in diverse ways. Intentionally or unintentionally, animals, plants, microbes, and meteorological phenomena, among others, can impact the way researchers relate and are positioned among their interlocutors. Ancestral and spirit beings of various kinds may be considered to either welcome researchers or deny any engagements with them. This panel addresses the presence, knowledge, intentions, and actions of more-than-human beings as an important aspect of fieldwork and research at large. We are interested in accounts of interactions, dialogues, and engagements established with more-than-human actors as an integral part of co-production of knowledge and research practice. In what ways do more-than-humans enter research processes and how can they be taken into account methodologically? We welcome papers exploring more-than-human engagements in ethnographic practice and research design from different viewpoints. In particular, we are interested in papers focusing on ethnographers' embodied experiences and ways of accounting for more-than-humans, as well as human bodies’ limits to interact and communicate with more-than-humans and the impact these have on doing ethnography.


Session 2: Tuesday 14:00 - 15:30


1) Microbiologics: On Hubris & Humbling in Amazonian Ethnography

Beth A. Conklin, Vanderbilt University, beth.a.conklin@vanderbilt.edu

Microbes are potent participants in the praxis of fieldwork. Especially in warm, humid climates like Amazonia, viruses, bacteria, and fungi are largely unseen but powerfully felt generators of human experiences of sickness, odors, growth and decay, and instabilities of matter. In the most pragmatic terms, negotiating microbial relations absorbs large amounts of ethnographers’ time and energies as we try to avoid contamination, purify water, keep food from spoiling, and contain the liveliness of molds and mildew. During long-term fieldwork, some of the initial sensory and immunological antipathies between “us” and “them” may ease over time as researchers’ bodies and habits familiarize with the micro-ecologies of local life worlds. But cognitive antipathies, also implicit and largely unrecognized, tend to persist. The assumed superiority of Western science and medicine to conceptualize and cope with disease pathogens, in particular, is a seldom-examined dimension of ethnographic research that undercuts our purported commitments to take Indigenous ontologies seriously. Anthropological interpretations tend to give short shrift to other peoples’ claims about human physiology that we “know” to be incorrect. The respect accorded to Indigenous perspectives foregrounds symbolic logics and non-human eco-logics, but not the microbio-logics of human physiology. This paper examines the limits of this ethnographic hubris through a series of humbling revelations from fieldwork in the Brazilian Amazon. These suggest what we may have been missing by discounting Native Amazonian bio-logics that, in hindsight, prefigured some of the transformative understandings of microbes and microbiomes that have come into focus only recently in Western science.

2) With-nessing bacteria

Elina Oinas, University of Helsinki, elina.oinas@helsinki.fi

This paper addresses more-than-humans in ethnography by focusing on relationality, being-with, and with-nessing the ETEC bacteria as both a very embodied experience and, in this case, the “object” of the study of this research project. ETEC is an object in the sense that the research project presented here is an ethnography of a diarrea vaccine trial set in West Africa. The vaccine aims to enable co-existence with “critters” named ETEC (rather than aiming at extinction of the so called pathogen). ETEC inevitably also is a companion during fieldwork, creating bodily consequences, yet also unusual bonds among the humans at the site, with a rather specific humour. The paper deals with the many ways ETEC becomes known and articulated during the trial. The statistical bacteria-human assemblage of the trial science is one, but there were also the holobiont relationality of the vaccine, and the vulnerable individuality in the embodied co-existence with the bacteria. The explicit framing of the more-than-human encounter is initially set within the framework of “Western” Science, but also the embodied everyday life of science as practice, including the context of the West African village where discussions on vodon and spirits also influenced the study participants and scholars. The paper argues that the open-ended, pluralistic orientation to relationality with the more-than-human is embedded in biomedicine in a more complex way than the trial science at face value suggests, and that it is important to understand the situational nuances. Further, social sciences still have a long way to go to develop tools that can even start to entangle more-than-human relationality beyond polarizing accounts

3) Soul Loss in the Forest of Symbols: Deforestation, Masculinity, and Avá-Guaraní Shamanic Weeping in Canindeyú, Paraguay

Eric Michael Kelley, Boston University, ekelley@bu.edu

“Eric, you no longer have an Americano soul,” my Avá-Guaraní sister told me as my 2006-2007 fieldwork was ending. In 2005, her mother became my ritual sponsor in the naming/ensouling ritual, mitã karaí, that enmeshed me in relations of familial reciprocity, positioning me in their cosmology, where my soul might be found if lost, with the name/soul “Yvyrajú” indicating the tree for which I was named/ensouled. I spent my days with shamans and their kin, engaging in all male activities possible, including learning about and from flora and fauna. My nights were spent researching shamanic ritual, waking and sharing morning maté as we discussed our dreams. I was learning from (non)human relations, unknowingly following “Briggs’s Principles for Unlearning.” Back home, I drank maté while archiving field recordings and writing in isolation after intense enmeshment in human/ecological com munity. Viewing/listening to recordings with male shamans’ harangues and wept speech discussing the intertwined loss of culture and forest and concomitant web of relations made me weep. It took many years to realize this was what from an Avá-Guaraní perspective might be interpreted as soul loss in need of community healing through soul retrieval led by shamans, rather than reverse culture shock. I was forced to work through “boys don’t cry” rules of masculinity with which I was raised, and learn how to cry to continue the unlearning process to better understand unfamiliar forms of embodied relational knowledge. 

4) Conversing with birds and encountering God in Amazonia: ethnographic field accounts in Mebengokré-Kayapó lands

Taynã Tagliati, University of Bonn, tagliati@uni-bonn.de

Amerindian populations have explored paths to deal with ontological questions arising during contact with non-indigenous society. Through appropriation of missionaries’ relationship to the divine, they have inserted elements of Christian faith in their systems of belief, though in unexpected and subversive ways. In this paper I discuss two seemingly unrelated fieldwork events among the Mebengokré-Kayapó. First, I narrate how a parrot’s approval of my presence in the village has shaped the relationship between me and his owner - a shaman -, and how his active participation in ethnographic interviews contributed to the quality of its content. Second, I expose two interferences of “God” in my fieldwork that affected my relationship to some actors, while, at the same time, producing or strengthening the shamanic potential of one interlocutor. Then, I argue that both events (parrot’s collaboration and God’s interference) are two facets of the same phenomenon: the Kayapó sociocosmic regime. Drawing from Anthropological debates about Amazonian familiarization, I reflect upon the productive ways in which embodied field research is inserted into cosmological dimensions, and explore the creative ways in which the Kayapó accommodated missionaries’ teachings in a pre-existing belief system without negating or dismantling it. Finally, I reflect upon how such encounters with more-than-humans have shaped not only the fieldwork, but the very foundation of my research.

5) Understanding Yak-Human Worlds in Tibet with Embodied Ethnography

Siran Liang, Technische Universität Braunschweig, siran.liang@tu-braunschweig.de

“Yaks are same as our parents” was often the answer I received when herders were asked to describe their relationship with yaks. My ethnographic research is about yak-human-grassland relationship in the Anthropocene. Using my own body as research tool to learn and unlearn milking, making dungs, spinning yak hair, and herding helped me to understand their answer and the more-than-human world. First, my failure to master yak milking helped me to understand the anatomy of yaks, and that milking constitutes an intimate bond between female yaks and their female humans. Making yak dungs (the only fuel available at treeless highland) and spinning yak hair for yarn made me realize how the highland way of life is enabled by yaks. “You see, we get everything from yaks. Like children get everything from parents” herder explained it me.

Second, through my many failed attempts to herd yaks, I had to unlearn my understanding of productive work. When herding yaks, it is important to slow down. In addition, herders need to learn how to communicate with yaks and respond to their needs. By responding to herders, yaks become the yaks who live with herders. Failing to do so, humans might get frustrated, and yaks might lose their life to predators like wolves and brown bears.Finally, I will present how the yakly experience fundamentally changed and shaped my research. It became difficult for me to not advocate for yaks at occasions where I know such voice might cause frictions between me and other knowledge holders.


Session 3: Tuesday 16:00-17:30


6) Speaking as Humans/Singing As Spirits: Revisiting Semanticity and Melody in Multiple Existential Domains

Laura R. Graham, University of Iowa, lgraham@uiowa.edu

This paper explores relationships between referentiality, musicality and various ontological domains, drawing primarily on examples from the central Brazilian A’uwẽ (Xavante), to contribute to thinking about the nature of ritual speech and musical forms in Lowland South America and elsewhere. It revisits and extends earlier analyses of A’uwẽ expressive forms da-ño’re (song/dance) and da-wawa (keening/tuneful lament) which A’uwẽ-Xavante understand to be the language of ancients’ or spirits’ speech. It adds consideration of tãiwa’u mahörö (thunder calls), chants that address spirits embodied in thunder clouds.  Analysis underscores the importance of musicality in these forms and the simultaneous reduction of linguistic elements, or “linguisticality.”  While these expressive forms are referentially diminished, the language of the spirit world is musically elaborated.  I argue that focusing exclusively on linguistic elements (or referential variations) excludes or potentially overlooks musicality and the fact that musicality may be an essential element of language’s nature(s) in other existential domains.  Citing examples in which music itself, in the absence of linguistic elements, appears to be the language of other existential realms or beings, a linguisticality-musicality continuum is productive and suggests ontological and expressive relationships between Native Amazonia and the Andean region (Gutierrez-Choquevilca).  While concurring with Oakdale’s observation that referential variance may be a key means of situating humans relative to other beings and cosmological domains, like J. Hill, Brabec de Mori, Chaumiel and others, I propose that scholars must not underestimate the importance of musicality – melody and rhythm –  in considerations of the natures of language in the lowland context. 

7) Smell and fume of tuyuka tobacco articulate and disarticulate the actions of humans and cosmic beings

Justino Sarmento Rezende (Tuyuka), Federal University of Amazonas, justinosdb@yahoo.com.br

Smell and fume of tobacco articulate and disarticulate the actions of humans and cosmic beings, it is an approach to the anthropology of the Ʉtãpinopona people (Tuyuka) from the upper Rio Negro region, in the municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira - Amazonas / Brazil. The author tuyuka deals with one of the ceremonial moments of the Kumua (specialists) who manage their mental powers, using ancestral words and codes, dialogue with human and cosmic specialists, invoke, ask, implore, negotiate in favor of people, the house, of the environment and in favor of the cosmos, the protection and reassurance of beings among themselves; make some beings invisible to aggressors; transform humans and beings into smells, odors and flavors; they promise to pay their interlocutors for the benefits obtained by inviting them to participate in the party as guests of honour. These ceremonies are shared among the Tuyuka, Tukano, Desana, Arapaso, Wanano, Piratapuia, Makuna, Bará, Mirititapuia, Barasana, Hupda and other peoples. This ceremonial practice keeps these peoples in a relationship of reciprocity, where humans and cosmic beings must be co-participants in the co-benefits. The knowledge of indigenous peoples is cultural heritage of humanity and must be valued and practiced, not only by indigenous peoples, but by all peoples in the world.

8) Indigenous epistemologies of roças and rivers: bodies, places and gender in the Amazon

Sílvio Sanches Barreto (Bará), Federal University of Amazonas, barasilviosb@gmail.com

Among the Tukano indigenous peoples in northwest Amazonia, the swidden fields (roças) is the epistemological path of female knowledge and the river, of male knowledge, which are shared and intersect. The track to the roça is the birthplace of people and care for plants, and the track to the river is the place to fish and to bathe. They are places of social relations, of multispecific kinship, of forming good people of for escapes, for protection and danger. There is a river that is the main path and the igarapés, which are small paths that lead to other swiddens. The fields and the river prepare the ground for covering the epistemological house by the kumuá specialists (shamans, in the Ye’pã-masa/Tukano language) who, in conversation circles consume a bowl of ipadú and an entheogen drink, prepared by the men, and a bowl of caxiri, by the women, elements of potency for shamanic action. The Kumuá, through metaphysical thought, feed on the body and ehêri-põ'ra: the fish under the beiju is the milk and buiuiu foam, the metaphysical food for Tukoan life. These elements are found on the way to the fields, as in the juice of small fruits to sweeten the body, to make people well flushed, light and healthy, with continuous bodies of human people in the river-roça-forest, guaranteeing their synergistic coexistence. Thus, epistemologies of roça and rivers: bodies, places and gender, from an indigenous ontology to anthropological reflexivity, the well-being of the entire universe, northwest Amazon, Brazil.

9) Toward visible and invisible: the political ecology of more-than-human landscapes

Thiago Mota Cardoso, Federal University of Amazonas, thiagocardoso@ufam.edu.br

The political ecology of South American indigenous peoples in the face of the expansion of neo-extractivist infrastructures in their territories involves not only tensions, negotiations and disputes between humans. Other visible and invisible living beings participate in these political assemblage, mediating forces and images that are articulated with the way that indigenous peoples understand the conflicts. This is the case of beings seen as masters and owners of places, also called enchanted beings or spirits in Amerindian ontologies. Such beings are perceived as people possessing powers of mastery over other beings and places (in forests, mountains, rivers and lakes), which they must care, protect, make grow and proliferate. These enchanted being became invisible at a moment in history and inhabit other worlds of many indigenous cosmographies. It is with these enchanted beings that, along with animals, plants, water, climate, rocks, indigenous peoples intertwine in the constitution of the landscapes in which they inhabit. The objective of this communication is to reflect on how these beings influence the ethnographic experience participating in the political ecology of the more-than-human landscapes inhabited by the Munduruku indigenous people, in the Amazon and by the Pataxó, in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, in the context of the advancement of state and capitalist processes over their territories and bodies.

10) Exploring plants with Ashaninka Indigenous people in the Peruvian Upper Amazonia

Monika Kujawska, University of Lodz, monika.kujawska@uni.lodz.pl

Exploring and collecting plants with Ashaninka people in the Amazonian forest requires from the researcher a full engagement of senses, physical endurance and sensibility to Ashaninka ways of relating to non-human-beings. Since 2016 I have worked with Ashaninka people in the region of the Tambo River in Selva Central in Peru and my main concern were their medicinal and edible plants. However, the previously learned methods and techniques in ethnobotany were of little use in this case. Instead, I adopted walk in the forest as my main fieldwork method. I say method, because it is much more than a technique used in the fieldwork to study and collect plants known by the interlocutors. It is in the forest that people are willing to share their knowledge about plantas madres – plants of special connectivity with some animals. They also share their stories about the encounters with malevolent spirits and devils, who wish to seduce them and capture them. These stories are rarely mentioned in the village. The trigger for telling the stories are not only plants we meet on our way in the forest, and which serve to counteract the spirits’ actions, but the very being in the forest and sensing it. It was in the forest that I learned most about Ashaninka social, including predatory, relations with non-human  animals and about the native theory of connected bodies.

13) Phenomenal Relations

Matthew Wolf-Meyer, matthew.wolf-meyer@tuni.fi

Panel description:
What kinds of phenomena come into being through relational interactions? How might focusing on particular kinds of interactions unveil phenomena particular to a set of relations and relationality? In this panel, contributors are asked to consider how relational processes shape the existence, temporality, and endurance of phenomena. “Suffering” is such a phenomenal relation, in which experiences are coded in particular ways in relation to kin, health care providers, and other social relations; in the absence of these relations, does the phenomenon exist, or does its qualities change in substantial ways? Similarly, “desire” indexes an affective register that can be expressed between people; it can be uneven or unreciprocated, but it only occurs through a relational process. And “appetite” might exist as a phenomenon in relation to food, but become a different phenomenon altogether when that food is situated in a ritual or ceremonial context with family and friends.


Session 3: Tuesday 16:00-17:30


1) Fixing the family - healing the pain: suffering relations in pediatric persistent pain

Henni Alava, Tampere University

'Don't you dare tell me it's psychosomatic'. This thought captures a central experience of parents dealing with pediatric persistent pain. While an understanding of the intertwining of body and mind is increasingly accepted in contemporary Finland, the suggestion that searing pain might have something other than a somatic cause is often very difficult for children dealing with chronic pain - or their parents - to accept. Mapping the pain patient's family relationships, diagnosing the pathologies in them, and transforming the family system in ways that enable the child's pain to subside, is a fundamental part of many individually designed pain rehabilitation programs. In this paper, I thus attempt to think through what persistent pain and the suffering entwined in it really are, and whether and to what degree they can be thought of as through the prism of phenomenal relations. To do so, I draw inspiration from Anni Kytömäki's book, Margarita, to consider physiological conditions as intertwined relations between self, other people and the environment. Importing these insights into my ongoing fieldwork with children and adolescents living with persistent pain; their parents, and the clinicians who care for them, I suggest that we might perhaps better understand chronic pain and its suffering, by abandoning the designator 'psychosomatic', and replacing it instead with socio-psycho-somatic - because, I claim - the latter of these captures prevailing understandings of pediatric persistent pain far more accurately.

2) Multiple efficacies of intercorporeal relations: The recovery group work at Restore, an Oxfordshire mental health charity

Yuxin Peng (yuxin.peng@anthro.ox.ac.uk)

This paper explores the phenomena of ‘multiple efficacies’ generated by the intercorporeal relations (Merleau-Ponty [1964]1968, Csordas 2008, Moran 2017) cultivated through the practices of body techniques and rhythmic collaborations (Mauss [1934]1973, Crossley 2007, Hsu 2019). My exploration of the multiple efficacies, inspired by Elisabeth Hsu (2022) and Thomas Csordas (2021), emphasises the multiplicity of the health-promoting phenomena generated in therapeutic processes, regarding especially the mental health service users’ bodily participations in the recovery groupwork at Restore, an Oxfordshire mental health charity. Drawing on the ethnographic excerpts from my doctoral research, my paper rethinks the temporality and duration of the health-promoting phenomena which should be counted as efficacious. It explores how the group work of gardening, craftwork, and catering, which enacted the practice of body techniques in different spatial arrangements, help to restore people’s intercorporeal relations with the others. Furthermore, the paper discusses how the intercorporeal relations cultivated in the recovery groups of Restore may alleviate the lived conditions of mental illness by exercising and enskilling the body, cultivating caring relations at work, and offering opportunities for the service users’ transitions into volunteering roles within the charity.

3) Projects and the Dialectics of Aspiration and Frustration 

Andrew Graan (University of Helsinki) andrew.graan@helsinki.fi 

Projects, as a social form, constitute a recognizable style of purposive action that is predicated on the time-sensitive coordination of tasks, labor, and resources in pursuit of some non-routine, transformative goal. And, projects are ubiquitous in today’s world. From personal projects of self-improvement to megaprojects that transform built environments, the project form exists as a default, naturalized model for action across scales and contexts. Yet, despite its seeming universality, the project form nevertheless privileges historically specific understandings of and orientations to the world and temporality. 

This paper interrogates the historical specificity of the project form and its role in mediating phenomenal relations of “aspiration” and “frustration.” On the one hand, the relational structure of the project gives shape and structure to aspiration and vice versa. That is, projects require genres of aspiration, the aim to somehow change or improve the world as it is, and the project form, and the way it figures futurity and progressive time, mediates how actors articulate and work to actualize such aspirations. But, the contingent process of realizing a project often requires a different kind of temporal regimentation, expressed through schedules, deadlines, forced synchronizations, and overtime, that can produce disappointment, frustration, aggressiveness, and resentment. Drawing on preliminary fieldwork conducted in North Macedonia, this paper examines the dialectics of aspiration and frustration within the relational nexus of the project form. What does this dialectic reveal about the project form? But also, what does it reveal about agency and action in the contemporary world? 

4) Connection and its Disconnects: Enregistering Relation in Restorative Practice Facilitation

Katherine Martineau

This paper shares an ethnographic case study of the relational phenomenon “connection.” “Connection” is a vernacular English-language concept that is part of a widespread post-Cold War valorization of engagement and relation (de Candea et al. 2015). This paper describes how “connection” is theorized, enacted, recognized, and taught among English-speaking practitioners of restorative and nonviolent approaches to harm, as found in many diversionary justice programs for youth offenders in the US. “Connection” plays an essential role in these explicitly counterhegemonic restorative practices, both as a method for achieving other goals and as a goal in its own right. Through an analysis of “connection” in globally circulating facilitator trainings and training media, I propose that enregisterment (Agha 2007) can help us describe how a pattern of relation becomes a phenomenon with specific social associations, as well as how that very process of becoming phenomenal can change the pattern itself; in this case study, we see that enregistering “connection” has made it available to the very institutions it was designed to counter. An examination of “connection” among restorative practitioners through this panel’s framework of relational phenomenon offers an opportunity to investigate the epistemic and ontological frameworks of this increasingly influential alternative to carceral institutions. Given parallels between the emergence of “connection” and anthropology’s commitment to “relation” (Strathern 2018), this study of “connection” also offers an opportunity for a para-ethnographic (Marcus 2000) investigation of the assumptions and aspirations of anthropologists’ own analytical starting points.

14) Politics of kinning and de-kinning: Conjunctions of kinship, care and the state

Katja Uusihakala, University researcher, Social and cultural anthropology, University of Helsinki, katja.uusihakala@helsinki.fi
Hanna Rask, PhD researcher, Social and cultural anthropology, University of Helsinki, hanna.rask@helsinki.fi
Anna Pivovarova, PhD researcher, Social and cultural anthropology, University of Helsinki, anna.klimova@helsinki.fi

Panel description:
This panel explores kinning, de-kinning and re-kinning – processes through which persons are brought into and removed from significant, kinned relationships, and by which kinship and the state are co-produced. Studying relationships between family and the state, the panel focuses particularly on care regimes and the role of documents in creating kinned, political subjectivities. In addition to kinning as an active practice creating relatedness, anthropologists have increasingly paid attention to state engagement in processes of de-kinning and re-kinning – the unmaking and remaking of relatedness. For example, in residential care or in adoptive kinship, children are de-kinned from their biological families to be receptive to re-kinning by the state or the adoptive family. Such examinations emphasize that kinship is not merely about connectedness and mutuality, but also constituted by acts of disconnection and rupture. The panel therefore highlights temporalities and ambivalences of relatedness: processes through which kinship accumulates and dissolves through time, and relational acts of nurture and neglect by which kin relations are constructed and confronted. By analyzing care practices, we inquire how state actors – e.g. social workers or medical personnel – participate in kinning and de-kinning through defining suitable kinship and proper citizenship, and ask how alternative conceptualizations of family and care might question such assumptions. Further, we especially invite papers exploring the role of documents in kinned subjectivity formation, examining, for example, how documents of kinship legitimize political belonging or access to resources and state welfare, or inquiring the particular kinds of materialities and temporalities that kinning by paper creates.


SESSION 8: Thursday 10.30-12.00

Slot 1: Resources, state, kinning (chair: Katja Uusihakala)


1) Resourcing of child welfare services as a site of settler colonial de-kinning: Canadian Human Rights Tribunal case on First Nations child welfare  

Hanna Rask, University of Helsinki, hanna.rask@helsinki.fi

This paper focuses on funding of child and family services on First Nation reserves in Canada as a particular site where politics of kinning and de-kinning play out. The paper examines the 2016 and 2019 decisions of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal concerning discrimination of First Nation children in the child welfare system. In these decisions the Tribunal ruled in favor of a human rights complaint filed by two First Nation organizations against the Government of Canada, stating that underfunding of preventive child welfare services on reserves contributes to disproportionate apprehensions of First Nation children. Examining discussion in the decisions on the nature and scope of the harm caused by the discriminatory funding practice, the paper discusses how they suggest a particular kind of interpretation of state-sanctioned de-kinning. In its arguments of defense, the government had challenged the complaint particularly for vagueness of the alleged connection between the funding of on-reserve child welfare services, apprehensions of children through those services, and harm caused to individual children and families. The Tribunal decisions, however, address the funding framework and its impacts in the light of a broader history of settler colonial state intervention on Indigenous families and kinship relations. The paper discusses these decisions as an example of how politics of de-kinning can be viewed as not necessarily entailing direct involvement of state authorities in severing of kinship relations but as operating indirectly through processes that involve multiple institutional actors and extend relationally and temporally beyond an individual case of child apprehension.

2) “I will try my best”: familism, gender, and the state in making kinning through IVF journeys in China

Tianqi Huang, University of Cambridge, tj534@cam.ac.uk

The Japanese sociologist Emiko Ochiai (2014) defines the prevalent welfare regime in Asia as the “familialistic welfare regime”, which refers to the family as the unit of welfare provision for its members. China is no exception, particularly in the provision of fertility care. This study focuses on infertile women’s journeys of making kin with the help of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in the Chinese context. Recently, the Chinese state’s population policy shifts to pro-natalism but has yet to see adequate measures to promote fertility care. When the journey of making kin encounters infertility, there is a substantial increase in financial costs and the involvement of women. Based on ethnography in Beijing, I document how infertile women’s reproductive tourism for IVF treatment takes over their lives, portray the dilemmas they encountered, and address their strategies to cope with those with the help of their families. In this paper, I argue that IVF as a lens reveals an ambivalent role that the family plays in women’s quests for conception. Women’s difficult journeys through the bewildering world of IVF throw them back on their families for support. By providing resources the family takes on much of the responsibility for biological reproduction and to some extent shares the responsibility for social reproduction, as encouraged by the state. On the other hand, the family shifts the corresponding responsibility to women who exert their agency to secure an effective IVF treatment, which becomes a gendered burden largely born by women to take the costs.

3) Households, caring and the Ethiopian state: practices and discourses on women's domestic work

Silvia Cirillo, University of Urbino Carlo Bo, cirillosilvia@hotmail.com

This contribution explores the processes of kinning, de-kinning and re-kinning through the experiences of women domestic workers in Ethiopia. From their childhood, Ethiopian domestic workers migrate from rural to urban areas to work in middle-class and well-off households in the city. They do household chores, care for children and the sick, and run errands of various kinds. Domestic work intersects with the traditional practices of fostering and child placement within extended family networks. In fact, women workers are called 'daughters' by the people they work for, and they often call themselves so. While domestic work in Ethiopia can offer opportunities for economic and social advancement, it also exposes women to experiences of severe labour exploitation, denied access to education, and situations of physical and emotional abuse. The Ethiopian government launches information campaigns on the dangers of domestic work abroad, for example by reporting on the unfortunate experiences of female workers in the Middle East. In contrast to exploitative employers in the Middle East, Ethiopian employers are portrayed as 'protective fathers' and domestic workers in Ethiopia as 'responsible daughters' who perform care work for the sake of the family. Paternalistic language portrays the state as the 'saviour' of women, the protagonist in the fight against 'new forms of slavery' abroad. These rhetorical discourses conceal the complex reality of domestic work in Ethiopia: the making and unmaking of (kin and non-kin) relations between urban and rural households; the multiple forms of inter-household dependency, conflict and reciprocity; the conditions of labour exploitation, and the emancipatory and alternative pathways constructed by women to improve their lives.


Slot 2: State recognition of relatedness (chair: Hanna Rask)

4) Doing family among the young LGBTQ adults in Lebanon

Laura Menard, University of Portsmouth, haru.menard@port.ac.uk

In the aftermath of subsequent socio-economic disasters that have left Lebanon at the brink of collapse, the country's LGBTQ+ young adults find themselves in an especially precarious situation. Based on ethnographic interviews with the members of Lebanese LGBTQ+ community, in this paper I look at the ways of building emotional and material networks of belonging that cross sectarian and national boundaries, among others, in an attempt to build a future that escapes the narrow parameters of survival offered by the Lebanese sectarian state, on the one hand, and a normative "gay international" culture, on the other.

5) Kinning by other means: registering citizens by creating papered kin among Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa 

Saana Hansen, University of Helsinki, saana.hansen@helsinki.fi

This paper investigates birth and death registration simultaneously as acts of kin and state. It draws on ethnographic research on the economies of care among low-income Zimbabwean migrants, injivas, who return from South Africa. The paper expands the term ‘kinning’ from Signe Howell (2003, 2006) to make sense of the creative ways through which people whose life-worlds are embedded in the context of endemic crises and state-produced undocumentedness, have responded to such conditions.  The paper zooms at the tactical ways people, in relation to various bureaucratic agents, seek access to citizen certificates primarily to secure their national belonging and access to citizenship and protective migrant status. However, through such acts, people also get entangled with papered relatives and kin networks both in South Africa and in Zimbabwe. I show how the credibility of ID documents are socially constituted via the creation of a convincing ’make believe’ narratives (Navaro-Yashin  2007) having intended and unintended impacts on people’s social worlds, that need various de- and rekinning practices to be repaired. By so doing, the paper contributes to the literature on bureaucratic documents by bringing at the fore the ‘generative capacity’ of documentation (Hull 2012) that brings into being new, often unintended forms of relatedness and belonging to both state and kin networks. 


SESSION 9: Thursday 13.00-14.30

Slot 3:  Care as a political act (chair: Anna Pivovarova)


6) Politics of care and moral reproduction in Belarusian countryside: futural antagonisms of state and kinship

Roman Urbanowicz, University of Helsinki, roman.urbanowicz@helsinki.fi

The presentation engages with the ethical antagonism between the state-owned schooling system in the rural Polish-populated localities of the northwest of Belarus and parental care, both revolving around attempts to ensure the best possible future for their children graduating from school. In this setting, the option of going to Poland after school to continue education there is rather popular, as its better living standards promise a better future. Since the Belarusian state generally considers Poland to be a hostile entity, however, the local school is instructed to prevent such educational choices at all costs. The practical dimension of the antagonism is ambiguous, as while there are ways for the parents to circumvent the conflict, either complying or tricking the state officials into presuming their compliance, many of them are often threatened to be laid off from their state-provided jobs or otherwise punished if their kids would leave for Poland. This pressing contradiction of the rivalling logics of care and reproduction structures the futural dimension of ethical life of many locals, catalysing wider reflections of the moral underpinnings of relations between the state and the community, as well as of the orientation towards the promises and potentialities of those relations. Engaging with these moral tensions, I argue that the very practices of care acquire political qualities, being acts of performative questioning of both moral economy of the authoritarian state-controlled labour system and the corrosive effects it has on the local social fabric and potentialities of its moral reproduction.

7) Thickening the plot: care, emplotment and the claim for kinship in mother’s lawsuit against the state after stillborn burial in a mass grave

Shvat Eilat, Tel Aviv University, Shvates@gmail.com

What are the discursive and affective means by which re-Kinning through emplotment can take place? when categories of kinship are unthought of, how can they take shape and even gain tract as worthy of recognition at the heart of the state?

In my research, I interviewed a group of Jewish-Israeli women whose stillborns were buried in an unmarked mass grave. These women appealed to the District Court, demanding that the court denounces mass burial and will recognize the wrongs the mothers have suffered. I show how these mothers try to translocate state boundaries around categories of motherhood and citizenship, and by that to re-emplot their relations to the stillborn and its place as a member of a family and citizen. This is done within boundary work that makes use of the Israeli- Jewish state conceptions around honored burial, death hierarchies, "Kinship Ideologies" and the right to citizenship. These mothers position their claim deep within the Israeli- Jewish state logic of bodies worthy of respect and honor. Making a place for their stillborns, and themselves as their mothers, is done by positioning the desired categories as integral to the Jewish- Israeli state. Through forms of suffering concerning the mass grave that the mothers present in their words, I will show how care can be reconstructed in places where its primary means does not always exist and where the language of care needs to be reconstructed.


Slot 4: Temporality of kinship (chair: Hanna Rask)

8) Memory, time and temporality of kinship in foster care stories

Anna Pivovarova, University of Helsinki, anna.klimova@helsinki.fi

This paper is focused on issues of time and temporality of kinship. Based on ethnography and stories shared by foster caregivers, it explores ambivalences of care and relatedness in the context of alternative family care and adoption in today Russia. In 2010s, the Russian government started a wide federal-level child welfare reform that aimed to dismantle the massive residential care system left from the soviet period and replace it with family-based care models, such as foster family care, kinship care (provided by a child’s relatives), and adoption. Within the following decade, the reform resulted in a boost of fosterages and significantly decreased the number of children staying in residential care. However, with the lack of support services that would make possible family reunification (Kulmala et al. 2020), in the Russian case of child welfare deinstitutionalisation, foster family care ended up as a permanent - often almost adoption-like - solution to a child replacement case. This paper discusses how issues of family discontinuity, personhood and belonging, temporality of care reflect in family stories of foster and adoptive parents, and how such narratives are used as a way and a resource for kinning and de- kinning - creating and disintegrating close relations between children and their caregivers.

9) Temporality and ambivalence of kinship: Politics of kinning in the lives of late colonial British child migrants 

Katja Uusihakala, University of Helsinki, katja.uusihakala@helsinki.fi

This paper examines political processes of kinning and de-kinning from the perspective advocated by Janet Carsten, namely that anthropologists should pay attention to the “thickening” and “thinning” of kinship over time, stressing state engagement in such processes of kin-making. The case I examine concerns a child migration scheme, which selected, shipped and permanently relocated white British children to colonial Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) between 1946 and 1962. What characterizes kin relations among the former migrants is their fragmentedness – they are permeated by abandonment and absence; loss of kin connections, memory and a sense of belonging; and, at times, by the obscurity of documented relatedness. Such processes of kinship are not solely intimate, emotional and experiential family affairs. In this state-supported project of social engineering, active forms of de-kinning and re-kinning were very much orchestrated by the state. State actors and child emigration societies legitimated children’s de-kinning from their families with the principle of “children’s best interests”, acting to ensure the production of proper citizens, re-kinned as wards of the colonial state. Thus, the politics of “children’s best interests” were intrinsically linked with political ideologies and processes of nation and Empire building. This draws attention to the fact that forms of relatedness – and memories of those relations – are inalienable from wider political and historical contexts in which they occur. It further underlines that kinship and the state need to be analyzed as intertwined and mutually constitutive, and that ethnographic attention should be paid to political implications of forms and processes of relatedness.  


15) Anthropologies (of aging) through and beyond personhood

Christine Verbruggen (KU Leuven, christine.verbruggen@kuleuven.be),
Annette Leibing (Université de Montréal, annette.leibing@umontreal.ca), and
Jessica Robbins (Wayne State University, jessica.robbins@wayne.edu)

Panel description:
Personhood is arguably the most important category in aging and, more generally, disability studies, due to the often-contested full humanness of neurodivergent, but also older individuals in general. Many times articulated as an essence in need of being rescued through humanistic practices of care, personhood gets rarely questioned. However, hegemonic ideals of personhood have concrete and situated effects on life worlds of older adults. Age friendly communities, public funding models, and care ideologies are likely to naturalize personhood, and its modernist ideals of boundedness, independence, and essential humanity, while marginalizing other practices, experiences, and futures.

More critical scholars have in recent years challenged personhood as a unit of policy, care, and research on (older) bodies. This has often implied extending the scope of actants that constitute aging bodies to include the more-than-human and historicizing, hybridizing, or queering personhood - sometimes transcending, but sometimes also replicating underlying humanistic concerns of older models. Moving beyond personhood has also urged scholars to revisit the relations between selves, others, power, and (im)materialities, to question which relations matter more than others, and what a relation does.

This panel gathers contributions that flesh out different argumentative pathways about ideals that guide such discussions, by engaging with key texts and practices of “doing personhood,” but also by showing how personhood is situated and what the impact of personhood models is in concrete landscapes of care. Of particular interest are contributions that conceptualize relationality as a central concern in (ethnographic) research on and beyond personhood.


SESSION 8: Thursday 10:30-12:00


1) Remembered Relations and Relations of Remembrance: How Does Relationality Matter in Late-Life Reminiscence?

Jessica Robbins-Panko; Institute of Gerontology and Department of Anthropology; Wayne State (jessica.robbins@wayne.edu)

Memory, especially autobiographical memory, is central to personhood in contemporary North America and Europe. Yet transformations that occur in memory in late life can negatively transform—and even threaten—the personhood of older adults, especially for those with dementia. The flip side of memory loss are cultivated practices of reminiscence, in which older adults are prompted to remember events and experiences from the past. Such reminiscence can be pleasurable, meaningful, and therapeutic. These activities are common at senior centers, retirement homes, nursing homes, and dementia wards alike, and include activities like life-history or memoir-writing, topic-focused reminiscence groups, and reminiscence therapy. Underlying many such activities are assumptions about the individualist nature of personhood itself. Although reminiscence practices include both individual and social elements of remembering, less attention has focused on the myriad scales of social relations (interpersonal, institutional, regional, [trans]national) that are part of reminiscence activities. In this paper, I draw on anthropological theories of relational personhood, which show that social relations at multiple spatiotemporal scales can shape personhood, to explore how relations shape personhood in late-life reminiscence practices. Through a comparative review of interdisciplinary literature on late-life reminiscence, this paper explores the therapeutics of interpellative memory in late life by asking: Which kinds of relations and collectivities are present in the content and form of reminiscence? How does it matter where, and among whom, reminiscence occurs? How does the structure of reminiscence offer possibilities and limits for what is remembered—and what are the consequences of such inclusions and exclusions?

2) The Shadow of Dementia: Affective Temporalities of Suspected Dementia

Shvat Eilat (Tel Aviv University) (shvates@gmail.com )

The ways in which dementia is constructed and assembled in popular medical discourses and popular culture is, to some extent, positioning dementia as a disease of a feared future—not just for the individual who is losing herself, but as a component of an overriding and all-consuming social and medical disaster. Dementia is always lurking in our anticipated older years; in this, dementia is constituted by its feared future. Moreover, this feared future is gaining shape when a person starts to feel, or to suspect, that dementia is becoming real in her present. My guiding assumption is that dementia does not begin with its formal medical diagnosis but rather in these mundane vernacular moments that make up the suspicion of incipient dementia, and the social, medical and personal shadows that accompany these articulations. Dealing with this understanding links me to a question at the core of social research on aging and dementia as interfaces where personhood emerges. In this paper, I will explore some of the affective temporal orientations through which my interlocutors are positioning their “self” within a time of suspecting possible memory loss. By discussing agentive actions of minding, scaling and mattering this gap, I aim to contribute to the evolving conversation over relational personhood of\in life with dementia in old age.

3) Neither Humanist Nor Post-human Personhood - ‘Alienation’ for Dementia Care

Annette Leibing (U Montreal) (annette.leibing@umontreal.ca), Abel Castro (U Montreal), (abel.de.castro.tavares@umontreal.ca), Cynthia Lazzaroni (McGill U), (cynthia.lazzaroni@mail.mcgill.ca),  Keven Lee (McGill U) (keven.lee@mcgill.ca) , Niklas Petersen (U Montreal and U Göttingen) (niklas.petersen@med.uni-goettingen.de), Barbara Costa Rossin (Federal U Rio de Janeiro), (barbararossinc@gmail.com) , Samy Taha (U Montreal) (samy.taha@umontreal.ca).

Discussions regarding personhood and dementia care are often based on practices of recognition; on notions of being—or not—‘one of us’. Mostly following the pioneering teachings of British social psychologist Tom Kitwood, individuals arguing within the humanistic framework of person-centered care advocate for the idea that individuals with dementia are relational beings and cannot be reduced merely to cognition. This talk is about two recent developments in dementia care. Firstly, it is about (a.) scholars who give a certain continuity to Kitwood’s thinking, though advancing and criticizing some of his teaching, many of them arts-based interventions and (b.) theories that can be subsumed under the label ‘post-human approaches’ and that embed the individual with dementia in more-than-human environments. The central argument here is that the underlying models of personhood that are part of these recent conceptualizations of dementia care have their own shortcomings. We suggest an alternative framework that we call alienation or ‘alienation-centred care’. A central point is that it is not the individual’s reactivity to dementia interventions that defines non-alienation, but the extent to which dynamic prosthetic networks are able to adapt to the lives of people with dementia. Such a change in perspective might overcome some of the limitations found in humanist and post-human approaches.

4) Towards a multi-species understanding of personhood in later life

Nick Jenkins (University of the West of Schotland) (nick.jenkins@uws.ac.uk)

Across Western societies, understandings of how we do care in later life tend to foreground the importance of relationality.  Within formalised care frameworks, positive relations between those who ‘give’ and ‘receive’ care are thought to contribute to the ongoingness of individual personhood, especially in the presence of dementia-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. In keeping with their liberal humanist ontology, these understandings assume that intra-species relationality (typically understood as symbolic interaction between Human carer and Human cared-for) is the only form of relating that matters in personhood’s ongoingness.  We know, however, that relationality in later life frequently involves relating-with and becoming-with members of other species at both the inter-corporeal (between-bodies) and intra-corporeal (within-bodies) level.  Drawing on work from across the fields of psychoanalysis, sociobiology, more-than-human phenomenology, ethnozoology, multi-species ethnography and new materialism, this paper explores how we might better understand the ways in which relations between-and-across species contribute to personhood’s ongoingness in later life.  Fundamental to this project is challenging liberal humanist understandings of what it means to Be a person and grounding our approaches to care and caring in later life within a more cybernetic, ‘multi-species’ understanding of human subjectivity.

5) Re-membering the Uncanny: Crafting Possible Anthropologies Alongside Personhood (With Dementia).

Christine Verbruggen (KU Leuven) (christine.verbruggen@kuleuven.be)

Personhood-approaches to dementia are powerful technologies to raise awareness, make dementia a matter of concern, and popularize expertise. More than a decade of critical scholarship highlighting the limits of personhood models has shown that alternatives are difficult to put in place. Indeed, personhood models are institutionalized in ideologies of care and are strongholds in the face of suffering, promising the suspension of loss. More fundamentally, however, a ‘person-with’ approach is tough because it draws on humanist epistemologies that offer natural ways of problematizing, recognizing, and managing differences, in the process making up persons, while heralding the colonialization of the uncanny. I draw on research in a care centre for people with dementia in Belgium to document how the uncanny keeps haunting and propels kinning through and beyond dementia. I use ‘uncanniness’ to indicate experiences of unboundedness that are unsettling, in which distinctions between in- and outsides collapse and the strangely familiar becomes manifest. Not the residue of personhood but firmly entangled with it, the uncanny is composed of snippets of selves and others, but qualitatively disrupts epistemologies of personhood in that it is ontologically relational and carries an excess of meaning, like matter. Thus attending to uncanniness alongside personhood, I argue, nurtures an anthropology as and of the possible (Pandian 2019) – one that both epitomizes the witnessing of the strangely familiar and in doing so amplifies its potential. Such possible anthropologies are timely, in that they can help deflect imaginaries of conditional inclusion, that promote recognition and expertise to prevent unsettlement.

Discussant: Matthew Wolf-Meyer (Binghamton University) (matthew.wolf.meyer@gmail.com)

16) Affects in relations

Tiina Suopajärvi, European Ethnology, University of Turku, tiina.suopajarvi@utu.fi
Pia Olsson, European Ethnology, University of Helsinki, pia.olsson@helsinki.fi

Panel description:
The affective turn in cultural studies means, for example, considering how affects participate in the construction of relations, especially of others and us. Emotions, like hate or love, make us move towards or away from someone/something. In these movements, we leave impressions on each other and through these impressions, our collective body starts to formulate, but simultaneously other bodies come into being. These bodies can be composed around gender, race, ethnicity, class, and/or socio-economic positions and beyond. (Ahmed 2014.) During the last decade, anthropologists have started to consider the meanings of emotions in both ethnographic fieldwork and analysis (Beatty 2010; Skoggard and Waterston 2015). Our panel invites researchers to discuss how to think with affects in our studies, and what this thinking means in the ethnographic knowledge making. (How) do we know differently about the social, socio-material and more-than-human relations when we focus on affects and especially on what they do, in our fieldwork, in our collaborations, in our analysis, in our writings, or in our teaching? Further, we are interested in discussion on if affects can take us beyond the hierarchical, dichotomous idea of others and us. Do affects have transformative power; can they become an agent of activism? This panel is open for submissions on ontological, theoretical, methodological, empirical and activist discussions on affects in anthropological and other ethnographic fields of studies.


SESSION 6: Wednesday 11:30 - 13:00 



1) Generating hope in academia with affects 

Tiina Suopajärvi; University of Turku, tiina.suopajarvi@utu.fi

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we organized three meetings on Zoom for researchers to share their experiences and emotions on their work. These Affect cafés were based on the world café method and the discussions were organized by three themes: research strategies, how they affect researchers’ work; emotions in researchers’ work and their effects; and everyday life of a researcher. The open invitation to our cafés attracted 22 participants from social sciences and humanities from different career stages. Five of the participants worked with permanent and seven with temporary contracts, ten with a scholarship or without funding. The cafés were video-recorded. Encountering each other on Zoom differs from the traditional ethnographic fieldwork, since though sitting in front of a laptop, looking and listening to other participants is surely a corporeal experience, they might leave different kinds of impressions on us, and this way have an impact on the ways we analyse affects, their circulations and meanings (Ahmed 2014). By following Sara Ahmed (2014, 208), I understand emotions as involving “bodily processes of affecting and being affected (…) emotions are a matter of how we come into contact with objects and others.” In my presentation, I will discuss how hope in academia generated in our online cafés, and especially how affects participated in the making of hope. I will further consider, what relations were significant in the appearance and supporting of hope, and (how) can we apply these findings in our everyday practices in academia.

2) Affective recast of relations in late 2010s Hungary 

Annastiina Kallius; University of Helsinki, annastiina.kallius@helsinki.fi

This paper looks at how the build-up of the illiberal regime in Hungary since 2010 under Viktor Orbán has been an epistemological project charged with affect. What kinds of pre-existing cultural codes does this affective regime reproduce and rely upon, and how does that influence the parameters of ethnographic fieldwork? I draw on in-depth ethnographic fieldwork among the Budapest liberal milieu in 2017-18 and investigate how the public blacklisting of individuals critical of the Fidesz regime resulted in a redrawing of social relations. Why did some answer with indignance, and others with fear? I trace how this episode of blacklisting revealed hitherto hidden affective relations that people held with power, and how those people who were singled out as the enemies of the illiberal regime appeared as the calm eye of an affective storm. Ultimately, I show how charged emotional reactions were constitutive of some relations, and eclipsed other ones, and how partaking in this affective realignment was a pre-requisite of ethnographic knowledge.

3) Love, Knowledge, and the Ontologization of the Self-in-Relation among Youth in Taiwan

Weining Cheng, wncheng@gate.sinica.edu.tw

By presenting an ethnography of romantic relationships among Taiwanese in their twenties, this essay explores how the ontologization of the self-in-relation is made manifest through their knowledge, practices, and fantasy. First of all, these young people draw on heterogenous lines of knowledge ranging from psychology to economics to arrive at and understanding of what “the human”, “the interiority”, and “the self” are meant to be. In particular, they tend to adapt several measures of evaluation from economics to achieve the optimal returns in relations, as in academic performance. Besides, a variety of animes, drama series, and films provides the main source for their fantasies regarding what a desirable love life looks like. Notably, they keenly reflect upon the configuration of love relations, and often mentally rehearse or even envision a subjunctive future which allows them to project their self-images onto the world, thereby ontologizing the self-in-relation. Rather than seeing love/affect as an element constitutive of kinship (Strathern 2020) or as an object of politicization (Mody 2022), I suggest an alternative view of modern love as an assemblage of knowledge, practice, fantasy, and desire, with which youth reflect to form and then ontologize their self-in-relation.

4) Efficiency and affection in migratory beekeeping

Aline von Atzigen; University of Zurich, vonatzigen@vmz.uzh.ch

Migratory beekeeping is a particular way of keeping honeybees which is usually practiced by professional large-scale beekeepers. In current Social Science research engaging with honeybees, beekeepers and beekeeping it is often assumed by scholars (e.g. Niedersteiner 2020, Remter 2021) that affection or the lack thereof informs the beekeeping practice. This implies that professional large scale migratory beekeeping is considered an emotionally-detached and therefore bad practice. In my contribution I will analyze the human-honeybee relations beyond such a notion of affection as based on ethics and morality. Drawing from participant observation with professional large-scale beekeepers in French Provence I will focus on affects in practice. I thus understand affects not only as internalized sentiments or feelings, but also comprising “action tendencies” (Beatty 2010). Concretely, I will look at the task of harvesting honey by using a leaf blower to blow out the honeybees of the honey supers. I will argue that the use of the leaf blower is efficiency as care. Elaborating how technology, care and practice are put in practice through efficiency I aim to complexify our notions of affection. I will highlight that taking “scale” into account allows for a more nuanced understanding of affects in multispecies entanglements. The case of professional large-scale migratory beekeeping is particularly interesting as it allows to understand human-honeybee entanglements with regard to of the scale of the beekeeping business and the scale of beekeepers relating with individual honeybees, honeybee colonies, apiaries or the bee species as an abstracted notion in urgent need for protection.

5) Pathways of Affect: Mapping Transcultural Emotional Journeys of Visitors in a Museum Space

Ranjamrittika Bhowmik; Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, bhowmikr@hu-berlin.de

My paper will explore the emotional journeys of visitors and their reception of a diverse body of historical objects on display at the Museum for Asian Arts at the highly contested space of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin. Exhibiting religious art in museums or other secular spaces creates new contexts and conditions; social, cultural and emotional, that often give rise to new meanings. The museum exhibition has the potential to arouse visitors' emotions on the concepts of cultural identities, relationships, and histories in a third space (Bhabha 1996), in which cultural boundaries become blurred and fluid as it challenges homogeneity in perception of 'culture.' Visitors have a role in co-creating the narratives and meaning making in the museum enshrining the potential of affect and historical stories to explore transcultural relationships in contemporary society, also focusing on the intersectional hierarchies and inequalities. This study highlights the dialectic interaction between museums and visitors in an "imagined" cultural space crossed by emotions and generator of personal and collective identities. This study will also highlight some of the issues and concerns associated with ethics of collection and decolonization in museums. 
1. How has this museum exhibition put visitors in contact with each other and how does it foster an understanding of the self and the ‘other’ through paradigms of affect in juxtaposed spaces?
2. Creation of identity: In spite of the socio-cultural and physically imposed identity of the museum, how does the visitor engage in personal meaning making and interpretation regarding the context they are offered?


SESSION 7: Wednesday 14:30 - 16:00 


6) Researching on race and whiteness in Switzerland. Methodological and epistemological reflections on discomfort

Céline Heini; University of Fribourg, celine.heini@unifr.ch

Doing research on racialization and the boundaries of whiteness in Switzerland from the perspective of Chilean people or with Chilean ancestry, I am sometimes confronted with epistemological and ethical dilemmas, which leave me with an uncomfortable feeling. In particular, while the critical perspectives I engage with are meant to counteract racialised and other assignations, I sometimes find myself mobilising these same categories in the 'selection' of people with whom I will conduct interviews, during the research fieldwork and during the analysis. For this contribution, I propose to address this discomfort, that Mazouz (2008) discusses, from a relational perspective, following the understanding of affect by Ahmed (2014). What does this affect say about field relations and the context of knowledge production?

7) Coloniality as an Affect of Feeling Not Enough

Ugnė Barbora Starkutė; Vilnius University, starkuteugne@gmail.com

I observed a relationship between coloniality and inadequacy when doing fieldwork research in Finnish Sapmi. Some Sami research participants expressed feeling not proper or inadequate Sami because they do not practice attributed aspects of Saminess such as traditional activities (reindeer herding, crafts, language, etc.). The literature demonstrates similar expectations of authenticity in indigenous communities in Australia (Povinelli 1998a, 1998b), India (Steur 2010, 2011), or South America (Graham 2002). Such expectations of authenticity are formed by the dominant groups that indigenous groups try to answer accordingly to be able to claim their identity. Unfortunately, their identity is often questioned within broader society or sometimes even within one’s own community. This becomes internalized and manifests as a feeling of being not enough. According to Mignolo (2017), coloniality is a matrix of power, and far from over. One of its manifestations, I suggest, is this feeling of inadequacy of previously oppressed peoples. Such affect of coloniality could be observed in many other (post)colonial places. For example, Eastern Europe being not enough European or Western; Global South being not enough developed. If coloniality produces the feeling of inadequacy, how do we decolonize affects? During the presentation, I will discuss my thoughts and ideas about my doctoral research and fieldwork to explore these questions and ethical dilemmas that raise many other emotions and affects.

8) Sensing Remoteness: ethnographic encounters with the post-human in Hornstrandir, Iceland

Justin Armstrong; Wellesley College, jarmstro@wellesley.edu

In June 2018, I spent a week walking the eastern coast of Iceland’s remote Hornstrandir peninsula, retracing centuries-old footpaths between isolated settlements and sleeping in the crumbling foundations of long-dead farmhouses. This exercise was an attempt to apprehend something of an ontological understanding of the lives-once-lived in this place. Hornstrandir was completely abandoned in the early 1950s, presenting a unique opportunity to explore the resonant possibility of post-human affect and agency embedded in ruins. Here, I ask how ethnographers can begin to sense affect and translate it into new forms of anthropological knowledge. How can we sense this distinct presence of absence, and in so doing, draw affect out from behind the thin veil of perceived emptiness and abandonment? This (field)work-in-progress suggests an approach to Hornstrandir’s ruins as a collection of anthropological readymades, as ad hoc museums, memorials, art installations, and sites of deep affective resonance; they are archeological sites of the now. In the absence of human actors these locations have the potential to generate collaborative human/non-human projects that explore the processes and outcomes of ruination as fully affective and agentive sites of knowledge. In this way, the production of meaning in the absence of human actors and the phenomenological nature of these places and the objects that they hold become genuine ethnographic subjects. Here, senses of place form ontological webs of meaning that vibrate with a newly affective resonance to illuminate the hidden worlds of affect in apparent desertion.

9) Embracing water, healing pine. Trans-species tactile encounters 

Piritta Nätynki (University of Oulu), Taina Kinnunen (University of Oulu), Marjo Kolehmainen (University of Jyväskylä), piritta.natynki@oulu.fi; taina.kinnunen@oulu.fi; marjo.k.kolehmainen@jyu.fi

This presentation considers touch as an embodied worlding practice. We ask what kind of trans-species contact people intentionally seek for themselves, how these encounters are affectively charged, how these sensory engagements come to matter and how to make sense of those matterings as researchers? Some human beings form deeply meaningful relations with natural elements thus making worlds by cherishing contact with their chosen natural bodies. This paper explores these kinds of relationships though a lens provided by touch-walking, an immersive sensory ethnographic method developed for this study. We take touch as an embodied worlding practice, a way to get engaged with the human and non-human world in constantly re-constituted assemblages (cf. Stewart 2002). Touch reveals our ‘withness with things’ (Paterson 2007) and works through affects (Kinnunen & Kolehmainen 2019), being a vital mode of becoming with more-than-human bodies. Thus, it brings together insights from feminist posthumanism and affect theory onto engagements with sensory matterings. We examine three co-researchers’ tactile relations with trees and water(s). These trans-corporeal relations entail multilayered more-than-human intimacies developing further the idea of companionship that does not renew human-only centered understandings of meaningful relationships (Lykke 2018). The documented touch-walks produced an embodied-affective data (Kinnunen & Kolehmainen 2019) and opened up possibilities for affective encounters and encouraged the co-researchers to share their haptic knowledges, memories, and reflections of their more-than-human companionships. We also suggest that developing further multisensory research methodologies can advance sensible environmental ethics (Lorimer 2012; Obrador 2012) and thus support sustainable co-existence across species.

17) Naturecultural communities

Mikko Äijälä, University of Lapland, mikko.aijala@ulapland.fi 
Jarno Valkonen, University of Lapland, jarno.valkonen@ulapland.fi

Panel description:
The naturecultural communities panel is centred around the multidisciplinary naturecultural research. The notion of naturecultures has been developed in the fields of environmental humanities and social sciences to emphasise the inherent messiness of the lived world and the inseparability of social and biophysical elements. Naturecultural approach commences from the premise that humans do not merely dwell in this world only with others of their kind but, instead, live and breathe together also with innumerable forms of non-human beings. It underlines that what is seemingly ‘natural’ is always simultaneously ‘cultural’ and vice versa. Thus, the naturecultural approach provides a relational perception of the world where humans and all sorts of non-humans inhabit the same earth and ‘continually create conditions for each other’s existence’, as Tim Ingold argues. The naturecultural communities are always based on shared knowledge, practices and ultimately culture.

The panel aims to provide a scientific forum to present and promote the use of naturecultural approach in the field of human-non-human-environment relationality research. The panel welcomes theoretical and empirical presentations that examine e.g human-animal relations, infrastructural being, multispecies practices, dwelling or ontological politics in various practical contexts.


Session 4: Wednesday 8:30 - 10:00

Chair: Mikko Äijälä and Jarno Valkonen (University of Lapland)


1) Garbography: Knowing with waste

Olli Pyyhtinen and Stylianos Zavos, Tampere University, Finland, olli.pyyhtinen@tuni.fi

Based on the on-going research of ours and our colleagues in the ERC-funded WasteMatters research project, the presentation explores modes of thinking and knowing in and along naturecultural encounters and entanglements with waste. Advancing from traditional, anthropocentric social scientific methods that operate mostly around language and signification, the presentation focuses on the dynamics of waste matter itself and the respective onto-epistemological and methodological implications of such an approach. Drawing from, and combining an array of insights by thinkers such as Ingold, Latour, and Haraway, we suggest that to know waste, it is crucial to care-fully attend to the details of everyday, affective, and minoritarian encounters and entanglements with and along waste matters. We need to map waste flows and follow the respective processes of sorting out, discarding, reappropriating, transporting, processing, and (re)valuing; pay attention to how waste sticks by, tarnishes, grows mould, rots, and decomposes; and examine what happens to discards as they flow, spill over, leak, mix, and mutate. In the art of following, which is key to what we call garbography (a combination of the words ‘garbology’ and ‘ethnography’), the knowing subject is not situated outside of the world she seeks knowledge of. Rather, the two are intertwined to the extent that thinking and knowing amounts to a process of thinking- and knowing-with. Garbography thus comes with more-than-human emphases, as it explores ways of knowing beyond the human in naturecultural collectives.

2) Shared visions of a culture of material restraint: A research plan to investigate the marginal voices in sustainable futures planning and visioning

Hanna Saari, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, hanna.saari@vtt.fi

The modern lifestyle is in a crisis. Our relationship to the material world is proven to be destructive to a degree that puts the continuity of human civilisation as we know it into question, and we still don’t have sufficient means of renewing our relationship with the material reality in a socially acceptable manner. Therefore, new social imaginaries and related discussions are needed. As can be observed with the rise of populist politics and the often aggressive discussion culture on issues surrounding the green transition, there are currently groups that feel left out in the societal and political discussions surrounding the transition. As changing lifestyles intrudes the everyday life and habits of everyone, issues such as identities, values and power relations are present, although often unrecognised in the discussions. To truly promote a just transition, these deep structures of culture and their variance in our society should be understood. This would form a starting point from which the material agency of all societal groups could be promoted. 

To untangle these questions, I present a research plan to explore the citizen groups that are currently left at the margins of discussions surrounding sustainability transitions. These could include groups like rural youth or car enthusiasts, for example. I plan to use workshop or interview methods to explore their beliefs, values, hopes and fears related to sustainability transition. I will focus on finding preferred, imaginable futures as well as strengthening these groups’ agency in shaping the future. In this presentation, I will present my initial theoretical and practical approaches to carrying out this work.

3) Entangled Lives in a High Arctic Valley: Microbes, Birds, Foxes, Humans, and Muskoxen

Kirsten Hastrup, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, kirsten.hastrup@anthro.ku.dk
Relations are of many kinds and unfold at different scales. Life hinges on relations within and between species, be they solid or fragile, old or new, obvious or unseen, but always central for the life and growth of naturalcultural communities. This presentation takes its point of departure is a prominent valley in High Arctic Greenland, rising from the sea to glacier-covered heights, and being home to multiple species with each their history, and each their dimension, from microbes to muskoxen. The valley demonstrates how a livable Arctic has emerged and unveils the complex ground on which the Inughuit have walked for a long time, becoming part of a singular natureculture.

The valley sets a scene where multiple actors perform and make up a living theater. The actors include algae, copepods, birds, foxes, bears, people, and many more – including muskoxen, that make such impression on the anthropologist, who is new to this natural theater. Ruins of ancient stone-houses in the upper valley reminds us about the place of humans in this story – possibly relatively marginal compared to the other living beings in the valley, but still central in the topography of the mounting slopes and the different levels of life. The presentation is based on collaborative fieldwork but speaks for itself.

4) PhD project: Co-design of Kiiminkijoki river basin management – Network building and translations of environmental knowledge

Olli Haanpää, University of Oulu, Finland, olli.haanpaa@oulu.fi

Envisioning sustainability transformations in large social-ecological systems requires understanding of the relational networks between various actors with differing and sometimes conflicting interests. Simultaneously, local as well as scientific environmental knowledge are in many ways uncertain, partial, and open to interpretation leading to difficulties in environmental governance. A key question is who manages to mobilize the collective of human and non-human actors to support their interests and how the state of the environment is conceived.

In this paper I focus on the controversial groundwater extraction plans in Viinivaara region located in Kiiminkijoki river basin. The said plan involves almost a 20-year-old but still ongoing dispute about the potential risks the devised groundwater extraction might pose to the ecology and hydrology of the surrounding area including the river. Most importantly, there are great differences in the interpretation and utilization of key environmental indicators. I analyse how different actors define the current state of the local environment, and how these definitions are contested in the struggle to stabilize the actor network to support certain interests.

This paper pertains to my doctoral research closely tied to the MATKI-project, in which a land use sector climate change mitigation plan is co-designed with stakeholders of Kiiminkijoki river basin. My objective is to analyse the nature-cultural networks that emerge from envisioning the river basin management while paying attention to the technological artifacts, natural objects and environmental knowledge involved in the process. The methods are guided by relational viewpoints and sociology of translation described in actor network theory.

5) Could the locals’ long-term mistrust of the authorities be conceptualised as local knowledge? A case study on Teno river salmon management

Mikko Äijälä and Jarno Valkonen, University of Lapland, Finland, mikko.aijala@ulapland.fi

There is growing interest and also body of knowledge towards the “integration” of Indigenous knowledge and values with Western science into sustainable governance and management of natural resources. Indigenous knowledge is often understood as traditional practices or vocabularies related to nature and its use. This kind of knowledge system informs the decision-making of everyday life and is transferred to further generations. Instead, for example, local people's criticism of authorities, research or politics, or their claims for their own rights have been interpreted as beliefs, interest claims or opinions. Relying solely on these kinds of conceptualisations can risk harming Indigenous communities and reifying colonial legacies.

In this presentation, we focus on the role of locals’ mistrust towards scientific knowledge and practices held by the authorities in the management of Teno Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in the Sámi homeland in Finland. We discuss an example from a particular community in Utsjoki, that has suffered the most when the government of Finland regulated a total fishing ban of the Atlantic salmon in Teno river. By taking examples from our fieldwork and interviews conducted in the area, we discuss whether, for example, the locals' historically long-lasting speeches about mistrust of the authorities could be interpreted–instead of beliefs or opinions–as indigenous knowledge, and if so, what that would mean.


Session 5: Wednesday 10:00 - 11:30

Chair: Mikko Äijälä and Jarno Valkonen (University of Lapland)


6. Dwelling in animate landscape

Sonja Laukkanen, University of Helsinki, Finland, sonja.laukkanen@helsinki.fi

In my paper I will discuss Tibetan relational ontology and different practices connected with dwelling in the animate landscape of Meili Snow Mountains, Yunnan, China. These mountains are part of a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, a world biodiversity hotspot and a pilgrimage destination. Originally the highest peak Khawa Karpo (6,740 meters) was a fierce gnyan warrior god, a yullha zhidak, a regionally important pre-Buddhist deity mountain. Now it is known as neri, one of the holiest mountains in Tibetan Buddhism.

In Tibetan Buddhism, there are six classes of beings: gods, demigods, humans, animals, hungry ghosts, and hellish beings. In addition, the landscape is inhabited by pre-Buddhist chthonic beings such as sa bdag inhabiting the earth, klu in water and trees, and btsan and gnyan who live in mountains. Deities and spirit forces pervade the physical environment such as lakes, forests, waterfalls, springs, rocks, stupas, monasteries, and shrines as well as people. Disturbing these beings can lead to retribution in the form of disease or natural disasters but they can also be beneficial if propitiated appropriately.

The interdependency of beings is articulated with Tibetan concepts of snod and bcud (container and contents). There exists different kinds of ‘containers’, such as persons, households, monasteries, villages or even the entire universe. Contents include sentient beings as well as different more-than human beings and forces. The container and its contents are interdependent or dependently arising, thus maintaining relations with many kinds of beings is central for dwelling in Meili Snow Mountains.


7) Sensing waste with dogs: Inter-species learning with canine companions

Niina Uusitalo, Tampere University, Finland, niina.uusitalo@tuni.fi

This paper presents an ongoing study which investigates how dog owners sense waste with their canine companions. The methodological viewpoint of knowing with other species means acquiring new modes of embodied attention and awareness. The data consists of interviews recorded with a GoPro-camera (N=8) with dogs and their owners on walks or at home. The data also includes photographs taken on the research visits. Additionally, I gather autoethnographic data (texts, photos and GoPro videos) with my own dog.

Sensing waste with dogs is a form of multi-species learning where both species learn shared embodied languages. The dog owners learned to sense waste in new ways in dog-human waste encounters: they noticed waste more often in urban environments and learned to identify potentially hazardous waste. Dog owners often attempted to manage dog-human waste encounters: scanning surroundings for waste, monitoring the dog’s ways of smelling, commanding the dog to release items. The waste encounters also allowed another kind of multi-species learning: dog owner’s learned to appreciate animal instincts and sense of smell, but also to imagine waste as something interesting and valuable from the perspective of the dog.

Finally, the paper discusses how dog-human waste encounters bring to light naturecultural entanglements as cultural understandings of waste become renegotiated and established through embodied practices. These encounters also carry within them the historical collaboration between humans and dogs, which has changed both species.

8) “Almost wild”. Sled dogs in the making between Greenland, Switzerland and France

Aurélie Hendrick, Université de Lausanne, Switzerland, aurelie.hendrick@unil.ch

What is a sled dog? For veterinary science, for archaeology or for the mushers who live and work with them on a daily basis, it can be “enacted” in different ways, which may diverge or overlap. Inspired by earlier work on empirical ontology and material semiotics (Mol 2002; Lien and Law 2011, 2012), this paper seeks to test the hypothesis of a multiple sled dog by asserting that it is first and foremost the product of relationships intertwined in situated contexts of interaction. Assuming that practices but also discourses are performative acts, it is interesting to see what effects these narratives and practices have on the dogs themselves and the resulting human-animal relationships. As domesticated animals, sled dogs are associated with particular narratives about their biological nature, their working abilities and their intra-species sociality in the case of pack life that can be read through the prism of the wild. Here I would like to raise some ambiguities related to these categories based on an ongoing multi-site thesis work in Switzerland, France and Greenland. I would find it interesting to show how the wild is enacted in different ways: sought after and repelled, exotic and frightening, authentic and outdated. From Greenland to France via Switzerland, I propose to follow the tracks of a sled dog in the making, using the tools of qualitative investigation, in order to shed light on certain partial connections that constitute it, neither totally natural or cultural, neither totally wild or domesticated, but always in “becoming with”.

9) To be or not to be: A Fungi Manifesto

Wenrui Li, KU Leuven, Belgium, wenrui.li@student.kuleuven.be

This paper views fungi as a departure point to rethink the dichotomies (human/non-human, animals/plants, nature/culture) and categories that we are accustomed to from the perspective of posthuman anthropology. Firstly, it briefly introduces the history of the classification of fungi and how fungi can be seen as a metaphor that breaks the existing categories. Secondly, it focuses on the fungal mycelium and how it connects and communicates between different species. The shape of mycelium also converges with Ingold’s meshwork and can be used to conceptualise the beings in the world beyond the division between us and others. Thirdly, the paper investigates the distinctive way fungi absorb nutrition and grow; this heterotrophic feature makes fungi the decomposer in the ecosystem, which is always linked with decay. However, new life is also born from this process. Finally, it re-examines the relationship between humans and fungi as a not so smooth collaboration, which leads us to think of multiple ways of co-existence and biosocial becoming. A manifesto that criticises dichotomic thinking and states what we as humans could learn from fungi can be found at the end of this paper.


Session 6: Wednesday 11:30-13:00

Chair: Sanna Valkonen and Anne-Maria Magga (University of Lapland)


10) Rewilding, restoring or creating new naturecultures? Revisiting Techno Garden -scenarios and current engineering practices with nature

Hannu I. Heikkinen, Olli Haanpää, Simo Sarkki, Aleksi Räsänen and Élise Lépy, University of Oulu, Finland, hannu.i.heikkinen@oulu.fi

Climate change, water quality problems and biodiversity loss are pressing concerns of today, which force us globally and locally rethink what nature conservation and management means in practice. It has been debated that environmental problems have escalated to a level where protecting nature by passive means and trusting to nature’s own recovery speed and processes is not enough. Therefore, environmental engineering methods and Techno Garden scenarios (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005) are becoming more prominent way how to halt biodiversity loss and mitigate climate change. This is especially visible in the land use sector climate change mitigation projects in which carbon sequestration and storages are tried to be increased and catchment level water management projects that target increased water quality after decades of intensive land use. However, environmental engineering does not solve the root causes.

This paper is based on ‘Co-planning of land use sector climate change mitigation in the Kiiminkijoki river catchment’ (MATKI) project. We examine of the current practices in catchment level environmental management which aims to support and renew aquatic ecosystem functions rather than restore nature to a specific temporal context or a ‘natural state’. Important is to elaborate transparently what social-ecological impacts active and intrusive methods may have and how far we are willing to accept these impacts. The key is to discuss these means as an alternative to often deceiving discourses on rewilding or restoring something which probably represent just certain power relations and a selected possibility in the nature-culture continuum.

11) Natureculture and health: Living with mosquitoes and the risk of vector-borne disease in Mauritius

Karine Aasgaard Jansen, Christian Michelsen Institute, Norway, karine.jansen@cmi.no

Mauritius, in the Western Indian Ocean, is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. In one impoverished neighbourhood in a suburb of Mauritius’s capital Port Louis, residents not only share a close-knit environment with each other, but also with the Aedes mosquito. The Aedes is a carrier of diseases such as dengue and chikungunya, and between 2005 to 2007 more than 30 per cent of the island’s total population were infected with chikungunya during an epidemic outbreak. The Aedes thrives in artificial reservoirs created by urban spaces such as gardens and backyards, especially in areas where people live in close proximity to each other. Wastelands scattered throughout the neighbourhood also contribute to the proliferation of mosquito breeding grounds. These dwellings and spaces act as zones of contact between nonhumans and humans, and thus facilitate the spread of vector-borne diseases. As a result, public health policies advocate for the destruction of mosquito breeding grounds despite residents’ various uses of these so-called neglected spaces.

This paper, based on one year of ethnographic fieldwork, draws on multispecies ethnography to discuss how the entangling of human lives with those of mosquitoes affects the diffusion and understanding of vector-borne diseases such as chikungunya in Mauritius. I argue that living with mosquitoes entails more than just efforts to get rid of them. Challenged by public health policies, residents of this neighbourhood often question the biomedical aetiology of chikungunya because it threatens to negatively impact their familiar surroundings and interactions with their environment.

12) Nature/culture of household food/waste

Ulla-Maija Sutinen, Tampere University, Finland, ulla-maija.sutinen@tuni.fi

Food waste is often defined as any edible food that ends up as discarded from the food chain. However, more research attention is needed to fully understand the “ending up” part of the definition. In everyday setting, the divide between food and food waste is far from straightforward. Instead, it is blurry and multifaceted. The presentation approaches the boundary between food and food waste from a naturecultural perspective. Food/waste elucidates the deep connectedness and blurry boundaries between nature and culture. Food is vital for human life and represents biophysical matter that gradually decays. At the same time, food and food waste are laden with cultural meanings. These include, for instance, the cultural understandings edibility of food, ritualistic practices around eating and moral obligations of feeding the family ‘good food’.

This presentation puts the attention on the ways how the biophysical elements of food are intertwined with cultural considerations, and vice versa. Food/waste is a constant interplay between material cues (e.g., emerging moldy spots or change of a texture) and cultural interpretations (e.g., cultural and social conventions). The focus is on household context, where this interplay is carried out on an everyday basis. The naturecultural interplay constructs the householders’ life, and is enacted in versatile ways, including practices of assessing of food, orchestration of schedules with the ruthless lifecycles of food products and choreographies around waste sorting and discarding. The presentation builds upon conceptual work around the topic and early insights from ethnographic fieldwork following the flows of waste in households.

13) Implications of Reversing Nature and Culture: A Critique of Viveiros de Castro’s Gesture of Ontologization in Perspectivism and his Decolonial Claims

Ana Abril, Central European University, Austria, abril_ana@phd.ceu.edu

In this paper, I investigate the political and ethical implications of Eduardo Viveiros de Castro’s self-inclusion into a decolonial project with his idea of perspectivism. In Cannibal Metaphysics (2014), the Brazilian anthropologist concludes that from perspectivism emerges an ontology that reverses the terms nature and culture as they are understood in Western metaphysics. Humans and animals share the same ontological status, as persons, and their differences take place between their bodies. This Amerindian way of living in the world instigates a decolonization of thought, according to the scholar.

My critique of Viveiros de Castro’s self-inclusion into practices of decolonization regards his obliteration of the question of the animalization of the colonized-Other and how this animalization is seemed as inferior in the tradition of Western thought. Building on Jacques Derrida’s work and by analyzing the etymology and use of the word cannibal and its connection to the idea of the dog/wolf, I demonstrate, on the one hand, how the rhetoric about the colonized-Other is inseparable from the idea of the animal/beast, and on the other hand, the political importance of cannibalism as a signifier for colonial alterity. By ontologizing, Viveiros de Castro neglects the political significance of the rhetoric of cannibalism and animalization of the Native populations. In addition, Viveiros de Castro does not approach one of the main questions for Indigenous and critical decolonial scholars, which is that decolonization brings about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life.


Session 7: Wednesday 14:30 - 16:00

Chair: Sanna Valkonen and Anne-Maria Magga (University of Lapland)


14) Ski tourism and relational materiality

Outi Rantala, University of Lapland, Finland, outi.rantala@ulapland.fi and

Peter Varley, Northumbria University, UK, peter.varley@northumbria.ac.uk

In this paper, we ask what it is to ‘do’ being a tourist-in-place, and how to be part of the naturecultural relations to the world, as a tourist. It has recently been suggested that to overcome the problems of tourism we must apply concepts that do not rely on business-oriented, growth obsessed paradigms, but instead connect with concepts based on relational ontologies and post-anthropocentric theorising. However, the experiments with relational approaches seem too often to get wrapped up in an anthropocentric, romanticised place rhetoric. Here, our aim is to experiment with privileging the non-human forces inherent in tourism, and particularly those evident in our multisensual and affective engagements with the plasticity, shifting materialities and sensing of ourselves in and of the world: being-in and being-with. Hence, in our paper we apply the naturecultural approach to the example of skiing, variously construed, from highly organised mass tourism versions in the Alps to independent self-supported journeys in the Finnish forests. Our reflections are based on ethnographic field notes from our ski trips in resorts and a national park, and in our own backyards.


15) André Leroi-Gourhan on the domestication of reindeer: human-non-human environment interaction

Lufeng Xu, École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, France, lufeng.xu@ehess.fr

Reindeer, first wild and then domesticated, dominated the work and lives of different ethnic groups and, like people, were subject to changes in climate and environment. The French ethnologist and prehistorian André Leroi-Gourhan published La civilisation du renne in 1936, in which he focused on the domesticated culture of the reindeer and pointed out that in contact with the modern world, this domesticated culture was in fact in a fragile ecosystem that could hardly maintain its precarious state. Leroi-Gourhan's theory on the domestication of reindeer in the Tundra-Taiga space still deserves further discussion today.

In this regard, my communication will first point out how Leroi-Gourhan addresses the interaction between reindeer, humans and the environment during domestication; then I will analyse his comparison of three types of domestication across Eurasia: the Lapp (Sámi) reindeer in Scandinavia and especially Finland, the Tungus reindeer in Mongolia and the Chukchi reindeer in the Siberian region. Finally, I will put Leroi-Gourhan's theory of domestication in dialogue with that of today's scholars who have been subjected to the ontological turn (notably Roberte Hamayon, Philippe Descola and Tim Ingold).

16) Human-Microbial Relations: The Naturecultures of Vegan Cheeses

Sarah Czerny, University of Rijeka, Croatia, sczerny@ffri.uniri.hr

According to European Union legislation, cheese is a product made from milk, where milk is defined as a “normal mammary secretion obtained from one or more milkings”. As such it is defined as coming from animal origins. With this in mind, in this paper I want to consider the place of plant-based or vegan cheeses that are made from plant milks, such as cashew milk or soy milk. Such cheeses are often presented as copies or analogs of “real” cheese, and cannot be sold as cheese, but instead must be sold using terms such as fauxmage or cheez.

I explore the relation between plant-based and dairy-based cheeses from the perspective of microbial-milk-human relations, which I do through a consideration of the work of a vegan cheesemaker based in Sardinia and the relations they have with local microbial communities. As I describe, many of the interactions they have with local microbial communities are similar to those that dairy-based cheesemakers have, which raises the question of whether vegan cheeses should be analytically treated as copies of real cheese? By looking at cheese production from a natureculture perspective, the argument I make is that whilst some human analytical work may seek to determine and define cheeses as being either a natural or cultural product, the microbial cultures in the cheeses are not doing this. Microbial sociality is thriving in and around both plant and dairy-based cheeses, where their sociality disrupts human-centric definitions of cheese.

17) Beaver and Human Relations of Prehistoric Hunters of Eastern Finland

Emilia Jääskeläinen, University of Oulu, Finland, emilia.jaaskelainen@oulu.fi

In Finland human hunters have been living with beavers since the Stone Age and thus beaver has been an important game animal for its fur, meat, teeth and castoreum. Traditionally the zooarchaeological research has focused on perceiving the animals as resources utilised by humans but there has been a shift towards more relational approach in human-animal-relations in current zooarchaeological research. The beavers and humans were connected through reciprocal relations, embodied knowledge and sharing the world they lived in. The categories between humans and non-human are situational and porous and there is no clear division between subject and object.

Beavers have their own distinct activities such as felling trees and building lodges and dams which are visible and recognisable features. Other non-humans, such as elk and hare, would also profit from beavers’ activities and be drawn towards the areas beavers inhabited. The beaver’s nocturnal nature and a way of living in the water and on dry land must have been a curious feature that affected the ways beavers and their activities were perceived. Utilizing an archaeological case study from prehistoric Eastern Finland, I will argue that beavers were more than a resource to be acquired and used only for human purposes. Beaver’s activities affected humans and other non-humans, they had powers and capabilities of their own, and they played a part in constituting the knowledge of the living world. This was trough living together in the same world and not in separate ones.

18) Cultivating love in a post-Soviet landscape: an ethnography of human-plant relations in the Belarusian countryside.

Aliaksandra Shrubok, Uppsala University, Sweden, aliaksandra.shrubok@ires.uu.se

My paper reflects on ethnographic material coming from the fieldwork conducted in the depopulated landscapes of a rural area in Central-North Belarus. The majority of people dwelling there are elderly women, who often live alone since their spouses have already passed away and their children have moved elsewhere. While the collective farms are closed down, fields and pastures are withdrawn from active agricultural use, non-residential houses are bulldozed, and new marginal spaces and experiences are emerging. Many local social structures have changed dramatically, and many social networks have become fractured and loose. Being in many ways stricken from social reproduction, the women concentrate their attention and care on (re)production of vegetal life. My research focuses on how local women, marginalized in many ways, construct and experience their relationships with plants as driven, as they said, by love. I am wondering, where does this love come from, and what does it mean for my interlocutors to love the plants and to be loved back by the vegetal beings. I consider the implications of the relations between people and plants for metaphor and notions of the (re)production of social life and re(creation) of some sort of order, an ontological security, if you will, in a post-Soviet modernity.

18) Intimate Relations in the Context of (Im)Mobility and Migration

PhD candidate Suvi Lensu (University of Edinburgh & Aarhus University, S.M.H.Lensu@sms.ed.ac.uk) and
PhD candidate Saara Toukolehto (University of Groningen, S.M.Toukolehto@rug.nl)

Panel description:
In the increasingly mobile world, human encounters are often described as fast-paced and hasty. While intimacy is associated with familiarity and closeness, it is surprising how inherently it defines mobility and vice versa. Where intimate relationships mobilise people across borders and boundaries, mobility forces people to intimately connect with places and cultures foreign to them. The themes of intimacy and relationality have in particular featured in studies of migrant families and diasporic communities as well as in studies of care and bodywork conducted by migrant workers. More recently, social policy designs have approached female migrants’ intimate relations as a domain of power when seeking entry into the migrant home. In the era of epidemics, contagiousness can be considered a lens for inspecting how social phenomena are transmitted within intimate relations, even across large geographical distances and over generations. Thus, through the concept of intimacy the effects of mobility and ‘migrantness’ can be seen to impact also those who have remained relatively immobile. Open to pre-, during and post-corona case studies, we are interested in exploring the relationship between movement and closeness through the following (but not limited) questions. How are intimacy and mobility (re)formed in relation to one another or in the absence of the other? What is the role of gendered social reproductive labour as a nominator when navigating intimate and mobile domains? How to conceptualize intimacy in relation to notions of contagion and contamination often associated with categories of foreignness and mobility in popular discourse?


Session: 8: Thursday 10:30 - 12:00


1) Fleeing Syria for love – Relational care in a runaway/refugee marriage in a Jordanian city

Sandra Nasser El-Dine, University of Tampere, Finnish Institute in the Middle East, sandra.nassereldine@fime.fi

This paper explores marital love and relational care as experienced in exile through the case of a young Syrian woman, Noor. She married Raed against her parent’s will, and her runaway marriage took her to Jordan, as her husband had to escape Syria for political reasons. Noor’s Damascene upper-class lifestyle changed to deprivation as an isolated housewife in a rental apartment in the city of Amman. I discuss how her intimate life is shaped by the state of living in exile, in a city strange to her, disconnected from family networks. My study represents an approach within anthropology that ethnographically explores the way that affectionate social bonds and kinship ties are performatively made in embodied practices. While analysing my ethnographic data collected in Amman among both locals and displaced Syrians, I noted that in their marital dynamics loving intimacy is ideally created and enhanced within daily caregiving practices. Drawing from Suad Joseph’s theory of intimate relationality, I focus in this paper on practices of connective care – how conducting gender specific household duties is experienced as affectionate care for the partner, and how relationality as a principle affects shaping Noor’s daily conduct of household tasks. Among my interlocutors in the city of Amman, dedicating one’s time, resources, and actions in an all-encompassing way exclusively to the well-being of the partner is highly romanticized. This paper shows how Noor’s everyday life in exile is an extreme case of living out these ideals.

2) Ban on hitting, Language Use, and Independent Children:Perceptions of transforming parent-child relationships among Kiribati migrants in New Zealand

Petra Autio, University of Helsinki, petra.autio@helsinki.fi

In many Pacific Island countries, violence is a common feature of intimate relationships, which in this paper are considered to be those between spouses and between parents and children. Corporal punishment of children is the regional norm, and Kiribati one of the countries where it is most prevalent. Within a Kiribati household, intimate relationships are protected by the notion of independence (inaomata). A male head of the family and by extension the family/household is considered independent, and outsiders are expected not to intervene in its affairs. While dependent women and children are part of the independence of the household, they are not inaomata by themselves. For the slowly but steadily increasing number of I-Kiribati who have migrated to New Zealand (NZ), the situation changes. In NZ corporal discipline is forbidden by law, a difference recognised by the migrants. Not hitting children is one element in discussions concerning changing parent-child relationship, also including the use (or not) of Kiribati language, children “talking back”, and the importance of respect as a value. In the negotiation, the relationship between intimacy and independence is reconfigured, both in the potential state involvement in child-rearing and in children assuming more independence than traditionally is considered their due. Based on interviews with Kiribati migrants 2018 and earlier literature, I discuss how intimate relations within a family, specifically those between parents and children, are perceived to change in NZ. Regarding the nature of intimate relations in Kiribati culture I also draw on my fieldwork in Kiribati 1999-2000.

3) Weddings in Northern Uganda: Social Capital, Social Contagion in a Neoliberal Economy

Stephen Langole, Gulu University, slangole@gmail.com

Weddings may begin with spouses but morph up into collective events. People come in groups to plan, co-organise and execute the plans. They congregate in church and at receptions. The events morph up into a learning environment from each other, from the group, and from the processes and objects. Consumerism is a feature that effectively draws from the neoliberal economy with varieties offered in advertisements through both observation and the aid of the media. Events management organisers package their advertisements and wares to outcompete. The article draws from social capital, social contagion, neoliberal theory and uses ethnographic case study approach to unpackage affective relational dynamics in weddings in Northern Uganda and how the neoliberal economy influences these dynamics. Factors of change, continuity and innovations in weddings are explored from scopes, both rural and urban, and parallels, differences and adaptations are explained for the two contexts. The concept “collective effervescence” is used to lucidly describe the wedding moods both among the church congregation and amongst those who assemble to celebrate at the wedding receptions, and these, apparently serving to strengthen the stakeholders’ bonds. Such celebrations seem to have multiplier effects, leading to behavioural and social contagion. The people apparently draw from experience and exposure to such events but much as there may be some behavioural contagion, social capital, especially amongst the middle class, tend to be resourceful given the heavy expenditure involved.


Session 9: Thursday 13:00-14:30


4) Between Knowledge and Intimacy: Examining the Experiences of International Scholars in Japan and Latvia

Ieva Puzo, Rīga Stradiņš University, ieva.puzo@rsu.lv

In this paper, I examine the tension between two contradictory factors shaping the (im)mobility of a specific group of transnationally mobile workers—namely, researchers. On the one hand, scholars face the demands of the dominant regimes of knowledge production that increasingly prioritize short-term employment contracts and expect unencumbered movements across borders from one position to another. On the other hand, the lived reality for many scholars is quite different, as they struggle to balance their work and personal lives and aim to build and maintain close relationships. Based on semi-structured interviews with international scholars in Japan and Latvia as well as other ethnographic data, I suggest that researchers consider personal relationships and kin ties—including hopes for creating them—an important factor when making decisions about their potential employment locales. As the narratives of my interlocutors reveal, researchers often make decisions to move to or, importantly, remain in places significant to their family members—and places that may enable the creation of new kin ties or the maintenance of already established ones. These choices, I suggest, destabilize the oft-accepted assumptions about the “ideal” research career path and “desirable” locales of knowledge production, highlighting the importance of intimacy-focused rationales when it comes to work-related decision-making.

5) The Intimate Hope and Futurity of Queer Migrants in Kampala, Uganda

Austin Bryan, Northwestern University, austinbryan2025@u.northwestern.edu

This paper analyzes the hopes and futurity of LGBTQI+ East Africans on the move from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who are seeking refugee protection in the Republic of Uganda despite the state’s necropolitics exerted on queer populations, and locates their hopes within the broader political, economic, and social context of relations in queer daily life in Kampala. This chapter draws on in-depth interviews translated from Kiswahili, Kirundi, and Luganda with 9 queer migrants from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 4 queer migrants from Burundi, and participant observation in a queer indigenous NGO in Kampala, Uganda (2022), including interviews with lawyers and community organizers working on needs in the growing community of queer migrants seeking protection in Uganda. Preliminary findings reveal that queer migrants from DRC and Burundi share plans of starting small businesses in Uganda, using skills gained in DRC and Burundi in the creative economy (such as catering Congolese food, tailoring Kitenge fashions, or recording and producing music in Kirundi or Kiswahili) and hopes of eventually being placed by UNHCR in a third country that are intertwined with the complex intimacies of gender and sexuality, identity, sex work, and care. Community organizers working with queer migrants in Uganda report that most queer migrants have faced extreme food insecurity in the past 2 years, that queer migrants from Somalia remain segregated from those from Burundi and DRC in the Kampala social landscape, and queer refugees migrating from Rwanda are increasingly using claims of DRC citizenship to enter Uganda.

6) Encrypted Chat Apps and Digital Mutuality in Africa

Daivi Rodima-Taylor, Boston University, rodima@bu.edu

Digital chat apps have rapidly become widespread in the Global South. The apps that accommodate large groups as well as private, encrypted chat messaging, have been seen as fostering ‘safe spaces’ for social activism and enabling new kind of intimacies and collectivities. While some studies have focused on the role of chat apps in advancing political engagement, I argue that an important use case of the platform has been overlooked. In Africa, such apps are increasingly central in mobilizing online savings groups and used for digital fundraising. They have also emerged as a primary platform for mobilizing diaspora remittances. My paper explores this paradoxical partnership between WhatsApp as a BigTech platform and these informal initiatives that offer alternatives to those excluded from formal finance, and discusses the novel questions this poses about digital media and civic spaces in Africa. The emerging pathways of digital mutuality build on vernacular organizational templates, but also create exploitative invisibilities and foster scams and data capture. The paper draws on Marilyn Strathern’s elaboration of the analytical concept of network (1996), by focusing on how the relation both combines and separates. It advances new perspectives about the relationships of intimacy and mobility in the digital age. When discussing the potential of encrypted chat apps to enable new types of collectivities built on peer solidarity, the paper draw parallels with other types of cryptopublics that emerge with cryptographic technologies and currencies.

19) What is climate-related? Local perceptions of causality, change and crisis

Timo Kallinen Professor of Comparative Religion School of Theology / Philosophical Faculty Joensuu campus / University of Eastern Finland, timo.kallinen@uef.fi
Jenni Mölkänen Postdoctoral researcher Climate crisis and religious change in sub-Saharan Africa School of Theology / Philosophical Faculty Joensuu campus / University of Eastern,  jenni.molkanen@uef.fi  

Panel description:
There exists a relative consensus in both scientific and public discourses on the connection between global anthropogenic climate change and natural disasters. Consequently, when local level environmental crises are characterised as “climate-related”, a global-to-local causal route is often implicitly suggested. Recently, such straightforward relationships between global causes and local effects have been questioned. As proposed by Adam Branch (2018: 313), among others, by taking the local experiences of environmental crises as the starting point we are better equipped to understand “the dense local, national, regional, and global forces, both natural and social, that congeal at particular points to cause widespread destruction or suffering through the environment”. For instance, the question whether a particular natural disaster results from global warming might not be very significant for its victims who actually live with its negative effects, and there might be little reason for them to compartmentalize it from other hardships they encounter. Adopting such a locally oriented view does not merely complicate one-dimensional global-local relations. It also suggests longer multilinear histories for the crises and blur clearcut distinctions between socio-cultural and natural causes of the calamities. Furthermore, local etiologies of natural disasters might relate them with phenomena, such as God or nature deities, which fall outside the purview of conventional climate science.


SESSION 8: THURSDAY 10:30 - 12:00


1) Heat and climate change: Local perceptions from Eastern Europe

Zofia Bieńkowska (University of Warsaw), z.bienkowska@uw.edu.pl

According to epidemiology, heatwaves are responsible for growing number of summer deaths in Europe. Their increasing frequency is also interpreted by climate scientists as a consequence of global climate change. But how is it perceived locally, by citizens? Do local interpretations match scientific discourse? This paper studies the perception and experience of heat in an urban environment of Warsaw, Poland among citizens over 65 years old. It explores whether it is possible to depict climate change based on observation of the local environment and one's own individual experience.

The research brings an insight into local knowledge about climate change understood as an embodied quality created at the intersection of experience and interpretation of everyday life and the nearest environment, practices, common knowledge, and global discourses. It shows how difficult it is to acknowledge locally the processes easily grasped at the level of climatic and meteorological models. The reflections presented are the result of an ethnographic research carried out in summers of 2021 and 2022 among older citizens (65+) of Warsaw, Poland, accounting for participants experiences, narratives, social interactions and routines. The research is part of the larger Embodying Climate Change: Transdsciplinary Research on Urban Overheating (EmCliC) project.

2) Ticks, forest and ecological crisis: An anthropological study of health practices and discourses among immigrants in Finland from a posthumanist perspective

Alicja Staniszewska (University of Jyväskylä), staniaz@student.jyu.fi

The number of tick-related illnesses in Finland increased fivefold from 1995 to 2014 (Feuth et al. 2017) and is still growing as an effect of climate warming. Simultaneously, the Finnish integration process encourages immigrants to spend time in a forest as part of adaptation to Finnish society but does not emphasise the tick-related health risks. The purpose of this study is to explore human relations and encounters with ticks and analyse the discourses that connect ticks to human migration in the local context. The research aims to determine health and preventive practices against ticks and tick-borne illnesses used by people of immigrant backgrounds. To collect empirical data, I use in-depth ethnographic interviews, participant observation, autoethnography, and artistic experiments. The interviews are being conducted with people of immigrant backgrounds residing in southern and central Finland and with representatives of non-governmental and governmental institutions. To analyse this data, I use the critical discourse analysis method and the posthumanist theoretical approach to parallel the local phenomena studied as a reflection of the ongoing global climate crisis and climate migration. During hikes and berry picking organised for immigrants, I heard “I’m scared of ticks” while other participants were tightening their hijabs and hoodies to prevent insects from coming onto their hair and skin. The preliminary results show that the spread of ticks and tick-borne diseases is not connected with the change in the climate outside of scientific discourse. From the local perspective, a growing tick presence is seen as an “invasion” and “threat”, and ticks often cause fear and disgust. Similar statements are also present in anti-immigrant rhetorics.

3) Windbreaks and firebelts: Local perceptions and preparedness for environmental destruction in the forest belt of Ghana

Timo Kallinen (University of Eastern Finland), timo.kallinen@uef.fi

The presentation seeks to contribute to the body of scholarship exploring the indigenous ways of coping with environmental disruption and natural disasters. Moreover, it seeks to document the local level experiences and perceptions of such crises. Farming villages in the forest belt of Ghana are already facing environmental destruction caused by anthropogenic climate change. The climate crisis is leading to unpredictable rainfall and irregular periods of droughts and floods. The extended dry periods are accompanied with more frequent incidences of forest fires, which pose a serious threat to dwellings and farms. These changes constitute a danger to food production, both locally and nationally. The local communities have developed their own methods of storm protection and fire prevention, but as conditions get more severe, the indigenous ways of coping with calamities are placed under stress.

Some aspects of the present ecological crisis are increasingly talked about as results of climate change by the local inhabitants, which testifies to the proliferation of global climate discourses and growing climate awareness. In contrast, certain aspects of the crisis are distinctively kept separate from climate-related phenomena. For instance, local etiologies of extreme weather events might relate the changing weather patterns to disturbed relations between human communities and local deities.

4) Changing weather, religion and remaking social relations among Christians in rural northeastern Madagascar

Jenni Mölkänen (University of Eastern Finland), jenni.molkanen@uef.fi

In 2022 people in rural northeastern Madagascar experienced exceptionally heavy rain. Earlier in 2022 the actual rainy season between December and March was dry. In 2018 cyclone Enawo came at different time than people usually expected. At the same time, environmental conservation actors and natural and environmental scientists have been concerned about Madagascar’s environmental destruction, especially forest loss and disappearance of unique and rare endemic species. Moreover, recent pandemic (COVID-19) stopped ecotourism, another livelihood bringing monetary income alongside with vanilla farming bringing economic revenues and opportunities for the rural rice farmers.

While natural and environmental scientists highlight the anthropogenic factors in global climate change and policy interventions tend to focus on managing how people should use different natural resources, Christian rice and vanilla farmers in rural northeastern Madagascar regarded changing weather as disrespect towards God. A local leader of a Pentecostal church notified that “the weather changes like the minds of human beings” highlighting a relation between people’s behavior and the weather. “If people respect God, we can grow forest and all animals can live.” She asked for stability from the people in relation to God. However, as farmers, the people were very well aware of that their lives depended on land, ability to work and social relations enabling land ownership and farming practices. In this presentation I ask what kind of role religion plays when people seek to maintain and renew their social relations and societies at the time of crisis.

5) Causes and effects of yeayer nibiret: climate change perceptions in 11 kebele in Ethiopia

Valentina Acquafredda (University of Urbino), v.acquafredda@campus.uniurb.it

The paper presents the ethnographic exploration at eleven kebele (administrative units) in four woreda (districts) in Amhara Region and Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples’ Region in Ethiopia about some farmers’ perceptions and observations of environmental change. From the earliest descriptions, they mention precisely those related to weather (yeayer tsebay) or climate (yeayer nibiret), i.e., rising temperatures and erratic becoming of rains, result of their own experience and cases of reception studies. Sometimes such changes cause transformations that alter the health of plants, animals, and people by decreeing the loss of quantity and quality of crops and cattle products, sometimes end up also being an effect inscribed everywhere in the environment, akababi.

In such contexts, people have an intimate, survival relationship with the environment, and exposed for as long as they can remember to cyclical disasters, repeated droughts that cause famines, of which Ethiopia’s history is full, but which are getting increasingly frequent; floods that are becoming more intense and violent; and which only sometimes give way to entirely new phenomena such as hailstorms. The etiologies of such events mingle with the anthropogenic ones that have become mainstream in explaining the origin of famines since the 1980s and spread so widely with the discourses and actions of local and international torchbearers of development and concern the degradation of the environment and primarily deforestation and are in some cases, at the root of God’s wrath, who intends to punish humans for their fratricidal wars or overwork, which is instead too little in experts’ judgment.


20) The politics of infrastructural environments

Tuomas Tammisto, University of Helsinki, tuomas.tammisto@helsinki.fi
Anu Lounela, University of Helsinki, anu.lounela@helsinki.fi
Mira Käkönen, Tampere University, mira.kakonen@tuni.fi

Panel description:
On the 27th of September 2022, three leaks were detected in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines transporting natural gas through the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany. As gas leaked from the pipes through the water into the atmosphere, decision makers, analysts and the public wondered how the leaks were connected to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The deliberate blowing up of a gas pipeline touches on the topics of panel: the complex intersections of infrastructure, environment, and politics. Our aim is not to focus on geopolitics or on the weaponization of energy infrastructure by autocratic leaders, but ask how infrastructures become both topics and conduits of politics and how lived environments are infrastructured, and to what effects.The social life of infrastructure and the political work they do has been attractive for anthropologists not least because it allows sense-making of (material and non-material) relationalities in new ways (Harvey, Jensen & Morita 2017; Boyer 2018). Yet, the infrastructure literature, despite its relational approach, has been rather focused on the sociotechincal and human_human relations (Larkin 2013; Barua 2021). At the same time, it is very much our environmental moment and “the increasing intensity at which other-than_human life and infrastructures get enmeshed” (Barua 2021: 469) that moves what has been in the background to the foreground (Blok 2016; Boyer 2018; Heatherington 2019; Barua 2021). The attention of this panel is thus on the political-ecological formations and effects the infrastructures congeal or set in motion.

Infrastructures are “networks that help the flow of goods, people and ideas across space” (Larkin, 2013: 329), but often at the expense of major environmental disruptions and violent exclusions (Rodgers and O’Neill 2012; Li 2018). We are especially interested in how infrastructures alter human and non-human relations and lived environments, and how they lock-in certain relations while foreclosing on others. Are all infrastructures built, and by whom, and how do they figure in different forms of sociality? How do human and non_human relations in a given setting become parts of infrastructures? What kinds of power relations are infrastructures based on and what kinds of relations infrastructures foster, encourage, and discourage? We are also interested in the malleability of various infrastructural formations, as our environmental moment requires rearranging, repurposing or even decommissioning of harmful infrastructural formations. Moreover, we welcome analysis on the possibilities of alternative and alterative infrastructures, and the kinds of relations they would require and engender.


Session 4: Wednesday 8:30 - 10:00

1) Taking the Trash out- Politics of Waste Management Infrastructure in Dharamshala, India

Pamela Das, University of Oslo, Department of Social   Anthropology, pamelad@student.sv.uio.no

Infrastructure, or the lack of it, is of paramount importance in waste management, especially when it concerns small urbanizing hilly cities like Dharamshala in India. Having been selected under the ‘Smart City’ program by the Indian government, there has been a push to make the city ‘sustainable’ and technologically advanced within a short amount of time. Importantly, infrastructures are theorized not merely as non-living objects like compost and waste bins, pipes, MRF’s (Material Recovery Facilities) and bailing machines in my project. They are also human and non-human bodies. Emerging literature substantiates this claim in different ways- by pointing out how in places with a paucity of material infrastructures, human and animal bodies assume the role; the different ways animals have been transforming urban ecologies by creating infrastructures; how they interact with existing material infrastructures (Doherty 2019; Manaugh, 2015; Simone 2009; De Boeck& Plissart, 2004). Surprisingly there has been no ethnographic exploration of animal bodies as vital infrastructure in pollution and waste management in India, despite it being an important part of sanitation regime in the country. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the past six months, I attempt to explore how infrastructure- be it material or animal bodies- becomes instrumental in understanding how affective, aesthetic and material imaginaries of Dharamshala as a ‘Smart city’ coalesce.

2) Snowy relations of an Arctic city

Birgitta Vinkka, doctoral researcher, University of Lapland birgitta.vinkka@ulapland.fi

My PhD research is centered around the snowy relations that form and mold the arctic city of Rovaniemi: the systems that rely upon the existence of snow, the cultural and social practices tied to snow, and the political and economic formations related to it. Rovaniemi is covered with snow for more than half of the year, and the city is built to endure the northern weather. This means that its culture, economy and infrastructures are all servants of the long winter. The natural conditions unique to the area shape the arctic city in many visible and invisible ways. However, as the climate continues to warm, is snow becoming unreliable. In my environmental sociological research on snow and the climate change I’ve turned to the concept of loss. I’ve specifically come to rely on the work of Rebecca Elliott (2018; 2021) and Laura Ogden (2021) and hence ask, what it is and means to lose, and what we actually should give up on, as the climate change rapidly progresses. Losing in this context refers to profoundly collective experiences yet it also helps me to sensitize towards the mundanity and the intimacy of the climate-changing structures, spaces and lives.

My thesis will consist of four articles, and they all look into distinct cases of snowy relations. In my second article I ponder on the makings and meanings of artificial snow, the anticipative practices tied to the climate change, and continue to look into the infrastructures made with snow. I conduct ethnographic research in the area of Ounasvaara ski center, a place I like to refer as the biggest city park of Rovaniemi, during the autumn and winter 2022-2023.

3) Green transition in the Sámi Homeland and Well-being of Sámi Indigenous People

Kukka Ranta, doctoral researcher, University of Lapland kukka.ranta@ulapland.fi

In this paper I observe the human rights obligations of the green transition from the perspective of indigenous rights in the Sámi homeland area, with case example of the fossil-free steel production. I ask how massive plans of an infrastructure mega-projects without consent of the indigenous people may affect on the well-being of Sámi? The transition from a fossil economy to renewable energy is mainly based on electrification. The green transition is not possible without metals and minerals, that are needed for batteries and electric cars. States and companies are boosting investments in the green transition with extensive land use plans. At the same time, debate and regulations on climate justice in relation to indigenous rights is only at the beginning. How does this process effect on the well-being of Sámi indigenous people? Ultimately, my paper opens a debate on how legal frameworks configure the relations between green transition and indigenous rights.

4) Building strong industry: Entangled infrastructures in Harjavalta, Finland

Jenni Viitala, doctoral researcher, University of Helsinki jenni.viitala@helsinki.fi

In my paper, I intend to explore infrastructures that are built for, or a result of, the metal processing industry in the town Harjavalta, Finland. Decades of metal processing is present in the heavy metal pollution of the town’s soil, and in the housing and service infrastructure built for the smelter’s early workers. Furthermore, new infrastructure required to maintain and expand the metal processing industry, such as new roads and waste processing sites, are central in the future-making of the town (cf. Hauer 2021). In a town struggling with diminishing and ageing population, negotiations on new infrastructure are based on optimistic views regarding how much the industry will grow, and how well the landscape will be capable to adjust. Existing and imagined infrastructures are thus inseparable of people’s memories and fantasies (Larkin 2013). The metal processing infrastructure in Harjavalta is an entanglement of private and public projects. For example, excess heat from the smelter is being used to heat public buildings such as the town hall and the swimming hall, as well as some private apartments. Especially in times of energy shortage, such entanglement of public and private infrastructure becomes constitutive of people’s everyday lives, and local politics. By exploring how infrastructures are produced (Buier 2022) in their historical, material and political context, my aim is to discuss how the infrastructure of Harjavalta is built on and reinforces the strong position of the metal processing industry.

5) Entangled enclaves: Dams, volatile rivers and the Chinese infrastructural engagement in Cambodia

Mira Käkönen, postdoctoral researcher, Tampere University, mira.kakonen@tuni.fi

This paper seeks to advance understanding of changing entanglements of rivers, infrastructure, and power relations that are increasingly shaped by climate change and China’s global expansion. The paper analyses the damming of rivers in Cambodia and shows how it has evolved through a post-neoliberal concessionary governing mode that materialises in enclaves of Chinese State-Owned Enterprises' heightened corporate authority. By drawing from political ecology of hydrosocial relations, and research on the political life of Chinese overseas infrastructure projects it develops the idea of ambiguously (dis)entangled enclaves. The focus is on one on-the-Mekong and three off-the-Mekong large-scale dams and the kinds of (dis)connections, alterations in hydrosocial relations and power effects they generate. It highlights the patterns of (dis)entanglements that enable the dams to bleed out in locally harmful ways and augment climate change induced river volatilities as well as the overflows that enmesh China’s geo- economical and geopolitical pursuits with the pursuits of the Cambodian ruling regime to consolidate its powers. In this way it adds understanding on the role of infrastructure in the shaping of new political- ecological relations and sociospatial formations. It also adds new insights to the multidimensional geography of enclavism in the Mekong Region.


Session 5: Wednesday 10:00 - 11:30


6) Road encounters

Elva Björg Einarsdóttir, doctoral student, University of Iceland elvab@hi.is

The aim of the paper is to look at place making in the north-west of Iceland, V-Barð, through the road to find out the place mobility and ongoing localization. In the paper I drive the road from Reykjavík to V-Barð and experience the road and take in its characters e.g., where I can drive at maximum speed, and where my travelling halters because of road construction or encounters with more-than-humans. Roads are important infrastructures of societies (Harvey and Knox, 2015) and a connection to the greater world out there. In this sense the road is a lifeline of communities which without it would wither. The road is thus a common denominator for life in V-Barð and channels along it like oxygen through wains e.g., in the form of products being transported from V-Barð to its markets around the world, and resources brought back.

But the road is not only a connection, it is also a place in time and space which different more- than-human encounters make with their clash. Roads can be seen as a thrown togetherness (Massey, 2003) where different encounters with different actors take place. That is why places always need to be negotiated. They are many stories coming together and there is no ultimate template that they should follow. Nevertheless, there are power relations, patterns, and rhythms, places that are left out and other places that are highlighted with road construction and connection.

7) Navigating the edge of the welfare state: The private road ferries and the political campaign for their nationalisation in Finland

Erika Takahashi, associate professor, Chiba University takahashi@chiba-u.jp

When states intervene in the formation and maintenance of roads, a distinction between the private and public domains of the infrastructure is created. It is the collective need of the people that determines the public/private nature of the roads. However, states do not maintain some roads due to environmental difficulties, even if the collective need for transportation is high. For example, in Finland, most maritime traffic is free for passengers and the operation is outsourced to a company. However, there remain 21 ferries operated by private road maintenance associations across the country. These ferry routes are private, partly because of the nature of the communities on the islands connected by these ferries. Moreover, the environmental articulations of these ferry routes imply that the maintenance costs for the state would be too expensive.

Several years ago, the association of these private road ferries collectively demanded the nationalisation of their ferry operations. How did they compare their environments with other ferry/boat routes to find solidarity among themselves and connect their demand with the ideal of social democracy? Based on fieldwork about four private road ferry routes in the Finnish archipelago, this paper describes how the sociotechnical environments of private ferry routes are woven into each of their rationales for nationalisation. By analysing the diverse environments for private infrastructure, the conflicting relationship between a Nordic welfare state, the division between private/public infrastructure, and fragile solidarity based on ideals such as autonomy and citizenship would be revealed.

8) Shipping infrastructures, maritime networks, and the glue that holds them together

Veronica Walker Vadillo, postdoctoral researcher, University of Helsinki veronica.walker@helsinki.fi

Maritime networks are crucial for understanding the history of humankind. Waterways enabled the colonisation of island Southeast Asia and Australia, and were instrumental in the Austronesian expansion in the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. Maritime connectivity enhanced communication and exchange in the Ancient World of the Mediterranean, and became the foundation of monarchic power in Modern Europe. Current data indicates the New World was populated via a coastal route and evidence is piling up for pre-Columbian travels between Europe and North America. The Age of Discovery and ensuing colonial period was possible because of the maritime expansion of European powers, and it is on the wings of ships that globalisation has taken hold of the modern world, transforming our lives forever. Unsurprisingly, it was the sudden crash of the global shipping network in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic that brought the world to a standstill. Even in a world with planes, maritime networks are still more important than they were hundreds or thousands of years ago.

For such an important topic, there are not enough long-term studies on how maritime networks are engendered, how they gain complexity and interdependence over time, and how this has shaped socio-political and economic developments around the world. Modern maritime networks conform an interdependent system where every piece must interlock to the others like a well-oiled machine. The environment determines when ports are accessible, the depth of ports determines the size and number of ships that can be serviced, and the size of ships determines the requirements of wharf cargo handling and storage facilities as well as stevedore crews. All this requires specialized skills and intellectual ingenuity that develops around navigation, stevedoring, and the construction of infrastructures to overcome environmental hurdles. More layers can be added to this complexity, but what transpires from this example is the fact that at their very core, maritime networks are relational: they are things, but also the relation between things (see Larking 2013: 329-330). Only when we consider how these elements relate to each other, we can begin to understand how maritime networks functioned and developed over time. In this talk, I will explore the process-relational nature of maritime infrastructure and the tangible and intangible elements and relations upon which waterborne networks rely applying perspectives from maritime archaeology and historical ecology.

9) “I spy with my little eye”: Using the NGO Space-Eye as a gateway to engage with the European socio-technological border assemblage

Andreas Stoiber, Phd researcher, University of Amsterdam, andreas.stoiber@student.uva.nl

This paper is based on my work with the Regensburg-based NGO Space-Eye and their goal to combine artificial intelligence and satellite images to support civil sea-rescue missions. I aim to use the work of Space-Eye as a gateway to engage with the currently developing socio- technological European border assemblage. Taking assemblage as a relational approach allows me to engage with a web of material and expressive relations between a heterogeneity of elements encompassing humans and non-humans. In doing so, I will argue the interrelatedness of both expressive and material relations in the case of the European border assemblage. I will exemplify this interrelatedness with the establishing of the Libyan SAR-zone, where a ‘legal fiction’ gained material life. The paper is subdivided into two parts before finishing up with the example of the Libyan SAR-zone. The first part aims to investigate some of the expressive relations, such as legal frameworks, political imaginaries, discourses, and affects, of the European border assemblage by analysing how the Mediterranean is made into a frontier ripe for exploration and exploitation. The second part aims to investigate the material relations of the European border assemblage by tracing the socio-technological network and infrastructure(s) of Frontex´s Aerial Surveillance Services (FASS) and the EUROSUR system/platform. I want to show how through FASS and EUROSUR the Mediterranean border is volumetrically enacted as a three- dimensional space rather than a two-dimensional area.

10) Road-building and state-formation on the plantation zone of Pomio, Papua New Guinea

Tuomas Tammisto, postdoctoral researcher, University of Helsinki tuomas.tammisto@helsinki.fi

In 2021 the government of Papua New Guinea declared that it will complete the missing road links of the country by 2025, because it regards a unified road network as crucial for economic development and for making markets and services accessible to the largely rural people. More generally, roads are crucial for the state, as its power is enacted through them, as people evaluate the legitimacy of the state through its provision of services and infrastructure, and as the state becomes manifest to its citizens through them. Conversely, large-scale spatial systems need an administrative authority such as the state. Roads and infrastructure are not only important for the state, but through their development, the state itself is formed. Yet roads, in PNG and elsewhere, can have significant adverse and unintended effects.

In this paper I examine road building related to oil palm plantation projects in the rural Pomio District, New Britain Island, Papua New Guinea. Roads built by oil companies cater mainly for the needs of industrial agriculture production, but they are—phyiscally and by project design— connected to road projects of the state. By examining the infrastructural connections and disconnections established by oil palm companies in a remote rural area, I examine how roads, natural resource extraction and state-formation are closely intertwined, and how the people of Pomio actively engage in these processes in multiple ways.

21) Algorithmic (re)configurations

Sonja Trifuljesko, sonja.trifuljesko@helsinki.fi
Tuukka Lehtiniemi, tuukka.lehtiniemi@helsinki.fi

Panel description:
Algorithmic systems are “dynamic arrangements of people and code”, Nick Seaver (2019: 419) argues. Anthropologists, Seaver (2018) adds, could provide much-needed empiricism and particularism to critical algorithm studies by attending to the everyday life of algorithmic systems. The ethnographic studies of human-machine relations might, however, significantly benefit from engaging with a powerful toolkit developed within science and technology studies (STS). This panel aims to bring forward such engagements. We invite empirical contributions exploring the use of STS devices to interrogate discursive and material relations brought together in algorithmic systems. Configuration is one of the potential tools at researchers’ disposal. As Lucy Suchman (2012:48) remarks, configuration is a conceptual and methodological device for studying socio-technical systems by paying attention to the imaginaries and materialities that they conjoin. More precisely, configuration seeks to foreground the ways in which humans and machines are figured together in discourses and practices related to particular technologies. The strength of a device like configuration is in that it is not only reflexive but also generative: it opens up a space for thinking how humans and machines may be reconfigured, that is figured together anew (Suchman 2007). We encourage prospective authors to examine the possibilities for recovering human agency without reinstating already essentialized distinctions between humans and machines (Ruckenstein 2022). In other words, we invite anthropologists and others to explore the devices for recognizing interrelations of people and code without collapsing the difference between them but seeking “to understand the nature of difference differently” (Suchman 2007:250).


Session 10: Thursday 14:30 - 16:00


1) Human-Technology Relations in Coding Processes: Using Postphenomenology to Analyze Algorithmic Systems

Tamara Gupper (Goethe University Frankfurt am Main), tamara.gupper@posteo.de

This paper discusses postphenomenology as a theoretical framework for analyzing algorithmic systems. Postphenomenology has not been central to STS, yet there are several aspects in which theories more directly ascribed to STS and postphenomenology overlap and/or complement each other (Rosenberger 2018). One example of this is the concept of human-technology relations. Postphenomenology takes the relation between two actors as the smallest unit of analysis (Jensen and Aagaard 2018, 243), allowing these actors to be seen as ontologically different while highlighting their interrelatedness. Also, the focus of postphenomenology on materiality – the demand to “give voices to the things, to let them speak from themselves” (Ihde 1999, 151) – helps understand algorithmic systems. The concept of multistability, which acknowledges that the materiality of technologies influences the relations humans lead with them, and also accounts for the range of different ways humans can relate to these objects, is a helpful tool to analyze code in its materialized forms. This paper approaches postphenomenology through an empirical lens, relying on ethnographic and autoethnographic research among a team of computer scientists who program humanoid robots to play soccer. It will explore some of the central concepts of postphenomenology through empirical insights on the processes through which software for humanoid robots is written and, simultaneously, engage these insights with the tools postphenomenology offers.

2) Cyborg publics and spheres: Considering Haraway’s cyborg theory to understand the algorithmic and hybrid public sphere

Salla-Maaria Laaksonen (University of Helsinki), salla.laaksonen@helsinki.fi

The modern media system, and the public sphere it generates, has been characterized as hybrid; a complex constellation of older and newer media forms, related technologies, genres, and organizational forms (Chadwick, 2013). Within this system, spontaneous groups and networks emerge around issues, forming networked and affective publics (boyd, 2010; Papacharissi, 2015). The hybrid media system is also increasingly an algorithmic system, where algorithmic technologies affect how content is organized and circulated based on the previous behavior of users (e.g., Caplan & boyd, 2016; Harper, 2017; Laaksonen, 2020). Simultaneously, users’ actions are guided by the technological affordances of the media platforms. The hybrid media system, thus, is characterized by relative power structures between human and non-human actors. This presentation explores how a classic feminist STS theory, Donna Haraway’s cyborg theory could be mobilized to understand the changes and configurations in the public communication system. As an origin of post-humanistic thought, Haraway’s (1985) Cyborg Manifesto described the breakdown of boundaries between humans and animals, natural and artificial, and physical and non-physical. In the context of digital communication technologies, this invites us to consider the collapsing boundaries and resulting hybrid actors of biology/technology. Cyborg theory has been applied to understand online activism (Asenbaum, 2018), digital politics (Gray, 2000), and digital health technology (Lupton, 2013). I argue that recognizing the fluid borders of bounded categories also helps to understand and theorize the logics and power relations of the public sphere; to theorize the various human, machine, and human/machine agencies at play when forming assemblages of storytelling in the public sphere.

3) Queer Sonic Fingerprints: Working with genetic algorithms between anthropology and sound art

Isabel Bredenbröker (Humboldt Universität Berlin) and Adam Pultz Melbye, (Queen's University Belfast), isabel.bredenbroeker@hu-berlin.de, mail@adampultz.com

This paper presents ongoing research as work in progress. Queer Sonic Fingerprints is a collaborative project between sound artist Adam Pultz Melbye and anthropologist Isabel Bredenbröker. It aims to create sonic fingerprints of objects in ethnographic collections, such as the Ethnological Museum in Berlin. Using genetic algorithms, this fingerprint, expressed in the digital domain, includes their sonic DNA and reflects material properties. Thus, objects which are usually mute or at least cannot literally speak for themselves are made to sound and can be experienced in a way that takes the focus away from tactile, material and largely very usage-restricted objects that are regulated by museum rules. Embarking from this initial sonic representation of the material object as one of many possible ways of representing it, the project will produce many alterations, mutations and extensions of that DNA, resulting in a collection of virtual sonic artefacts. Using ethnographic research and anthropological expertise on museum objects, the project will represent and create different and new kinds of relations around these objects, hereby transporting them outside their museal comfort zone and into a realm that allows for the creation of queer, meaning non-normative, kinds of relations. The results can be presented as a sound installation, a podcast, an interactive installation setting or an exhibition contribution, augmented by ethnographic details on the objects and documentation of the research and production process.

4) Engagement and emotions in game data work

Taina Myöhänen, Olli Sotamaa and Heikki Tyni (Tampere University), taina.myohanen@tuni.fi

While studies focusing on the consumer-algorithm relationship have played an important role in highlighting the importance of empirical approaches in critical data studies, data professionals’ relationships with algorithmic systems still often remain under- researched. Our research is focused on workers in Finnish video game studios, and aims at understanding the everyday emotions and imaginaries data professionals attach to their work and the data produced by algorithms. The interview study, conducted as part of the Intimacy in Data-driven Culture (IDA) project (2019-2025), also looks at how the knowledge acquired at work affects professionals’ opinions and behavior outside working life. Some of the informants despised the extensive use of data analytics and felt that algorithms compromised their creativity, whereas others found working with data beneficial for their work and professional growth. The latter group had worked with different analytics and described how an algorithm can become almost like an acquaintance, a workmate that can both offer useful advice and be annoying. At the same time, major differences between insights based on long-scale personal experience and the results provided by algorithms were seen as a potential source for professional soul- searching. Data-driven development is also shaped regionally: due to the mobile focus of the Finnish game industry, analytics are central to most studios. This causes pressure and frustration to smaller organizations. Professionals are also aware of the negative public image of algorithm usage and feel the need to take a stand for the ethical side of the use.

5) Algorithms are a Mystery to Us: Algorithmic Visibility & Journalistic Freedom of Expression on YouTube and TikTok

Anumita Goswami (Tampere University), anumita.goswami@tuni.fi

Social media is a powerful means which has changed the way we consume, produce and distribute content (Valaskivi, 2018). It has not only connected grassroot organisations but also bridged the gap between content creators and their audiences (Bennett & Segerberg, 2012). Thus, freeing the latter from traditional media gatekeeping. The popularity of social media amongst the youth has compelled traditional media which includes Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs) to be present in them (Van Dijck & Poell, 2015). Though it has freed content creators from traditional gatekeepers, it has brought in another form of gatekeeping: the algorithm. In this paper, I investigate how algorithmic visibility decisions on YouTube and TikTok connect with journalistic practices and freedom of speech. To do so I conducted semi-structured interviews with journalistic content creators in Finnish and Norwegian PSBs working on YouTube and TikTok. The results of the interviews can be categorised into, first, the problems they face with algorithms. Second, the solutions they have tried to address these problems. Third and final, their opinion on how algorithmic decision-making conflicts with journalistic ethics and freedom of expression. Though the sample size was small for the research, it seeks to add the perspective of journalistic content creators with respect to algorithmic visibility. It also adds to ever increasing body of work on both YouTube and TikTok.

22) Kinship on the move: reproductive mobilities, journeys and relationalities across borders

Chandra Kala Clemente-Martínez, Department of Anthropology, Autonomous University of Barcelona, chandrakala.clemente@uab.cat
Alexandra Desy, Department of Anthropology, Autonomous University of Barcelona, alexandra.desy@uab.cat

Panel description:
According to Marilyn Strathern (1995), relations can be made up of abstract – logic, class, category – or concrete relationships – roles and behaviour. This argument serves as the basis for this panel insofar as we are interested in the analysis of the “relationship” in the relational life of people and things. This panel seeks to further debates that explore “relationalities” that are established in the context of reproductive imaginaries, mobilities and journeys. We are interested in the connections and disconnections produced in daily life, the deepness, reciprocity and quality of relatedness. We are interested in reflections that contribute to a better understanding of how relations, relationships and relationalities are created, maintained, transformed, and dissolved.


Session 2: Tuesday, 14:00-15:30


1) The transformation of kin networks through adoption, separation, and estrangement

Bettina Beer, Nora Lipp and Laura Preissler, University of Lucerne, bettina.beer@unilu.ch, nora.lipp@unilu.ch, laura.preissler@unilu.ch

In recent years, the main concern within New Kinship Studies has been to show how kin relations are created and sustained. Here, the interactional grounding of such relations has been accentuated, as well as the role of creativity, flexibility, and choice when it comes to the ‘kinning’ of others.  Our research, by contrast, tracks the transformations of kin relations when one or more of those so linked aspire to ‘end’ or ‘break’ them and asks whether this is best conceptualised as ‘de-kinning’. We take a comparative approach and explore the transformation of kin networks through three empirical research projects across different sites: 1.) estrangement between parents and adult children (Switzerland), 2.) separation and annulment of marriages (Philippines), and 3.) first parents’ experiences of separation following the adoption of their children (Russia). Of special interest is what happens to kin relations, which are also established by (procreative) events, when the social relationship is absent. In what situations and contexts do procreative relationships, which are also documented in official records, such as birth certificates, remain socially consequential even if face-to-face interactions have been discontinued? And how and when does this significance manifest itself? How are the concepts of choice, creativity and flexibility relevant to adoption, separation, and estrangement, and for whom?  

As this research project is ongoing, only preliminary findings can be presented. In the paper, we will introduce our study’s theoretical background and research questions and discuss the contribution we want to make to the anthropology of kinship by exploring parent-child and affinal (marital) relations as important binding forces in kin networks.

2) Reproductive imaginaries in Gamete and Embryo Donations and Adoptions

Alexandra Desy and Chandra Clemente-Martínez, Autonomous University of Barcelona, alexandra.desy@uab.catchandrakala.clemente@uab.cat

Between 1998 and 2010, European countries received between 41% and 50% of intercountry adoptees (Selman, 2012), a practice that declined significantly from 2008 onwards due to the change in child protection policies, which resulted in a decrease in their ‘supply’ of children for intercountry adoption and a prioritisation of domestic adoption (Marre, 2018). While the demand for adoptions did not decrease, the difficulties to adopt, together with the increased success of medically assisted reproduction since the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century (Marre, San Román & Guerra, 2018), became a common practice to respond to infertility. In 2012, the most recent year for which global data is available, 48% of ART treatments took place in Europe (Mouzon et al., 2020). The 20th and most recent ESHRE report on ART and intrauterine insemination treatments in European in 2016 shows a progressive increase in reported treatment cycle numbers in Europe. Also, as in 2015, Spain was the first European country with the largest treatment numbers in 2016. Both reproductive practices reshape boundaries of kinship and personhood, family formations strategies and reproductive work, through the construction of discourses and narratives.  

Drawing on the socio-anthropological perspective of “imaginary”, this presentation seeks to understand how donation recipients and adoptive families imagine donors and birth families. It considers which practices, ideas, discourses, thoughts, and perceptions are put in place to talk (or not) about the donor/birth family and the event –the adoption or the donation– itself. We aim to illustrate the “reproductive imaginary” (Hudson, 2019) to envisage the wider political, economic, technological, and cultural formations specific to reproductive practices. We analyse ethnographic data emerging from seven years of participant observation in a fertility clinic and in-depth interviews with Spanish and foreign ART patients –from France, UK, Switzerland, and more– seeking assisted reproduction technology in Barcelona. Regarding the field of adoption, data emerges from participant observation and in-depth interviews with adoptees, adoptive families, and birth families. 

3) The Ties That Bind: Remitting Kinship to Cuba

Jennifer Ceans, University College London, jennifer.cearns@ucl.ac.uk

Advocates for a “new kinship” have focused upon a “mutuality of being” constituted through substantive “flows” (Carsten 2011; R. Wagner 1977) or “vectors” (Hutchinson 2000). In this paper I employ these analytical frameworks to examine the role of transnational social remittances, arguing that these material flows are equally crucial to the cultural construction of relatedness, personhood, and identity across borders. Rather than tracing substances that are socially constructed as “biological” (such as blood, etc.), I instead focus upon material items more typically conceived of as inert (such as money and material remittances), and follow Zelizer’s (1994) example in linking these items to realms of affect and emotion.  

In so doing, I seek to connect what I see as complementary approaches within social anthropology (Strathern 1992), material culture (Weiner 1992), remittance studies (Levitt and Lamba-Nieves 2011), and diaspora studies (Brinkerhoff 2009) to show how the transnational flow of material items between the Cuban diaspora and their relatives (broadly conceptualised) on the island is key to the creation and maintenance of notions of relatedness and Cuban identity both at home and abroad. Moreover, an examination of ties of relatedness through this lens of social-material remittances provides us with new ways of envisaging kinship and personhood across national borders, and the way these are constructed and affirmed through the circulation of material goods in a geopolitical context of conflict where things must often move in the stead of people. 

4) “We are just so happy with the three of us”: Zooming into family making processes among Thai women in Finland

Sanna Poelman, Tampere University, sanna.poelman@tuni.fi

The doctoral project that I am working on considers relationality among family formation practices within a transnational context. Particularly, my interest lies in examining how transnational family lives get formed in practice, and how norms and values based on people’s social locations are enacted, negotiated, and navigated. The social group that this study focuses on are ‘Thai women living in Finland’, and participation is based on self-identification with this category. The questions posed concern people’s perceptions, experiences, and hopes regarding relationships, having/wanting children, and everyday family life. While Finland is the physical and socio-political context that the interlocuters are currently situated in, transnational relations, personal biographies, and internalized norms and values matter greatly in how ‘a good life’ (Dow 2016) is made and imagined.   

Ethnographic fieldwork for this study is conducted in Finland and consists for a large part of conversational interviews with interlocuters and reflective observations. Relationality is also examined methodologically, for example in how my own positionality as a white, Finnish(-speaking) female researcher in her thirties impact human interactions within this research setting. Besides this, reflection is needed on how I as an anthropologist relate to the research questions posed, theories selected, and analysis carried out. 

23) The aspect of time as a resource in co-creative work

Dr. Stephan Dudeck (University of Tartu, IASS stephan.dudeck@ulapland.fi),
Dr. Thora Herrmann (University of Oulu, thora.herrmann@oulu.fi) and
Dr. Sophie Elixhauser (University of Vienna, sophie.elixhauser@univie.ac.at)

Panel description:
Research in the Arctic and sub-Arctic often took a "helicopter" approach, where outside scientists entered Indigenous communities for a short period of time, collecting samples and data, and left the community without further contact. This colonial practice led to profound mistrust towards researchers. Research in polar regions is called to change this “helicopter” research attitude and co-create knowledge and build an equitable relationship and meaningful collaboration with the Indigenous rightsholders, a prerequisite to decolonial research. Building an equitable, trusting relationship takes time. As Christleden (2012) titled her paper “I spent the first year drinking tea”. Relationships in truly engaged research are long-term, and do not end with the end of the project. Funding requirements and the academic system often pose limits to build such long-term relationship. This panel aims at drawing a portrait of the importance and challenges of time as a resource in knowledge co-creation and collaborative research practices. We welcome Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, rightsholders and activists to share their experiences. The session uses a multidisciplinary perspective is open to hands-on examples from research practice, theoretical and reflective contributions and discuss the methodological challenges.

This session is organized by Stephan Dudeck, Thora Herrmann, and Sophie Elixhauser in collaboration with the CO-CREATE network.


Session 1: Tuesday, 10:30 - 12:00


1) Being There – The Experience of “Spatial Time” in the Canadian Arctic

Barbara Schellhammer, Munich School of Philosophy, barbara.schellhammer@hfph.de

The Jewish Philosopher Martin Buber distinguishes between three forms of dialogue: genuine dialogue, technical dialogue and monologue disguised as dialogue. Time and relationality play a major role to understand what it means to truly “be there”, to “be with”, to practice “response-ability” in genuine dialogue instead of just extracting knowledge or to label research as “participatory” which is actually not. “Being there” means to expose oneself, to lever time and to let go of predefined methodological procedures. I would like to share some of my experiences and insights doing research in the Canadian Arctic and with Indigenous scholars like Stan Wilson, focusing on circular concepts of time that are deeply grounded in place. I would like to participate in the panel’s “drawing of a portrait” about the notion of time by introducing what I would call “spatial time” – the experience of time losing its linear format by simply being there. Working as a philosopher in a rigid academic system dominated by western notions of thinking, researching and presenting results, I repeatedly find myself in frustrating dilemmas of not being “philosophical” or “academic” enough, thus the lack of funding and finding renowned venues to publish. If possible, I would like to invite my Opaskwayak Cree friend Stan Wilson who invited me to co-author Indigegogy. An Invitation to Learning in a Relational Way to share some of his experiences of time in (our) co-creative research via Zoom.

2) Interdisciplinarity and the project frame: Some thoughts about time, collaboration and co-creation

Sophie Elixhauser, University of Vienna, sophie.elixhauser@univie.ac.at

Establishing common ground among academics of different disciplines in an interdisciplinary project takes time. Establishing good relations, trust and the basis for co-creation with indigenous collaborators takes time. In this talk I will speak about the challenges to make this fit within a classical project frame, drawing from my own experience of working in different interdisciplinary projects. Much research in the Arctic and beyond follows a classical project cycle which is most common for universities, research institutions and funding agencies. Projects run for a certain number of years, and these years will be split up rather differently depending on the academic discipline(s) at stake. For some natural scientists first project results may be delivered early on in a project, whereas for social anthropologists results may come in at a later stage, as processes of learning from and with local research partners take time and research questions might have to be adapted, etc. The interdisciplinary team is confronted with the challenge to bring different epistemologies and their temporal affordances together, particularly when positivist and interpretative traditions meet. Likewise, indigenous collaborators bring in their own epistemologies, ways of dealing with time as well as expectations and wishes about the project. Based on examples of my work in an interdisciplinary project on climate/environmental change in East Greenland and my long-term engagement in the region, I will discuss challenges of both collaborating across disciplines and with the local community involved.

3) And tell them we’re for peace☮: On density and difference in contemporary ethnographic expression

Craig Campbell, The University of Texas at Austin, craig.campbell@utexas.edu

In the months before we began to learn about the world-altering scale of the Covid-19 pandemic, I was teaching at a University in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk and preparing to return to a distant northern village after many years away. One Indigenous Evenki friend said to me at that time, “we are far from war and pestilence, these things just pass us by.” The world of armed conflict and infectious disease, seen from the Central Siberian Plateau, does seem far away at times. And yet that place, too, has been touched by disease and forced military conscriptions. Despite a sense of remoteness and the feel of a radically different pace for life, Evenkiia’s ‘magnitude of difference’ belies a density of experience. In this paper I share insights from a nearly twenty-five year friendship that has been renewed and sustained through social media and direct messaging. After sharing a series of photos my friend wanted me to include in an ethnographic art installation, he wrote: “And tell them we’re for peace ☮️”— this message became the centerpiece of our collaboration. The photograph in these conditions builds on a unique mode of personal exchange: we remember each other’s visage and being through the surface of the image but our care for one another emerges through its density.  This work explores the shared and divergent temporalities of distant relations through the social space of photographs.

4) ‘Are you still analysing me?’: defining social interaction in the research field

Natalia Aluferova, University of Hamburg, nataliya.aluferova@uni-hamburg.de

In contrast to the “helicopter” approach, some modern social researchers face situations where the boundary with the research field is blurred, and everyday social reality becomes an ongoing subject of study. The impossibility of "getting out" of the field leads to a new format of social relations with research participants: boundaries of private and public, formal and informal, and work and friendship are changed and mixed up. In such a situation, it is not clear at what point the analysis should be stopped (and is it worth stopping?). On the one hand, such a long-term and thick relationship should lead to trust towards the researcher. On the other hand, the role of the researcher is transformed and becomes not completely clear to the co-participants of the study. The inability to define the situation of social interaction (in terms of E. Goffman (1982), leads to a feeling of awkwardness and social tension. In this paper, I would like to discuss my experience in building trusting relationships in the field. My Ph.D. research project is about (dis)trust in the German healthcare system and vaccinations among Russian-speaking people in Germany. My interlocutors often ask me to help them define the situation of our interaction: will I come to the party as a researcher, or as a friend; could we go shopping together as friends, etc.? The question that interests me is how the process of defining the situation of social interaction is related to the transformation of the relationship between the researcher and research participants.

5) Pirates of the timetable - The theory and practice of plannability in the Ob-Ugric communities of Khanty-Mansiysk

Csilla Horváth, University of Helsinki, csilla.horvath@helsinki.fi

The presentation aims to outline and analyse the various contradictions concerning the concepts of time and plannability within the Ob-Ugric communities of Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. The presentation introduces the Ob-Ugric communities of the capital of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, it describes the Ob-Ugric, Soviet, Russian and European categories of time(units) observed, it compares the strategies of solving the contradictions between the theory and practice of making plans and following their schedule; it also reflects the challenges of adapting to these strategies. The presentation focuses on events connected to timetables and deadlines, such as trips, conferences, non-official visits, or shopping. The data used in the presentation were collected during fieldwork in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug (eight times between 2006 and 2019). The information about the consultants’ sociolinguistic background and ethnic identity were collected via participant observation and semi-structured interviews, the data on linguistic vitality and organisation of events were collected during participant observation carried out at Ob-Ugric institutions and communities in Khanty-Mansiysk. The patterns of online communication were observed via digital participant observation, carried out since 2012 at various social media platforms.


Session 2: Tuesday, 14:00 - 15:30


Panel description: Major Challenges: Discussion on the challenges linked to time in a co-creative research context, based on the panellists' research experiences.

• Fuzzy Boundaries: Ways to deal with the blurred boundaries between field research, academia, and private life, considering that these boundaries may not exist for community partners.
• Changing Teams: Addressing the problem of changing research teams and personnel turnover in quickly changing research projects.
• Research Legacies: Discussion on how to deal with the positive and negative legacies of former research and their impact on building successful research relationships.
• Recommendations for Change: Providing recommendations for change in research planning, methodology, and research infrastructure to enhance durable long-term research collaborations.


Round Table Discussion

An open discussion among researchers, activists, and community members on their experiences with co-creative research and recommendations for future change.

Stiina Roos (University of Lapland)
Stephan Dudeck (University of Tartu)
Thora Herrmann (Universitiy of Oulu)
Stan Wilson (Opaskwayak Cree Nation)

24) Appearing of Disappearing: Transformation of the relations in the Arctic societies observed in the visual archives

Anastasia Deyko (on behalf of APECS Art project group) APECS International Directorate UiT The Arctic University of Norway, adeykka@gmail.com

Panel description:
“One Arctic-thousands cameras” is the motto of reflection. Main core. Project is devoted to social changes in Arctic regions from the value and aesthetic point of view, based on the visual evidence. Photo bridges (anthropological archives and recent visual materials donations) is the barely considered way to observe (visualise) changes, independently of age, nationality, geographical position. Visual archives are an underestimated tool for Arctic unity. Energy and modern perception of youth is not involved enough in Arctic representations. And modern technologies are the great opportunity to build dialogs over generations. Main core process I see is a mix of modern internet technologies and traditional art of photography. Collected materials distributed in interactive archives (GIS map). The map during the panel transforms to a polygon with the ability to track areas beyond the anthropological studies of social changes. Panel speakers are welcome, but not limited to share researches with the specific interest in: Witnessing the social changes in Arctic Anthropology and digitalisation Barriers and catalisators in the modern social relations.


Session 1: Tuesday 10:30 - 12:00


1) Appearing of Disappearing: One Arctic-Thousand cameras

Deyko Anastasia, (on behalf of APECS Art project group) APECS International Directorate UiT The Arctic University of Norway, adeykka@gmail.com

“One Arctic-thousands cameras” is the motto of reflection. Main core. Project is devoted to social changes in Arctic regions from the value and aesthetic point ofview, based on the visual evidence. Photo bridges (anthropological archives and recent visual materials donations) is the barely considered way to observe (visualise) changes,independently of age, nationality, geographical position. Visual archives are an underestimated tool for Arctic unity. Energy and modern perception of youth is not involved enough in Arctic representations. And modern technologies are the great opportunity to build dialogs over generations. Main core process I see is a mix of modern internet technologies and traditional art of photography. Collected materials distributed in interactive archives (GISmap). The map during the panel transforms to a polygon with the ability to track areas beyond the anthropological studies of social changes. The core of the “Appearing disappeared” is: to unite - to collaborate - to be aware. My experience in the world of photography is adapted to the needs of monitoring global warming in the Arctic. I intend to make the younger generations aware of how dramatic and rapid climate change is, especially with snow peaks, mountain lagoons and glaciers. One Arctic-thousands cameras is the mix of modern internet technologies and traditional art of photography. Project is devoted to changes in Arctic regions from the value and aesthetic point of view, but based on the visual evidence. I believe that photo bridges (online archives in the end) are the easiest way to explain (visualise) climate change, independently of age, nationality, geographical position.On the other hand photo bridges over the generations (EG from archives of elderly through professional photos and to instagram of recent residents) will unite synergy of propaganda in the united language. To hear “Before we had permanent snow here” from indigenous habitants means nothing for millennials, relocated to cities. Neigher, scientific data or satellite maps. But photography remains unique and the most informative, dogmatic language.


2) Rediscovery of artist photography of Euro-Arctic Russia in 1890s-1900s

Ekaterina Sharova, mail@arcticartinstitute

The recent digitization of archives at the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (the Kunstkamera) in St. Petersburg and the Murmansk Museum of Local Loreal lows us to look at the recent history of Northern photography and the Post-Soviet Northern identity in a new way. In my paper, I would like to discuss photographic production of two artists active at the turn of the 19/20 centuries and the ways the recent digitization of their photo archives influences production of new art today. Nikolay Shabunin (1866-1907) was an artist and photographer based in St. Petersburg, but born in Yuroma, a tiny village in Mezen district in Arkhangelsk Governorate. In the 1900s, he worked at the Kunstkamera museum, and his photos have been stored at the Kunstkamera collections for many years before the digitization in 2010s which played an essential role fora new generation of artists in Euro-Arctic Russia working with decoloniality. Konstantin Korovin is an artist working with Savva Mamontov, an entrepreneur who built the railway from Vologda to Arkhangelsk. He suggested that the artists Konstantin Korovin and Valentin Serov make a trip along the White Sea and the Kola Peninsula to Sweden and Norway: “Here’s what: there will be an All-Russian exhibition in Nizhny Novgorod, we decided to offer you to make a project for the Far North pavilion, and you should go to Murman. So Anton Serov (nickname of V.A. Serov) wants to go with you. While the Arkhangelsk road is still being built, you will travel from Vologda along the Sukhona, the Northern Dvina, and there on the Lomonosov steamer across the Arctic Ocean. I have already spoken to Witte, and he sympathizes with my idea to build this department at the exhibition.”The photos of Korovin remained unknown for many researchers until recently. Arctic Art Forum is an experimental platform for young artists from the North. The 2016 edition gathered art professionals from several Arctic countries, and the imagery of Shabuninwas central for the concept of this international festival which had the topic “Embodied knowledge”. How did the rediscovery of century-old photography influence artistic production today? How could these visual productions be interpreted through the decolonial optics?

3) Dialogues and reflections visualized – challenges in presenting delicateart-based processes


Katri Sofia Konttinen, Katri.Konttinen@ulapland.fi

Reflections and dialogues can take place in various ways and forms. What they share in common are encounters, the moments where people come together. In the core of art-based actions are the people, methods, materials and the surrounding place supporting the emergence of the dialogues and reflections. Dialogues can lead in their best to a formation of shared place (Cresswell, 2004), supporting participants personal creativity (Mikkonen &amp;Konttinen, 2021). This was noted during the art-based activities within SEEYouth(2020-2021), an international collaborative project where the research focused on developing new ways to prevent youth marginalization, improving youth employment and facilitating opportunities for youth through design methods and Art Based Research, leading e.g. to a creation of a toolkit of art and design activities (SEEYouth toolkit). The project resulted in along-term collaboration with the participating youth, where the dialogue and creation of our place became important. As earlier articles related to the research (Konttinen, 2021;Mikkonen &amp; Konttinen, 2022; Konttinen, Mikkonen &amp; Ylisuvanto, forthcoming2022) shows, the dialogue had important role in art-based actions. The dialogues were brought to a visual form in the final exhibition Reflections – Mirroring Structures and Complexities in pluriversal art-based dialogues with the youth (SEEYouth Exhibition). The paper observes how reflections, dialogues and changes in the youth’s participation were visualised and discusses the delicacy of presenting them. The observation is broadened to discussion of how can art-based dialogues reflect the social change in the Arctic and where lie the stumbling blocks in making the interpretations?

4) Art reflecting society by deep immersion.


Alexandra Kremenets

I would like to share my experience of art reflecting society by deep immersion. The Gathering project kicks off in Kirkenes, Norway on February 5th, 2020. Nord related artists headed to a research trip through the Barents Region for cultural collaboration. Travelling by land artists were able to share their vision with local societies of Arctic Norway, Finland and Sweden, including the main collaborative event on Vinterlys Festival (Mo i Rana, inNorway).Collaboration which attempts to address themes of belonging, and a better understanding of cross-border collaborative projects exploring themes of history, language, international dialogue, art and democracy.The Research phase introduced artists to the history and cultural heritage of the Barents Region, immersing themselves in the societies of the far North.Anthropological studies of the Barents region were the inspiration for artworks. Artists concluded: Barents region is “so close yet so far”. “So close”: philosophy to observe life inside the polar circle, to coexist and conquer nature. Those are gentle uniting points of everyone from the Arctic region. Those secret ancient knowledge that let origin people to survive independently of language, borders. “So far”: density of population, massive, from point to point, Arctic region cross countries territory, with bare means of transport inside. Plus bureaucracy, economic and political borders, which destroyed the original networks of centuries long human beings' heritage and social connections. Art is always a uniting power of societies, evidence archiver, heritage protector. Visual art is an important tool for anthropological studies.

5) Investigating the Arctic from a Gendered, (Post)Colonial and Posthuman Feminist Perspective. Three Contemporary Artistic Practices.

Stephanie Von Spreter

This paper corresponds to the panel’s topic which aims to detect (social) changes in the Arctic regions from an aesthetic point of view based on visual evidence. More concretely, the paper will synchronize research on contemporary artistic practices investigating the Arctic from a gendered, (post)colonial and post human feminist perspective through their work. It firstly looks at the work of Norwegian artist Tonje Bøe Birkeland, whose entire practice emerges from embodying and staging imagined turn of the century woman explorers,explicitly referencing persisting male-dominated narratives deriving from the so-called heroic era of polar exploration. Secondly, I examine Pia Arke’s artistic practice that engages with the phenomenon of ‘Arctic hysteria’, which apparently gripped large parts of the female indigenous population in the Arctic during the early contact era and heightened colonization of Greenland/ Kalaallit Nunaat. Thirdly, I look at the long-term project we are opposite like that (2017-2022) by Himali Singh Soin who engages with post human feminist concepts within an Arctic discourse, here in particular in relation to the climatic changes that lead to the melting of the polar caps, and what the gradual disappearance and transformation of what has dominated its landscape and mythologies over time - ice - means. The research on the specific artistic practices has been published in three different academic publications. My paper will establish connections between them. It will “knot knots” and establish “string figures” (Haraway 2016, 3, 12) that detect changing and changed worldviews from with in and on the Arctic.

6) A Photographic journey through Arctic Finland, Russia, and Norway

Alexander Popkov

My father was a researcher at Far North, which could be why it has a special place in my heart. Arctic Circle has also been the place where I started my journey as a photographer.Over several years, I've been coming back to picture the diversity of Arctic countries across different seasons. My journeys took me across Finland, Russia, and Norway. One would assume that countries in the same geographical area would have some resemblance,but it isn't the case.National parks cover a vast area of Arctic Finland. Towns are small, and the tourism industry is substantial. Russia is the opposite; here, industry dominates the landscape. 8 or 10 largest cities in the Arctic Circle are in Russia. Most Norwegian settlements are along the mountainous shoreline. There is a distinct marine culture and world-famous fjords. Over a few years, I've produced a considerable body of work from different corners of the Arctic Circle. I think exploring life there is one of the most fascinating journeys a photographer could take. Photography is widely available now, but rare photos have a value for cultural heritage. Photography is a mirror of changes in society, but does it distort or embellish? With every frame I make I aim to make input in archiving my beloved North, a benefit for anthropology. I capture the present, remembering my Arctic past, with hope to build bridges to the future generations.

25) Politics of animism in disturbed landscapes

Anu Lounela (University of Helsinki, anu.lounela@helsinki.fi) and
Viola Schreer (Brunel University London, viola.schreer@brunel.ac.uk)

Panel description:
This panel seeks to explore politics of animism in disturbed landscapes. Across the planet, local environments, in which humans and other-than-human beings traverse and relate to each other, are radically transformed. Often, this leads not only to environmental degradation, but gives rise to intense political struggle. Yet, what happens to the other-than-human beings, when animated landscapes drastically change? What roles do, for instance, spirits, deities, or souls take in environmental conflicts? How do they appear in disputes, public debates, and conflicts within the transformed landscapes? And how does this ‘political animism’, in turn, change people’s relationships with spiritual beings as well as environmental politics?
While anthropological perspectives on animism vary, in general it indicates that non-humans and humans inhabit the same nature and form relations and common sociality through being in this world as sentient or conscious beings (e.g., Bird-David 1999; Descola 2013; Howell 2013 etc.). In the face of accelerating environmental change, deepening social and ecological crisis, and anthropogenic impact on a geological scale, others, by contrast, argue that the Anthropocene - the proposed designation for a new geological epoch defined by human activity -not only forces us to non-modernize our thinking, but desecularizes landscapes, showing how in the ruins of modernity and capitalism spirits and ghosts give rise to new constellations of relations and politics (Gan et al 2017; Bubandt 2017). Others, again, in an attempt to bring political ecology and the anthropology of ontology into conversation, draw on political ontology and its emphasis of plural ontologies (de la Cadena 2015) to suggest plural ecologies (Sprenger and Grossmann 2018).


Session 2: Tuesday 14:00-15:30


1) Spiritual traces of abandoned villages reflected in Nanai believes

Tatiana Bulgakova, Herzen State Pedagogical University Saint Petersburg, tbulgakova@gmail.com

In the 1960s and 1970s, during the period of purposeful enlargement of settlements and the elimination of "unpromising villages", a significant number of Nanai villages and camps were abandoned. Uninhabited settlements also appeared as a result of industrial development of territories. In addition, the Nanai people had a long-standing traditional practice of abandoning territories as a result of epidemics, as well as because of beliefs in the possibility of capturing territory by spirits that could threaten the well-being of people. As a result, a large number of abandoned settlements (susu in Nanai) were formed. According to the traditional ideas, abandoned settlements continue to exist in the invisible space of the spiritual world, regardless of whether there have remained any material traces of them or not. The memory of abandoned settlements is still relevant for Nanai, who believe that people should avoid such places, and if they accidentally visit them, they should follow certain rules of protection from possible dangers. This concept is conditioned by traditional ideas about the fullness of the inhabited space with the history of events that do not disappear, but over time continue to be accumulated in a certain place and interact with people living at the present time. The mental image-the Nanai people's idea of the unity of the event and the chronotope, within which this event took place, is expressed in the traditional concept of "armol" (a kind of a shadow or an imprint of the past events left on a certain territory). Fixing a certain series of events for a certain place, however, is not unshakable. Under certain circumstances, you can intentionally move the imprint of an event from one location to another. Currently, there is also a practice of reviving and activating some traces of the past for territories where the trace of events has disappeared due to changes in the worldview of the current generation of Nanai. This research has been carried out on the basis of folklore texts, as well as materials collected by the author in the field.

2) Of clashing worlds and Sámi reindeer herders’ fight for preserving and renewing – An analysis of forest conflicts in Sámi homeland

Anna Ott, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, Helsinki; anna.ott@syke.fi

Much of Finland’s remaining but unprotected natural forest is in the Sámi homeland (Taiga Rescue Network, 2000). While these old-grown forests are carbon sinks and rich in biodiversity, they are also important to Sámi reindeer husbandry (Ott 2019). Old-grown forests are key reindeer pasture areas, but Sámi are not the only ones laying claims to these forests. Sámi have, thus, found themselves repeatedly and since early 2000s increasingly in conflicts over forests (Raitio 2008; Saarikoski and Raitio 2013). This paper explores the newest of those conflicts involving Sámi reindeer herders, state-owned enterprise Metsähallitus, and common forests. By drawing on data gathered during fieldwork in Aanaar (Inari) and in interviews with conflicting parties, it is explored what is at stake for Sámi reindeer herders, how they try to secure the continuation of reindeer herding, and how FSC certificate is shaping the conflicts. Drawing on political ontology and postdevelopment literature (e.g., Blaser 2009, de la Cadena 2010), the political strategies and related practices of the conflicting parties are analyzed to show how ongoing conflicts over forests are conflicts over clashing worldviews and perceptions of development. The paper highlights how the political strategies and related practices of Sámi reindeer herders are grounded in relational ontologies and suggest alternative ways of using and managing forests that would contribute to tackling climate change and biodiversity loss.

3) Fire, Spirits, and Conservation amongst the Reindeer-Evenki in Northeast China

Richard Fraser, Arctic University of Norway (UiT)

In this paper I describe Evenki relations with fire and their conflict with state conservation and fire-prevention strategies in the Da Xingangliang mountains of northeast China. I show how fire reveals Evenki animist ideas of nonhuman personhood, such as when making offerings to the fire in the form of alcohol and meat, when setting up a new camp, and by listening to the messages of the fire-spirit as embodied by an old woman called Gulam-Ta. In recent years, however, state conservation measures have problematised Evenki relations with fire, by implementing a seasonal fire-ban and the establishment of protected areas where reindeer herding has been restricted. This connects the Evenki with a broader political-ecological narrative which characterises the Da Xingangliang mountains as “China’s Lungs” and the fire-ban as a “local sacrifice for the greater national good”.

I show how this compromises Evenki reindeer herding and relationships with the nonhuman agencies in the taiga. I also describe how some Evenki circumvent these policies through adaptation of herding and hunting practices, as well as employing new discourses of intangible cultural heritage. In the process, I argue for consideration of the role played by nonhuman agencies in understanding people’s experiences of conservation policy and contestations of the environment.

4) Giving voice to local rivers' will: a Mapuche-Pehuenche rafting team

Elena Palma, Rachel Carson Center for environment and society, Munich; lalenapalma@gmail.com

Alto Bio-Bío is an indigenous territory of central Chile, bathed by two rivers: the Bío-Bío and the Queuco. On their banks, 12 Mapuche-Pehuenche communities live. When talking with local people, they described their territory as a “sacrifice zone”. That is because since the 90s, two big dams have been built on the Bio-Bío river by Endesa, causing internal social conflicts and a deep fracture in the relationship between humans, the river and its non-human inhabitants, the ngen (master spirits of nature - Magnus, 2017). In 2016 a hydraulic project has been presented. Its aim is to convey part of the Queuco river – among others - to northern Chile, which is experiencing a mega-drought. Since then, young people from Alto Bio-Bío began to organize their local resistance, creating alliances with other organizations in rivers’ defense. In this context, a local group of women founded a rafting team called Malen Leubü that spread awareness about the upcoming projects, its ecological and social consequences, and their local communities’ experiences since the dams’ construction. From the practices and public discourses I parsed, emerge that rafting is the medium through which Malen Leubü reaffirm their relationship with their local rivers, directly connect with them and understand their languages. Doing so, they convert rivers in political subjects, giving them voices and will.

Session 3: Tuesday 16:00-17:30


5) Spirits and commodities. Mass-mediated discourses of disturbed landscapes in Central Kalimantan

Heikki Wilenius, University of Helsinki; heikki.wilenius@helsinki.fi
This paper examines two distinct but interrelated media discourses of commodification in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. One of them relates to the way accounts of animistic phenomena are circulated. The other is about how the politics of natural resource commodification are debated, and how various actors are indexed in this debate. The data analyzed consists of three volumes (2018–2020) of a Central Kalimantan newspaper, a selection of news pieces from internet-based media (2017–2020), conversations under various keywords that have taken place on Twitter in 2020, and a selection of YouTube videos featuring supernatural phenomena, published between 2017–2020.

The paper argues that (1) the mediascape of Central Kalimantan is fragmented: the established media outlets represent various state interests fairly explicitly, while claiming to represent the public (cf. Wilenius 2020; Aspinall and Berenschot 2019), while social media discussions and circulating multimedia narratives more often resemble "subaltern counterpublics" (Fraser 1992), functioning as a venue for the mobilization and expression of the interests of citizens (cf. Beukes 2017), but, animist perspectives are almost completely absent from these media. However, (2) in the (often sensationalist) accounts of supernatural events, animist perspectives are raised, and often presented as an indirect political critique. Finally, (3) it is argued that the discourses of animism and resource commodification are interrelated (cf. Bubandt 2014), even if they are not in direct dialogue with each other.  

6) Politics of animism: the place of spirits in the frontiers of Central Kalimantan

Anu Lounela, University of Helsinki: anu.lounela@helsinki.fi

This paper explores the politics of animism by examining how spirits and Ngaju Dayak people negotiate space and place in a transformed wetland landscape in Central Kalimantan, on the Indonesian side of Borneo. It asks what the role of spirits in the negotiations of place between the Ngaju people and industrial actors tells us about the politics of frontier making in Indonesia.

The wetlands of Central Kalimantan have experienced accelerating environmental change, particularly since the logging of the 1960s and the state-initiated rice cultivation project of the mid-1990s, which drained more than one million hectares of wetland. In the aftermath of these projects, involving a wide range of actors from companies to government agencies and local villagers, drained wetlands have become the target of a variety of industrial and natural restoration and conservation projects. In addition, drained wetlands have become highly vulnerable to fires, which are damaging when they recur at short intervals and repeatedly burn, for example, forest gardens. In the context of expanding extractive industries and natural resource projects, a new politics of animism has emerged, with spirits asking where their place is, and collaborating with the local indigenous groups. This article explores how the Ngaju Dayak negotiate place and space, and the relationships that emerge from these negotiations in the context of making and unmaking frontier landscapes.

7) (En)countering extractivism: Community responses to orangutan conservation in Indonesian Borneo

Viola Schreer, Brunel University London; viola.schreer@brunel.ac.uk

This paper discusses the relationship between extractivism and animism through an exploration of Bornean villagers’ engagement with efforts to protect the orangutan, a symbol of international biodiversity conservation. Whereas scholars, activists, and political institutions increasingly stress a positive connection between indigenous ontologies and nature conservation, this paper asks instead the following: What can animistic responses to conservationist interventions tell us about the nature of conservation?

Based on ethnographic research into the global nexus of orangutan conservation, I show how conservation and state actors have reconfigured a species that is seen locally as prey, if not a pest into a commodity. Guided by neoliberal conservation principles, orangutans are branded as popular flagship species of international biodiversity conservation to mobilise support for the environmental cause, they are framed as basic capital of national development, and promoted as ‘asset of Kalimantan’ (I: aset Kalimantan) to produce local revenue. However, as local people’s (animistic) responses to orangutan conservation measures reveal, for villagers affected by such efforts the ape’s protection often turns into a political project with far-reaching implications in terms of rights, legitimacy, justice, and benefit-sharing.

By shedding light on Bornean villagers’ animistic encounter with conservation, this paper not only points to the discrepancies, imbalances and inequities within global orangutan conservation, but moreover illustrates that conservation is frequently experienced as other extractive forms of dispossession. Attention to animism, I thus suggest, helps to reveal conservation as extractivism.

8) Against the Spirit of Accumulation:The Mentawai Sabulungan, Logging Operations, and the Politic of Value in Indonesia Extractive Zone

Simaepa, Darmanto, Oriental Institute, Czech Academy of Science

In the indigenous Mentawai ontology (sabulungan), human and forest’s spirit (Sikaleleu) have a primordial pact in which they share one world but live in separate domains. They constantly maintain mutual-dependency relations through the acts of offering where no parties feel dominated. The egalitarian relation of human and Sikaleleu is the fundamental value underpinning any traditional form of forest exploitation in Siberut Island, Indonesia. Decades large-scale timber operations have transformed sabulungan, intensifying the idea that forest is a merely commodity and creating hierarchy between sikaleleu, the Mentawai, and logging companies. At the same time, the logging operations have invited global biodiversity conservation agendas and indigenous movement to propose different ways of seeing Siberut rain forest and revitalize both the symbolic and material importance of sabulungan. The reconfiguration of human-sikaleleu-forest nexus have provoked the Mentawai to develop a complex and sometime ambiguous response toward the loggings. The loggings are seen providing material benefit but also bringing an unknown, powerful and greedy spirit (sanitu sareu). The Mentawai are welcoming but simultaneously protesting, accusing, and resenting logging companies because they separate forest from Sikaleleu, ‘eat’ it for themselves and diminish the egalitarian principle. The ambiguity reveals both the paralelity and the contrast of multi-spirits involved in, and value generated from, traditional and the large scale forest extraction. It also illustrates the Mentawai’s struggle to gain an equal share from forest exploitation and shapes their attempt to hold their autonomy and egalitarian value amidst the wealth accumulation and the creation of dependency. I argue that sabulungan poses an egalitarian spirit and serves an ideal political value for the Mentawai againts the foreign spirit of accumulation and powers hierarchy entail in the large scale exploitation. I claim further that the Mentawai sabulungan is not a passive ontology but a mode of being historically and politically active in ongoing social transformations, dynamically shaping the relations of human and non-human entities

26) Infrastructures as Relations

Ria-Maria Adams (University of Vienna, University of Lapland/Arctic Centre, ria.adams@univie.ac.at) &
Philipp Budka (University of Vienna, philipp.budka@univie.ac.at)

Panel description: 
Infrastructures create and are created through social relations, relationships, connections, and networks. Infrastructures can be conceptualized as systems, which enable the functioning of technological objects and things. In a broader sense, infrastructures can also be understood as the built and the natural environment humans engage daily with in different localities and sociocultural settings. Following Marilyn Strathern (2018) to think about relations in a pluralistic manner by also looking into human-non-human and more-than-human relations, this panel puts the spotlight on human entanglements with built environments. Through the prism of relations, infrastructures become more than something purely technical. Such a relational perspective is primarily interested in the physical, social, affective, and ideological relations between humans – individuals and groups – and infrastructures. Or, as Tim Ingold (2000) would put it, it highlights the shared experience of humans within an environment. Infrastructures create dependencies, while at the same time, they create promises of development and progress.

This panel invites anthropological and ethnographic studies that look into infrastructures as relations by discussing questions such as: How to explore the material and non-material entanglements of humans with infrastructures? How do infrastructures and the built environment contribute to the liveability and sustainability of communities? How do relations between infrastructures and communities become visible through ethnographic work? While the convenors of this panel work primarily in Arctic regions and currently focus in particular on transport infrastructures within the ERC project InfraNorth, this panel is open to studies about all kinds of infrastructures from a variety of geographical and sociocultural settings.


Session 8: Thursday 10:30–12:00


1) Fence infrastructure in the Danish-German Borderlands: Competition for the right-to-define

Annika Pohl Harrison, Aarhus University, apha@cas.au.dk
Michael Eilenberg, Aarhus University, etnome@cas.au.dk

Based on ethnographic fieldwork, this paper will discuss competing descriptions, social meanings and affective qualities of the recently erected wild boar fence spanning the entire border line between Denmark and Germany. The fence was erected by the Danish Government in 2019 in order to prevent the immigration of wild boars and the potential spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) from the south. The paper explores the entanglements of multiple actors with the fence infrastructure: pig farmers, land owners, border communities, Ministries, Environmental Groups, law enforcement, municipality politicians, political parties, media, and hunters. Those actors designate various understandings and descriptions of the fence, some of which do not essentially align with the definition that is inherent in the infrastructure itself. While this infrastructure was erected as a wild boar fence with that particular aim, we will argue that the effort to determine its function, effect, and affective qualities has been futile: A fence along a national border can never not be a border fence, and its definition cannot be commanded and controlled politically, as it will be subject to the context, time and space it is situated in. This follows Madeleine Akrich (1992), when materiality is put into the world it will have different meanings and usage, as it is subject to the space and actors involved. We wish to discuss how construction of the fence has spurred a competition for the right to define the past, present and future.

2) What does Permafrost mean to you? Inuvialuit and Gwich’in First Nation knowledge holders’ perceptions of a thawing relation

Susanna Gartler, University of Vienna, susanna.gartler@univie.ac.at
Susan A. Crate, George Mason University, scrate1@gmu.edu

While increasing permafrost thaw poses a significant hazard to infrastructures, permafrost itself can be seen as critical infrastructure to maintain life in Arctic and Subarctic regions. This paper introduces the outcomes of a multi-disciplinary risk analysis of permafrost thaw in Arctic Coastal Areas conducted within the framework of the Nunataryuk project and explores the understandings and perceptions of Indigenous land users and knowledge holders in Northwestern Turtle Island (North America) of changes related to permafrost thaw. The highly localized, heterogeneous physical processes of thawing ground pose five key hazards to local populations: infrastructure failure, disruption of mobility and supply, decrease in water quality, challenges for food security and exposure to infectious diseases & contaminants. All hazards have significant implications for health and wellbeing of both humans and their ecosystems, while they also affect recreation and being in nature, financial security, Arctic (Indigenous) cultures and languages, and fate control. In addition to the comprehensive risk analysis, twenty-three life history/land use interviews were conducted with Inuvialuit and Gwich’in First Nation citizens in Northwestern Canada in fall 2022. Transport infrastructures such as rivers, sea ice, and the Arctic Ocean, as well as lakes, roads, trails and the tundra itself, and their susceptibility to minor changes in temperatures play a crucial role in the maintenance of historically highly mobile Inuit and First Nation ways of life. Through these ethnographic interviews, the relationship between permafrost thaw as critical infrastructure and the continuation and vitality of Inuit and First Nation life becomes clearly visible.

3) „The Politics and Poetics of Comparison: Exploring Geographies of Arctic Transport Infrastructure”

Alexis Sancho Reinoso, University of Vienna, alexis.sancho.reinoso@univie.ac.at

The ERC grant “Building Arctic Futures: Transport Infrastructures and Sustainable Northern Communities” (InfraNorth) investigates the role of transport infrastructures (both existing and projected) in sustaining (or not) (sub-)Arctic Communities. The project counts with an “Integration Component” (short: IC) that follows a cross-cutting approach to identify and explain similarities and differences among the project’s research study areas. By developing this comparative exercise, the IC ultimately intends to upscale local portraits into comprehensive descriptions at a regional or macro regional level. The tools the IC deploys to achieve this goal are questionnaires. A first questionnaire has been launched both online and in paper format. The paper version has been distributed by the InfraNorth team members in the case study areas during their ethnographic fieldwork survey. The questionnaire, which was intentionally conceived as a closed and short list of questions, features the topics of quality of life, well-being, and usage of transport infrastructures and means of transportation. In this paper, I present some preliminary results from the analysis by combining statistical and cartographic representations. The results will be interpreted after bilateral talks with the InfraNorth team members. My ultimate goal is to discuss pros and cons of this tool to be able to identify potentialities and limitations of the comparative and multiscalar approach in geography and anthropology.

4) Relational infrastructures: Transportation and sustainability in the Subarctic town of Churchill, Canada

Philipp Budka, University of Vienna, philipp.budka@univie.ac.at

This paper explores how transport infrastructures are interconnected and entangled in the Subarctic town of Churchill, Canada. In doing so, it looks into the creation and maintenance of these infrastructures as well as into the role that social, political, and economic relations play here. It furthermore examines how such infrastructural entanglements contribute to the sustainability of the town. Churchill is one of several field sites in the ERC project InfraNorth, which looks into the affordances of transport infrastructures on a pan-Arctic scale through an anthropological lens. Churchill, a town of 870 people, is unique in terms of transport infrastructure. The town, which is not accessible via roads, is home to Canada’s only deep-water port on the Arctic Ocean. This is the only harbor in the American (Sub)Arctic with a direct link to the North American railway system. In addition, Churchill has a relatively big airport, which was originally built by the military and is now supporting in particular the growing tourism industry. The community of Churchill only exists because of these infrastructures and it has been changing together with them. By discussing ethnographic and historical findings, this paper focuses on how this infrastructural entanglement becomes particularly visible in times of infrastructural breakdown and failure. When in 2017 a flooding washed-out the railway tracks and Churchill was without train connection for 18 months, the town and its inhabitants had to rely on air transportation and on a network of winter trails to transport goods and supplies. This has had severe consequences for this remote Subarctic town.

Session 9: Thursday 13:00-14:30


5) “The railway brings China closer, but also further away”: The Laos-China Railway and the (re)making of neighbour relations

Phill Wilcox, Bielefeld University, phill.wilcox@uni-bielefeld.de

International transport infrastructures have a fascinating dual quality: the ability to make a neighbour more accessible but simultaneously consolidating ideas that that neighbour is behind an international border. The new high speed railway connecting China with Laos is an apt example. Since its opening to considerable fanfare in 2021, this has brought China much closer to Laos but also made who can and cannot cross the border much more of a tangible reality. This has become more pronounced during the Covid-19 pandemic, when the Chinese border - until then opened wider than ever - was firmly closed again. What does this mean when neighbours become closer together and then this closeness is suspended? I suggest here that infrastructure has much to do with this process of making both relations and boundaries. For many Lao, closer relations with China have meant anxieties for the future but also economic opportunities from closer relations with China. I argue here that many still regard their Northern neighbour with considerable unease, arguing that the border may reopen, and that Chinese will come to Laos, but any benefits for them in Laos have not transpired and are, arguably, decreasing. Here, I trace the making and remaking of neighbour relations through the Laos-China Railway, arguing that infrastructure is a fundamental part of this process, and that ethnography is vital for bringing these evolving relationships into view.

6) The time of the operator: A missing piece in the social study of telecommunication and infrastructure

Joachim Otto Habeck, Hamburg University, otto.habeck@uni-hamburg.de

This presentation is devoted to a seemingly quaint topic: manually switched phone calls and telephone operators. I claim it is an indispensable chapter in the history of infrastructure and telecommunication – and definitely understudied. While there is a large number of publications on the technical aspects of telephony, few studies delve into changing social telecommunication practices before the widespread introduction of mobile phones. From hindsight, making a phone call may be considered a trivial thing; however, well into to the 1990s, telephony (like other infrastructural networks) not simply served to connect people, but also posed manifold constraints and difficulties, shaping people’s communication patterns, mobility, their ways of perceiving distance and proximity in multiple ways. While automated telephone calls became common practice in western countries from the 1960s onwards, connectivity in many socialist states continued to depend on manually switched long-distance phone calls. Around 1990, the demand for phone calls between East and West increased rapidly, but the number of lines was still very limited. Hence the renaissance of the telephone exchange – a meshwork maintained by a few thousand operators (including myself) across the globe. In this paper, I shall present first thoughts on a book project that will be based on archival research, interviews and auto-ethnography, contextualising empirical examples of waithood, serendipity, (lack of) connectivity and (mis-) communication into the larger framework of Anthropology of Infrastructure.

7) Empathy and/or Abjection: (Digital) infrastructural relationalities in Pakistan’s social inclusion assemblage

Ali Mohsin, Geneva Graduate Institute, ali.mohsin@graduateinstitute.ch

What kind of affective state-citizenship relations are produced by digital infrastructures in a social inclusion assemblage? This paper seeks to explore this question by delving into the politics of Pakistan’s premier cash transfers initiative – the Ehsaas [Empathy or Compassion] Programme (EP). Valorized as an “irreversible paradigm shift” in the social protection, it has arrogated itself the ambitious tasks of poverty reduction and women empowerment since 2008. In order to bring in more transparency and precision targeting, the program has turned to data analytics and biometric verification through fingerprinting for delivering grants to its women beneficiaries representing over six million households. EP has been repeatedly hailed by the powerful global institutions, among other things, for being a potential model of social inclusion through transparency enhancing governance reforms. Based on three-year long ethnographic fieldwork in Pakistan’s largest city, Lahore, this paper argues that the presumably transparency-enhancing measures, especially biometric verification procedures, leave a lot to be desired. At the time of every new tranche, women beneficiaries usually have to wait for hours in long queues at grant distribution centers due to the slow and complicated verification procedures. Moreover, due to intentional or unforeseen software changes in the biometric devices, a growing number of women can’t match their fingerprints at all, and are told to go away and come back another day. Experience that they often describe using words such as “zalalat” (humiliation) and “khajjal-khawari” (abjection). This, while the program has the word “Ehsaas” as its name and takes empathy towards the poor and the vulnerable as its core value. Unpacking messy technopolitics at work here, the paper explores contradictory infrastructural relationalities and affective articulations in Pakistan’s social inclusion assemblage.

8) Digital infrastructures, imaginations and futures in the Everest tourism industry

Jolynna Sinanan, University of Manchester, jolynna.sinanan@manchester.ac.uk

In the wake of the Mount Everest avalanches of 2014 and again in 2015 due to the Nepal earthquake, the state government and private telecommunications corporations have made a committed effort to increase digital connectivity in the largely remote and underdeveloped Khumbu region. This recently improved digital infrastructure has coincided with an increase in the number of tourists arriving in the region between 2016 and 2018.

Arguably, Everest has always been mediatised: historically, its appeal as an idea has existed in part through technologies of visual cultures. Tourist experiences and mobile livelihoods are dependent on configurations of fixed, dispersed and mobile digital infrastructures, to varying extents. This paper draws on fieldwork conducted in the Solukhumbu region with guides, porters and tourists and argues that digital practices contribute to maintaining gradients of visibility of visual narratives of Everest. On the one hand, the production and circulation of images through digital technologies shape how tourists imagine and experience Everest; indeed, capturing images of Everest is a significant motivation for embarking on treks. On the other hand, digital practices of guides and porters become part of strategies for livelihoods, meeting aspirations and have the potential for creating alternative narratives of Everest, based on regional knowledge and experiences of work. The paper engages with infrastructures as relations by interrogating the relationships of power in representing Everest through contemporary digital practices and the tensions between the valorisation of regional knowledge and neo-colonial imaginations.


Session 10: Thursday 14:30–16:00


9) A heritage, a sense of locality or just a commodity? The healing infrastructures of modern day Zdrój spa, Poland

Hubert Wierciński, University of Warsaw, hubert.wiercinski@uw.edu.pl

Visitors have been coming to Zdrój – once an elite mountain spa town in Poland – for more than two centuries. Although the place has a solid reputation and invaluable historical healing infrastructure – it current status rather vague. The gradual erosion of the state`s position taking place after 1989 has left the place and it`s infrastructure open for new practices, relations of power, and discourses. Consequently, the centralized and medicalized approach to the local resources and infrastructure has been distracted. A good example is the local healing water and the infrastructure involved in its distribution – both of these strongly entangled with the very sense of locality, and thus by many considered as a common good – has been commoditized and handed over private hands. Consequently, the town has rapidly moved from the (mono)culture of a state-controlled healing landscape to the dispersed culture of a free market focused on tourism and exploitation – not elite, nor healing, yet attracting people of business representing previously rather unknown to the place middle-class values. These people – now owners of many infrastructural standpoints – perceive the locality and its attributes not as a meaningful space and collective heritage, but as I was told, a mere source of income. Consequently, drawing back on my ethnographic research I ask: how the relations between the local community and spa infrastructure have been historically shaped and rearranged by the recent socio-economic and political changes? How the healing landscape and its infrastructures have been transformed? Who they – and to they – belong to?

10) Devils, “coffins” and saunas – Exploring the dynamics of human-subterranean relations in Finnish underground mines

Teresa Komu, University of Lapland, teresa.komu@ulapland.fi

For most people, the underground is an unknown, alien place. While underground mining has in recent decades faced increasing attention from both the public and the research community this has mostly been focused on the effects extractive industries have on human societies and environments on the surface level. Likewise, anthropological studies on mining communities tend to have their point of view on what happens “above the ground”, instead of – quite literally - going “beneath the surface”. Therefore, in this presentation, I will explore human-subterranean relations through the eyes of a community who has formed unusually close relations with this usually foreign realm: miners. The presentation is based on both archival material that contains oral history of Finnish miners’ traditions after the World War II and on author’s fieldwork conducted in the Finnish Pyhäsalmi mine, the deepest underground mine in Europe. Like in any other human-environment relation, people learn to navigate, survive, invest meaning in, and attempt to modify subterranean environments in their own image. But nevertheless, an underground mine is a place like no other, described as (and made) “a world of its own” by the miners: a place where rocks become animate, that is inhabited by various spirits, with its own mythic lore. I will also discuss the various customs miners seem to have developed to help them deal with the fact that death can wait behind any corner and the attempts that have been taken to domesticate the “hostile” world underground.

11) Relating to wind energy infrastructures in the Finnish North

Anna Varfolomeeva, University of Helsinki, anna.varfolomeeva@helsinki.fi

Renewable energy development is commonly seen as an important step toward climate change mitigation. Finland plans to increase its share of renewable energy use to 51% by 2030, and therefore turn to wind power as the primary source of sustainable energy. However, the emotional responses of Finnish residents towards wind energy development vary: whereas many are in favor of wind energy in general, few would like to see a wind power station near their house (Eskelinen 2020). This paper analyzes wind energy infrastructures as a part of human-landscape relations in Northern Ostrobothnia, the region where the vast majority of Finnish wind turbines are located. While attending to larger debates on “energy democracy” (Feldpausch et al., 2019) and “Aeolian extractivism” (Boyer, 2011), the paper centers on local relations with wind infrastructures as material objects, viewing inequality as a more-than-human challenge. The research is based on the analysis of publications in local media portals Kaleva Media and Koilissanomat, as well as the resources published in wind energy-themed Facebook groups Tuulivoima and Tuulivoimalapoliitikka. The paper argues that wind energy development is increasingly viewed as a process strengthening the inequalities between Finnish regions and affecting human connections with other sentient beings in a shared landscape. When wind energy projects are carried out without taking local interests into account, they are seen negatively as violating Northern residents’ right to land and suppressing their participation in decision-making.

12) Relational infrastructuring: Precarious presence and the co-constitution of urban spaces, lives, and governance in Windhoek

Lalli Metsola, University of Helsinki, lalli.metsola@helsinki.fi

Sustaining lives in urban environments depends on various kinds of infrastructure – buildings, roads, water, sanitation and electricity grids, among others. Their availability is particularly acute in Africa due to the combination of world’s fastest urbanization, entrenched patterns of unequal infrastructure networks, and persistent resource constraints. The paper discusses the ways in which the necessity to satisfy basic needs leads the residents of the precarious fringes of Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, to rely on improvisational skills and social relationships to innovate DIY solutions as well as to appropriate, bypass and complement formal infrastructures. The immediate purpose of these activities is to solve practical problems, but at the same time they produce social, transactional and political patterns that reshape the city space, infrastructural assemblages, and everyday governance. The paper utilizes these findings to identify lacunae in the burgeoning literature on infrastructures in anthropology and related social sciences, and proposes a relational approach that involves analyzing situations of infrastructuring holistically from the perspective of urbanites’ needs and aspirations, instead of a given infrastructural assemblage; decentering the state-citizen relation in favour of examining relations of authority and subjectivation as a heterogeneous field; studying the various co-productive political moments and orientations involved; and an analytical perspective of processual flux that explores both how participating entities (people, things, ideas, and organizations) generate infrastructural effects and how such entities emerge and get transformed through infrastructural entanglements over time.

27) Relations in the Physical Absence: Dead and Disappeared Persons

PhD candidates Saila Kivilahti (Tampere University, saila.kivilahti@tuni.fi ) and
Ville Laakkonen (Tampere University) ville.laakkonen@tuni.fi)

Panel description: 
Human relations are still often characterized by physical presence of, or physical familiarity between, those involved. However, there exists various ways of producing, maintaining, and forging relations in the absence of the physical person. This is, for example, central to many studies that have looked into relations between the living and the dead (e.g. Langford 2009; Strathern 1981; Kopytoff 1971), and the disappeared persons and the ones left behind (Parr et al 2015; Colwell-Chanthaphohn & Greenwald 2011; Jones et al. 2007). In this panel, we seek contributions from scholars focusing on different kinds of human relations in the physical absence of those who are, nevertheless very much present. We seek to explore how do people relate to each other in the presence of physical absence. How is the relation different from the physical presence of another person? In absence, what is needed for the relation to be a relation? Our interest is also in the anthropological knowledge on research into situations where all the persons involved are not necessarily present. What is it like to carry out research in such contexts? How do such situations affect research and the production of 'data', and what does it mean to anthropological knowledge in general?


Session 10: Thursday 14:30 - 16:00


1. Relationality of Knowledge: Migrant Disappearances in the Western Mediterranean

Saila Kivilahti (Tampere University, saila.kivilahti@tuni.fi)
Thousands of migrants die and disappear around the world annually, of which about half in the Mediterranean (Migration Data Portal 2022). When a person disappears on an undocumented journey in difficult terrains such as the desert or the sea, it can be extremely difficult to learn about their fate. This paper focuses on the information and knowledge practices connected to the search and identification of the undocumented disappeared migrants in the context of Western Mediterranean. Grounded in John Locke’s argument in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, anthropologists such as Strathern (2005) and Sahlins (1993) have drawn attention to the fact that we necessarily know things relationally by their dependence on other things. The former has emphasized the role of relations in knowledge-making, and especially that “knowledge creates relationships: relationships come into being when the knowledge does” (ibid 2005). Disappearance is very much founded on relations, as “the disappeared ones are not disappeared to themselves but to their families and communities” (Caminero-Santangelo 2010). Building on ethnographic research conducted in Spain, Morocco and Mexico among the relatives, friends, and travel companions of the disappeared migrants, as well as with NGO's and authorities working with the disappearances, I explore the “relationality of knowledge” in the search and identification of the disappeared migrants.

2. Dreams of the Deceased – Meanings and Interpretations

Silja Heikkilä (Independent Researcher, siljaheik@gmail.com)
Views of phenomena interpreted as supernatural still live on among Finns as different stories, beliefs, and reflections - partly also as vivid personal experiences. Dreaming about the deceased is a certain dream type, where the dreamer experiences the presence of a deceased persons in a dream. These dreams, called “vainajaunet” in Finnish, have been recorded in the Finnish dream telling and interpretation tradition since the 1970s. Based on the work of folklorist Leea Virtanen one could assume that dreams of the deceased were quite common even in the period before that. Understanding dreams as a "communication channel for the dead" still appeared in the 1980s among Finns. In my dissertation, Dreams and living heritage: An ethnological study of dream conceptions and dream-telling situations (2021), I explored the features of the Finnish dream telling and interpretation tradition based on survey and interview material (N=62). There were also mentions of dreaming about the deceased. Those were interpreted as concrete visits but also as a need to process one's own feelings. The relationship between generations was also continued to be dealt in dreams. The new data I collected in the winter of 2022 regarding precognitive dreams offers more material of dreams of the deceased. As many as 54 out of 68 respondents said they had experienced such dreams. What are these dreams like, and how do people themselves explain the origin of dreams and what meanings do they give to these experiences?

3. Harmful Presence, Ignorant Absence: The Hauntings of UC Berkeley

Lærke Cecilie Anbert (Aarhus University, lca@edu.au.dk)
On the wall of the Anthropology Building at the University of California, Berkeley, small indentations mark where the letters spelling the last name of anthropologist Alfred Kroeber used to hang. In 2020, Kroeber and four other buildings’ names, were removed following debates on the racist legacies of the buildings’ namesakes. Situated in the same building lies the university’s Anthropological Museum whose archives hold around 9,000 ancestors of Indigenous communities. The museum is currently experiencing renewed attention from campus communities about the repatriation of ancestors that is required by law, but has not yet been fulfilled. In this paper I investigate the absence of the building names, and the presence of the ancestors as interconnected, linked by student activism on campus. Student activists globally, have called for attention to be directed at knowledge production and belonging and how structural racism is embedded on campuses (Alderman and Reuben 2020; Dancy et al. 2018; Stewart-Ambo and Yang 2021). In this paper I home in on the denamings of buildings and the (lack of) repatriation of ancestors at UC Berkeley by understanding these debates in the absence of the people whose legacy or remains are actually discussed. The denamings mark the absence and the hauntings of the formerly celebrated namesakes, whereas the ancestors are brought into focus in continuous debates about how to heal from the settler colonial (past) of the university. Building on 5 months of ethnographic fieldwork at UC Berkeley, and inspired by the framework of hauntology (Bozalek et al. 2021; Derrida 1994), I investigate how names of buildings and ancestors haunt the campus by forcefully redirecting debates towards social justice.

4. Abhorrent Anomalies: Unknowability in Refugee and Migrant Disappearances and Border Deaths

Ville Laakkonen (Tampere University, ville.laakkonen@tuni.fi)
Drawing on years of work with refugees and migrants and, more recently, with refugee and migrant disappearances and border deaths, this paper explores the ways in which those gone, as well as those disappeared, are still embedded in various familial, societal, and cultural networks. Looking at these networks, I highlight how refugee and migrant absences and disappearances engender especially two kinds of anomalies. On the one hand, there is an anomaly brought about by familial and cultural networks. Those who have disappeared (or thought to have been disappeared) cannot be incorporated into any preconfigured, everyday social categories or roles. In such conditions, mourning, remembering, and caring require new relations to be forged. On the other hand, those disappeared, lingering between life and death, are equally anomalous vis-à-vis state functions and bureaucracies. They are, in some respects, non-governable, but simultaneously allow for new relations of power to emerge; those of abandonment and denial. The abhorrence of refugee and migrant disappearances and, relatedly, border deaths is brought about by the fact that such disappearances and absences are, by their nature, violent. They may result from, and display, state violence, but more crucially they represent the violent rupture in knowability and certainty. This violent liminality forces new ways to relate to come about—in interpersonal relations, moralities, and governance.

28) Convergences of science and tourism in environmental hotspots

Roger Norum, roger.norum@oulu.fi
Anna-Maria Walter, anna-maria.walter@oulu.fi

Panel description: 
Climate and biodiversity hotspots around the world have become attractive places for both scientific research and leisure tourism. Indeed, historically, many “remote” regions have often been “discovered” by adventurers with scientific aspirations. Yet when science and tourism are considered in tandem, it is often simplified to how scientific knowledge can help the tourism industry to evaluate/reduce its environmental footprints, or how tourists can be used as instruments for collecting data. While work on the sustainability of sensitive ecosystems has recognised the importance of unpacking tensions and encouraging stakeholders’ mutual engagement and collaboration, just how scientists and tourists co-exist in the same spaces has been little researched. Papers in this panel investigate the links between these two seemingly distinct groups of actors, focusing not just on the disjoints and divergences, but on the potential interconnections and alliances, between them. They consider, for example, encounters of scientists and tourists in the Arctic, the Alps or the Himalayas; understandings or productions of scientific knowledge in tourism contexts; representations of science/tourism in contexts of environmental change; routines of studying or practices of touring in areas popular with ‘last chance’ scientists or tourists; knowledge production and consumption practices of industry actors across tourism and science (e.g. environmental data service providers, cruise companies, etc.). The panel builds an emerging field of study, led by anthropologists, ecologists, and STS scholars, on the crossovers of science and tourism to illuminate how to build sustainable planetary practices.


Session 3: Tuesday 16:00 - 17:30


The Many Lives of Moynaq: Imaginaries of Migration, Extraction and Disaster Tourism in Qaraqalpaqstan

Toma Peiu, University of Colorado Boulder, toma.peiu@colorado.edu

Moynaq is a town in central Qaraqalpaqstan, the autonomous republic that was once eulogized for supplying the Red Army with a train full of fish to support Lenin’s cause in the Russian Civil War. A century later, Moynaq is heralded as the symbol of Qaraqalpaqstan’s rebirth within the Uzbek state. The Aral Sea began to recede 50 years ago. Its drying up and the ensuing desertification was dubbed “the largest man-made ecological disaster” when the Soviet Union finally admitted it, in the 1980s. Today, summers are unbearably hot, and previously mild winters bring harsh, biting winds and prolonged freezes. The Aral’s shores are 200 km away from Moynaq – reason enough for tourists from Europe and North America to come photograph the ships rusting in the sand of former Moynaq harbor and share prophecies of the impending planetary doom. The most adventurous arrive on motorcycles or hire a local guide with access to a 4x4 vehicle to then take them to the sea. Gas wells operated by a joint Uzbek-Russian enterprise dot the former seabed since 2018. This is also the year when Central Asia’s first electronic music festival Stihia first brought its motley crew to Moynaq. “Whoever doubts the depth of our reforms should visit Moynaq” reads a quote that can be found inside all the brand-new imposing edifices of “New Moynaq.” NGOs who in the 1990s were idealistically advocating for a return of the waters from the river Amu Darya have been replaced by engineers, botanists, and firefighters who travel to help cover the sand with saxaul (haloxylon) trees, which prevent the formation of toxic salt-and-sandstorms. In the meantime, locals who used to make a living as labor migrants in Russia and Qazaqstan before the global pandemic now work seasonally to collect scrap iron or harvest the roe of the rare shrimp Artemia from the thin foam of the Aral – a hot commodity for the Chinese anti-ageing cosmetic industry. How do shifts in rhetorical regimes inform the lives of people in landscapes marked by ecological disaster and economic depression? When labor migration ties are severed, which new infrastructures emerge to support locals in “remote” areas? How do travelers from elsewhere contribute to imaginaries of connectivity and the practice of “hope” (Miyazaki) in an environmental hotspot? My presentation will address these questions laterally, proposing close attunement and attention to place, and using material collected for my dissertation fieldwork to contribute to an expanded conversation at the intersection of migration, science practices, tourism and environmental precarity, in an age of planetary rearrangement.

2. Advancing visitors’ participation in citizen science: the new appeal for the Arctic?

Élise Lépy and Alix Varnajot, University of Oulu, Elise.Lepy@oulu.fi

In this paper, we address the use of citizen science in Arctic expedition cruises through anticipated fieldwork onboard the polar expedition vessel, Le Commandant Charcot, a new example of expedition cruise ships offering its passengers citizen science activities and programmes. We investigate the implementation of citizen science onboard the ship and consider how citizen science can effectively contribute to research on Arctic environmental and socio-cultural issues. With fieldwork anticipated to take place during Summer 2023, the project aims to collect ethnographic data (participant observation, interviews, surveys) from passengers and scientific personnel onboard in order to better understand tourists’ motivations for engaging (or not) in citizen science initiatives, both before and after they learn about the Arctic environment while onboard the cruise. The North Pole stands as a locus of popular, collective Arctic imaginaries, with elements such as sea ice, polar bears and white vistas serving as key elements of the tourist experience in this part of the Arctic. We hypothesize that experiencing, observing and learning about the vanishing sea ice in situ may have a greater impact on passengers’ awareness with respect to climate change consequences and willingness to engage in citizen science initiatives.

3. Nordic vaccine study in a West African ‘hotspot’

Katriina Huttunen, University of Helsinki, katriina.huttunen@helsinki.fi

This paper focuses not on environmental research and tourism, but on a diarrhea vaccine study where Finnish study participants and researchers travelled to a site of assumed microbial abundance, a coastal ‘fishing village’ in Benin. The aim of the vaccine study is to develop a vaccine against diarrhea that could be marketed/offered to infants in low- and middle-income countries as well as those suffering of traveler’s diarrhea (e.g. travelers and militaries). This paper is based on ethnographic research at the trial site for 6 months between 2017 and 2019. The research/travel site can be characterized as an entanglement, or hotspot, of multiple environmental trouble – in addition to that of antimicrobial resistance – that were also constantly raised by the tourist-participants or the research group, and by local residents: the rapidly eroding seashore, waste and issues of recycling, decrease in fish stock and the trouble of local fishermen, disappeared turtles, and degrading mangrove forests. To observed poverty and lack, both the tourist-participants and research staff responded with different forms of charity and donations. Additionally, many of the trial participants pondered upon the issue of flying to the study site, while for the company representatives it seemed to be a straightforward question – the good the vaccine delivers inevitably outweighs the harms of flight emissions. This paper asks, how can/should research and the tourism it requires, engage with the ethical-political complexities of its chosen site? Is it necessary to consider the research as entangled to all these complex relations; how to think of the ethical and political obligations and consequences for research and tourists?

4. “Nimba Offers Opportunities for Scientific Tourism”: Science, Extraction, and Conservation in West African Hotspot Tourism

Emmanuelle Roth and Shadrach Kerwillain, Rachel Carson Center, emman.roth@gmail.com

The Nimba range, that stretches across Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, and Liberia, is home to the highest peak of West Africa. Natural scientists and geologists have visited the region since colonial times to study its fauna and flora and survey its mineral riches. Primarily initiated by mining companies, their studies have described Nimba’s biodiversity as rare, highly endemic, and threatened. In this tri-border frontier of resource and scientific extraction, which is known as one of the major biodiversity hotspots of Africa, panoramic views contrast with the scarred topography of industrial ruins. Lastly, this landscape has been coopted by development and conservation projects with a view to increasing ecotourism. As the roads leading to the Nimba region are about to be completely paved in the three countries, our communication offers a look at hotspot tourism in the making. We draw on initial findings from research conducted with the project "Fragments of the Forest: Hot Zones, Disease Ecologies, and the Changing Landscape of Environment and Health in West Africa." We are particularly interested in current efforts at establishing a "One Health Center" on the Liberian side of Nimba, that would continue the regional history of research stations, yet with a goal to promote sustainable tourism and generate revenues for local communities. We ask how scientific activity informs, shapes, and engages with tourism in the three countries, and what future-oriented visions this alliance cultivates for Nimba.

5. Where Science and Tourism Meet: A conceptual mapping of interrelationships of knowledge and experience (Discussion)

Jasmine Zhang, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, jasmine.zhang@slu.se

In this discussion paper, I investigate why and how we may consider science and tourism as connected endeavors, especially in remote and fragile climate and biodiversity hotspots where exploration, extraction and exploitation have long been intimately intertwined. The search for a conceptual framework, or a way to understand and interpret the past, present and future interactions between science and tourism, leads me to the minor theory (Katz, 1996), as a deeper engagement with feminist thought and minor ways of theorizing seems essential for me to navigate through the already heavily theorized fields of scientific and technology studies and tourism studies. Through engaging with the minor theory (which is backed by the Deleuzian ways of thinking), I take the following aspects as building blocks toward a conceptual framework for this emerging field of science-tourism interface: 1) rationalities behind why science and tourism are portrayed as separate spheres and engaging with fragile ecosystems for distinct purposes and outcomes; 2) production and consumption of knowledge and experience as important foci when examining interactions between science and tourism; and 3) performance and practices of actors in both tourism and science enact potentially micropolitical entanglements that are always already part of local and global environmental discourses. Through addressing these aspects, and in particular emphasizing the importance of place, practices, politics, performance, and precarity, this discussion wishes to find a way forward to work on science-tourism connections, opening up spaces that suggest new means to undo the binaries such as produce/consume, conserve/disturb and good/harm.

29) Relations, co-creations and representations in and around ethnographic museums

Dr. Piret Koosa (Estonian National Museum, piret.koosa@erm.ee),
Dr Jaanika Vider (University of Vienna/Pitt Rivers Museum, jaanika.vider@univie.ac.at),

Panel description: 
Museums, which were key institutions when anthropology emerged as an academic discipline and then abandoned as irrelevant to social analysis, re-emerged as a central arena of a new sub-discipline in the 1970 and 1980s. In recent years, museum anthropology has gained wider attention through postcolonial public discourse regarding ownership, repatriation, and restitution of material culture. This renewed focus, also reflected in recent debates on the ICOM museum definition, has led to an increasing number of museums asking how they can respond to the critical discourse that primarily draws on examples from institutions in former coloniser countries.

This panel seeks to bring together scholars from different institutional and national contexts to explore current challenges and opportunities in ethnographic museums with a particular focus on the “front of house.” That is, we are interested in the kinds of relationships and engagements which occur during display processes, community projects and events and collaborations with creative industries. Taking inspiration from Joshua Bell who evokes Kim TallBear’s notion of kin-making to understand the erasures created at “the intersections of museums, things, places, and communities“ and to understand “the bundle of relations between, and materialized in, things in and outside heritage regimes and museums” (2022: 1), we ask how communities are shaped around objects, how latter act as ambassadors and how anthropological knowledge is co-created in the museum. However, we also encourage presenters to reflect on “failures” to apply decolonial museological approaches and practices, whose concepts of care and repair usually emerge from the fault lines of settler/Indigenous and coloniser/colonised relations. What happens and how do we, as museum anthropologists, respond when stakeholders desire familiarity and display of essentialised culture? Do museums, as Miriam Kahn noted in 2000, through their very nature “encourage this stasis even while trying to revitalize culture”? The increasing re-thinking of world cultures collections through work of artists such as Lisa Reihana, George Nuku, Kathy Jetril-Kijner and Yuki Kihara, suggests an avenue for the presentation of polyphonic voices which do not implicitly suggest museological objectivity, however there are questions about the upkeep of altered perceptions after artist exhibitions and interventions depart museum spaces.

In light of the very complex and layered sets of relations embedded in and around ethnographic museums and their collections, the panel discussion will contribute to theoretical thinking about relations in anthropology more broadly.


Session 1: Tuesday, 10:30 – 12:00


1) How to postcolonize ethnographic collections? A try with collections from Benin preserved inToulouse (France)

Magali Dufau, University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès, magali.dufau@univ-tlse2.fr

As many Natural History museums in France, mostly created in the 19th century, the Natural History Museum of Toulouse holds some ethnographic collections from Africa, America, Asia and Oceania acquired in the political context of French colonial domination and exhibited until the fifties with a social evolutionist discourse. Nowadays, the ownership of this kind of collections is contested and Benin was the first African state to officially ask the French government to return artefacts taken in Abomey. In response to this social demand, the French museums have to deepen researches into the provenance of collections in collaboration with Benin. Forty-four artifacts are held in Toulouse with fragmentary knowledge: imprecise or non-existent archives, unknown acquisition contexts, and poorly documented uses. A project « COLL-AB: Collaborations - Collections from Abomey and Benin » is currently made by academic researchers, museum professionals and associative actors in Benin and France in order to increase knowledge and add new perspectives about the collections. This approach is in line with the new practices of citizen sciences in the academic field and with the participative and inclusive researches recommended in the last ICOM museum definition. The challenge for the museum is no longer to present a univocal discourse on collections but the polyphonic voices of the different holders of knowledge. In this paper, I propose to present the origins, stakes and difficulties of this collective project in which a great numbers of actors in Benin and France got involved to think together about a practical try to postcolonize museums.

2) Decolonizing custodianship? Potential histories, institutional foreclosures, and the digital circulation of Aboriginal art

Anna Weinreich, New York University, anna.weinreich@nyu.edu

‘Digital return,’ as a practice and museological framework, has emerged as a dynamic if not uncontested site for reconstituting the histories and knowledge materialized in ethnographic collections within Indigenous ontologies and regimes of value. Yet how do ethnographic museums mediate the relationships and meanings that are reactivated, renegotiated, and newly forged through the digital circulation of the objects in their care? This paper examines how a mid-20th century bark painting by Yolŋu artist Mark Manuwa circulates between remote Northern Australia and Berlin, Germany, where the work is on display in the controversial new Humboldt Forum exhibitions. The object’s digital return was occasion for Yolŋu custodians to ‘set the record straight,’ correcting the museum’s archival documentation and re-embedding the artwork within a network of person, place, and ancestral activity. Held in the community’s digital keeping place, the painting is helping to strengthen Manuwa’s legacy in the memory and creative practice of his descendants. While the museum corrected the work’s exhibition label in response to the exchange, my analysis shows how the object’s agency remains invisible in Berlin, as the exhibition omits its role in supporting the work of forging and securing Aboriginal ‘cultural futures’ (Ginsburg/Myers 2006). In light of present efforts to ‘decolonize’ the custodianship of ethnographic collections, my analysis reveals the quiet persistence of colonial formations in the representational and governmental regimes at work in German cultural institutions.

3) Representations of Finno-Ugric peoples at the Estonian National Museum

Piret Koosa, Estonian National Museum, piret.koosa@erm.ee

In East European museums decolonizing framework has been rarely referenced, the general stance being that the arguments and concerns of this conversation have little relevance in our context – occasionally perplexing Western colleagues with such an attitude. In this presentation I will consider some of the notions behind this indifference or even reluctance in engaging with decolonial discourses on the example of Estonian National Museum (ENM). The ENM holds a considerable collection of objects from Finno-Ugric peoples. The ENMs collecting tradition of non-Estonian Finno-Ugric objects stems from the concept of Finno-Ugric kinship and is framed with a nationalist ideology. While the notion of being kindred peoples has put the emphasis on affinity and motivated search for kinship between objects of material culture, certain othering has also been part of Estonian collectors’ discourse. Disregarding local perspectives, some parts of local cultures have been regarded as inauthentic or spoiled.

In 2016, a permanent exhibition on Finno-Ugric peoples was opened at the ENM. The curatorial team included representatives of different Finno-Ugric peoples and while it has received positive feedback from the source communities, it has also been criticized as maintaining an ahistorical approach and reinforcing stereotypical views on ethnic boundaries. This raises the question of how to reconcile expectations of familiar ethnographic object-centred displays and critical judgements deeming such displays as essentialist.

4) Putting an archive to work

Bente Sundsvold, UiT the Arctic University of Tromsø, bente.sundsvold@uit.no

Seabird populations are declining at an alarming speed, globally as well as in Norway.  Inspired by Tsing et als’ work on the Matsutake Worlds Research (2009), the FUGLAN VEIT project (NRC 2021-2024) explores how more-than-human approaches may bring new attention and alliances in the management of seabirds who seek human protection during the nesting season. 

We will explore our experiences of putting a nearly 50-year-old archive (Tromsø museum) to work. The archive contains interviews, sound recordings and photos of local people’s seabird practices along the coast of Northern Norway.  The archive with its material legacies is enabling to enact more-than-human approach. We explore this through local exhibitions and workshops, inviting descendants of the interviewees and local seabird practitioners to reflect, comment on the images and stories, and to share stories of the contemporary practices and their prospects for the future. Based on the archives and the workshops we will discuss how these stories provide room for inter-species relations and for “bringing the birds to the tables”? How may the workshops enable us to recognize material and immaterial diversity as necessary parts in communicating knowledge? What potentials may this envision for collaboration between scientific experts and local knowledge-holders?


Session 2: Tuesday, 16:00 – 17:30


5. Bemaaji’iwemagak, those who bring life into something: Animating museum exhibits

Maureen Matthews, Manitoba Museum/University of Manitoba, mmatthews@manitobamuseum.ca

Those of us working in Canadian provincial museums, especially in the west, have the great good luck of being pressed by our Indigenous audiences (presently 20% to 30% of daily visitors and 30% of school groups at the Manitoba Museum) to acknowledge the Indigenous kin-making relationships embodied in our Indigenous collections and to surrender interpretive authority to Indigenous ontologies.  Museums do not give up interpretive authority easily.  Resistance is referenced in the call of this panel to focus on “front of house” action; implying that it is not sufficient for the back of house to be open and welcoming if the exhibits are immutable. This paper looks at the Anishinaabe cultural context and role of Anishinaabe pipes, opwaaganag, in disrupting and decolonizing the Manitoba Museum’s exhibit spaces during a period of gallery renewal. Pipes are grammatically animate in Anishinaabemowin and they are among the ceremonial objects which the Anishinaabe conventionally credit with having the power to act in the world, to make things happen. They are the kind of entities imagined in the Anishinaabemowin word, bemaaji’iwemagak - the title of this paper, who not only live, bemaadizid, but bring life into something – in this case they have given a new life to the museum. The Treaty pipes play their role in the Manitoba Museum with the humility and grace you would expect, but they have profoundly changed the institution from a museum which is about Indigenous peoples to a one which represents Indigenous interests and reflects Indigenous ways of being.

6) Relational museum objects: Rosanna Raymond’s Acti.VĀ.tions in the ethnographic museum

Karen Jacobs, University of East Anglia, k.jacobs@uea.ac.uk

Within the ethnographic museum, contemporary artists can play a significant role in interrogating representations and challenging institutional roles. Ranging from interventions in museum displays to creating work that questions the museum’s history, the collectors, the classification system and the role various stakeholders can play to current issues such as racism, contemporary artists have the ability to shift our perspectives. This paper will highlight the work of artist Rosanna Raymond in the ethnographic museum. Born in Aotearoa New Zealand of Samoan and Pākehā (‘European’ in Māori language) descent, Rosanna Raymond is known for her Acti.VĀ.tions in museums, a process often misunderstood and misinterpreted as mere performance in which she addresses the museum objects on display as taonga tuku iho, highly prized possessions handed down from the ancestors that embody the life blood of Pacific living culture. This enables her to re-embody and redefine museum objects in a process that connects her and the objects with a wider Moana/Pacific community – VĀ refers to the Samoan understanding of a relational space that connects people and things. By focusing on the work of a specific artist who reminds museums that their collections are relational, this paper argues for an openness to local epistemologies in a global museological debate.


7) Lighting Togo Inen in the Ethnographic Museum: Evenki Reconciliation Ritual at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Anya Gleizer, University of Oxford, anna.gleizer@ouce.ox.ac.uk
Galina Veretnova, Herzen State Pedagogical University/Olyenok Cultural Center, veretnova.galinka@mail.ru
Faye Belsey, Pitt Rivers Museum/University of Oxford, faye.belsey@prm.ox.ac.uk
Jaanika Vider, University of Vienna, jaanika.vider@univie.ac.at

Togo-Inen (Того Инэн*) is the name of the sacred household fire of the Evenki, indigenous reindeer-herding people of central Asia. Togo Inen is re-established with each migration at the heart of a dykcha (home), and at the start of every ceremony. In this paper we follow the cocreation of an Evenki reconciliation ritual held at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford in 2022. The healing ritual, staged by Evenki artist Galina Veretnova and performance artist Anya Gleizer, constituted a trailblazing intervention into museum working culture by involving museum staff as subjects to be healed, requiring them to learn Evenki choreography and adhere to Evenki cosmologies of relationality. It was also a stepping off point for the Evenki community as it was the first time Evenki invited outsiders into a healing ritual of this kind, performed in the non-traditional context of the ethnographic museum, and healing, not an illness in the traditional sense, but the cultural affliction of the colonial legacy of the Siberian collections that the museum stewards. The process that led up to the ritual also unintentionally exposed lingering tensions and contradictions in the museum’s decolonial agenda. Examining the project from the point of view of an Indigenous knowledge-holder, performance artist and the museum, we show what reconciliation between an ethnographic museum and Indigenous stakeholders may look like. We argue that the lighting of Togo Inen on foreign shores constitutes not only the preservation, but the re-enaction of Evenki culture, a process which needs the contact-zone to continuously re-create ‘culture’ at sites of intra-action.

30) Histories of and from the Circumpolar North

Dr. Jaanika Vider (jaanika.vider@univie.ac.at)

Panel description:
The northern circumpolar region has had a special place in the history of anthropology since its early foundations. Franz Boas made his first foray into ethnographic fieldwork on the Baffin island, Diamond Jenness honed his skills as an ethnographer in the Canadian Arctic, and Siberia has been called the “living laboratory” of Russian ethnography (Arzytov and Anderson 2016). The environmental conditions in these regions have meant that relationships between researchers and local communities as well as humans and non-humans have always been of great significance. Today, studies into relations between humans and non-humans and traditional ecological knowledge puts anthropological research in the Circumpolar North at the forefront of international efforts to address the human causes and consequences of climate change.

Following from the “History of Arctic Anthropology” conference at the Royal Anthropological Institute in 2020, this panel seeks to further expand discussion of the particularities and significance of research in the North. Inspired by comments by Tim Ingold, we invite papers that grapple with the landscape, people, and animals from which the history arises, to focus on intersections and movement, give space to historical experiences and consider different temporalities at play.


Session 7:  Wednesday 14:30 - 16:00


1) What Did They Actually See: The Role of Real Contact in Early Ethnographic Accounts of the Indigenous North

Art Leete (Tartu University), art.leete@ut.ee

Early ethnographic descriptions of the indigenous groups of Siberia and the Russian North were normally detached from real human encounter. Actual experience was not considered necessary for producing popular, bureaucratic nor scholarly accounts. Any contact could even spoil the truth as it was perceived until the modern era. Even if travellers and writers met some indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic, these contacts could remain hidden from readers. Travel writers were supposed to describe the North according to types and patterns, already known to the reader. Previous descriptions served as standards for a truthful depiction. Even if somebody had a direct experience that deviated from the outline, it should be avoided to make the description believable. Some contacts could also be insignificant, just too brief and casual to make an actual impact on travellers’ impressions. Nevertheless, there were also contacts that mattered. I consider it a substantial change in the mode of Arctic depictions when real encounters started to play a role in reasoning from the 17th century. However, the pattern of cognition based on earlier standards remained functional later as well. Consequently, modern descriptions include interplay of imagined Arctic visions and something scholars really saw.

2) From Collecting to Ordering to the Making of Anthropology. Object Lessons from the North.

Jaanika Vider (University of Vienna), jaanika.vider@univie.ac.at

In this paper I examine the role ethnographic materials from the circumpolar north had in shaping the nascent discipline of anthropology. Positing that anthropology, particularly in its early forms, is an objectual practice, I argue that these ethnographic collections, which were acquired for their many affordances, shaped how anthropological research would be carried out subsequently.

A survey of early circumpolar collections in European museums and their provenance will serve as a springboard for tracing how ethnographic materials and data from the circumpolar north was used in anthropological scholarship. Focusing on the 19th and early 20th century, I examine various collections’ epistemic provenance and use in anthropology and consider their role in the shaping of public perceptions of the Arctic. In doing so, I seek to trace how non-systematic collecting of 19th century travellers influenced the making of anthropology as an institutionalised discipline in the early 20th century when museum collecting became central for the comparative method in anthropology and for justifying and financially enabling ethnographic fieldwork.

3) Keeping field relations alive in an era of a new Iron Curtain

Lukas Allemann (University of Lapland), lukas.allemann@ulapland.fi

Since the Russian invasion to Ukraine, researchers around the globe dealing with Russia have to face a new plethora of restrictions, regulations and practical hurdles. Even more challenging are the moral dilemmas as well as social pressures, which I will analyze in this paper from the point of view of being a researcher based in Finland trying to maintain his long‐term field relations with the Saami people in the Russian part of Lapland. Although discussions among scholars about continuing or discontinuing fieldwork in Russia are broad and diverse, I repeatedly encountered admonitions by colleagues to be strict about not working with anyone who supports the regime. The dominant media discourse fosters an increasing tendency towards groupism: the tendency to group people together, to reify groups as entities, as if they had homogeneous interests and agency (Brubaker 2004). This is against the background of widespread constructivist stances in social sciences, but it seems that in practice currently many scholars are tempted by groupism when discussing Russia. Instead, I will propose to leave a door open to see declarations of regime support by partners in the field in more multi‐layered ways. “Working the system” (Schubert 2017) means agency as accommodation and not as pure resistance (as demanded by many moralizing outsiders’ stances). As I will show in the case of the Saami ethnic minority, this may well mean front‐stage collusion for the sake of keeping a level of back‐stage freedom of movement in keeping transnational relations resilient and alive.

4) The Terrain of Anthropology. Reflections from High Arctic Greenland

Kirsten Hastrup (University of Copenhagen), kirsten.hastrup@anthro.ku.dk

The anthropological terrain, featuring in the title, refers both to the physical and the intellectual field. They are deeply intwined, but there is never a simple one-to-one relation. Anthropologists are individuals and the field is a living place in more than one sense, being inhabited by people who hardly know what the future brings, given the rapid environmental changes. The field is a landscape, a history, a dream, and a fear for the unknown future. In High Arctic Greenland the latter is related to the dramatic melting of the environment.

In anthropology, ways of understanding naturally shift as the world changes, yet ethnographic practices were always inherently experimental. This may seem a facile observation, but it may also lead us towards a new perception of the unique strength of the discipline. Anthropological knowledge-making in much more than documentation, it is also challenging the obvious and sensing the untold. The present is deeply marked by displacements – of climate, soils, water levels, population densities, and built environments, reflecting the embroilment of human and tectonic scales. Time has come to revisit the intricate relations between natures that are under dramatic change and societies that are increasingly borderless. The notion of ‘terrain’ makes space for a renewed attention to the volatility of ‘the field’, and the power of anthropological thinking.

5) Roundtable discussion

Peter Schweitzer (University of Vienna), peter.schweitzer@univie.ac.at


31) Pig worlds: understanding porcine multiplicity in the Anthropocene

Kieran O’Mahony (Institute of Ethnology, Czech Academy of Sciences, omahony@eu.cas.cz)
Paul Keil (Institute of Ethnology, Czech Academy of Sciences, keil@eu.cas.cz)
Virginie Vate-Klein (National Centre for Scientific Research, France and Czech Academy of Sciences, virginie.vate-klein@cnrs.fr)

Panel description:
Living as co-symbionts with humans for millennia, pigs are highly adaptable beings. Enacted in multiple ways, they are a 'diaspora' constituted through diverse social, ecological, and historical relations. There is no single Sus Scrofa kind, rather, pigs are a kaleidoscope of bodies, capacities, identities, and subjectivities, engaged with by humans as meat, game, pests, ecological engineers, homely companions, medical surrogates, and spiritual relatives. They are great disruptors, challenging the moral, ethical, and spatial (b)orders humans devise to differentiate the im/pure, un/desirable, or domestic/wild. Porcine subjects offer a multifaceted set of human-nonhuman interactions and perspectives that benefit anthropological comparison. Their multiplicity also enables us to articulate the precarity, contradictions, and patchiness of the Anthropocene. Porcine ways of being are dramatically afforded and constrained during this era. While some have proliferated through colonial expansion, climatic transformation, industrial capitalism, and plantation ecologies, others are threatened by these shifting conditions. Pigs are embroiled in contemporary anthropological concerns, such as emergent pathogenic ecologies, destructive global infrastructures, and other-than-human necropolitics.

This session explores the multiplicity of pig worlds, storying their lives and relations, and their limits. Following the generalist tendencies of pigs, we welcome submissions from all disciplines. Contributions might unfold in or between forests, farms, cities, abattoirs, laboratories or homes, and reside in the material and spiritual. We invite empirical narratives, and ontological, epistemological, and ethical provocations. Thinking through difference, querying hegemonic discourse, reconceptualising their presences in the Anthropocene, the session seeks to probe ways we can understand and reconceptualise such beings, their relations and beyond.


Session 4: Wednesday 8:30 - 10:00


1) "Same Animal, Different Valuation: The Transformation of Human-Pigs’ Relations on Siberut Island, Indonesia"

Darmanto, Czech Academy of Sciences, darmanto@orient.cas.cz

Pigs (Sus scrofa) occupy a special place in the social history of indigenous Mentawai living on Siberut Island. Prior to the colonial intervention, pigs were intimately living beneath the long houses, collectively tended in the ancestral land. The animals were a private and communal property, consumed and offered as a ritual meat, traversing the worlds of human and spirits and socially the most valuable object, mediating relations between the social group (uma). The colonial and postcolonial administrations saw the Mentawai pig culture as polluted practices and tried to abolish it. The Mentawai managed to accommodate this external pressure by developing a “semi-domesticated” pigs keeping and moving the pigs in the margin of social spaces. The presence of pigs prevented the politically powerful mainland people from encroaching into the Mentawai’s ancestral land and making social intercourse. Currently, the combination of intensive cash crops cultivation and the demand of pork from the regional market enacts pigs both as a hot commodity and a pest. The animals are now intensively domesticated around the houses mostly by individual families (lalep), fattened as quick as possible and sold for cash. The intensive pigs keeping transforms the ritual aspects of human-pigs entanglement. I argue that particular social and ecological histories shape the human-pigs’ modes of being and transform the valuation of pigs. At the same time, pigs shape the way Mentawai deal with the external agencies and shifts their strategies in keeping their way of being amid continuous pressures from outside.

2) “Adaptation to the Anthropocene: Changing Pig Breeds (but Preserving their Feed) in a Tibetan Village”

Dan Wu, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, dandan.wu@connect.polyu.hk

During the Anthropocene, species evolution and environmental changes were influenced by human activities. Modernization, urbanization and industrialization drive many of these processes, including the relationships between humans and animals. Pigs were one of the first animal species which humans domesticated, and as such, there have been many studies on pig-human relations. These have covered topics such as pigs as pork for consumption, pigs as ancestral sacrifices, and food safety. However, the literature on interactions between rural indigenous people and pigs, as adaptions to the Anthropocene, has been scant. Based on participant observation and in-depth interviews, this article discusses why the local breed of Tibetan pigs has disappeared in a Tibetan village. Over the past decade, the villagers have raised Duroc/Landrace hybrid pigs, instead of the local Tibetan pig breed. Moreover, they have reduced the time to raise pigs by buying feeder pigs. This demonstrates how rural Tibetans pursue productivity and efficiency, which are both emphasized in modernization and industrialization. Preference for lean meat has also shown that urbanization and marketisation have reconstructed their standards and awareness of bodies, from pigs to humans. In response to food security concerns in the market, they have preserved their traditional agricultural methods, using staple crops and wild grass to feed pigs for their families, rather than commercialized feed.

3) “Feral practices: Wild boar hybrid breeding in rural Ukraine”

Laura Kuen, Czech Academy of Sciences, kuen@eu.cas.cz

From the East to the West, African Swine Fever has been spreading across Europe for more than a decade, killing wild and domestic pigs alike. Veterinarian authorities call out two major culprits for the spread of the viral disease: Wild boar and (Eastern European) smallholders that ignore biosecurity regulations. This paper examines a touching point of these two ‘epidemiological villains’ in Ukrainian Transcarpathia. Instead of a risk-focused interpretation, the mixing of smallholders’ domestic pigs and wild boar is valued and actively brought about by local farmers that aim for less work-intensive husbandry. Enabling more autonomous porcine lifeworlds at the edge of forests, they require robust individuals that need less care than the usual Sus scrofa domesticus. Thus, smallholders engage in experimental crossbreeding of wild and domestic pigs that provide animals that can live outdoors all year round, are more flexible in their eating habits and (allegedly) more resistant to various diseases. By breeding these hybrids, farmers deliberately invite the feral into their domestic spheres which does not always go uncommented upon in the social fabric of their villages. Based on ongoing ethnographic fieldwork, the paper aims to provide empirical insights into the dynamic proximity between pigs and humans that result from economic, demographic and epidemiological changes, and to explore the hopes and fascinations that wild and hybrid pigs hold for contemporary smallholders in Western Ukraine

4) “Experiencing Pigs as Persons: activist encounters with pigs at a UK abattoir”

Therese Kelly, University of Manchester, treekelly4@gmail.com

In this paper I discuss the fieldwork I undertook in Bristol, UK in 2017 following a group of vegan activists from the Save Movement. These activists attend abattoirs to undertake vigils, the purpose of which is to bear witness to the animals as they enter the abattoirs in order to show compassion and to take pictures for social media. The vigil is the emotional and affective centre of their activism, which acts as a potent fuel not only for further activism such as outreach, but for a realisation that these animals are persons too, just like us. In the case of Bristol Animal Save activists, vigils are held at an abattoir where pigs are taken. The activists recognise, in the pigs, aspects of sentience that provides a disturbing and moving encounter. This recognition leads to a shift in perspective that sees all animals we eat, not as property as is currently the case but as persons; a moral fact that must be shared with others. As we do not eat persons, we therefore cannot eat pigs as they too are persons and should have rights just as human persons do. I frame this understanding of animal personhood and animal rights within a wider context of Western notions of animal personhood before offering a comparison with non-Western notions of animal personhood that is not fixed as it is in the West but fluid and contextual. In such contexts, being a person does not preclude one from being eaten.


Session 5: Wednesday 10:00 - 11:30


5) “Precarious pig rearing practices at the intersection of an epidemic, bio-security and informality”

Sneha Gutgutia, National Institute of Advanced Studies, India, gsneha04@gmail.com

During an ethnographic work with the Bansphor community in Guwahati city in the Indian state of Assam in 2021, it was learnt that the indigenous pigs reared by them had either all died due to African Swine Fever (ASF) like symptoms or wrongly confiscated by the local municipality, just a few months after the coronavirus pandemic had struck the country. Due to the loss of pigs, the Bansphors could no longer make secondary incomes by selling pigs nor could they fulfil their ritual practices or cultural obligations that were also heavily dependent on the pig. Yet months after their porcine livestock was wiped out, the rearers started bringing in newer livestock, this time hoping to save them after they learnt various safety hacks from social media platforms on their own accord; though they were still formally unaware about the ASF and its epidemiology. Both globally and regionally, the ASF has led to massive losses in domestic pig and wild boar populations, devastating the pork industry and amounting to a crisis in livelihoods of farmers and animal health and welfare. However, largely understood through a lens of pathogenic ecologies, biopolitics and pernicious global networks; the reports on the ASF largely point to what is happening in the global North or in farmed/industrial settings. However, in countries like India, where historically marginalised communities engage in pig rearing, selling and butchering or the pigs themselves are disadvantaged historically; there is little effort to understand what the plight may have been. Local media reports are abundant but academic discourse is limited and governmental inaction speaks loudly. This paper will bring in the above missing perspectives by examining human porcine relationships across Guwahati city in the backdrop of the ASF, biosecurity measures that was put in place by the government and the already precarious informal pig rearing practices. Furthermore, the paper will discuss urban precarity through a more-than-human lens arguing that everyday lives in cities, especially cities from the global South, are entangled with non-human lives.

6) “Made in Denmark: Understanding the Danish Production Pig”

Annika Pohl Harrisson, Aarhus University, apha@cas.au.dk

Pork production in Denmark is heavily state backed and pigs, pig farms and pork products are immensely important in the country, both culturally, politically, and economically. My deliberations about the production pig originate from my current ethnographic research on the wild boar fence on the Danish- German border, and the common classification of the opposing kinds of animals that it is supposed to keep apart: feral and domestic species. Observing and learning about production pigs has led me to ponder that they are neither. In this paper, I argue that the pig represents a fantasy about tradition and Danish community, while it has become a mere produce; contingent on heavily technologized and manipulated confinements of production stables, and not fit to survive in neither nature nor culture. Being part of this panel on “understanding porcine multiplicity in the Anthropocene” I wish to debate what kind of animal this is, and whether it can be captured within our existing vocabulary and system of classification.

7) “Hog fevers: Bio(in)security and nationalism in Catalonia’s pig industry”

Guillem Rubio-Ramon, University of Edinburgh, g.rubio@ed.ac.uk

An outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF), a viral disease of pigs, was declared in China in 2018 and is spreading throughout Europe, having halted pig meat exports in many countries. Catalonia, a stateless nation within Spain and one of Europe’s top pig meat producers, fears an outbreak could impact its national economy and rural development strategies. Relying on qualitative interviews and local newspaper articles, the paper investigates the connections between the emergence of ASF and the pig farming sector in Catalonia to explore geographies of both animal farming and nationalism. The paper analyses preventive biosecurity measures adopted in Catalonia such as (bio)securing flows of live piglets imported from abroad while, at the same time, policing native wild pigs’ unruly movements. This analysis is then used to map the entanglements of different forms of porcine movement, more-than-human agency, and animal value to argue that preventive biosecurity practices in Catalonia are biopolitical tools, applying material and symbolic violence to those threatening farm and nation as an integral epidemiological community. In conclusion, the paper finds that biosecurity systems in Catalonia both secure and, at the same time, unsettle a diversity of nation-making practices and discourses that both shape and impact porcine life within and beyond the borders of farm and nation.

8) “Representing the 'Pathogenic Other' in Malaysian Porcine Worlds”

Kymberley Chu, Princeton University, kc4731@princeton.edu

Domesticated pigs are characterized as living commodities who provide profit for their human caretakers with the potential to spread pathogens while wild pigs are deemed as ecological-destructive pests. These human-constructed perceptual ecologies highlight the need in paying close attention to how anthropogenic responsibility asymmetrically contributes to animal disease outbreaks such as the human transmission of microbes to nonhuman animals (Fuentes &Porter 2018). Animal disease outbreaks disrupt the unilinear temporality of factory farming &wildlife conservation, altering human and porcine laboring activities. In this paper, I will focus on the 1998-1999 Nipah Virus outbreak and the ongoing African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak as two examples discussing the particular ways in which pigs are portrayed as pathogenic villains or pests with pathogens in Malaysia. Overall, this research critically examines how disease outbreaks alter the commodification of porcine personhood in Malaysia’s multivalent landscapes and dynamic ecological relations. This paper encourages broader discussion to reconceptualize the ways in which we see animals as nonhuman collaborators across global health settings.


Session 6: Wednesday 11:30-13:00


9) “Crafting waterworlds with pigs”

Hélène Le Deunff, heleneledeunff@protonmail.com

This paper aims to reconceptualise the presence of pigs in the damaged urban waterscape of South Tarawa, the capital of the Pacific Island of Kiribati. Rather than unveiling previously unproblematised power relations or simply bringing a multi-species alertness to understandings of a Pacific urban community, it seeks to learn from what people and pigs “are capable of” (Deborah Bird Rose, 2017). Many quotidian water circulations in this city are ambivalent urban experiences that are traversed, anchored, and enriched in multiple ways by lively porcine presences. For the most part, pigs cannot be seen as “agents” in any of these relations; their capacity to control and affect their own world is severely restrained. But the decisions that shape those facets of the urban waterscape are nevertheless all “heavy” with pigs. Making this point allows me to describe how multi-species urban relationships contribute to shaping the city’s waterscape together with pigs. Reconceptualising pigs’ presence in these water relationships helps understand water beyond the notion of resource. Much more than living infrastructures of organic kitchen reuse (pigs absorb, contain, and process solid and liquid waste), and much more than a toxic remnant of past times, pig bodies are key nodes in the rich texture of watery exchanges that hydrate the city. As containers, transformers, and beneficiaries of water relationships, pigs’ bodies actively participate in a vital economy of generosity that runs alongside failing infrastructures of water distribution. 

10) “A triangle of pigs, oaks, and men: The emergence of the Iberian pig in modern Spain”

Jan Ketil Simonsen, Lorenzo Cañás Bottos, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, jan.ketil.simonsen@ntnu.no

This paper is positioned within the recent turn towards a less anthropocentric perspective, incorporating non-human species and recognizing their different agencies in their mutual constitution. Our case in point, the Iberian pigs in the Spanish oak grove pastures (dehesa), forces us to deviate from the trend of considering dyadic human-animal relationships and bring in a third party, the holm oak. During the second half of the twentieth century, livestock farming in Spain shifted from primarily grazing animals and a subsistence economy in rural areas to large-scale farming to feed a growing urban population. The large-scale farming was based on fast growing breeds and fodder made from cereals. In the context of the more recent and fast-growing Iberian cured meat industry, the Iberian pig is usually portrayed solitary next to an oak tree to consolidate their mutual association as autochthonous and natural, and therefore make invisible the human hand that not only put them there, but also had an active part in its genetic constitution. In the same way, the pasture, far from being a pristine virgin nature, is a complex silvopastoral agricultural system, product of the confluence of the agencies of a multiplicity of species. Our ethnographic exploration shows how, just at the moment when humans establish themselves as makers of species and landscapes, they make themselves and their own agencies invisible with naturalization processes that hide the complex multi-species relationships that exist.

11) “Becoming pet pig: navigating love, care, and radical multispecies kinship”

Kate Goldie, University of Southampton, kg5g14@soton.ac.uk

This paper explores the multiple ways in which love and care are navigated in unusual pig-human relationships, that is, in the context of pet pig keeping. The pet pig provides a unique case study to understand how a farmed animal, used as a food product by humans, can be welcomed into spaces such as the family home where they may be considered ‘out of place’(Philo & Wilbert, 2000). This paper draws from qualitative interviews with 12 pet pig owners in the U.K. and argues that love for the pet pig transcends societal norms associated with human-farmed animal relationships. In turn, this opens space for multispecies care based on the recognition of pig personhood and agency. Within these narratives of companionship, however, I identify multiple social, ethical, and political tensions relating to the commodification of pet love (Nast, 2006) and navigating pig love within a societal context that places pigs as food-producing animals, often ignorant of the potential for affective human-pig kinship. Despite these multiple tensions, the paper highlights the ethical potential of pig love in creating a radical multispecies kinship, where pigs are valued as companion animals rather than food. In crafting these relationships, I explore how many pet pig owners have developed a unique lens through which to understand and care for pigs. Equipped with this newfound knowledge and tacit expertise, we may be better placed to reconsider current arrangements humans have with the billions of pigs that are slaughtered worldwide for meat every year.

12) “Relating ‘wild’ (and not so ‘wild’) pig worlds in tumultuous times”

Kieran O'Mahony,
Paul G. Keil,
Virginie Vaté
Czech Academy of Sciences (O’Mahony, Keil, Vaté) Centre national de la recherche scientifique (Vaté), omahony@eu.cas.cz, keil@eu.cas.cz, virginie.vate-klein@cnrs.fr

Pigs are cosmopolitan and shapeshifting beings whose bodies and capacities are constituted by their situated, socio-ecological relations. This promiscuity enables them to inhabit diverse environments and establish alliances that unsettle social, political, and economic arrangements, as well as transform the meaningful places of which they are a part. In this paper, we briefly address the relations that emerge between pigs commonly imagined as ‘wild’, and the worlds they co-create. The paper is grounded through three ethnographic settings which speak of diverse porcine contexts: production, hunting and the home. Wild boar farming in the UK emerged in the late 20th Century as an alternative system to the standardized production of ‘domestic’ breeds, one that stirred complex politics about the spatial-temporalities of nonhuman belonging. In Australia, the hunting of pigs labelled feral not only underlines their killable status, but also offers an unexpected opening to explore alternative perspectives on the animal's place and identity in the country. Finally, in some cases, wild pigs can foster (and be fostered into) proximate relations with human partners, developing convivial conceptions of multispecies home and kin. In France, several such situations raise debate. Across these multiple porcine settings, we explore how ‘wild’ pigs provoke political concerns about economic, biological and social (in)security. Their remarkable ability to defy categorizations through their more-than-pig socialities not only raises questions about their place in the world but also appear to characterize the wider contradictions of the Anthropocene: its inequality, fluidity, messiness, and uncertain ways of being and doing.


32) Mixed papers

Organizers: Ria-Maria Adams, Ria-Maria.Adams@ulapland.fi

Session 7: Wednesday 14:30 - 16:00


1) The Myth of Social Death: Aging, Memory, and Narratives on Dementia Personhood

Jingxuan Xu  J.Xu-50@sms.ed.ac.uk, School of Social and Political Science University of Edinburgh

This paper investigates the impacts of aging, memory, and narratives on how society perceives a dementia patient’s personhood. Dementia is regarded as a terrifying condition that is equivalent to being declared socially dead. I start by looking at the social stigma connected with senility and how dementia and aging are intertwined. I suggest that a long-standing social fear of aging, especially of being unable to retain a coherent, stable, and moral self, plays a role in the stereotype of dementia personhood as socially dead. In the following section, I discuss the relationship between memory and personhood because biomedical research on dementia places an overwhelming emphasis on cognitive symptoms, particularly memory loss. Following my investigation into the essence of memory, I propose that memory is a crucial component of personhood since it communicates social ties. To forget others is a sign of social death because it shows an inability or resistance to care for others. The discourse on memory is also shaped by an emphasis on objective evidence and cognition. The studies of memory lead to a consideration of narrative. The next chapter reveals the dominance of linear narrative of the past, present, and future. Since they are unable to contribute to the "normal" narrative of "normal" people, dementia patients are frequently referred to as "socially dead." By examining several revolutionary practices during the process of caregiving and receiving, I challenge the concept of a unified self and give some fresh perspectives on dementia personhood which is constructed via relations.

2) Ageing as a factor in good relations: Tapping into experiential knowledge of older people for shaping future more-than-human relations

Inkeri Aula, PhD in cultural anthropology, postdoctoral researcher, Aalto University,
Masood Masoodian (not coming), Professor in Visual Communication Design, Aalto University

The need for fostering better relations with more-than-human nature is evident as ecological emergencies are changing not only our natural world but also our societies. To develop a fuller understanding of what are “good relations”, we need to bring together different forms of knowledge of local environments, taking into account multisensorial, experiential, and societal dimensions. The creative co-constitution of relations in the more-than-human world takes place as temporal processes. An important factor in these relations is the role of ageing, as a human and more-thanhuman reality. Yet, despite its inevitability, ageing is either dismissed or discriminated against in modern societies (Comincioli, Hakoköngäs & Masoodian 2022), with older people and their knowledge and experiences considered increasingly less relevant in addressing future relations. We, however, argue that tapping into the experiences and knowledge of older people is valuable in understanding past, and imagining and fostering future environmental relationships. Therefore, we propose developing research methods based on creative and artistic approaches that facilitate collecting, analysing, and reporting of experiential knowledge of older adults regarding their relations with more-than-human nature. Unlike other multi- or inter-disciplinary research which bring approaches from different fields together, our trans-disciplinary practice of research is, to begin with, formed in dialogue across disciplinary boundaries and combine methodologies from, for instance, social sciences and arts (Aula 2022). We utilise multisensorial approaches such as sensobiography (Aula 2021, 2023) to focus on creative relations with the environment as an organic part of intimate entanglement with nonhuman nature in building resilience against environmental degradation.

3) Becoming-with plastics: How to deal with inorganic waste materialities in more-than-human research practices

Onali Alma, alma.onali@tuni.fi, WasteMatters-project, Tampere University

In more-than-human research, organic matter gets often ample attention. When thinking about waste, biowaste immediately invites us to think about the multisensory presence of molding food stuff or the teeming liveliness of a compost. But what about plastics, the materiality that is in the center of consumer culture, contemporary life and a marking element of the Anthropocene? Plastics are a troublesome material to become-with and know-with: our relationship with plastics is conflicted and ambiguous at best, and compared to other waste materialities, such as food stuff or recyclable metals, plastics challenge us with their mute presence, accumulating tendencies and even lethal potential. I argue that the discursive contempt against plastic materialities has played a part in forging the phenomenon we call the “plastic crisis”. In order to unravel that crisis, our relationship with plastics – and ourselves – must be reconsidered. Despite its slippery elusiveness, the inorganic and its ability to participate in ethico-political assemblages provides plenty of food for thought.

In this presentation, I wish to contemplate how more-than-human ethnography can deal with plastic materialities, based on my own research amongst different organizations responsible for plastic management in Finland. Deriving from more-than-human sociology, cultural studies, and new materialist and posthumanist theories, I argue that methodological advances are needed in order to better grasp the material-discursive nature of plastic issues. I want to ponder how plastics may be taken into account in different research practices and what kind of affordances, both enabling and constricting, plastics present in research settings. How can we know-with plastics, write-with plastics, and in the end, live-with plastics?

4) Technologies for Maintaining Food Autonomy in the Arctic: Experience of Chukotka Vegetable Growers

Vladimir Davydov, davydov.kunstkamera@gmail.com

The paper will present the results of a field research conducted in the Iul'tinskii raion of Chukotka. The presentation will analyze the experience of Arctic vegetable growing in the Chukchi native village of Amguema, the practices of using greenhouses, verandas, garden beds and the use of technologies to increase yields. Greenhouses in Amguema appeared largely due to a larger infrastructure project - the Iul'tinskaia highway, which was built during the Soviet period. The presence of the road made it possible to import building materials, transport soil and deliver fertilizers. The widespread use of greenhouses allows local people to overcome the lack of supply by producing additional food products. Such rural micro-infrastructural facilities help them maintain relative autonomy, enabling them to supply the village with fresh vegetables during the warm season.

5) More-than-human escapes with Plantacionocene's others – exploring what Capoeira Angola might teach us about decolonising human-soil relations in Dutch agriculture.

Dienke Stomph Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Cultural Geography, dienke.stomph@wur.nl

This paper is part of a PhD project which focuses on the restor(y)ing of decolonial relationalities amongst human and soil bodies in Dutch agriculture. The core challenges this paper speaks to are the ways in which we are trapped in the Plantacionocene, and its subordinate ways of relating to the other. Here other is construed as referring to anything ‘lesser-than’, thus juxtaposed to construed superiority of the self. This construed primacy is framed around the ‘plantation’, but one that is varied and varies widely in space and time (Mintz ,1978, p.82). Yet, at the core of the plantation is its reliance on alienation of “generative units” (plants, animals, minerals, microbes, peoples) where some are subordinated into multispecies labour and others even wholly removed (Haraway et al. 2015, p.557).

This paper aims to bring into conversation practices of diasporic Capoeira Angola and practices of soil revitalisation by Dutch farmers and soil scientists. Capoeira informs the PhD candidate through own embodied practices and is in itself a subject of study as practices of Maroonage that allow for a divergence from the plantation by creating ‘spaces of resistance’ (Ferdinand, 2022a, p.54). Maroonage is understood as refusing to participate in the plantation’s ‘inequality, […] humiliation, and destruction’ by becoming ‘less links in a plantation and capitalist chain strangling the breath of life’ (p.158). For this presentation the focus is on the weaving of embodied practices with Capoeira’s diaspora and the study of what practices of Maroonage might tell us about possible escape routes to diverge from plantations’ modalities of sensing, acting and knowing soil.