Heidi Konttinen introduces her research on sustainabilities in the Arctic seal hunt, crafts and trade

8.12.2021 8:09

New NPE team member Heidi Konttinen describes one of the events that got her interested in the plurality of the sustainabilities in the Arctic and the power relationships between them.

“In 2016, I returned to Helsinki – where I lived at the time – from a summer school in Siberia arranged by North-East Federal University in Yakutsk. During that month, I had learned from Sakha people about the importance of Yakutian cattle and horses in their lives and diet. I also had one of the best meals of my life made from local meat. Horses have always been close to my heart and eating horse raised many ethical questions in me. However, I saw the horses roaming free and probably having happier and more suitable life for a horse than many pet-horses in Finland. Now, back in Helsinki surrounded by the bus stops advertising vegan challenges, I felt conflicted. Meat consumption is for sure neither sustainable nor ethical in a global level, but at the same time the sustainability of many Arctic communities is built on eating (other than human) animals. I was quite disturbed by the thought that when certain approaches to sustainability gain power and become status quo, then the other approaches – which may be conflicting – are often affected. This realization raised my interest to study who can decide what is sustainable and sustainable for whom?"

Above, Heidi Konttinen – the newest member of NPE team – describes one of the events that got her interested in the plurality of the sustainabilities in the Arctic and the power relationships between them. As a result of that event, she wrote her second Master’s thesis Decolonizing seal trade (2018) on the EU Parliament and Council’s ban on seal trade in the EU, and continues work on this topic in her PhD research. To create an understanding on local sustainabilities, she works with seal hunting communities in Finland and Greenland. The aim is to understand what is sustainability by the communities’ own terms and how global approaches to sustainability – such as the EU seal regime – affects these local sustainabilities? Further, she explores how these sustainabilites could coexist.

Heidi’s background is in design (MA, Industrial Design, University of Lapland) and sustainability (MA, Creative Sustainability, Aalto University) with a focus on Arctic. While she is originally from Kajaani, she has also studied and worked in Alaska, which had a significant impact on her career in many levels. She completed the first year of her studies with University of Helsinki’s Indigenous Studies under the supervision of Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen and Hanna Guttorm. They both continue supervising her together with NPE’s team leader Monica Tennberg. If you wish to learn more about Heidi’s work, please don’t hesitate to approach her with e-mail. You can also follow the PhD journey from her research blog Whose Sustainability?

Kuva kirjoittajasta: Heidi Konttinen

Photo from the first visit to Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) in November 2021.