Arctic Voices gathers stories from the Arctic that places Arctic Indigenous peoples and animals at the centre. The starting point for these stories is local places in the Arctic (Sápmi, Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland), Inuit Nunangat, Canada and Alaska) between about 1789 and 1914, a period when people and animals here experienced increased contact with and influence from Europe and North America. This was the result of intensified Euro-American imperialism in the region, through exploration, travel, settlement, missionizing, resource extraction and administration. At the same time there was a boom in textual and visual representations of the Arctic, from diaries, letters and sketches written or drawn in the Arctic to expedition narratives, illustrations, novels, and paintings produced in Europe and North America. Common for this material was that it was mainly produced or inspired by European and American men who were attached, directly or indirectly, to colonial ventures in the Arctic. A result of this was that the perspectives of Arctic indigenous peoples and the presence of animals were excluded.
Examining the perspectives and experiences of those who were on the receiving end of Euro-American imperialism, Arctic Voices revises dominant Polar history. We find traces of this story in texts and images that are based on meetings between Arctic Indigenous peoples and Europeans/Americans and between humans and Arctic animals. This material falls in 3 main categories 1) Western art and literature bearing traces, or the clear presence, of Indigenous peoples; 2) Images and texts created by Sámi, Inuit and Greenlandic individuals working in a colonial context; and, 3) Western and Arctic Indigenous art and literature pointing to animal agency. We analyse this material through a framework of Indigenous methodology, postcolonial, ecocritical and ecofeminist theory. Our hypothesis is that this approach to textual and visual analysis may elicit more democratic, equal and sustainable ways of understanding human relationships to the Arctic environment today.
In the past year, the main concern of the project has been to complete a double, special issue on “counter-stories from the Arctic contact zone” in the journal Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. We have also organized a conference and exhibition workshop in Alaska, in collaboration with Anchorage Museum and as part of their North x North 2022 Summit (spring). We have published three articles in Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) for the popular scientific journal Kalaaleq. These articles are also available online on the website we have developed, www.arcticvoices.space
This project revisits the peak of Arctic imperialism between about 1789-1914. It engenders an alternative history of the Western Arctic that places at the centre the presence of marginalised others: Arctic indigenous peoples and animals. The underlying premise driving the project is that this approach to textual and visual analysis may elicit more sustainable ways of understanding human relationships to the environment than those which govern the inherited Cartesian thinking of Western society still today. It is the first research project within Arctic studies in the humanities fully committed to making heard the agency of indigenous and animal others in connection to European exploration and colonisation of the Arctic during the long nineteenth century.
Arctic Voices directs an international network of early career and established scholars in the humanities. Across its 4 years of funding, the project makes available its on-going research and outputs to a broad audience of peers, students and the public. These outputs involve an international conference, a diversity of publications including a historical art exhibition in collaboration with Northern Norway Art Museum, and the development of university curriculum, in addition to peer-reviewed articles in open-access international journals. The thematic, approach and strategy of Arctic Voices address a number of RCN/Young Research Talents priorities and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It: 1) develops new and creative knowledge stemming from a multidisciplinary, international network of subject-area experts; 2) advances academic and public knowledge of human relationships to the natural environment, and alternative ways of understanding this; 3) takes the ethics of gender, race and the environment seriously; 4) promotes the career of early researchers with the appointment of a PhD, postdoctoral research fellow and 2 short-term research fellows; 5) advances the career of women and an indigenous scholar.