"Gender in the Arctic" Research Network
"Gender in the Arctic" Research Network
Olga Povoroznyuk with other network members
Over the last decades, gendered experiences in the North and the Arctic have been subjected to radical changes through a bundle of processes that we initially called "gender shift" . These processes manifest in gender-specific residence, migration and occupation patterns, divergent scopes of agency, socio-economic statuses and family roles.
One visible result of such processes that has been documented is the growing spatial and labor division between the sexes . The majority of women lead a settled life and occupy relatively stable positions in villages and towns, while men are living in the tundra or forest, and working out in the "wilderness" . Thus, Northern landscapes change their symbolic status from "home" to "resource frontier" . Other wide-spread but understudied phenomena include women’s cultural leadership in rural communities , “female flight” from remote settlements , marginalization of some gender roles associated with particular ethnicities, sexualities, patterns of consumption and behavior, to name only a few.
We assume that these processes, some of which are triggered by global forces and can be observed in other regions of the world, take a specific course of development in the Arctic characterized by low population density, challenging natural (climatic, landscape) conditions, and lack of infrastructure and accessibility.
While there exists a considerable number of studies in different parts of the Arctic, their findings have very rarely been integrated in a circumpolar perspective. One of our goals is to create such a synthesis. We intend to contribute theoretically to the study of gender in relation to different natural, economic, and political environments in ways that can simultaneously benefit local communities and future research.
The main goal of our research network is to analyze the causes, consequences, dynamics and local variations of changing gender relations in the Arctic. Our diverse research interests include, but are not limited to, the following questions:
- How have globalization processes interacted with local practices and norms concerning gender and family? Which role do current socio-economic and environmental changes, politics, and religion play in the definition of gender relations in the Arctic today?
- What social tensions, inequalities and vulnerabilities are created by gender shift(s)? Which mechanisms do Arctic communities apply to mitigate their possible negative impacts?
- How are spaces, places and gender co-created by different agents? What are the gender-specific practices of dwelling and place-making in the Arctic?
- Which models of femininity, masculinity and androgyny are enacted in different spaces? How does the construction and (re)production of gender roles vary in urban and rural contexts? How are gender boundaries perceived and negotiated in public and private spheres?
- How are gender asymmetries manifested in and perceived by different generations of Arctic residents? In which ways have these affected intergenerational relations in families, households and communities?
- How does the state introduce and legitimize certain gender- and family-related social categories (such as “unfit families”, neblagopoluchnaia sem’ia) thereby constructing spaces of enforced (semi)legality? What role has the shift from Soviet communist ideals to Post-Soviet normative plurality played in the state construction of deviance?
- How do formal regulations currently impact public norms regarding sexuality, family life and patterns of behavior, creating marginalized gender roles?
- What are the dimensions, interpretations and contestations of “marginality”? Which drivers and mechanisms for “normalization” of “deviant” gender roles and behaviors exist in Arctic communities?
- How do gender asymmetries affect practices of every day cohabitation, mutual care, division of labor and perception of and making home in the North? What repercussions has gender shift had on the family design – male and female patterns of behavior, socio-economic roles of the partners, concepts and practices of reproduction and childcare?
- What is the role of ethnicity and indigeneity in the construction of gender boundaries and relations in the Arctic? How are cultural differences displayed and arranged in ethnically mixed partnerships? Which inequalities are (re)produced in gender relations involving indigenous and “settler” or temporary residents of Northern communities?
- Which inequalities and vulnerabilities emerge at the intersection of gender, ethnicity and belonging to a place? How are vulnerability and ontological insecurity distributed among different groups of population in the Arctic?
Our team includes social anthropologists representing a wide variety of countries and scholarly backgrounds, possessing substantial fieldwork experience in the Russian Arctic and beyond, interested in and publishing on the gender issues mentioned above. We have already successfully conducted a series of international workshops in Latvia (2008), Norway (2013), Sweden (2014) and Germany (2016), which advanced our understanding of gender relations and asymmetries in the Far North (thus far, primarily in Russia) and reconciled divergent national academic traditions in the anthropological study of gender. By establishing “Gender in the Arctic” as a web-based network, we aim not only at continuation of this productive dialogue, but also at broadening disciplinary and regional scopes of our enquiry.
We invite anthropologists and scientists of other disciplines, as well as all parties interested in social research on gender in the Arctic and Far the North to visit our page, join the network, or simply share your thoughts with us. We look forward to your contributions, comments and ideas, hints on useful literature and Internet resources.
References and Resources
A comprehensive compilation of scientific publications on gender in Northern communities can be requested from Stephan Dudeck: sdudeck [at] ulapland.fi.
Publications quoted in the above text:
Povoroznyuk, O., J. O. Habeck, and V. Vaté 2010. "Introduction: On the definition, theory, and practice of gender shift in the North of Russia". Anthropology of East Europe Review, 28 (2): 1-37.
Vitebsky, P. and S. Wolfe 2001. The separation of sexes among Siberian reindeer herders. In A. M. Low and S. Tremayne (eds.), Sacred custodians of the earth? Women, spirituality, and the environment (pp. 81-94). New-York: Berghahn.
Konstantinov, Yulian 2015. Conversations with power. Soviet and postsoviet developments in the reindeer husbandry part of the Kola Peninsula. Uppsala: Uppsala University.
Vladimirova, Vladislava 2006. Just labor: labor ethic in a post-Soviet reindeer herding community. Uppsala: Uppsala Universitetet.
Beach, Hugh 2013. Devitalization and revitalization of traditional Saami dwellings in Sweden. In: Wishart, R., V. Vaté, and D. Anderson (eds), About the Hearth: Perspectives on the Home, Hearth and Household in the Circumpolar North, pp.269-313. Oxford: Berghahn.
Eikjok, J. 2007. Gender, essentialism and feminism in Samiland. In: Green, J. (ed.): Making space for Indigenous feminism, pp. 108-123. London: Zed Books.
Kulmala, M. 2010. “Women Rule This Country”: Women’s Community Organizing and Care in Rural Karelia. Anthropology of East Europe Review, 28 (2), 164-185.
Hamilton, L. C. & C. L. Seyfrit 1993. Town-village contrasts in Alaskan youth aspirations. Arctic, 46 (3): 255-263.
Tylor, A. 2011. Current evidence of 'female flight' from remote Northern Territory Aboriginal communities – demographic and policy implications. Migration Letters, 8 (2): 77-88.
- Dauer: 2014 - min. 2019
- Projektleitung: J. Otto Habeck
- Drittmittelgeber: -