Environment, Climate, and Human-Animal Relationships: an anthropology of working dogs in the Circumpolar Arctic.
Principal Investigator: van den Berg, Stenette (1)
Licence Number: 16698
Organization: University of Alberta
Licensed Year(s): 2020
Issued: Feb 18, 2020

Objective(s): To study of dogs and dogsledding in Greenland and the Canadian Arctic.

Project Description: This licence has been issued for the scientific research application No.4628.

The Principal Investigator (PI) will conduct an anthropological study of dogs and dogsledding in Greenland and the Canadian Arctic. Socioeconomic transformations, climate change, globalization, and a move away from traditional subsistence practices are having significant effects in Greenland and the Canadian Arctic. ). This research will address gaps in the literature, focusing on three themes: 1) the historical significance of dogs for indigenous cultures and how their presence shaped the creation of traditional world views; 2) the contemporary use of dogs in the Arctic and what role, if any, they play in maintaining indigenous lifestyles; and, 3) the role temporal and spatial landscapes play in maintaining human-dog relationships, and how these landscapes are transcended both physically and conceptually by people and animals through multispecies engagement.

These themes raise a number of questions that touch on key issues related to anthropological understandings of human-animal-nature dynamics. The PI will address contemporary cultural practices and their evolving meanings within indigenous communities, approaching the analysis of culture from a perspective acknowledging the interconnected relations between humans, animals, and environments. This research aims to cross socio-political borders and language barriers to arrive at a holistic understanding of the state of dogsledding in the Global North. It is of relevance to current anthropological thinking about human-animal relations, the environment, and global challenges, since it has been hypothesized that the fate of traditional dogsledding – and indeed, many indigenous Arctic and sub-Arctic communities – will be decided in the next few decades. This research will, therefore, have a keen eye to policy processes, cultural and social adaptation, and anticipatory knowledge.

The PI will do archival research at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre (PWNHC) and conduct a preliminary community consultation consisting of semi-structured interviews with select individuals. Participants will be recruited on the basis of speaking to the hosts at the PWNHC and finding out whether there are community leaders or elders that may participate. The PI will also contact potential participants through personal contacts that I have already established.

The research is divided into two phases. Phase one will be the community consultation, the aim of which is to consult with potential collaborators and to do practical setup, such as identifying research locations for phase two. Interviews will be taking place during this phase, with themes and problems of interest to the inhabitants being identified for further exploration during the second phase. The PI will also be actively recruiting collaborators for the second phase. While at the PWNHC the PI will set up a public community consultation meeting for interested potential participants to attend and take part in a discussion about the questions that they would like to see answered and the themes they would like to see explored. The PI will report on the findings of this meeting and the progress during subsequent visits, funding permitted.

For phase two the PI will travel to the research locations to work with the participants identified and recruited in phase one. The PI anticipate that this work will include interviews and participant observation. During this phase will collect drawings, videos and stories created by the participants. The objective of this is for the collaborators to speak for themselves rather than the PI telling their stories on their behalf.

The PI will obtain consent from participants during both phases and will make audio recordings should participants agree to be recorded).

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from February 18, 2020 to September 30, 2020.