Started in 2012 ・ Reasearch ・ Circumpolar ・ Igor Krupnik
Arctic sea ice—frozen saltwater—is a key component of the polar environment and of the planetary system. Historically, sea ice is a domain of physical and natural scientists, oceanographers, climate modelers, also of navigators and engineers. In recent years Arctic ice has increasingly become a focus for social and humanistic (anthropological) research, and of public interest. In the areas where polar residents regularly use the ice for transportation, hunting, or communal activities, they also create a particular cultural ‘ice-scape’ made of specific indigenous terminologies, age-old place names, stories, trails, navigation marks, and other signs of human presence. Unlike cultural landscapes on land, cultural ‘ice-scapes’ disintegrate each year with the summer melt, so that its persistence as a cultural phenomenon, an element of indigenous legacy, identity, and well-being is perpetuated merely by the power of human culture.
Today, age-old cultural ‘ice-scapes’ of polar indigenous people are threatened by the global warming, by progressive language and knowledge shift in northern communities, and by the increased access to the ice-covered Arctic areas by oil and gas industry, commercial and tourist ships, science and search-and-rescue missions, and other non-indigenous users. As Arctic ice shrinks rapidly and the Arctic may soon become ice-free in summer, new competition is certain to emerge for the diminishing remnants of the polar ice among indigenous residents, wildlife game managers, environmentalists, industries, tourist operators, and other players. These actors have conflicting visions of polar ice-scapes seen respectively as a home space, a refuge for endangered wildlife species, an impediment to navigation and industrial development, a barrier against storms and coastal erosion, an indicator of planetary health, and a symbol of our care for the Earth’s future. The new project will explore these competing visions of the polar ice and ice-scapes, and the role of indigenous perspectives in addressing the future of the ice-diminished Arctic of the 21st century.