Lectio recut

Text and pictures: Joonas Vola

In the blog, Joonas Vola presents a radical reworking of his Arctic research “Homunculus: Bearing Incorporeal Arcticulations” by cutting the introductory lecture, lectio praecursoria of his public defence into pieces and reconstructing a new whole from its fragments.

Besides of linear reading, the text may form surprising and unexpected links self-referentially, enstrengthening the argument or even making way for new ones. Intratext (see Palmer 2002, 1; Sharrock 2019; Vola 2022, 5–6) has the capasity to restructure the data that it consists of, that is to say, it may know and learn. An argument or a research finding might already be in the text, but we haven’t yet made the connections. We don’t know that the text knows …

You may reconstitute the text from the phographed pieces of cut text, in respect of the role of the reader. Some of the contents are written down fragmentarily to ease the accessability.

the Arctic in Change

ARCTICULATION,  joining a-part of the Arctic” […] ‘what if the Arctic is not the same phenomenon, but rather an outcome of scientific and artistic practices, an entanglement of discursive traits that have been put together’. Following the terminology of Karen Barad: What if the Arctic is rather cut together than being a part of the same unity.

In writing my doctoral dissertation, I replaced the research questions with a research outcome, an answer towards which to navigate through different questions and research tasks. A unified research object “the Arctic”, under critical study and alternative ways of writing led to a portmanteau word “Arcticulation”, blending together the words Arctic and articulation. This term emphasises the critical approach towards the unifying features of the Arctic, and emphasises the heterogenous and actively connected differentiated parts joined (articulated) together. Here it is critically important to recognise the role of the research, where the research concerning the Arctic in change is articulating and constituting both the Arctic and its conditions.

The single most defining feature of the Arctic currently, is the permanency of this continuous change, that makes it the only constant, the only unifying feature of the Arctic.
A quote from J. D. Salinger’s book The Catcher in the Rye: ‘I thought what I’d do was, I’d pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes’

While one contributes to the Arctic research, the given statements becomes part of the Arctic discourse, bearing its weight and carrying it further. For a critical scholar, one has to bear this in mind, not to turn a blind eye to the history of the terminology or involved scientific practices.

Umberto Eco’s term: an open text, for future re-workings, to follow Karen Barad’s words.
While working in a textorium [Max van Manen], in accordance with Jean Paul Sartre, writing really is the method.

Since we can consider arctic as a scientific and political discourse, where discourse should be considered both linguistically and materially, a word incarnated, any repetition or rewriting either re-establishes a status quo or radically challenges the current status of the subject under study. Therefore, the research does no only take place in a specific territory as a research field, or due to implicated policy briefs, but begins to change in the moment when the studied phenomenon is pinned or written down. The research subject has another related live in the textual landscape. 

So(?), is the Arctic in Change, a fact or a work of fiction?

Because the understanding and image of the Arctic is constituted from different descriptions and recordings, utilising the means and methods of both science and art, and since it has historical, mythological and modern meanings, one has to ask whether the research topic is factual or fictional. To state this radically, the Arctic is not a research object or field, it is an outcome of research; in other words, it does not precede research, but becomes in the process. Here the mimesis (art imitating nature) and anti-mimesis (nature imitating art) have to meet in a synthesis (the art of nature-making).

This most obvious constancy, is the one we should most carefully observe, since the obvious is the one that hides the extraordinary.
Applying the literal work of Milan Kundera, I would state that the Arctic is an intelligible lie, and an unintelligible truth.

It is common to find the Arctic from spectacles, such as declarations, strategies, works of art, and vast scale crisis, “natural” or “political”. These occasional performances are intelligible moment where the Artic is underlined, but which nevertheless disregard the constant state of relations in alteration. That is the unintelligible part of the Arctic, arcticness or arcticality. The critical thought should be targeted to the most obvious and mundane things, where the Arctic ‘takes place’. They are source where the Arctic hides and resides, and may bear fruit for critical inquiries and radical thought.

This is not about the hat, this is about digesting and incorporating a paradigm constituted by science. This is about bearing incorporeal arcticulations.

The scientific practice for developing critical Arctic studies, must recognise what the paradigm which it both feeds into and emerges from has eaten and what keeps its literal body running and growing.   

Joonas Vola is a scholar of political science in the University of Lapland, Rovaniemi. Vola has concentrated in Arctic research context and has an interest in politics of aesthetics, post-humanism, new materialism and political economy.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barad, Karen (2010). Quantum Entanglements and Hauntological Relations of Inheritance: Dis/continuities, SpaceTime Enfoldings, and Justice-to-Come. Derrida Today 3(2), 240–268.

Barad, Karen (2012). What Is the Measure of Nothingness: Infinity, Virtuality, Justice. 100 Notes,100 Thoughts. Documenta Series 099.

Eco, Umberto (1984) [1979]. The Role of the Reader. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Kundera, Milan (1984): The Unbearable Lightness of Being. London: Faber and Faber.

Palmer, Kent (2002). Intratextuality: Exploring the Unconscious of the Text. http://archonic.net/Lx01a14.pdf [Accessed 1.2.2022].

Salinger, Jerome David (1951). The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Sharrock, Alison (2019). Intratextuality. Oxford Classical Dictionary. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199381135.013.8281 [Accessed 25.6.2021].

van Manen, Max (2014). Phenomenology of Practice: Meaning-Giving Methods in Phenomenological

Research and Writing. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, Inc.

Vola, Joonas (2022). Homunculus: Bearing Incorporeal Arcticulations. Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 334. ISBN 978-952-337-309-9, ISSN 1796-6310. Lapin yliopisto, Rovaniemi. http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-337-309-9

A tale of an Arctic cod

Text: Sohvi Kangasluoma

Photo: Juho Karhu

As we enter a harbor on a calm winter night in northern Iceland, the distinct smell of fish welcomes us. The scent of a fish greets us in almost every harbor, as the small boat harbors are often surrounded by fiskkaup — fish plants where the fishermen bring the fish to be processed.

The scent of fish has followed our journey all the way from northern Norway to Faroe Islands and finally here to Iceland. Fishing has been, and still is, the backbone of these North Atlantic nations: fish and its importance are seen and felt within all these societies and cultures. The towns were born around good fishing grounds and safe harbors, where the fish factories were built. In a way, these marine societies emerged around the beautiful Arctic cod, majestic fin whales and mysterious routes of the herring.

In all the harbors, small or big, you still see few of these traditional small two-person boats, fishing for their quota of Arctic cod, or the little bit bigger longliners. However, the nature of fishing has changed. Each year there are fewer small boats and more huge trawlers owned by a few companies, while fewer people earn their living from the fish. The bottom trawlers catch many sorts of fish: cod, haddock, saithe, redfish, and Greenland halibut. The changed, some might say evolved, technologies give little to no chance for the fish (or any other living creatures) to escape from the monsters scraping the seafloor.

Photo: Juho Karhu

The amount of fish allowed to be caught is determined by nationally defined quotas for each species. The operation, division and practice of the quota policies vary a bit within these Nordic nations, but the development of the ownership structure of the quotas is increasingly shifting towards the big actors. For example, in Iceland, in 2015, 70% of the quota was owned by the 20 largest companies, while in 1992 only 36% of the quota was owned by the 20 biggest companies. This means that there are fewer and fewer small boats and actors, while the remaining vessels (and companies) get bigger and bigger. (Chambers, Helgadóttir & Carothers 2017; Icelandic Directorate of Fisheries 2016.)

Besides the changes in the equipment and quota policies, also these odd-looking circles in the ocean have emerged: fish farms. As we glide along the northern waters and northern coastlines, the little fish signs found on the navigation maps have become more and more common, notifying the tired sailors to keep an eye for these out-of-place looking sea circles.

In all these North Atlantic marine nations, Iceland, Faroes and Norway, fish farming (interestingly, also called aquaculture) forms a vast part of the fishing industry nowadays. Huge amounts of fish, usually salmon, are first grown in hatcheries, and then released and kept in sea cages, attached to the sea bed in calm fjords.

The concept of fishing, in its traditional sense, is quite hard to find within the large-scale trawling — and especially in the fish farm industry. The ecological harm caused by trawling is well-documented, as well as the damage to the seabed and water quality, caused by fish farming. The philosophy behind fish farms seems odd, at least to me. The stock of fish is approached like a bag of seeds grown to make bread, even though the fish are living creatures, with a proven ability to feel pain.

Our attachment to the non-humans and the environment is crucial in defining what we value and what we care for. Laura Kaikkonen and Ingrid van Putten (2021) examine the attitudes people have about deep-sea mining. They note that the symbolic value people place on the deep sea, or other remote areas, shapes how people feel about extracting it. The emotional association, more than knowledge, determines people’s attitude about extracting it. Personal experiences are crucial also in relation to fisheries. In her research, Andrea Nightingale (2013) explores the attachment of fishermen to the sea, the subjectivities and emotions they have towards the environment and the communities, and how it affects the management of fisheries. She shows how the emotive reactions and the wish to sustain the local fish ground are connected to the sense of belonging to a place, to a community.

Photo: Juho Karhu

Chambers, Helgadóttir & Carothers (2017, 4) note that after the changes within the Icelandic quota system, “entitlement to fish became detached from place and became the property of individuals who were free to sell their quota outside the community”. The personal connection to the fish is different when the creature in question is swimming far away from your home. To understand and preserve the relationship of humans to the sea, and to the fish, the role of emotions and affect must be understood and acted upon. The circle in the middle of a distant fjord, or the huge trawler sailing the faraway seas, is inaccessible and thus invisible from the people it is all grown and caught for, us consumers — making it also harder to feel connection or empathy towards the fish.

For me, Critical Arctic Studies means looking at things from a different viewpoint. It means deconstructing what has been constructed, questioning the unquestioned, and challenging the unchallenged. Being able to look at the Arctic environment from the level of a captivated salmon, and perhaps, challenge the capitalist ontology the modern societies work on.  In practice, paying attention to the patterns and practices in the northern minds and societies, that are not always considered as meaningful, or don’t always get a say — just like the Arctic cod.

Sohvi Kangasluoma is a PhD candidate at University of Helsinki. Her dissertation focuses on the production of oil and gas in the Arctic, and its entanglements with gender, emotions and human security. She lives in a sailboat in the northern waters, currently in Iceland, and observing fishing boats is her daily hobby.

References:

Chambers, C., Helgadóttir, G. & Carothers, C. (2017) “Little kings”: community, change and conflict in Icelandic fisheries. Maritime Studies 16, 10 (2017). DOI: 10.1186/s40152-017-0064-6

Kaikkonen, L. & Van Putten, I. (2021) We may not know much about deep sea mining, but do we care about mining it? People and Nature vol 3, issue 4. DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10224

Nightingale, A. (2013) Fishing for nature: the politics of subjectivity and emotion in Scottish inshore fisheries management. Environment and Planning vol 45, p. 2362 – 2378. DOI:10.1068/a45340

Icelandic Directorate of Fisheries (2016) Available:  https://www.fiskistofa.is/english

ICES Fisheries overview (2019) Available: https://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/2019/FisheriesOverview_IcelandicWaters_2019.pdf

Arctic winescapes

Text: Iana Nesterova

Winescape is a term used to describe the interplay of “vineyards; wineries and other physical structures; wines; natural landscape and setting; people; and heritage, town(s) and buildings and their architecture and artefacts within, and more.” (Johnson and Bruwer, 2007). The Arctic region is not the first region that comes to mind when we contemplate wine production. While regions such as Rheinhessen in Germany and Alsace in France have traditionally been associated with wine production, speaking of wine in relation to, for instance, Northern Finland and Northern Sweden provokes disbelief, astonishment, curiosity, and, of course, further questions. In this blog post, I will briefly introduce the notion of Arctic winescapes and invite a critical approach to them.

Defining Arctic winescapes

Arctic winescapes are winescapes of the Arctic region. Wine production is possible and is unfolding in this region, though for such production not grapes, but (mainly) blueberries and lingonberries are used. Such berries grow naturally in the Arctic forests without the need for cultivation, fertilisers, pesticides, or other human interference. These berries are natural and integral features and living beings of Arctic landscapes and cultures. Oftentimes, berries such as blueberries and lingonberries are seen as an underexplored and underutilised resource of the Arctic region. While indeed it is believed that only 5 % of berries are used, by both humans and non-human beings, to view wild berries as merely a resource to be utilised may not be the best phrasing and approach. Contemplating Arctic winescapes specifically as opposed to wild berries-as-resource opens new spaces for novel and critical approaches.

Wines made from local blueberries and lingonberries are artisanal rather than mass-produced by corporations. Companies crafting such wines recognise their dependence on nature and embeddedness within both natural and social ecologies and take time to develop their products while paying attention to the journey of the product from a story, to a more concrete idea, and finally to consumption.

Visit to an Arctic winery

Recently I had an opportunity to visit and converse with Idunn, a wine-producing company in Norsjö, a locality in Swedish Västerbotten county. I learned that developing a wine made of local wild berries is a long process that took the company several years of trial and error and a long path from making the wine for consumption at home to a product that is available for others to buy. The company uses local frozen berries which allows wine production to take place throughout the year. Combining them with water, sugar and yeast in large vats and allowing them to ferment results in wine. Even though the production of berry wine is local in many senses, such as the company itself being local and berries coming from the local area, there is also a global outreach. For instance, the equipment used to produce wine in the case of Idunn comes from Tuscany, while the expert who helped this wine to be made commercially available came from Canada. Moreover, there is interest in Arctic wine elsewhere in Europe.

Features of Artic winescapes

Idunn is one of several companies which are features (amongst others) of Arctic winescapes. For instance, there are ca. 25 wineries in Finland (Suomen Viiniyrittäjät, 2022), Ranua-Revontuuli in Finnish Lapland being the most northern one while the rest are located in the South of Finland (Suomen Viiniyrittäjät, 2022). It is essential to note that Arctic wine-producing companies themselves and the wines they produce, as well as the companies (such as restaurants) purchasing these wines, are not the only features of Arctic winescapes. Perhaps the main features are the ones that in the first place make such production possible, i.e., ecosystems including forests and plants on which berries grow.

It is likewise important to remember the participation of multiple humans in the process of wine production. Apart from owner-managers of businesses and employees involved in, for instance, labelling and packaging of wine bottles, many humans are involved in wild berry picking. Such employment in the capitalist society often opens spaces for exploitation, especially that of migrant women (Hedberg, 2016). This may provide a starting point for a necessarily critical exploration of Arctic winescapes. In other words, not only Arctic winescapes themselves is a concept that challenges our thinking, but the processes of production themselves should be subjects to critical evaluation.

Deep transformations

The unfolding of Arctic winescapes can be viewed in the light of deep transformations (Buch-Hansen and Nesterova, 2021), that is, intentional transformations in society aimed at harmonious co-existence between humans and nature as well as within humanity. Contemplating deep transformations of Arctic winescapes means asking questions about the intra and intersubjective, relational, social, cultural, political, and geographical aspects of being and becoming of the winemaking industry in the Arctic region. Some of the questions may include reflecting on the possibility of Arctic winescapes being post-growth. Some features of post-growth thought are in fact growth in nature-connectedness and care (Buch-Hansen, 2021) as well as growth in opportunities for localisation of production, innovation and creativity.

Dr. Iana Nesterova is Postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Geography at Umeå University, Sweden

References

Buch-Hansen, H. (2021) Modvækst som paradigme, politisk projekt og bevægelse. Nyt fokus: Fra økonomisk vækst til bæredygtig udvikling, (17), http://www.nytfokus.nu/nummer-17/modvaekst-som-paradigme-politisk-projekt-og-bevaegelse/

Buch-Hansen, H. and Nesterova, I. (2021) Towards a science of deep transformations: Initiating a dialogue between degrowth and critical realism. Ecological Economics, 190, 107188.

Hedberg, C. (2016) ‘Doing gender’ in the wild berry industry: Transforming the role of Thai women in rural Sweden 1980–2012. European Journal of Women’s Studies, 23(2), pp. 169–184.

Johnson, R. and Bruwer, J. (2007) Regional brand image and perceived wine quality: the consumer perspective. International Journal of Wine Business Research, 19 (4), pp. 276-297. https://doi.org/10.1108/17511060710837427

Suomen Viiniyrittäjät (2022) Finnish country wineries. Available at: https://www.viinitilat.net/en/

Critical Arctic Studies  –  A short introduction to the idea and its background

Text: Monica Tennberg, Marjo Lindroth and Heidi Sinevaara-Niskanen

Photo: Arctic Centre/Risto Viitanen

In the discussions in the early 2010s in the Northern political economy research group at the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Finland, we identified with our colleagues a need for critical analysis in Arctic research. We found problematic the ways in which questions, such as, gender, indigeneity and development were conceptualised and constructed in contemporary Arctic political and scientific discourses. For us, critical research on the Arctic means looking at issues that have been disregarded to date, studying intersecting developments and analysing afresh the ways in the Arctic, its peoples and development are perceived.

These discussions materialized in the first session ever about Critical Arctic Studies, known also as CAS, which was held in connection to the VIII International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), Prince George, Canada, in 2014. The session welcomed presenters that identified with a critical approach to topical research, concepts and phenomena in the Arctic. The aim of the session was to foster a dialogue between research disciplines, researchers and approaches in order to grasp the current Arctic developments more fully, and to see beyond the short-term political needs and desires. The session was chaired by Marjo Lindroth and Heidi Sinevaara-Niskanen from University of Lapland, Finland.

In the Northern political economy research group, annual Northern political economy symposiums provided a forum to develop our critical approaches to Arctic research with an increasing participation by junior and senior scholars from the region and beyond. In the symposiums, we have recently discussed, for example, the nature of development, governance and power relations in the Arctic. Also, these discussions led to a joint book by the research group members to discuss Arctic resources in the context of social and cultural sustainabilities (Tennberg, Lempinen & Pirnes 2020).

In this book, on the one hand (natural) resources, their value and importance are understood as socially and culturally constructed and on the other hand, there is a conscious effort in the book chapters to shift the focus from the natural resource-focused perspective to address issues of social, human and cultural resources and capabilities in shaping Arctic sustainability. The book advances the understandings of complex entanglements between resources, peoples and development in the Arctic and also contributes to debates about sustainable development in an increasingly globalized world.

The year 2021 was an important year for promoting the CAS idea within the larger Arctic research community. A UArctic thematic network Critical Arctic Studies was established then with partners from University of Copenhagen, University of Cambridge, St. Petersburg state university, Ural Federal University and University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and new members, University of Umeå, University of Iceland and Kola Science Centre, joined the thematic network in early 2022. The thematic network aims at strengthening critical approaches in Arctic research, advance critical research and education and facilitate discussion on ways of doing critical research in/about the Arctic. During the first year, for example, a roundtable was organized to discuss language hegemony in Arctic research in collaboration with the Association for polar early career scientists, APECS.

More activities are planned, and updates will be posted in the CAS websites and facebook. You are most welcome to join our activities. 

What is your view about critical approaches in Arctic research?

Monica Tennberg, research professor, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland
Marjo Lindroth, university researcher, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland
Heidi Sinevaara-Niskanen, university researcher, Faculty of education, University of Lapland

Reference:

Tennberg, M., Lempinen, H. & Pirnes, S., eds. (2020). Resources, social and cultural sustainabilities in the Arctic. Routledge.