Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Cetaceousness and global warming among the Iñupiat of Arctic Alaska
by Sakakibara, Chie, Ph.D., The University of Oklahoma, 2007, 222; 3291250
Abstract (Summary)

Based on my 2004-2007 ethnographic fieldwork in Barrow and Point Hope, Alaska, this dissertation reveals how collective uncertainty about the environmental future is expressed and managed in Iñupiaq practices, and by extension, how deeply global warming penetrates the cultural core of their society. To do so, I illustrate different aspects of Iñupiaq-bowhead whale relationships, or the ways people make whales a central feature of their lives. I examine specific ways in which global warming in the Arctic influences Iñupiaq society, particularly those cultural institutions and practices that link people spiritually and materially with bowhead whales. I argue that by influencing the bowhead harvest and the Iñupiat homeland, climate change increases environmental uncertainties that both threaten and intensify human emotions tied to identity. This emotional intensity is revealed in the prevalence of traditional and newly invented whale-related events and performances, the number of people involved, the frequency of their involvement, and the verve or feelings with which they participate. This study is not about the fragility of Iñupiaq society or identity. What I found is that the Iñupiaq people retain and strengthen their cultural identity to survive unexpected difficulties with an unpredictable environment. They do so consciously and unconsciously by reinforcing their relationship with the whales. By presenting people's voices and using humanistic methods, this study shows how a whale-centric worldview has been influenced by unpredictable environmental change and how people work toward retaining their identity throughout their physical and spiritual associations with the whales.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rundstrom, Robert A.
Commitee: Conlon, Paula J., Greene, John S., Kidwell, Clara S., Shelley, Fred M.
School: The University of Oklahoma
Department: Department of Geography
School Location: United States -- Oklahoma
Source: DAI-A 69/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Geography, Native American studies
Keywords: Alaska, Arctic, Bowhead whale, Cultural identity, Global warming, Human-animal relations, Inupiat
Publication Number: 3291250
ISBN: 978-0-549-36031-5
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