Walking in the Arctic: Personal Narratives

Presentation at the Environmental Humanities Month at the University of Helsinki

The Environmental Humanities Month 2022 organized by the University of Helsinki Environmental Humanities Hub. The Hub studies the multifaceted cultural and relational dimensions of anthropogenic environmental change, which is one of the most pressing challenges that humanity currently faces. The hub aims to create an environmentally centered humanities, social sciences and arts community from across anthropology, archeology, art history, ecocriticism, energy humanities, history, indigenous studies, law, linguistics, philosophy, theology, urban studies, and associated fields. The program of the Environmental Humanities Month has begun and includes scientific workshops and lectures in hybrid and zoom format, as well as artistic events such as bioart and eco-poetry events. 

October — November 2022

November 1, 2022

Susana Hancock and  Elena Adasheva. Walking in the Arctic: Personal Narratives

Abstract: Elena and Susana are Arctic researchers with extensive first-hand experience of the northern environment. During 2021-2022, Elena lived for 9 months in the Russian Far North, and Susana participated in the Jubilee Expedition across Svalbard. The importance of experiencing Arctic environment in-person for embodied understanding of the region cannot be overstated. For Environmental History Month, Elena and Susana propose to write and present their personal narratives of walking in the Arctic. Elena walked in a town, tundra, and on a frozen sea during her fieldwork. Susana walked daily during the unsupported and self-powered expedition. Though both women were not born and raised in the Arctic, they are social and environmental scholars who are passionate about the Arctic and captivated by the northern environment. By describing their multisensory experience of moving on foot in the Arctic landscape, they contribute an important perspective of contemporary female scholars experiencing Arctic environment. Elena and Susana’s narratives diversify the body of mostly male-authored writings about moving in the Arctic landscape, including classic travelogs of Arctic expeditions.

For both scholars, writing a personal narrative about their experiences constitutes a creative writing experiment. In their pieces, Elena and Susana will describe their bodily sensations and perceptions of the Arctic environment while walking. By doing so, they will push themselves to explore more humanistic and poetic ways of writing, different from academic writing styles in social and natural sciences.

This project enters scholarly and artistic conversations on walking methodologies and multisensory ethnography. Additionally, it aims to inspire younger Arctic scholars to experience the region in person and invites broader scientific community to share their fieldwork experiences in more accessible and experiential forms of writing. This presentation offers an exploratory approach to the human-environment relations in the Arctic.

Recording: Environmental Humanities Month YouTube Channel