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Cultivating Place, Livelihood, and the Future: An Ethnography of Dwelling and Climate in Western Greenland

  • Author / Creator
    Hayashi, Naotaka
  • In order to investigate how Inuit Greenlanders in western Greenland are experiencing, responding to, and thinking about recent allegedly human-induced climate change, this dissertation ethnographically examines the lives of Greenlanders as well as Norse and Danes in the course of past historical natural climate cycles. My emphasis is on human endeavours to cultivate a future in the face of difficulties caused by climatic and environmental transformation. I recognize locals’ initiatives to carve out a future in the promotion of sheep farming and tree-planting in southern Greenland and in adaptation processes of northern Greenlandic hunters to the ever-shifting environment. Sheep farming was introduced by those Danes who were inspired by the existence of Norse society in the Middle Ages on the island, and tree-planting was initiated, presumably for experiment purposes by Danes and other outsiders. Some self-reliant, independent Greenlanders who could envision an alternative life in farming took over and developed a sheep farming tradition. Whether tree-planting can take hold in a Greenlandic sociocultural landscape is still open to question. With government support, Greenlandic farmers managed to adapt their livelihood to the harsh climate although this created their dependency on the government and global economy. In the trial-and-error adaptation process, farmers learned historical fluctuations of temperature. This relates to what the Norse ruins scattering throughout southern Greenland tell farmers – a sense of continuity of people’s lives from the past to the present. This becomes their frame of reference in holding a view of the future. Like sheep farmers, hunters in northern Greenland are fully competent in a transient landscape and are flexible enough to cope with novel shocks in the environment. However, unlike farmers’, their effort to envision a future has often been frustrated by larger forces, including international politics. Locals’ narratives on climate change well reflect their expectations, frustrations, and anxieties. It is important to create a situation where people can freely envision a better way of life, explore future possibilities, and realize the values they have for life. This will lead to the continuance of individuals’ lives, local communities, and − ultimately – to the building of a sustainable nation.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2013-06
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R30891
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Doctoral
  • Department
    • Department of Anthropology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Nuttall, Mark (Anthropology)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Rob Shields (Sociology)
    • Kenneth Caine (Sociology)
    • Naomi Krogman (Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology)
    • Marko Zivkovic (Anthropology)
    • Frank Sejersen (Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen)