Critical Inuit Studies: An Anthology of Contemporary Arctic Ethnography

Critical Inuit Studies: An Anthology of Contemporary Arctic Ethnography

Critical Inuit Studies: An Anthology of Contemporary Arctic Ethnography

Critical Inuit Studies: An Anthology of Contemporary Arctic Ethnography

Excerpt

When I was just beginning to do fieldwork in the Arctic, a friend sent me the following quotation from Zora Neale Hurston's Dust Tracks on a Road: "Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose" (1995: 143). I like the quote because it moves beyond the debates over precisely how to write research notes, just what constitutes a scientific sample, and how data should be coded. Of course a researcher is constantly making such pragmatic decisions; it is simply that what unites all good research and researchers is an abiding sense of curiosity. It is the desire to know something that sustains the researcher, not the beautifully articulated grant proposals or innovative methodologies.

The book in your hands is full of good research concerning the Inuit of the North American Arctic (northern Canada and Alaska). And yet the merit of the book is due in no small part to the fact that not one of the contributors used precisely the same method as another. Some are accomplished archivists, while others have finely honed interviewing techniques. Still others have developed the anthropological art of "hanging out." The contributors are geographers, anthropologists, social workers, and social policy analysts. The result is a nuanced view of a people who have all too often been treated in a stereotypical fashion as the paragon of a huntergatherer society.

And while we might want to say that the contributors to this volume are generally curious people, it is also fair to say that we all suffer from an overweening interest in culture—culture as a constant in human life as well . . .

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