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BASS Philosophy and Criminology / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Anthropology of the Arctic

Unit code SOAN30241
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Anthropology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course explores socio-economic organisations, political histories and cultural variation of human populations in the Arctic. The regional focus of the course is Siberia and Alaska with some comparative coverage of Canadian North, Greenland and Northern Scandinavia. Drawing from historical and anthropological sources the lectures will provide an overview of analytical trends and ethnographic approaches to understanding specificities of arctic and subarctic regions. This will include examination of the processes of colonisation and ‘mastering’ of Northern territories, natural and mineral resource extraction, competing concepts of land, environment and indigeneity, subsistence practices of reindeer herders and hunters (Siberia, Norway), the hunting of sea mammals (Alaska, Canada, Greenland) with special focus on conceptualisations of human and non-human personhood, indigenous cosmologies, concepts of life and death, animal and human reincarnation, kinship patterns, generation and gender, indigenous childhood and youth. 


The unit aims to:


  • To familiarise Level 3 students with social science research conducted among arctic and subarctic populations;
  • To develop students’ capacity to draw on a variety of relevant empirical case studies to critically engage with diversity of theoretical and disciplinary approaches to the study of arctic and sub-arctic societies; ¿
  • To provide students with good knowledge of the latest theoretical approaches and methodological frameworks that have been developed to understand regional differences and specificities of socio-economic transformations throughout the Arctic.
  • To give students an opportunity to interrogate researchers on their methods and analytical contributions to understanding contemporary socio-economic, political and cultural contexts of the Russian North, Northern Scandinavia, American and Canadian Arctic;

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will consist of ten two-hour lecture periods in Semester 1.  There will also be ten one hour seminars with student-led discussions.  Online resources will include digitised copies of key texts on Blackboard and the use of discussion forums.

Knowledge and understanding

Knowledge and Understanding: 

  • Have an ability to critically evaluate the latest concerns of the anthropology of the Arctic and place them within a range of socio-economic, cultural and political contexts throughout the Circumpolar North. ¿
  • Appreciate the ethnographic diversity of the region. ¿¿
  • Make theoretical links between the anthropology of the Arctic and mainstream anthropological themes

Intellectual skills

Intellectual skills: 

  • To critically evaluate book-length ethnographic arguments in the form of written and oral reports; ¿
  • To be able to creatively deploy a wide range of ethnographic and other sources in the writing of a substantial research paper.

Practical skills

Practical skills: 


To be able to extract key principles from a collection of data and to analyse results;

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Transferable skills and personal qualities:


Students should be able to 


To demonstrate communication skills developed through tutorials and seminars as well as writing skills developed through projects and essays which require the ability to write clearly and effectively;

To be able to work independently, to demonstrate initiative, resourcefulness, responsibility and sociability

Assessment methods

1500 word Book Review

4000 word Final Essay

Feedback methods

Students will receive electronic, personalised feedback on their Assessed work.

Recommended reading


  • Brody, H. 2001. The Other Side of Eden.  Faber and Faber.
  • Cruikshank, J. 2005. Do glaciers listen? Local knowledge, colonial encounters, and social imagination. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  • Fitzhugh, W. W. and C. O. Dubreuil, 2000, Inua: Spirit of a northern people. Washington: University of Washington Press with Arctic Studies Center.
  • Ingold, T. The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill. London: Routledge.
  • Nuttall, M. 1998. Protecting the Arctic: Indigenous Peoples and Cultural Survival. The Netherlands: Harwood Academic Publishers.
  • Paine R. 1994. Herds of the Tundra: A Portrait of Saami Reindeer Pastoralism  Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC.
  • Slezkine, Y. 1994, Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the small peoples of the North  Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press
  • Ulturgasheva, O 2012 Narrating the future in Siberia: childhood, adolescence, and autobiography among the Eveny, Oxford and New York, Berghahn
  • Vitebsky P 2005 Reindeer People:  Living with Animals and Spirits in Siberia Houghton Mifflin, Boston and Harper Collins, London.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Olga Ulturgasheva Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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