Environmental perception and deep time in Northwest Greenland
Lecturers: Matthew Walls
The Arctic is is a place where "all is in flux", with many scales of ecological and political transformation currently underway. For local Inuit communities, these changes are not given – they are apprehended through cultural modes of perception and memory that are intergenerational and material in character. Specifically, the archaeological landscape, which provides record of Inuit-environmental relationships through time, plays an active role in community experience. In this presentation, I discuss observations from fieldwork in Northwest Greenland where archaeological sites act as markers against which alterations in seasonality, sea ice formation, animal behaviour and a variety of other environmental dynamics are perceived. The sites themselves are under significant threat due to an acceleration in coastal erosion, melting permafrost, and mass wasting, and in many cases are being damaged or destroyed. This impermanence of the archaeological landscape is an important measure through which the magnitude of contemporary change is understood, relative to deep time. As such, sites are active in how Inuit communities respond with a changing environment and produce a shared sense of future. Perception and response in the Arctic, I shall argue, provides important insight on the concept of the Anthropocene, and specifically the nature of creative responsiveness in human-environment relationships.