Accepted Papers:

Wayfinding, following and learning: navigating the frozen seascape in East Greenland  

Author:

Sophie Elixhauser (University of Augsburg)

Paper Short Abstract:

This presentation will show how wayfinding is related to learning, following and non-verbal communication among Inuit boat drivers and passengers in and across the frozen seascape of East Greenland. It draws on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Sermiligaaq and Tasiilaq.

Paper long abstract:

This presentation will show how wayfinding is related to learning, following and non-verbal communication among Inuit boat drivers and passengers in and across the frozen seascape of the Ammassalik region, East Greenland. It draws on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Sermiligaaq and Tasiilaq (2005-07).

Ammassalik people inhabit a sparsely populated fjord system on the east coast of Greenland. During many months of year they are surrounded by frozen or partly-frozen waters. Ice is a constant topic of conversation and observation. The inhabitants frequently travel on and through the ice in order to visit relatives and friends or the hospital in Tasiilaq, or to go fishing and hunting. Travelling is highly valued, although not all inhabitants move about as regularly as in the past. To do this, they use a variety of means of transport, of which I focus only on the boat. Travel routes and orientation are recurrent themes of communication, not only among boat drivers and passengers but also with other East Greenlanders encountered along the way. Here, gestures and other modalities of non-verbal communication are prominent. Wayfinding during boat travel requires much skill and experience. In difficult ice conditions, when boats meet on their way they usually try to stay together and follow the most experienced driver. The paper will argue that following is key to the processes of learning and communication involved in finding a way through ice-covered waters. These practices contribute to the emergence of the East Greenlandic seascape.

panel P27
Seascape: anthropological and archaeological approaches to the human habitation of the sea