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Title: Making indigenous futures : land, memory, and 'silent knowledge' in a Skolt Sámi community
Author: Magnani, Natalia
ISNI:       0000 0004 7652 1638
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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This dissertation considers experiences of embodied memory and indigenous connection to land by which people reconstitute social life in Skolt Sámi resettlement areas of Arctic Finland. After their Petsamo homeland was ceded to the Soviet Union following the Second World War, Skolt relocation to new areas of northern Finland radically transformed social, political, and subsistence lifeways, including through education in Finnish boarding schools. Continuing out-migration to Finnish cities has contributed to the suppression of identity and threats to community wellbeing, felt in ruptures of practice associated with material culture, language, and relationships with local ecologies. Though most studies in the region still focus on the reindeer herding and fishing commonly associated with Sámi populations, there is actually resurgence of Skolt craft (boats, tools, dress), as well as collection and processing of wild foods, which form the core of a vibrant cultural revival. Through participant observation and life history methods, I follow the making of things using local materials as a means by which people remake relationships with the land and with each other. The thesis focuses on the first 14 months of fieldwork in Čeʹvetjäuʹrr (F. Sevettijärvi) 2014-2015, out of a total of 26 months of multi-sited research in the Sámi regions. Scholarship on memory, practice, and displacement examines how memory becomes embodied, reworked, and reconciled across generations, and how material objects and the creation of home in new places create connections to original homelands. Meanwhile, studies among indigenous communities highlight how people use craft and art to establish connections to land despite, and through, displacement and movement. However, to understand the tangible mechanisms of these attachments and interventions, I inquire into the material practices by which people form relationships to resettlement environments. The thesis follows the concept of practical knowledge as transformed and mobilised through revival of local forms of production, to show how practices and memories are selectively rewoven to shape social futures. I argue that embodied processes of making, enmeshed in the materiality of resettlement environments, make Skolt community visible and felt in new ways by establishing connections between resettlement area and indigenous homeland. Grounding each chapter in stages of reconstruction of a Petsamo-style boat, made with roots, pine, and without metal nails, I weave points of analysis and diverse case studies to explore how processes of production, from collection of materials to building and ceremony, serve as loci of memory and practice by which people establish relationships with land to remake social worlds. In the first chapter, I explore spatial and temporal reconnections among Skolt return migrants and Finnish settlers to the Skolt regions of Finland. The second chapter deals with political and gendered dimensions of cultural revival work, showing how different ways of relating to the environment are negotiated through humour and production. The third chapter examines institutional avenues of reviving techniques of production. In the fourth chapter, I consider politics surrounding the role of non-Skolt actors in Skolt cultural revival. The final chapter examines how these politics are reconciled through ceremony and the making of collective memory, establishing Skolt presence in resettlement areas, as well as spatial and temporal continuity with Petsamo, through the public launching of the root boat. I conclude the thesis by bringing together the stages of boat production and related case studies to show how engagements with the environment through making create ways to reimagine relationships to people and place. I further suggest the broader contributions of this study for understanding indigenous movements, displacement, memory, and future-making.
Supervisor: Powell, Richard ; Vitebsky, Piers Sponsor: Gates Cambridge Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: memory ; Sami ; practical knowledge ; Finland ; Indigenous articulations ; materiality