Arctic Challenge for Sustainability Project

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Report on the Ninth International Congress on Arctic Social Sciences, ICASS IX

The Ninth International Congress on Arctic Social Sciences (ICASS IX) was held from 8 to 12, June 2017 in Umeå in Northern Sweden. Being under the auspices of the International Arctic Social Sciences Association (IASSA), the Congress was hosted by the Arctic Research Center at Umeå University, which is the affiliation of the current IASSA president Peter Sköld, and is at this moment the location of the IASSA Secretariat, in cooperation with the Department of Language Studies and Centre for Sami Research at the same university. IASSA is an international academic organization founded in 1990 for the purpose of construction of a network of social scientists of the Arctic. ICASS is regularly held at the location of the IASSA Secretariat once during the term of three years. The last Congress was held in May 2014 at the Northern British Columbia University.

Reflecting the situation whereby changes of the Arctic are gathering increasing attention from various fields, about 700 people including 15 from Japan (11 of whom are ArCS members) registered for the Congress this time. This far exceeded the number of participants of previous congresses. More than 20 sessions proceeded side by side in the same time zone set up twice a day before and after noon (even three times on 9 June). The themes of the sessions were wide ranging from the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and resource development, human-animal interaction, food security, health, and well-being, and education to tourism, emigration, etc. Presentations and discussions were made on various points of social and environmental actualities in the Arctic.

In recent years, environmental changes caused by global warming have had both a positive and negative impact on the people in the Arctic. Once mineral deposits of oil, gas, and precious metals were found, large-scale development of natural resources began, and traffic of people and commodities was promoted, whereas development in the region has so far been hindered by its harsh nature. Meanwhile, the indigenous people living there have been obliged to experience a considerable change in their way of life. They came to be confronted with various difficulties in management of land and animal resources.

The Congress had the general theme of “People and Place.” Many presentations illustrated the above situations in the Arctic from various perspectives. Particularly stimulating were the sessions in which the presenters, using such concepts as “boundary object” and “infrastructure,” tried to describe the balance and friction arising from the coexistence of social actors with different intentions in the same field. The side-event programs were also substantial. There was a film screening of Sami Blood, produced by Amanda Kernell from Umeå, illustrating the Swedish policy against the Sami people in the 1930s. The screening was followed by a discussion including the producers of the movie.

During the Congress, there was a presidential election at the general assembly, and the Russian-American Andrey Petrov from the Northern Iowa University was elected as the next president of IASSA. In consequence of this, it was decided to hold the next Congress in 2020 at the Northern (Arctic) Federal University in Arkhangelsk, Russia.

Masanori Goto, Hokkaido University(a member of theme 7)

Venue of Umeå university

A scene of the poster session