Imperial and geopolitical relationships in Iñupiaq climate change narratives: extinction and cultural survival in The Last Days of Shishmaref

Peck, Julia ORCID: 0000-0001-5134-2471 (2023) Imperial and geopolitical relationships in Iñupiaq climate change narratives: extinction and cultural survival in The Last Days of Shishmaref. In: Disturbed Ecologies: Photography, Geopolitics, and the Northern Landscape in the Era of Environmental Crisis. Art and Visual Studies Series . Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld, Germany, pp. 231-256. ISBN 9783837660265

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This chapter explores the geopolitics of imperialism through her analysis of two texts with the same title, The Last Days of Shishmaref, a book by Dana Lixenberg and a documentary film by Jan Louter. Peck analyses the book and film through the lenses of anthropology, geopolitics and decolonisation. Drawing on Ariella Aïsha Azoulay’s research, she argues that decolonising and anti-imperial discourses express concern for the different cultural ideas of ‘world’, but that the structures of imperialism contain, limit, and destroy these worlds, whilst simultaneously trying to rescue them for intellectual discourse. Part of this analysis acknowledges the violence of European colonialism (the Eurocene) by drawing upon the scholarship of Jairus Victor Grove and Kathryn Yusoff, both of whom have understood colonial and imperial activities to be ‘world destroying’. The film and the book argue for the continued existence of a Iñupiat community that is affected by climate change and the broader contexts of US policy and the absence of funding for relocation. The film produces a strong sense of mourning, through which the Iñupiat are expressing their activism, refusing marginalisation, and finding ways of recognising and giving voice to the violence of climate change. Lixenberg’s portraits connect to the themes of explored in the film, but the structure of the book more optimistic, focussing on kinship. Both film and book enable representations of the Iñupiat to circulate as part of a global economy, and both are entangled with Indigenous activism. In highlighting the precarity of Shishmaref and the desire for cultural continuity and self-determination, the Iñupiat are seen as important in relation to extinction: Louter and Lixenberg are advocating for appreciation of this specific group of people and their culture. Peck emphasises that even while this witnessing occurs within the discursive frame of imperialism the book and film express worldly caring.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Photography, Landscape, Anthropology, Imperialism, Geopolitics, Decolonising
Related records:
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human geography. Human ecology. Anthropogeography
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
T Technology > TR Photography
Research Priority Areas: Creative Practice and Theory
Depositing User: Julia Peck
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2022 14:48
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2024 13:32

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