12 April 2023

Pandemic ripples

Scrutinizing Arctic communities’ perspectives on COVID-19 and mental health – A case against damage-culture

Daria Schwalbe, Postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Culture and the Mind, Faculty of Humanities, University of Copenhagen.

Between the 26th and 30th of September 2022 the traffic between Copenhagen, Kangerlussuaq – a small settlement in West Greenland and the only place with capacity for international flights – and the capital of Greenland, Nuuk, was intense. The airports were overcrowded. The flights were fully booked, with prices reaching 2,300 US$ for a return ticket from Copenhagen to Nuuk, which was twice the price of a regular flight in high season. There were almost no seats available, and the small red planes, operating between Kangerlussuaq and Nuuk, were flying non-stop trying to service the extreme flow of outsiders travelling to Nuuk. Researchers, doctors, nurses, forensic medical specialists, psychiatrists, and policy makers were all traveling to Nuuk to attend Nunamed 2022 – the oldest and largest conference on health research in Greenland, which offered an interdisciplinary forum for practitioners and researchers working in Greenland and across the Arctic to discuss their findings and debate current issues in medical research.

When I first heard about Nunamed 2022, I had just started working on our new research project, Covid-19 and global mental health: importance of cultural context. The project aims to investigate medical and lay narratives of COVID-related mental distresses and healing practices across various cultural contexts, to understand how clinicians and mental health workers apply or refine mental health concepts and research instruments developed for global mental health. It also aims to give recognition to the expertise that comes from individuals and communities in specific social, cultural, and economic environments. Initially, I was supposed to focus on Russia, but my work in Russia was interrupted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2021 and the following war between the two countries. Attempting to redefine the object of my research inquiry, I came to be preoccupied with the ways Arctic communities have experienced the pandemic. Nunamed 2022 offered a rare opportunity to learn about current trends and major debates in mental health research in Greenland, and to understand how local communities across the arctic have experienced and managed the pandemic.

Entitled “Culture, health & a good life”/ “Kulturi, peqqissusseq & inuunerissuunerl”, Nunamed 2022 was the first large-scale health event held in Nuuk after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it had a record level of registrations. The conference accommodated 422 participants from 11 different counties, making space for 40 thematic sessions and more than 150 presentations on such topics as cancer, diabetes, dermatology, sexually transmitted and infectious diseases, suicide and suicide prevention, violence, abuse, retention of health workers in the Greenlandic health care system, patient involvement, training of health professionals, genetics, subjective well-being, climate and environmental medicine, forensic psychiatry, etc. In addition, the conference was accompanied by a two-day PhD course entitled “Arctic Community Perspectives on Covid-19: Collaboration, Methodology and Lessons Learned”, which focused on public health measures and local strategies during the pandemic across five arctic communities: Alaska, Canada, Finland, Norway, and Greenland. The following are some of my reflections on Nunamed 2022. They mainly revolve around two questions: ‘What was the psychological effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on Inuit communities?’ and ‘How do we address these without Eurocentrism and focusing on damage-culture?’.

During Nunamed 2022, three distinct topics emerged, when approaching the mental health and wellbeing of the Arctic communities: (1) fears, emotions and affects, (2) the prevalence of psychiatric diagnoses, and (3) sexual assault, violence, and suicide attempts. All three increased during the pandemic, even though the virus was not very widespread in the Arctic, and Greenland managed particularly well to control the pandemic, while the imposed social isolation measures were limited. This raised the following questions: ‘How to explain degrees of distress and violence in the Arctic, even though the pandemic was not very widespread there?’ ‘Was the pandemic an example of how vulnerable and previously excluded groups were further victimized by a disaster?’ and if so, ‘Could any long-term psychological consequences of the pandemic on Arctic communities have actually been overlooked?’ In the following I will address these questions more closely. I will also touch upon the concept of “silent culture” (in Danish, tavshedskulturen), scrutinizing the prevailing contradictory views of the ‘Inuit culture’ as both the key protective factor and a major obstacle to heathier life in the Arctic. I argue that western-centric idea of silent culture and the essentializing culture-focused research are both problematic, nor do they shake the very fundamental assumption: that western ideas are the only rational ones and the only ideas which can make sense of the world, of reality, of social life and of human beings.

Perspectives on Arctic communities’ strategies and emotional responses to COVID-19

During sessions on COVID-19, primary discussions revolved around public health measures (how well local governments have managed the situation) and local feelings (fear, anxiety, trust/distrust, sense of a community, disconnectedness, etc.) experienced by the general population during the pandemic. A study from the Center for Public Health at Ilisimatusarfik (University of Greenland) claimed that, in Greenland, the COVID-19 pandemic brought about social isolation, disconnectedness, lost sense of community and experience of limited freedom, anxiety (concerns about the effects of the disease on elderly people and chronic patients), fear (“seeing pictures from Italy made people scared”), etc. According to chief physician Henrik L. Hansen, however, who presented highlights from the Greenland strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic, Greenland has “gotten off cheap” in terms of health during the pandemic, and mental health remained intact, compared to almost all other countries and to its Arctic counterparts [1].

Like other countries, Greenland adopted ‘keep the virus out of the country’ strategy to stop the spread of the virus and save lives. Yet, in contrast to other Arctic regions, the relative isolation of the people living on an island and the political autonomy of Greenland, achieved through the founding of Self-Government in 2009, proved to be a major advantage and played a significant role in managing the pandemic successfully. It allowed the Government of Greenland to promptly take control of who could/could not travel to the country, introducing mandatory pre-flight testing and five-day quarantine and re-testing upon arrival – despite the fact that the relationship between Denmark and Greenland is still deeply marked by the legacy of colonialism and Denmark still retains authority over political fields such as foreign policy, security, and international agreements [2]. Hansen also stressed that Greenlanders trusted and respected the Government of Greenland, which secured the general acceptance of public health protocols by the public. After the first cases have been detected, all regular traffic to Greenland was stopped on March 20th, 2020, followed by a short lock-down in the capital Nuuk. With airports shut down and a close monitoring of the people coming to the island, the government managed to keep the spread of the virus to the minimum. These measures delayed outbreaks, and they helped to keep schools open and the fishing industry working, with economy only being moderately affected. The population had access to clean water, housing, sanitary facilities, and welfare benefits, following the “Nordic model”. Few have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and the majority had mild or moderate symptoms, including headache, fatigue, blocked nose, cough, and muscle pain. According to the chief physician, these measures helped sustain mental health in Greenland.

In Canada and Alaska, the situation during the pandemic was reported to be more critical. A study about impacts of and responses to the pandemic among Inuit in Canada, based on findings from a series of in­terviews conducted with service providers in Manitoba between March and June 2021, revealed that in Canada, the pandemic intensified food insecurity, hous­ing issues, and barriers to accessing services, emphasizing the fragile conditions that many Inuit already faced in the Arctic as well as the need to ensure that urban Inuit-centric organizations were resourced to support local urban communities. Professor Josee Lavoie, who presented the findings, also pointed out that the imposition of isolation orders exacerbated family tensions, leading in some cases to increased instances of family violence.

In Alaska, where the confirmed incidents of COVID-19 were more than twice as high as the Arctic as a whole and where mortality also showed multiple dramatic spikes [3], people were reported to struggle with mental health issues, especially anxiety and depressive disorders [4]. According to Katie Cueva, an assistant Professor of Health Policy at the University of Alaska Anchorage, who presented at the conference, negative psychological outcomes of COVID-19 in Alaska were related to social isolation and within-state travel restrictions imposed by the federal government, which undermined peoples’ access to care services. In Alaska, most medical care is provided by federally recognized non-profit tribal health organizations. Since many of the native villages are geographically isolated from larger towns and cities with hospitals and treatment facilities, people usually need a “fly in” to receive treatment, see a medical specialist, or to give birth. On March 19, 2020 – a week after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed to reach the state of Alaska and the Governor’s office declared a state of emergency – in-person schooling and public facilities across Alaska were closed and within-state travel was restricted. According to Cueva, these measures limited people’s access to health services and treatments, fostering a feeling of anxiety in the local population around access to care, and stimulated return to traditional medicine and an increase in hash and alcohol use by the younger population. “People were afraid of not receiving care. They knew that nobody was coming to help them. The planes would not come to pick them up,” she said. However, she also emphasized that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught people “to work together as a community and with other people”: people volunteered to help local hospitals, organized supplies to remote villages and families, sewed masks out of old cloth, helped elders to set up Teams, etc.

Overall, these studies showed that the dynamics of incidents of COVID-19 were not uniform across the Arctic regions, emphasizing the importance of contextual differences of these regions. However, they also revealed that the pandemic caused a feeling of social isolation, disconnectedness from the community, fear, anxiety, insecurity, and increased family tensions across the Arctic.

Pandemic violence

Disasters – such as the pandemic – can be especially painful for people and communities who have been previously traumatized or repeatedly victimized, or who have experienced systemic injustice and/or sexual and other kinds of victimization as part of the colonial experience, like for instance the Inuit and other Indigenous peoples. Disasters often lead to economic hardship, food insecurity, increased inequalities, social isolation, a sense of disempowerment, depression, anxiety and (increase in) substance use. Levenson (2003) has argued that these factors can serve as triggers for sexual offenders to relapse [5]. The stress, fear, and sense of helplessness, associated with emergency, may also increase risk factors for perpetration of violence against women in specific contexts, particularly in poor and previously excluded groups [6], leading to growing rates of violence and sexual assaults. After the Loma Prieta earthquake in Santa Cruz County in California, for example, reports of sexual violence rose 300 percent. After the 1980 eruption of Mt. Saint Helens, reports of domestic violence rose 46 percent. In the South Asian tsunami, more women than men lost their lives, were subject to both domestic and sexual violence, received inadequate health care, and suffered more than men from economic hardships [7]. Increased rates of domestic violence, child abuse, neglect, and exploitation have been reported during previous public health emergencies, such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2014 to 2016 [8].  

Recent studies on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health in various parts of the world have also shown that measures, such as physical distancing and school closure, enacted by many governments to control the transmission of the disease, impacted victims of domestic violence, refugees, ethnic minorities, and people from sexual and gender minorities more. In their recent article, Li and Tan showed that physical distancing measures, which among other things brought loneliness, mental distress, food insecurity and disruption of access to social support and health services, impacted and exacerbated the vulnerabilities of these groups [9]. Lee further argues that social distancing measures can result in social isolation in an abusive home, with abuse likely exacerbated during times of economic uncertainty and distress. In Jianli County in Hubei province, China, he shows, reports of domestic violence more than tripled during the lockdown in February, rising from 47 in 2019 to 162 in 2020 [8].

In fact, in Alaska, degrees of sexual and other forms of violence were also reported to increase during the pandemic. Before coming to Nunamed I did a shorter trip to the city of Nome in Western Alaska. Located on the southern Seward Peninsula coast on Norton Sound of the Bering Sea, Nome has population of roughly 3,700 people, with nearly 65% identifying as Alaska Native (mostly Inupiat and Yupik). One of the peculiar things about Nome is that the city has the highest sexual assault rate in Western Alaska, and Western Alaska has the highest sexual assault rate in the U.S. Over the past fifteen years, more than three hundred sexual assaults have been reported in Nome, although few have resulted in arrest or convictions. Most cases involve Alaska Native women. After the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, Nome Police reported an unusually high number of sexual assault reports [10]. Although in the first nine months of 2021, reports of sexual assault in Nome were down by about fifty percent compared to 2020, this did not mean that actual assaults against women decreased. Rather, people were simply not reporting them – at least in part due to pandemic restrictions, as Bering Sea Women’s Shelter Executive Director Bertha Koweluk says [11]. It is not uncommon that reports of sexual assaults in disastrous times tend to drop, partly because reporting in such times can be seen as something that is “further down on the hierarchy of needs,” since it is not a “life or death issue” [7].

During Nunamed 2022 a series of presentations brought up such topics as sexual abuse, violence, loss, and suicide. Although these studies did not directly address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on suicide and sexual violence, several of the studies referred to annual police reports as a way of framing the problem. What caught my attention was the significant increase in reported sexual assaults and crimes of violence in Greenland, particularly during the first wave of the pandemic (March–August 2020). Even though the pandemic was not very widespread in Greenland, the number of sexual crimes and crimes of violence reported to the Greenland police reached the highest numbers in 2020: 748 sexual assaults compared to 559 in 2019, and 1394 crimes of violence compared to 936 in 2019 (an increase by 48%). Within the same period, the number of suicide attempts in Greenland increased from 79 to 120, and of suicide threats from 977 to 1201 [12]. In Greenland, suicide rates have been increasing throughout 1960’s and 1970’s, reaching the highest numbers in 1986 with 125 suicides per 1000,000, but in the last 20 years, suicide rates remained the same, approx. 100 per 100.000 people [13].

Assumptions about suicide, culture and cure embedded in therapeutic discourses

Most of the studies on suicide and suicide preventions presented at Nunamed confirmed that earlier prevention strategies have failed, and that suicide rates across Arctic communities have remained unchanged. Following ‘classical script’ of trauma (childhood or developmental trauma, psychosocial problems, “acculturative stress,” alcohol abuse and undiagnosed psychiatric disorders), most of these studies also emphasized that childhood conditions are defining for mental health later in life, and that stress caused by alcohol abuse in family, incest, and sexual abuse (i.e., childhood adversities) are among significant predictors of suicide and suicide attempts [15], although psychosocial factors such as education, work and housing, loneliness, meaninglessness, and lack of significance are also among the risk factors [16]. Several studies, presented at Nunamed 2022, have emphasized that in Greenland, many young people “fall through the system” and cannot complete their education because of personal challenges caused by grief, trauma and loss, pointing towards a necessity of early interventions. Others pointed towards local resources, culture, and indigenous ways of knowing (nature and family values) as a way of promoting mental health and wellbeing of children and adolescents in the Arctic, as well as towards the incapability of the healthcare system to accommodate patients’ needs. As something new, the center for Public Health at Ilisimatusarfik (University of Greenland) developed a culturally anchored model of health, which they presented at the conference. Besides biological and physiological conditions, this model takes into consideration social and not least cultural values as a protective health factor (incl. harmony with nature, family values, attachment to elders, local food, place, and language, as well as capacity for own responsibility), emphasizing the need to prioritize the role of culture and community context to support research and interventions that are “valid and meaningful to the local communities”. According to Professor Josee Lavoy, who also presented at the conference, focusing on local culture and knowledge promotes partnership-based research and “has the potential to create a research environment more likely to produce valid and relevant results, to foster better care for Inuit and help improve health outcomes”.

While some of these studies were inclined to essentialize the Inuit culture, others have emphasized that the “real” problem with suicide in the Arctic is the “culture of silence” (in Danish, tavshedskulturen) – i.e., pronounced shame and taboo surrounding suicide (incest and sexual abuse) in Inuit and Sami societies [17]. A study presented by the Sami national competence service – mental health care and substance abuse (SANKS), for example, explored how cultural values and attitudes may lead to legitimization of violence in Sami society, through the lens of “tavshedskultur.” Whilst intriguing, this idea of ‘silent’ or ‘quiet’ culture is also problematic, at least in two ways. First, it frames suicide and domestic violence as a problem of Inuit/Sami culture, projecting a representation of Inuit and Sami people as ‘problematic’, ‘deficient’ and ‘broken’. It over-pathologizes them and makes them, to paraphrase a Canadian indigenous researcher and writer, Eve Tuck, “stuck in the symptoms of their trouble” [18]. Second, it legitimizes the Western canon of therapeutic practice (psychiatry and psychoanalysis) as ‘talking cure’, which offers a distinctive way of dealing meaningfully with historically burdensome heritage.

Anthropologists and other researchers have, in fact, continuously criticized the way ‘culture’ and cultural knowledge – the one based on an es­sentialist, static and one-dimensional understanding of culture – is understood and used by professionals in their encounters with clients [19]. Not only does it disregard the complex variability of contexts, histories and emotional responses that frame individual experiences and meaning making, but it may also allow for “a stereotype of cultural deterministic description of [them] as natural [and deficient] people who surrender under the encounter with ‘the modern’” [20,21] ). Such representation, Thisted argues, may carry negative emotional value, producing what Judith Butler (1997) calls the “disorienting effect” of an insult, ending up confirming the structures of dominance it sets to reveal and undermine [22]. It may also represent the continuity of the colonial project, drawing on the way previous waves of colonization shaped and reshaped arctic spaces and the relationships between indigenous people, sexuality, and health.

According to Lakoff and Johnson (1980), human thought process is largely metaphorical: the way we think, what we experience and what we do is very much a matter of metaphor. A metaphor – like ‘the culture of silence’ – allows us to focus on one aspect of discourse and keeps us from being distracted by other images that may be inconsistent. It also structures the actions we perform in arguing and hence, suggests how we should think and act upon it [23]. Indeed, within the frame of ‘culture of silence’, talking about things becomes a (universal) solution to a problem. During Nunamed 2022, this idea that people “need to talk about their traumas” and that children “need to learn how to talk about difficult things in life from the start” was continuously revoiced by researchers, practitioners, and in visual representations (e.g., movie MIO - Qamani, in which young people tell about their traumatic experiences, such as self-harm, bullying and loss of loved ones to suicide). ‘Culture of silence’, thus, draws our attention away from decisions and shortcomings (which are the responsibility) of the state, and towards individual behavior, perceptions and reasoning [24]. It also legitimizes the continuity of the colonial project, justifying research and interventions, which seize strategic opportunities and support the implementation of counselling programs and anti-depression treatments both within a particular (Inuit) society, but also within the highly lucrative context of ‘global mental health’ promotion and its reliance on psychopharmaceuticals.

Against damage-culture

The Project CREATES, which was presented at Nunamed 2022, is an initiative of The Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) under the Arctic Council, the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues. The co-leads on this project included the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Canada, Finland, Kingdom of Denmark, and Sweden. The project invites young people from across the Arctic to engage in a dialogue about suicide prevention and mental health by telling their own stories. In their stories, young people depict both anxiety and hope for the future, demonstrating that colonization and intergenerational trauma continue to challenge young people’s wellbeing; and they testify to the value of having a safe place to talk about suicide, suicide prevention, wellbeing and dreams for the future. Similar to other projects, presented at Nunamed (e.g., MIO – Qamani), personal narrative is used here as a central tool to reveal the pain that the individual is experiencing as the consequence of either colonial policies, exclusion, or sexual violence and abuse. Personal narrative allows to give recognition to alternative and often marginalized voices and groups, offering a space to rework trauma and shame. Yet, as Danish historian of emotions Karen Valgaarda argues sharing one’s secrets with the public is not unproblematic and can be painful. There are ethical dilemmas linked to it, and it may also have social consequences and/or cause pain to others.

According to Valgaarda, people in western Europe have become obsessed with ‘culture of confession’ to a degree that we often forget about the possible side effects of therapy. People are constantly encouraged to talk about all the difficult things in their lives, including their family histories and secrets. In status updates, podcasts, and novels, we can read about how hidden traumas have infected family dynamics, often through multiple generations [25,26]. While talking may offer a space to rework trauma and shame (and indeed, help some people), research that intends to document people’s pain and brokenness, as Eve Tuck (2009) emphasizes, “operates with a flawed theory of change”. Such damage-centered research “reinforces and reinscribes a one-dimension notion of these people as depleted, ruined, and hopeless” [18]. The reality of suffering is real and beyond dispute, but the danger of such research, according to Tuck, is that it is a pathologizing approach in which the oppression singularly defines a community. All it leaves the community with is the damage.

Moreover, ‘the culture of silence’ is not a problem of Greenlandic children and families. Rather, to paraphrase Tuck, “it is a problem that has been consciously and historically produced by and through the system of colonization – the stories people tell about themselves, and their society’s problem are entangled and weave between what is immediately available as a story and what their imaginations are reaching towards” (ibid., p. 420). Inuit cultures, as I have discussed elsewhere, at least as documented in ethnological literature, seem to place high priority on social conventions that inhibit public display of strong emotions and value restraint and self-control [27,28]. In Western literature, however, Inuit have often been described as passive, slow-paced and quiet, phlegmatic and indifferent, shy, deliberate, reserved and noncommittal, or, in recent times, as victims of (mis)representation of others. Kirsten Thisted talks about “Eskimo concealment” (in Danish eskimofortielse) – a contemporary representation that underpins and cements the notion of the Greenlanders as silent, passive spectators to the historical process, victims of the representation of others [29]. Accepted at face value as facets of Inuit etiquette, such representations – just like the idea of ‘the culture of silence’ itself – often frame people’s experiences, perceptions, and ways they talk about themselves. No doubt that the inaugural experience of industrial modernity in Greenland was experienced as one of profound loss (similar to the North American and Russian Arctic [31]), but for those who live in and across the borders and who daily confront the legacy of colonization, “the lifeblood of the two worlds often melts together into a third country – a border culture”, as Chicana lesbian-feminist poet and fiction writer Gloria Anzaldúa has put it  [30]. Silence, and the shame and taboo surrounding suicide in Greenland, might be more tied to the borderland itself and/or to the anxiety of being discredited as social agents not only by others, but also by one’s ‘own people’.  

Decolonizing psy-science

Certainly, even with sustained academic, charitable and activist attention to mental and physical health over the past two years, as Cooper, Dolezal and Rose (2022) argue in their recent book, “the vast and complicated nexus of stress, grief, loneliness, estrangement, abandonment, frustration and pain produced by the lockdowns is only beginning to be understood” [24]. While research has been done on mental health effects of COVID-19 elsewhere, not much is yet known about the effects of the pandemic on vulnerable groups in the Arctic regions. However, long-term psychological effects of COVID-19 might still be underway in the Arctic – consider alone the fact that rape victims are three times more likely to develop major depression, and thirteen times more likely to have made a suicide attempt [32], and that suicide is one of the major causes of death in the Arctic. The puzzling question is, how to address mental health issues in the Arctic without Eurocentrism and focusing on ‘damage-culture’? What does it take to decolonize science? Is this even possible? And if so, what structural changes would be needed? Ultimately, what can we all do to advance change?

In Decolonizing methodologies Smith (2021) asks these questions. She argues that even though discourse may have shifted to words such as reconciliation, inclusion and diversity, no real progress has been made to deconstruct Western canons of knowledge, which “[assume] that Western ideas about the most fundamental things are the only ideas possible to hold, certainly the only rational ideas, and the only ideas which can make sense of the world, of reality, of social life and of human beings.” [33] Psychiatry too is still strongly affected by (post)colonial power structures. Despite many efforts to foster diversity, to talk about things is still seen as a (universal) solution to a problem – and western psychiatrists often have certain templates in their mind when they talk to the patient to validate and make the correct diagnosis [19]. Deconstruction, according to Smith, is part of a much larger intent. “Taking apart the story, revealing underlying texts, and giving voice to things that are often known intuitively does not help people to improve their current conditions. It provides words, perhaps, an insight that explains certain experiences – but it does not prevent someone from dying.” [33]. As she points out, many Indigenous communities today “continue to live within political and social conditions that perpetuate extreme levels of poverty, chronic ill health and poor educational opportunities. Their children may be removed forcibly from their care, ‘adopted’ or institutionalized. The adults may be as addicted to alcohol as their children are to glue, they may live in destructive relationships which are formed and shaped by their impoverished material conditions and structured by politically oppressive regimes.” (ibid., p.4). Indeed, if we want to change the current mental health challenges in the Arctic, we need to change the framework of understanding suffering experiences in relation to the conditions for people’s lives. Perhaps, as Anne Lindhard (2022) suggests, we should also look more critically into the Danish (and American) way of being and communicating, consider possible side-effects of the individualistic culture – a complete loss of the ability to accommodate others. That we need people from outside (associations and centers with professionals) because one’s own family and friends are no longer considered to be someone we can rely on (because they are always busy) [17].

Another option is to follow Eve Tuck’s advice and shift the discourse away from damage-centered research and interventions towards desire. As an analytical concept, Tuck argues, desire is about longing, about a present that is enriched by both the past and the future. It is “assembled, crafted over a lifetime through our experiences, [and] more closely matches the experiences of people who, at a different point in a single day reproduce, resist, are complicit in, rage against, celebrate, throw up hands/towels, and withdraw and participate in uneven social structures – that is, everybody”. [21, pp. 419–420]. As a theoretical concept, desire moves away from ethnically-coded reductive trauma hermeneutic. It “interrupts the binary of reproduction versus resistance”, allowing to capture the complexity and wholeness of people’s selves – complex personhood, – rather than simply their “damage”. The life of the indigenous people in the Arctic, as I have learned from my own experience, accumulates many different feelings – hope and abandonment, happiness and grief, denial and knowledge, love and hate, control and powerlessness, bitterness and gratitude, pride and shame, repressed feeling, and unexpressed emotions, etc. By following desire – that is, documenting not only painful elements of social realities, but also wisdom and hope – we, perhaps, can grasp a hidden layer of lived experiences and understand the complexity, contradiction, and self-determination of lives lived during and after the pandemic. Perhaps, then, we can advance change.

It says that ripples are not formed by a stone, thrown into the water. They are the instant effect of wind on the water, and they die down as quickly as they form, as the surface tension of the water dampens their effort.


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