“Gender in the Arctic – not quite a new topic, for sure?” True, IASC has supported and been engaged in manifold debates on gender-related issues over the last fifteen years. A number of reports have analyzed gender relations in the Arctic. Past activities of the IASC and the IASSA Working Group “Gender in the Arctic” have highlighted, for example, the inequalities around working conditions of female scientists conducting research in and on the Arctic.
But what requires more attention is the diversity and complexity of gender within Arctic Indigenous and local communities: we need to understand gender and sexuality in the context of marginalization and colonial structures. This also means going beyond questions of only women and men, and including queer perspectives in critiquing west-centric, settler colonial, heteronormative power relations in the Arctic.
The event series at the Arctic Science Summit Week 2023 showed that art and media enable us to attain new perspectives on how those complexities of gender and sexuality play out and can be approached. The events focused on queering issues of gender and other inequalities, radically questioning multiple overlapping norms. This meant also listening to the voices of those who are otherwise muted and acknowledging the multiplicity of hopes and fears.
ASSW 2023 provided a transdisciplinary space for artists, activists, and scientists to show and reflect on their work through an exhibition, a series of film screenings and discussions, and scholarly workshops. The event series thus explored the significance of art in addressing questions of gender, queerness, sexuality and colonialism, on one hand by highlighting gender dynamics of living and working in the North, and on the other hand by shedding light on how the Arctic has been represented through diverse media and arts.
“People Doing Cool Stuff – Women in Polar Science” was the title of the exhibition prominently displayed in the main building of the University of Vienna. The opening event took place on 21 February, convened jointly by Women in Polar Science, the IASSA Working Group Gender in the Arctic, and Arctic PASSION.
The film program included three movies by Sámi women directors. These screenings, followed by discussions with the directors, explored the role of the arts in Indigenous liberation and gender dynamics through themes such as friendship, sexual violence, queer Indigenous experience, and the struggle for cultural survival and self-determination. Each of the screenings was immensely rewarding, providing food for thought for the subsequent discussions. The Vienna-based team of the Ethnocineca film festival participated in this activity.
The workshop brought together artists, researchers, and activists from all over the (pan-Arctic) world, raising awareness of the richness of gender- and queer-related debates in Arctic society and research. In addition, ASSW participants were invited to meet the curators of the “Queer Art Spaces Vienna 2023” at Kunsthalle Exnergasse in Vienna.
The workshop was organised by the IASSA Working Group Gender in the Arctic in collaboration with and co-funded by IASC and Arctic PASSION. Gertrude Saxinger, Kata Kyrölä, J. Otto Habeck, and Stephan Dudeck (IASSA Working Group Gender in the Arctic) wish to thank IASC, IASSA (International Arctic Social Sciences Association), Arctic PASSION, WiPS (Women in Polar Science), APRI (Austrian Polar Research Institute), and Ethnocineca for their financial and/or moral support.
- Research in the Arctic should acknowledge gender- and queer-related aspects of life in the wider context of the region’s colonial legacy
- Gender, sexuality, queerness, personal hopes and fears are part and parcel of life in Arctic communities, but they often defy straightforward articulation
- Dialogue between artists, activists and scientists offers a productive avenue to engage with topics that cannot be addressed easily through conventional methods and formats
Date and Location
February 2023 (during ASSW 2023) in Vienna, Austria
IASC Working Groups funding the Project
- J. Otto Habeck (University of Hamburg, Germany)
- Gertrude Saxinger (University of Vienna / Austrian Polar Research Institute, Austria)
Year funded by IASC