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Davis, California

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Exploring the Arctic

UC Davis symposium to expound on Arctic cultures


Joining the forces of speech, song and study, the Native American Studies Department and the Mondavi Center present Arctic Indigeneities, Media and Social Justice: an interdisciplinary symposium. From Mar. 12 to Mar. 15, the symposium will host events throughout campus that celebrate the multifaceted experiences of Arctic cultures.

Arctic cultures refer to communities from parts of Alaska, Canada, Finland, Greenland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway and Russia. Arctic Indigeneities, Media and Social Justice aims to educate the UC Davis community on topics and issues of the indigenous Arctic, as well as raise ideas of contemporary social justice movements.

The symposium was organized by UC Davis professors Jessica Bissett-Perea (of the Native American studies department) and Christyann Darwent (of the anthropology department). Both professors have devoted their outside research to human nature within the Arctic regions.

Darwent expressed that the symposium was inspired by both professors’ desire to enrich the campus culture through teachings on Arctic lifestyles.

“[Bissett-Perea and I just wanted to] develop a more cohesive center for Arctic studies at [UC Davis] focused in particular on the human dimension,” Darwent said.

One of the symposium’s many features is an appearance by Tanya Tagaq, an award-winning Canadian Inuit throat singer. With a two-night residency at the Mondavi Center, Tagaq will take the stage with a multimedia demonstration of throat singing. She will also host talks to discuss the themes permeating her work, such as colonialism’s impact on Inuit communities and the unsolved cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

Tagaq’s ability to raise social issues through her music drove the symposium in its media-centered direction.

“Because of the attention Tagaq’s performance could bring, [Bissett-Perea and I] wanted to bring together different forms of media, such as music, as a means of calling attention to social issues in the Arctic,” Darwent said.

Thus, the symposium takes on several humanistic approaches to illustrate the breadth of insights and observations on Arctic cultures. Through expounding on research, literature, performance and studio art, the symposium composes a medley of minds and masterpieces, manifested through the compelling imagery of media.

“It is the use of these diverse platforms along with social media that attention can be brought to issues raised by Tagaq and others,” Darwent said.

Another component of the symposium takes place at the C.N. Gorman Museum located in Hart Hall. Currently, the museum is showcasing an exhibition titled “Listening to the Stone: Original Inuit Art.” The exhibit displays a fruitful collection of marble-finished figures smoothly sculpted from serpentinite and soapstone.

A stroll through the exhibit introduces onlookers to a cast of carved characters, from a dancing bear to a walrus on its head. According to Veronica Passalacqua, C.N. Gorman Museum curator, the jovial pieces not only represent visions of the Arctic, but also warmly welcome those curious about the culture.

“[The sculptures] really give people perspective of the [Arctic] environment and all that is available” Passalacqua said. “They’re very figurative and very accessible for [those] who may not know this area [of culture well].”

Overall, Arctic Indigeneities, Media and Social Justice offers the UC Davis campus an eventful and engaging means of getting acquainted with Arctic cultures. Alvina Huang, a fourth-year Native American Studies major, expressed anticipation for positive student reception.

“From a student’s perspective, most people are really shocked by the [accessibility] of cultures [unfamiliar to them],” Huang said. “I guess it’s the [availability] and the coolness that [channels with] students like us.”

For more information on attending the symposium’s events, please visit the event’s site.


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