The Materiality of Indigenous Languages: Co-creating Landscapes

The University of Helsinki, Fabianinkatu 33, Consistorium Hall (Main building, 2nd floor), 5-6 June 2018

Welcome to the University of Helsinki

This seminar focuses on indigenous languages and on what it means to co-build a relational space where humans and non-humans meet through a linguistic lens. Thus, we add an angle to the academic work done on human-animal-environment relations, which has dominated the interest of scholars from the Social Sciences, where language has often remained marginal. We show how adding language to this discussion allows us to better comprehend what it means to co-build a relational space where humans, non-humans, and the environment meet. At the seminar, we bring different scholarly traditions together (such as, Anthropology, Linguistics, and Folklore) and investigate the multiple facets comprised in language (i.e., typology, folklore genres, oral history, and ways of speaking) with regard to human-animal-environment relations. Making use of the expertise of the project members and long-term relations with indigenous communities, we address the following questions: How are the relations between humans, non-humans, and the environment expressed in indigenous languages? To what extent do indigenous ways of speaking contribute to the (co-)construction of the environment? To what degree can the work on indigenous languages contribute to global ecological discussions (e.g., environmental sustainability and climate change)? Our case studies draw together northern and southern indigenous peoples, languages, and environments: forest Veps in the Republic of Karelia, mountain Tyvans in the Tyva Republic, meadow and mountain Mari in the Mari El Republic, Arctic Nenets in the Nenets Autonomous Region, (sub-)Arctic Yakuts in the Sakha Republic (Russia), and riverside Apurinã (Brazil). We also present Finnish and Karelian ‘bear songs’ and toponymy in Uralic languages. This seminar can be of interest to anyone interested in environmental humanities, indigenous studies, social sciences, linguistics, and folklore studies. Registration is required.