Anthropology research seminar: On plasticity and precarious processes in the Alaskan Arctic. Barbara Bodenhorn (Pembroke College, Cambridge)
Climate biologist Thor Hanson (2022) has recently suggested that ‘plasticity’ should be taken into account when assessing the likelihood that any given species will survive radical environmental shifts. This is particularly pertinent in the Arctic where climate change is having radical effects. In this paper, I begin with the assertion that what is often characterised as ‘extreme climate events’ are better understood as examples of extreme processes – shifting our focus from events-as-anomalies to processual change as the norm. within this context, I then explore whether - and how – the concept of plasticity might contribute to the already existing notion of ‘flexibility’ as a key feature of Inuit survival strategies in the Arctic. To do this, I explore some of the strategies Utqiagvingmiut (Inupiat from the northernmost community in Alaska) developed in response to the recent COVID pandemic.