TOWARDS THE NECESSITY OF A NEW "URGENT ANTHROPOLOGY":
ARCTIC ANTHROPOLOGY AND THE "NEW" (BUT ANCIENT, BECAUSE TRADITIONAL) ECOLOGICAL INDICATORS
By Franco Pelliccioni, Italian Geographical Society
"In thinking about what we are doing to our world's oceans, I contemplate the wisdom of the ancients. They tell us that nothing can be manifest outside us that is not first manifest within us." We cannot create something in the "outer world" without first creating it within each of us. We are trashing our physical world because we are trashing our "inner world." Long term change cannot take place until we deal with our trashing within and transform our inner world into one of peace, tranquility, and balance. The elders say that the only thing that transform darkness into light is love".Larry Merculieff, Aleut, Coordinator of Alaska's Bering Sea Coalition.
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE ARCTIC AND THE GLOBAL CHANGE
The Guidelines for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in the Arctic (1996), identify the typical Arctic characteristics:
1) It is not a uniform region; 2) Physical/Abiotic Systems: extent of ice-cover on waters; prominence of cryosphere -permafrost, glaciers/ice sheets- stored greenhouse gases such as CO2, methane; 3) Biotic Systems: low productivity in general, but some areas are of very high productivity; short food chains; slow recovery; 4) Sociocultural systems: high subsistence dependence; extensive vs intensive patterns of land use; low population densities; 5) Implications for: infrastructure: roads/pipelines/sea routes; construction/buildings - onshore/offshore -; waste disposal.
Arctic ( but also sub-Arctic) ecosystems, due to their short growing, are, not only very sensitive to chemical, biological, and physical changes of human origin, but now they are facing global climate change. Climate change is of immediate interest to the Arctic. So that the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program has identified it as the "bellwether of global change and the zone of early warning for global greenhouse warming". The Arctic plays a crucial role in global climate change, indeed. It is not only an indicator of change but its snow and ice features and ocean temperatures and sea ice are good integrators of change. It stores long-term climatic records in its ice sheets, such as the Greenland ilandsis. It affects the global climate directly through interactions between the atmosphere, ice cover and ocean, and through feedback processes. All climate models predict an amplification of the global greenhouse effect at high northern latitudes, but models and observations have produced results not easily interpreted. Global effects on the Arctic are reflected in regional climate changes. All snow and ice of the Arctic will be affected. The extent and thickness of the seasonal snow cover, permafrost, glaciers, rivers, lakes and sea ices are going to decrease. These changes will affect also the ecosystems with their fauna and flora. Cultural and socio-economic consequences to the arctic populations and their lifestyles will be inevitable. Anyhow not all the changes will be necessarily negative. Less sea ice may allow, for instance, the opening of trans-Arctic shipping routes, like the mythical North-East Passage, the Northern Sea Route.
But, in general, there is considerable uncertainty in the predicted long-term climate
changes, and thus the consequences of these, whether due to natural or anthropogenic influences, remain unknown, as I have already underlined (AMAP, 1997a). A recent AMAP report points out that "the ozone depletion, ultraviolet radiation, climate change and human-caused pollutants pose a more serious threat to the pristine environment of the Arctic than previously believed". There are "serious gaps in our present knowledge, which prevent us from making firm predictions on how the Arctic will respond to future changes (…) the climate of the Arctic can influence the rest of the earth by increasing sea level through glacial melt, and by altering oceanic circulation which is responsible for transporting colder water from the Arctic to lower latitudes. Recent increases in surface UV in winter and spring are adversely affecting ecosystems, and human health in the Arctic (…) Eye damage and weakening of the immune system are of particular concern to people living in the Arctic because of the difficulties and cost associated with obtaining medical care" (AMAP, 1997b)
Two recent studies concerning changes in northern ecosystems are of some interest: 1) an analysis using a simplified climate/biosphere model predictes that all boreal forest vegetation will shrink and replaced by taiga. Temperate forest will move northward (Monserud et al. 1993); 2) using paleoecological data it is possible to imagine which could be the future change in the boreal forest/tundra vegetation. We know that during a warm period (4000-5000 years BC) vegetation changed from tundra to canopy black spruce within a 150 years period (MacDonald et al. 1993). The past historical warm period had more or less the same climate conditions then the ones are producing the temperature changes predicted now for the Arctic. But the final question mark, also in the case of the two researchers, concerns always the same impossibility to know which exactly the "change effects" will be.
The U.S. Global Change Research Program recently published a report entitled Forum on Climatic Modeling ( 1995) which provides the latest conclusions on future climate conditions, according three categories: Very Probable, Probable and Uncertain. For the North they are:
VERY PROBABLE : 1) Global temperatures will increase by 2050 between 0.5 - 2.0°C; 2) Northern Hemisphere sea ice will decrease. However some areas will have expansion; 3) Arctic land areas will show increased warming and reduced snow cover; 4) Sea level will rise between 5 - 40 cm.
PROBABLE : 1) High latitude precipitation will increase; 2) The North Atlantic Ocean will warm at a slow rate than the average.
UNCERTAIN : 1) Changes in climatic variability will occur; 2) Regional scale
(100-2000 km) climate change will be different than the global average; 3) Details of climate change over the next 25 years are uncertain; 4) Biosphere-climate feedbacks are expected but whether these feedbacks will amplify or moderate climate change is uncertain. (Lewis e Wool 1996).
KNOwLEDGES: NATURAL VS. SOCIAL, SCIENTIFIC VS. TRADITIONAL
There is a manifold knowledge confrontation in the Arctic. The first is between aboriginal Peoples Knowledge and the scientific eurocentric Knowledge. In a word, between them and us! The second is wholly eurocentripetal, because is played between natural and social scientists. I will start from this "second vis-à-vis".
The mistrust and the incomprehension, that especially in the past, and in some scientifical milieux also today, have negatively marked the contribution to the understanding of problems of a more and global significance, among scholars belonging to natural and social sciences, should be overcome. Today's paper could exactly start from what climatologists Lewis and Wood said about "the urgency to bring the two together" (II ICASS, International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences, Rovaniemi, 1995). Kuhn and Phillips in the '70 already outlined the benefits coming from the cooperation of natural and social scientists. So to go " beyond the constraints of the paradigms of the individual disciplines". Researchers will have to be willing to accept the validity of multiple paradigms, which appears to go against the norms of science as we have defined it.
"Global change4 is occurring at an ever increasing rate, and this change is nowhere felt more than in the delicate environmental systems within both the oceanic and terrestrial regimes for the northern latitudes. These regions face a myriad of environmental problems that at times appear to be overwhelming - depleting of fishing stocks and decline in marine mammal populations; decreased habitat for caribou/reindeer herds; continual pressures of mineral exploration and its social consequences on native groups; and the socio-economic impacts of climatic change". (Lewis and Wood, 1996)
"Generally, the modern scientific knowledge of Arctic ecology is not as advanced as the ecological understanding in temperate latitudes. There is lack of extensive modern research and a shortage of qualified Arctic scientists. The southern experience and intuition cannot readily be transferred to the Arctic. However, the practical knowledge of the indigenous peoples on the environment and its sustainable use is extensive. Many indigenous peoples in the Arctic are repositories of long term knowledge about local ecosystem characteristics and variations over time, including recent trends. Often they can also identify reliable indicators of stress in valued ecosystem components [my italic]. " (EIA, 1996).
"While there has been a great deal of ecological information collected by, or from indigenous peoples of the Arctic, a large amount of this information has remained unused or unaccessible as reference material5, only in recent years have researchers seriously examined the potential of using this knowledge in conjunction with western science to study the impacts arising from development proiects." (Sallenave, 1994)
HOW THE LIFE-STYLE (AND ETHNOSCIENCE) OF THE NORDIC ABORIGINAL PEOPLES CAN HELP IN UNDERSTANDING AND MONITORING THE DRAMATIC GLOBAL CHANGE PHENOMENON: LAUNCHING AN ARCTIC Urgent Anthropology PROGRAM?
It is possible to say that in the Northern regions do exist brand new (but, at the same time, with a very ancient origin) indicators that we may place together with the others-ones scientists already possess, as excellent theoric and working tools, to find out the exact and up-to date picture of Arctic (and "Global") change. They are indicators, it has been said, new and old at the same time, because strongly connected to traditional life-styles of the aboriginal peoples that there live.
And they are deeply interrelated with the protection of the original habitat (pastures, hunting and fishing grounds, seasonal movements, ecc.) of the hunters and pastoral peoples of the Euro-Asiatic and American Great North.
Now, with the Third Millenium almost at the door, we have new motives and reasons to re-start a "new" Program of Urgent Anthropology, after those spoken (about) and carried out in the ’60 6 and ’70 7.But those, I should add, had the (not at all secondary, this is true!), task to take records, among tribes and peoples all over the world, of traditional cultures and customs: "before it was too late". As to add them in the Inventary of Humanity. But those Arctic peoples, those men and women, who since time immemorial live in the circumpolar areas, know, I should think, exactly, what is going on, since little, or long time, in their native countries. What is changed already since their father’s time, or what is –perhaps still now- changing under their own eyes8. And these findings, their discoveries and know-hows can help them and us. Can help the world, as a whole, to correct and change single and collective ecological behaviours. And, at the end, also they will help, at large, the same Nordic peoples and communities to restore, we hope, better ecological, economical and living conditions. Because indications and main lines (also of a compulsory nature, if it is the case) should be given to Governments and Administrators, below the Polar Circle, so to keep control and/or diminish the degree of pollution and of the green-house effect. As a matter of fact, the eight Nordic countries have developed, since 1991, the AEPS9, that rightly has incorporated knowledges and traditional practices of the cultures of authochtonous peoples. And CAFF is the Program of AEPS for the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna and practically is integrating indigenous peoples and their knowledge [Nordic Aboriginal Peoples have been directly involved since its inaugural meeting (1992). The projects that have been ongoing are the following: "Beluga Whale Mapping Pilot Project" (Alaska e Chukotka, Russia); "Indigenous Knowledge Data Directory"; "Indigenous Peoples and Co-Management"; "Ethical Principles for Arctic Research"] "since they represent the repository of traditional indigenous ecological knowledge and skills of the Arctic".
But already the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention - ILO -10 states that:
"The peoples concerned shall have the right to decide their own priorities for the process of development as it affects their lives, beliefs, institutions and spiritual well-being and the lands they occupy or otherwise use, and to exercise control, to the extent possible, over their own economic, social and cultural development. In addition, they shall participate in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of plans and programmes for national and regional development which may affect them directly" (art.7,1).
The traditional indicators of Arctic change must not be invented. It is not necessary to guess them. They are already there. Since the beginning of time. Since the "Golden Age" or the "Cultural Foundation Myth" of each Nordic community and they form an integrating part of tradition, of the orally transmission of know-hows, knowledges, and so on, connected also to the environment, the habitat, the fauna and vegetation, the climate…11.In the last few years all these last knowledges have been renamed as: "Traditional Ecological Knowledge" (TEK).
A DIFFERENT LOOK TO GLOBAL CHANGE FROM THE ABORIGINAL CULTURES AND PEOPLES : Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)
It has been defined as :
"a cumulative body of knowledge and beliefs, handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment. Further, TEK is an attribute of societies with historical continuity in resource use practices; by and large, these are non-industrial or less technologically advanced societies, many of them indigenous or tribal" (Berkes 1993: 3) 12.
Traditional kwowledge is what anthropologist, more formally, use to call ethnoscience. That is, according the definition of the late Cardona: "the theoric total of the practical knowledge about the world, owned by a community; knowledges that have a "learning value", not a "credence value", coherent and verified by experience" (1995:36). TEK is day by day adjusted to habitat changes of each community, and it will be of vital importance, value and validity as far as peoples will turn themselves on the environment for their subsistence (and survival).
Aboriginal traditional ecological knowledge should be integrated formally into the process, and aboriginal peoples should be given greater decision-making powers concerning EIA research and policy. At present, most environmental assessments and monitoring systems neither involve significantly aboriginal communities or include northern aboriginal peoples’ knowledge of the environment, so …most EIAs are ineffective" (Sallenave, 1994).
It should be added, and this is not a "new thing" for Students of Man, that: "the aboriginal view of the world sees all aspects of the environment as equally important. In their "holistic" view, the components (of the biosphere or the human components—the social, cultural, spiritual, and economic aspects of the environment) cannot be separated each from the other."(Sallenave, 1994)
Already, almost twenty years ago, Freeman,1979 ( and, after him, Howes,1980, Johnson, 1989, Nakashima, 1990) have pointed out the advantages of involving aboriginal peoples as environmental researchers, also with greater speed and less cost compare to the traditional scientific research methods. "As long as aboriginal communities in the study region are not involved in the research, it will be difficult—if not impossible—and more costly for researchers to identify and understand the ecological, social, cultural, economic, and spiritual value of the various components of the environment"13 (Sallenave, 1994).
"There are numerous knowledge gaps in the ecological information about northern regions that science alone cannot fill14. TEK, which encompasses the biophysical, economic, social, cultural, and spiritual aspects of the environment, is in many instances better suited to answer scientists’ many questions" (Freeman, 1992). Because, as a matter of fact, "TEK emphasizes the inter-relationships between components of the environment and avoids scientific reductionism. It views humans as part of the environment. (…) Integrating TEK into the EIA process entails more than a transfer of information from one culture to another: it will require a change in the mind of policy makers and of scientists." (Sallenave, 1994).
In 1996, a Seminary held by the ICC (Inuit Circumpolar Conference) in Inuvik, Canadian Western Arctic, saw all together elders, researcher, Inuit hunters (from Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Northern Russia), all of them with strong backgrounds in traditional ecology. The participants stressed that "TEK collecting" is urgently needed. In all the represented circumpolar regions, elders who grew up living on the land and sea are passing away, and with them their knowledge of the land and of the traditions of the community. It is essential that it is documented the elders' knowledge and promoted the transmission of that knowledge to the younger generation. This must include the protection of the land and the use of its resources, otherwise traditions and knowledge will be lost, and the people who remain will be left without the benefit of this heritage. In particular, there is a need to revive traditional methods of using natural resources for the continued survival of indigenous peoples of the circumpolar north (ICC, 1996). In the same paper the first recommendation addressed by the participants, entitled Perpetuating the Use of TEK at the Community Level, was: that should be encouraged the promotion of the use of indigenous knowledge in the community, and the documentation of the knowledge of community elders, making it locally available. "Work in this area is particularly urgent, since so much knowledge is being lost so rapidly". Afterwards, in the paragraph Documenting TEK, it is further pointed out that: "due to the urgency with which TEK documentation is needed, funding agencies and local organizations should make this work a high priority". Not only! A recommendation of a purely anthropological flavour, concerning the globality of the right direction to take, is that: "TEK interviews should be holistic in their approach. Topics should include land, animals, people, culture, language, and environment, as appropriate. All are connected, and the interview should discuss environmental and cultural processes and influences that relate to the subject being studied"15.
But there are some overall difficulties in accepting TEK. The first barrier to its integration is perceptual. Because, as we can imagine, there is a difference between what aboriginal peoples and foreigners see as "significant"... This poses an obstacle to the effective monitoring of impacts. The gap between the two perceptions is due to the fact that generally it is not possible to fully understand the attitude of a People to development and change, out of the context of its own cultural history. And we know very well that there is a continous trend, almost in all the world, to exclude aboriginal peoples (and their knowledge, too!) from development processes. A second, not secondary, barrier towards the inclusion of traditional knowledge in the EIA process is the scepticism within the scientific community: the more or less reliability of indigenous information coming through interviews, and/or field partecipant observations. It could be anecdotal and no-scientific16.
Urgent Anthropology looks for several causes, besides those concerned to the world's processes, more or less deep and extended, of cultural change in progress, and as to peoples threatened (for several causes), still more vital than ever. "Urgent Anthropology" University Courses, Fellowships and Scolarships, concerning Programs and Projects in Urgent Anthropology, are yearly conferred by the most prestigious scientific organizations17. Not only… The most important World's Meetings18 show evidence of the urgence of ethno-anthropological studies, which have characterized, almost from birth, modern Ethnology (and Cultural/Social Anthropology), with researches in all corners of the world19. It is possible to say, as a matter of fact, that the adjectif "urgent", or the word "urgency "are tightly connected to these sciences. They have been a sort of raison d'être of our science, both belonging to the foundation act of the discipline20.
Recently Osherenko (INSROP) underlined the "complexity of the human systems in the Arctic and the need for both detailed and geographically broad-ranged baseline studies" (1993:122). As a matter of fact gaps exist also in the basic knowledge of many Nordic Peoples, first of all Siberians21. So, to conclude, I hope the topic of my paper has been of some utility to the general discussion of this Seminar. And here I suggest the possibility to launch a new Program of Urgent Anthropology, focalizing it in the circumpolar regions for the following main reasons:
1) to collect general background data on Arctic Peoples, when our knowledge of those cultures is insufficient (Northen Russia), or it is out of date;
2) to collect data on Arctic Peoples cultural change, in progress;
3) to collect data on ecological matters;
4) to collect data on ecological (and global) change.
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1I think, for istance, to the remarkable growing, as in the number of polinyas, as in their total area.
2 Two areas of particular interest in the Arctic have been chosen by the IASC, the International Arctic Science Committee for regional impact assessments: the Barents Sea and the Western Arctic / Bering Sea region (for their economical importance, weather generation, and sensitivity to climate, as well as for the presence of native populations, regional scientific expertise, and… research. Observed climate -related trends and changes over the last few decades make this region particularly interesting in assessing the impacts of change (BESIS, Introduction, Bering Sea Impacts Study, s.d.).
3"Changes in sea level which decrease the land available would produce several effects. People would have to relocate inland producing changes in population distribution, wich will influence the resource base and land use" (Lewis and Wood, 1996).
4"Global change research initially focused almost solely on the physical and biological sciences, but in the last eight to ten years, there has been more recognition of the human dimensions and the essential role that social science must play in resolving global environmental problems. As evidence, the three problems that have been given greatest attention: climate change, ozone depletion and loss of biodiversity - are all anthropogenic in origin" (Lewis and Wood, 1996).
5The annotated bibliography of indigenous knowledge studies/reports that was developed as part of the 1993 report entitled: "The Participation of Indigenous Peoples and the Application of their Environmental and Ecological Knowledge in the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy" is considered a starting point for the data directory.
6At the beginning of the '60 Heine-Geldern, the theoretician of "transpacific migrations" started an Urgent Anthropological Research Bulletin, and began to assess the populations that were in danger (Huxley, 1975: 12). In 1969 Sol Tax, in the pages of Current Anthropology declared that : "I think there are three equally urgent tasks for world's anthropology: 1) the human problem of forced cultural change or the physical destruction of Peoples, that bar or boycott the interests of the more powerful Peoples; 2) the problem of the speed of change of traditional patterns, due to force or as a result of internal demands. This destroys forever the necessary data to understand the historical variety of cultures and that could help us to direct our future; 3) the problem to propagate, especially among other scientists and technicians, the anthropology's points of view, to make more efficient modernization programs, as to resist to the negative influences for humanity" (Freedman, 1978:180-181).
7In 1971 the famous Center for the Study of Man of the Smithsonian Institution of Washington called for a meeting in Chicago "to encourage and to coordinate interdisciplinary researches on a world scale on anthropologicals matters suggested by the more pressing problems facing humanity" (Freedman, 1978: 177).
8For the Sami, the colleague Ingold (Manchester University), has just ended a field-research (1/94-12/97) on: "The Perception of Climatic Change and its impact on the Saami of Fennoscandia". I should say that this People has opposed to the Chernobyl disaster cultural reactions and strategies. Because the "cloud" caused very long term damages to lichens (the reindeer favourite food), creating problems, as to the single breeder, as to administrators and researchers. So, a good professional and empirical "packet" has been accumulated, as regards to the long terms effects.
9"The Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (adopted by Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States, at Rovaniemi) objectives specifically identify the necessity to recognise and, to the extent possible, seek to accommodate the traditional and cultural needs, values and practises of the indigenous peoples as determined by themselves, related to the protection of the Arctic environment" ( AEPS includes the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), the Nordic Saami Council (NSC) and the Russian Association of Peoples of the North -RAPON-): " Recognising the importance of the Arctic to our respective countries, to present and future generations of all Arctic residents, especially indigenous peoples, and to the rest of the world; Recognising the special role and important contributions of indigenous peoples in each of the AEPS programmes; We endorse continuation of activities for monitoring, data collection, exchange of data on the impacts, and assessment of the effects of contaminants and their pathways, increased Ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation due to stratospheric ozone depletion, and climate change on Arctic ecosystems". (Alta Declaration on the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy, 1997)
10"Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in indipendent Countries (ILO No. 169), 72 ILO Official Bull, 59, entered into force 1991: art. 7)
11A recent hit film, titled in Italian: "Il senso di Smilla per la neve", showed to the public the knowledges, not only of a terminological order, of the Greenlandic People (Inuit) about the phisical phenomenon of the snow. Also if the interpreter, Smilla, was only a young girl when she left the great island to go to Copenaghen. And these knowledges are all an integrating part of the traditional heritage of Arctic Peoples. For instance, I remind that in Canada does exists a distinction among the qali (the snow over the trees), the pukak (the compact snowy and iced cloak that is covering the soil), the api (the soft snow that is on the top of the pukak) (Magrini, 1982:30). But the eskimos (Inuit) have rich and diversified shades for the body, kinship, hunting techniques, and so on (Malaurie, 1991: 219).
12According Johannes four are the TEK prospectives: taxonomic-ones (meaning for the inhabitants, of wildlife, plants and soil); spacial-ones ( fauna seasonal migration patterns and aggregational places ); temporal; social (perception and use of land by aboriginal Peoples) (1993).
13"While there has been a great deal of ecological information collected by, or from indigenous peoples of the Arctic, a large amount of this information has remained unused or unaccessible as reference material. Only in recent years have researchers seriously examined the potential of using this knowledge in conjunction with western science to study the impacts arising from development proiects." (Sallenave, 1994)
14Cardona, in the rich bibliography that he wrote for his precious etnoscience handbook, has had the chance to refer only to few works concerning Arctic Peoples: Lucier, VanStone and Keats, on the "medical practices" and on the "Inuit Noatak anatomical knowledge" (p. 93), that of Marsh and Laughlin, on the "anatomical knowledges among the Aleuts" (p.94), the "Laps knowledges of the animal world" -reindeers- by Delaporte (p.115); and Royer: "Montagnais colour terminology" (p.171).
15This theme should be raised again in the next future, so to have a frame within which it will be possible to discuss about the possibility (costs, benefits, opportunity, search for partherships, relation with the AEPS, ecc.) of launching a future project of Urgent Anthropology in the Nordic Countries.
16The Berger Inquiry was the first environmental social impact assessment that took into consideration views and knowledge of the aboriginal inhabitants—Inuit, Dene, and Metis— of the proposed pipeline area in the northwest corner of Canada. (Lalonde & LeBlanc 1991). "Since the publication of the Berger Inquiry report, the credibility of native hunters as accurate interpreters of nature has become more widely accepted." (Freeman, 1979: 353)
17Since1995 a Fellowship is granted by the British Royal Anthropological Institute ( in association with Goldsmiths College, the larger centre for anthropological research in Great Britain), thanks to an "ad hoc" fund:The Anthropologist's Fund for Urgent Anthropological Research, so "to support research on threatened indigenous peoples and their cultures and languages".
18In 1998 the 14th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (ICAES), and titled: "The 21st Century: The Century of Anthropology", will be held in the States. Its title doesn't leave any doubts, as it will be there to assess firmly the up-to-date validity of a discipline that once was mostly restricted to the sphere of students of the primitive and the exotic "tout court", and whose members looked like to be interested, almost exclusively, to rites and myths, strange and peculiar usages and customs: good only to the advancement of "aspiring wizards". And which better occasion of this one to make, not only the point on the discipline, of the state-of-art, in reviewing knowledges and current researches in the different areas of the Planet. The 1998 ICAES will be also as a moment of critical reflection and of deepening on the past. To lay a sound bridge to the future, outlining the new challenges, that is possible to forecast of an extreme interest, that are waiting the new millenium anthropologists. The next hundred years will be so interesting that they have been already baptized as "The Anthropology's Century". An the World Meeting will be held at a distance of exactly one hundred years from the Torres Strait Expedition (Haddon, Rivers, Seligman et alia). Which has represented the very first interdisciplinary scientific research in the field. From here begins modern Anthropology. One of the most important 1998 ICAES Symposia will be:"Urgent Anthropological Research" (Chair: Hohenwart-Gerlachstein)
19For istance the foundation in London (1927) of the International African Institute (then Institute of African Languages and Cultures) had an urgent nature. Like ten years after, in 1937
(but "that building" went on for several decades: it is still in progress today) had the establishment, by Murdock, of the imposing Human Relations Area File Program (HRAF)
20"Plentiful since the XIX century are the calls to the urgency of the task [the settlement of "archives of the humanity], and this become a leitmotiv of anthropological teachings: the elements of some essential "dossiers" are disgregating under our own eyes" (Mercier, 1972: 16). In 1872, in the first edition of Notes and Queries on Anthropology (to which, among the others, contributed one of the Founding Fathers of Anthropology, Tylor -and Darwin, too-), that has been the very famous note-book-vademecum, not only for field ethnologist, but especially for amateur-ones (RAI, 1980:4), one of the pillars of the history of our science, it is obviously underlined "the urgency of the task, as some groups are, or look like to be, in extinction" (Mercier, 1972:62)
21As a matter of fact for many years the "sacred text" ["not only as the very first general ethnography treatise of the country, but as "summa" and general overview of scientific research in the sector" (Bravo, in Tokarev: 65)] of Russian Ethnologists has been the Tokarev Handbook, Etnografija narodov SSR, 1958, in part resulting from personal research (Altai, Saiani, Yakuts, Buriats, and partially Circassians and oriental Slav Peoples (Tokarev, 1969). At a distance of exactly forty years, the ex USSR and Northern Russia, in particular, are still considered as "unknown things". So the the Arctic Science Committee has provided an "ad hoc" program, the ISIRA: The International Science Initiative in the Russian Arctic", which principally is direct to increase our knowledges. Above all thanks to English translations and abstracts of disregarded works of Russian scholars caused by the linguistic blockade and the lack of a tradition of international scientific cooperation
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