Abstract

In 1992 an abandoned federal radioactive waste dump was discovered in Arctic Alaska. The discovery of this site, a byproduct of the Atomic Energy Commission program known as Project Chariot, sent shockwaves throughout Iñupiaq communities and ignited a heated controversy over the health effects of subsisting on a "tundra of sickness." Drawing on thirty months of ethnographic research in Arctic Alaska, this paper explores a host of environmental, social, and moral uncertainties sparked by toxic waste. Anthropological claims regarding the extent to which "traditional ecological knowledge" will empower local communities and foster self-determination are challenged. Ultimately the paper argues that TEK has been conceived in such restrictive terms that it misrepresents the dynamic, emerging, and at times contradictory responses to toxic waste in the Arctic today. Moreover, there is dire need for a more materialist, as opposed to discourse-based, approach that acknowledges the very real threat of toxic waste to physical, and therefore, cultural reproduction.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1933-8139
Print ISSN
0066-6939
Pages
pp. 87-98
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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