This ethnography of marine mammal hunting explores linkages between personal experiences and shared understandings of ecological phenomena among a group of Kigiqtaamiut hunters in Shishmaref, Alaska. Specifically it examines the relationships between Kigiqtaamiut hunters' experiences in the world and means by which the experienced world is brought into being through hunters' ways knowing. This work is informed by three spring hunting seasons spent as a member of a familial marine mammal hunting crew and over 20 months of fieldwork. It addresses hunters' ways of learning, knowing and directly experiencing the reality of the phenomenal world. Exploring a multiplicity of modes and facets of experience connected to the relationships between hunters' processual way of knowing bearded seals (Eringathus barbatus) through an experiential ethnographic investigation, I empirically examine the practices of hunting and the ethnography of hunting as linked, reflexive, and ultimately inseparable processes of coming to know. Considering the plausibility that a more rigorous presentation of a way of knowing can be realized through highlighting the reflexive and experiential interactions that shape these two concurrent phenomenological inquiries, this work suggests an "ethnography of knowing" to engage these multiple-linked processes of knowledge construction. It is suggested that separating hunters' ways of being and knowing misconstrues the depth and complexity of local knowledge as actualized in pragmatic decision-making processes in context of hunting. By examining Kigiqtaamiut/bearded seal relations, the set of hunting practices that most significantly shape the hunting mode of being in Shishmaref are explored. Collapsed into this ethnographic and phenomenological analysis of human/bearded seal ecology are the connections between hunters' ways of knowing, local pedagogy, the structure and usage of hunting narratives and topical lexicon to convey information and the significance of place and local histories. Analysis of these intersecting and mutually informative themes highlights how hunters' means of learning and knowing as a continuous process of experience both shape and are shaped by socioculturally mediated experiences with natural phenomena. This work speaks to dimensions of hunters' ways of knowing both manifest in and shaping lived experiences. In doing so, this work furthers regional ethnography, the anthropology of knowledge studies, human environmental relations and understandings of the human condition of being-in-the-world.
Thesis (Ph.D.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2010
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