Arctic Adaptations

Native Whalers and Reindeer Herders of Northern Eurasia

Igor Krupnik; Marcia Levenson, trans.; Marcia Levenson, ed.

The common view of indigenous Arctic cultures, even among scholarly observers, has long been one of communities continually in ecological harmony with their natural environment. In Arctic Adaptations, Igor Krupnik dismisses the textbook notion of traditional societies as static. Using information from years of field research, interviews with native Siberians, and archaeological site visits, Krupnik demonstrates that these societies are characterized not by stability but by dynamism and significant evolutionary breaks. Their apparent state of ecological harmony is, in fact, a conscious survival strategy resulting from “a prolonged and therefore successful process of human adaptation in one of the most extreme inhabited environments in the world.” As their physical and cultural environment has changed—fluctuating reindeer and caribou herds, unpredictable weather patterns, introduction of firearms and better seacraft—Arctic communities have adapted by developing distinctive subsistence practices, social structures, and ethics regarding utilization of natural resources.

Krupnik’s pioneering work represents a dynamic marriage of ethnography and ecology, and makes accessible to Western scholars crucial findings and archival data previously unavailable because of political and language barriers.

Paper: $35 | E-book: $7.99
ISBN-13: 9780874516333
Pages: 375 | Size: 5.5 in. x 8.5 in.
Date Published: June 1, 2002


  • A masterful study that will for the first time present English readers with cultures and environments of a totally unknown region. Krupnik is the most knowledgeable scholar of this subject in the world.

    William W. Fitzbugh, Jr.
    Arctic Center/Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution

About the Author

Marcia Levenson

Marcia Levenson is a doctoral candidate specializing in the human geography of the Soviet Arctic at the University of California, Berkeley.

Igor Krupnik

A leading figure in Arctic and Native Studies, Igor Krupnik is a Visiting Fellow at the Arctic Studies Center of Smithsonian Institution and a Fellow at the Institute of Ethnology at the Academy of Science in Moscow. He is a founding council member of the International Arctic Social Science Association.

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