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Hunters, Predators and Prey: Inuit Perceptions of Animals

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Hunters, Predators and Prey

Inuit Perceptions of Animals

Frédéric Laugrand and Jarich Oosten

418 pages, 34 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-405-2 $145.00/£107.00 / Hb / Published (October 2014)

ISBN  978-1-78533-337-8 $39.95/£31.95 / Pb / Published (August 2016)

eISBN 978-1-78238-406-9 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“This is a beautiful and deeply humbling book whose detailed accounts show the depth, power, and wisdom of a worldview too often dismissed or forgotten. For all scholars of the Arctic and indigenous peoples and of major interest to thoughtful philosophers. Essential.” • Choice

“The book is useful for anyone interested in the human ecology of the circumpolar north. The book meticulously covers much of what is known about the ways that Inuit morality and religion influence how Inuit perceive the natural environment, revealing a vast body of beliefs and narratives that connect Inuit to the natural world both culturally and cosmologically. It is a useful reference source that can be read as one reads a dictionary, handbook, or encyclopedia, by keyword or by topic. It includes, for example, an excellent index and glossary of indigenous terms.” • Human Ecology

“This volume collects and synthesizes [the authors’] research, thereby becoming the most comprehensive English-language source on Inuit perceptions of animals… a landmark contribution to the study of Inuit human–animal relations. Hopefully it will stimulate future research on attitudes toward less charismatic animals, such as fish, ground squirrels, and auks, all of which figure significantly in arctic life.” • Alaska Journal of Anthropology

“Specialists in Northern anthropology will appreciate the volume’s bibliography and helpful glossary of hunting-related Inuktitut terminology. On a more general level, the volume represents a valuable contribution to the wider literature on the extension of personhood beyond humanity in hunter-gatherer societies. The research will be useful to any scholar grappling with the question of how a hunter’s cosmological perspective on prey animals influences the hunting process.” • Inuit Studies

“… the book is excellent. It is a very strong volume, required reading for any scholar of the Arctic or for those whose work focuses on human animal relationships. The information in the book has provided me with insights about animals that I had never actively considered in my own work.” • Anthropos

“…this book provides a hugely worthwhile description and analysis, in their own words, of Inuit hunters’ perceptions, traditions, practices and stories of animals and the socio-ecological setting they share. Moreover, it offers an invaluable resource to aid in, and acts as a call for, Inuit understandings to be given due precedence in discourses concerning Arctic resource use, land management and animal welfare/conservation. This book would, therefore, be a valuable resource for anyone interested in Arctic, ecological or human-nonhuman anthropology.” • Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale.

“Hunters, Predators and Prey is far from another general work on Inuit hunting. In every respect, it is a deep (and in my view, timely) analysis of Inuit-animal relations. This volume is, indeed must be, daunting, addressing as it does the deep ontological understanding of Inuit about animals in relation to themselves. It also has multilayered importance. First, it is a very powerful anthropological con­tribution to our understanding of Inuit relations to the world around them. Second, it draws upon a range of sources, first and foremost the authors’ own interviews with Inuit Elders…Last, this volume has criti­cal relevance to contemporary discussions about Inuit and wildlife.” • Arctic Review

“…reading this book expanded and enriched my general understanding of Inuit worldview. Indeed, since animals are so central to Inuit society, if one comprehends the complex intellectual framework linking animals with people, one has taken an important step toward understanding Inuit lifeways at the broadest level. As such, this book is recommended for a wide array of scholars—not just those engaged with Inuit culture, past or present, but also scholars interested in general approaches to understanding hunter-gatherers and how humans in worlds very different from ours imagine the human-animal relationship. As nature becomes increasingly a central theme in an emerging global ethics, this kind of book is a very important resource indeed.” • American Ethnologist

“…the project is worthwhile because it organizes so much data—often older data that anthropologists might not seek out—into one location and adds to our modern disciplinary interest in personhood, bodies in culture, and animals as an inseparable component of human society.” • Anthropology Review Database

“This is a fascinating contribution to the ethnography of the circumpolar North and the growing literature on human-animal relationships. The authors have assembled a rich and authoritative compendium of Inuit knowledge and tradition aimed at the animals that surround them… Perhaps unique to any other collection it takes local animist categories seriously such that Inuit concepts take a position front and centre before European concepts such as ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’." • David G. Anderson, University of Aberdeen

“The strength of the text lies in its use of extensive quotes from the Inuit. This allows the Inuit voice to be heard clearly through the discourses of Western thought.” • Christopher Trott, University of Manitoba


Inuit hunting traditions are rich in perceptions, practices and stories relating to animals and human beings. The authors examine key figures such as the raven, an animal that has a central place in Inuit culture as a creator and a trickster, and qupirruit, a category consisting of insects and other small life forms. After these non-social and inedible animals, they discuss the dog, the companion of the hunter, and the fellow hunter, the bear, considered to resemble a human being. A discussion of the renewal of whale hunting accompanies the chapters about animals considered ‘prey par excellence’: the caribou, the seals and the whale, symbol of the whole. By giving precedence to Inuit categories such as ‘inua’ (owner) and ‘tarniq’ (shade) over European concepts such as ‘spirit ‘and ‘soul’, the book compares and contrasts human beings and animals to provide a better understanding of human-animal relationships in a hunting society.

Frédéric Laugrand is Professor in the Department of Anthropology, Université Laval and Director of the journal Anthropologie et Sociétés. He is the author of Mourir et Renaître. La Réception du Christianisme par les Inuit de l’Arctique de l’Est Canadien (PUL, 2002) andco-author with Jarich Oosten of Inuit Shamanism and Christianity: Transitions and Transformations in the XXth Century (MQUP, 2009), The Ethnographical Recordings of Inuit Oral Traditions by Father Guy. Mary-Rousselière (2010), Between Heaven and Earth. The Recollections of Felix Kupak (2012).

Jarich Oosten (1945-2016) was Emeritus Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Leiden University, The Netherlands. He was author of The War of the Gods: The Social Code in Indo-European Mythology (Routledge and Kegan, 1985). He and Frédéric Laugrand co-edited books in three different series at the Nunavut Arctic College. The two co-authored Apostle to the Inuit (University of Toronto Press, 2006), The Sea Woman (Alaska University Press, 2009) and Hardships of the Past: Recollections of Arviat Elders (2011).

Subject: Anthropology (General)Environmental Studies (General)
Area: North AmericaCircumpolar


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