The Arctic Institute issued a call for researchers to submit papers for a series examining “heteronormativity” in the far northern portion of the planet.
The nonprofit think tank, which exists to develop economic, military, and health security policy for the Arctic, asserted that “queerness and Indigenous” identities in the region have often been diminished. Analysts are therefore assembling a series of papers called “Queering the Arctic” to examine the role of “queerness” among native populations.
“How are queer people in the Arctic challenging well-established systems of heteronormativity? To what extent are they suffering from societal, cultural or structural shortcomings and how are they using their resources to overcome them?” the group asked in a press release. “With these pointed questions, we want to challenge deficiency-oriented, ethnocentric and neoliberal approaches and invite authors to create a space to identify ‘Hope Spots’ from Indigenous and queer feminist perspectives, may it be artistic, academic, analytical or narrative.”
The organization noted that the addition of “two-spirit,” a person who identifies as having both a masculine and feminine spirit, as a distinct identity group under the “LGBT2SQ+” acronym marks one example of how “precolonial Indigenous concepts of gender and identity have gained popularity in recent years, and how queer people are taking matters in their own hands yet again.”
The Arctic Institute was launched in 2011 but was honored by the University of Pennsylvania as one of the world’s foremost think tanks. Prospect Magazine likewise shortlisted the Arctic Institute in 2016 for its annual Think Tank Awards.
Researchers have grown increasingly interested in homosexuality and transgenderism within native communities. The Indian Health Service, a federal agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, contends on one website that some tribes historically had individuals who “combined activities of both men and women” and therefore “occupied a distinct, alternative gender status.” The website links to various resources for “LGBTQ2S” individuals.
“The disruptions caused by conquest and disease, together with the efforts of missionaries, government agents, boarding schools, and white settlers resulted in the loss of many traditions in Native communities,” the agency lamented. “Two-spirit roles, in particular, were singled out for condemnation, interference, and many times violence. As a result, two-spirit traditions and practices went underground or disappeared in many tribes.”
Researchers and academics in fields such as gender studies have frequently been accused of seeking pseudoscientific and activism-driven conclusions.
The initiative from the Arctic Institute comes two years after the Polar Institute, a division of the prestigious Wilson Center that examines the “central policy issues” facing the Arctic and Antarctic, released an article also entitled “Queering the Arctic.” The authors concluded that “state policies and social norms in many societies” have stigmatized native households that do not live in accordance with “mainstream heteronormative expectations and lifeways.”
“If we define privilege as the absence of obstacles in pursuing interests, goals or careers, then the inequalities some individuals face become increasingly evident,” the article said. “Activists, including Indigenous activists, human rights organizations, academics and others have worked hard for the advancement and recognition of equal rights for LGBTQI2S+ communities in the Arctic, but discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity still deeply affect the people living in the region, including Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, researchers and visitors.”