Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Harvard University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2016
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Harvard University
Care, Belonging, and Social Reproduction in the Teno/Deatnu River Valley of the Finnish Sámi Region

The fraught relations of care in the Teno/Deatnu River Valley of the Finnish Sámi Region stand to provide acute insights into globally percolating anxieties surrounding the rights and obligations of family, community, and citizenship. In this multicultural area at the northernmost peak of the European Union, nested at the interstices of the Finnish welfare state and the transnational indigenous Sámi region, the implications of care for belonging and social reproduction are particularly underscored by contestation over child and adolescent mental health care, and over familial care for the elderly. That contestation, and the intertwined biographies and social histories of care that underlie it, invites inquiry into who is locally considered deserving of care, and by whom such care ought to be provided. Such inquiry has the potential to illuminate concerns articulated across the continent over the moral and material state of families and local communities amidst care's reorganization. Where exhortations for families to provide care abound, and several recent health and mental health initiatives in the transnational Sámi region have sought to reconstitute traditional forms of salutary social life within formal institutions (Heikkilä, ed., 2014, 22-25, 52; Sexton, 2009; Sexton and Stabbursvik, 2010; Eidheim and Stordahl, 2007 [1998]), I thus ask: What are the implications of such neo-traditional endeavors and admonitions? Are they indicative of a familial "mystique" (sensu Ferguson, 1990, 135-166) – that is, the positioning of families as a focal point in contestation over community, tradition, and their reproduction? Do they herald a wider "moralization" of families and communities amidst states' retreat from the provision of care (Muehlebach, 2012, 133)? What are the implications of these developments, and of the emergent resistance to them, for the Sámi themselves, the wider Finnish society, and ongoing transformations to welfare states across Europe?