Walking in the Arctic: Personal Narratives

November 1 (Tuesday) 16.00-17.00 (Helsinki) 14.00-15.00 (GMT), online

Susana Hancock, PhD (University of Oxford), multidisciplinary climate scientist

Elena Adasheva, PhD Candidate (Yale University), sociocultural anthropologist

For ZOOM Link Register HERE the day before the event. You will receive the zoom link an hour before the program begins.

Elena and Susana are Arctic researchers with extensive first-hand experience of the northern environment. During 2021-2022, Elena lived for 9 months in the Russian Far North, and Susana participated in the Jubilee Expedition across Svalbard. The importance of experiencing Arctic environment in-person for embodied understanding of the region cannot be overstated. For Environmental History Month, Elena and Susana propose to write and present their personal narratives of walking in the Arctic. Elena walked in a town, tundra, and on a frozen sea during her fieldwork. Susana walked daily during the unsupported and self-powered expedition. Though both women were not born and raised in the Arctic, they are social and environmental scholars who are passionate about the Arctic and captivated by the northern environment. By describing their multisensory experience of moving on foot in the Arctic landscape, they contribute an important perspective of contemporary female scholars experiencing Arctic environment. Elena and Susana’s narratives diversify the body of mostly male-authored writings about moving in the Arctic landscape, including classic travelogs of Arctic expeditions.

For both scholars, writing a personal narrative about their experiences constitutes a creative writing experiment. In their pieces, Elena and Susana will describe their bodily sensations and perceptions of the Arctic environment while walking. By doing so, they will push themselves to explore more humanistic and poetic ways of writing, different from academic writing styles in social and natural sciences.

This project enters scholarly and artistic conversations on walking methodologies and multisensory ethnography. Additionally, it aims to inspire younger Arctic scholars to experience the region in person and invites broader scientific community to share their fieldwork experiences in more accessible and experiential forms of writing. This presentation offers an exploratory approach to the human-environment relations in the Arctic.

When bird-feeding became a problem in Helsinki. Birds, rats and the challenges of living in a multispecies city

Heta Lähdesmäki, University of Helsinki

November 15 (Tuesday), 14.00-15.30 (Helsinki), live

Place: University of Helsinki, Porthania 224, Yliopistonkatu 3

In present-day Helsinki, many people want to feed birds, seeing it as a rewarding way of helping wildlife. Nevertheless, bird-feeding often attracts urban rats to spaces humans have meant for birds. As humans have a generally negative disposition towards rats, bird-feeding has been prohibited in different public and private spaces. This multispecies entanglement is dynamic and in continuous flux: currently, the rat population sizes are increasing, the bird-feeding activity is decreasing, and the city of Helsinki is partially removing the bird-feeding prohibitions. Still, this relationship between bird-feeding and rats is causing conflicts between humans.

In order to understand where this specific human-wildlife conflict has emerged, it is crucial to explore the historical context of bird-feeding and human-rat relations. By looking into various historical sources from the late 19th century onward, I ask why people have wanted to feed birds and, on the other hand, when bird-feeding became a problem in Helsinki. This is related to the challenges of living in a multispecies city: some animal species are welcome to live in urban areas, while others are not.


Heta Lähdesmäki is a historian specializing in multispecies history, human-wildlife conflicts and conservation. She is part of the multidisciplinary Helsinki Urban Rat Project and works as a postdoctoral researcher at the university of Helsinki in the project ’Cohabitation with undesired others in urban spaces – from theory to practice’ funded by HELSUS. In this project, Lähdesmäki studies the history of bird feeding and rat conflicts in Helsinki. She completed a PhD in cultural history in 2020 at the University of Turku, studying human-wolf relations in 20th century Finland. She has also studied the relationship between humans and nature in Seili island and is part of the Academy of Finland funded HumBio-project, investigating the human relationship with the changing biodiversity in Finland. Lähdesmäki is interested in multidisciplinary research and believes that historical knowledge is an important tool when tackling present-day environmental problems.

Heta Lähdesmäki — Helsingin yliopisto (helsinki.fi)

Energy(and)Humanities. Low-Carbon Research Methods Workshop

Kate Elliott, Alexandra Lakind, Inna Häkkinen

November 16 (Wednesday) 18.00-19.30 (Helsinki), online

For ZOOM Link Register HERE the day before the event. You will receive the zoom link an hour before the program begins.

Are you interested in considering the carbon embedded in your research? Are your research methodological tools low-carbon? Are you looking for ways to reduce the carbon impact of your project? Do you tend not to send ‘thank you’ messages? What data storage do you use?

The speakers – Alexandra Lakind and Kate Elliott – are going to introduce the concept and activities of ‘The Low-Carbon Research Methods Group’ (http://lowcarbonmethods.com/), directed by Canada Research Chair Prof. Anne Pasek and hosted by Trent University (Peterborough, CA),  and promoting the idea that ‘an energy transition for academic methods—like energy transitions everywhere—offers opportunities to re-examine long-held assumptions and to redistribute benefits and harms (for both good and for ill)’. Working across different methodological traditions and (dis)cursive forms of inquiry, the research group seeks to explore the social and institutional prospects of decarbonizing academia, as well as the equity and epistemological gains that might be won thereby.

The workshop invites all those who want to explore the prospects for more climate-friendly research methods, and discuss the practical barriers and challenges of implementing a low-carbon approach in research towards advancing environmental and social justice. The participants will be invited to discuss the low-carbon ways of data storage, low energy and low-data design choices of data visualization as well as a zine-based format of presenting the research outlines. The presenters will encourage the participants to think more about the ways how their practices intersect with carbon-intensive expectations and norms, and to consider alternatives within academia and beyond.


Kate Elliott is an educator and interdisciplinary PhD candidate at Simon Fraser University. Her SSHRC-funded research uses virtual collaborative storytelling techniques to trace the lives of grocery carts—from their birth in factories to their repurposed afterlives in the urban commons. Kate’s background in Urban Studies (MURB) informs her curriculum design (Urban Dirt and Cemeteries: Life of the City), and teaching (Urban Research Methods). She currently leads Wayfinding for Restorative Methods, a continuation of the Summer Institute and Office Hours co-designed with fellow 2022 Low-Carbon Research Methods Seasonal Scholar Alexandra Lakind.

Dr. Alexandra Lakind is an artist, educator, and scholar working across an array of contexts conducting research, arts and educational programming to foster collaboration and environmental connection. Lakind has received formal training from Interlochen Arts Academy (HS), Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (BA), New York University (MA), and University of Wisconsin-Madison (PhD). Alexandra is currently a Visiting Scholar in the Reproductive Sociology Research Group at the University of Cambridge. Additionally, Alexandra worked with Kate Elliott as a 2022 Low-Carbon Research Methods Group Seasonal Scholar to co-design the Office Hour initiative & Summer Institute.


Inna Häkkinen, PhD, Helsinki Environmental Humanities Hub, the Department of Cultures, the University of Helsinki (inna.sukhenko@helsinki.fi)

The Human Coffee Room

Jes Hooper, Anthrozoologist, the University of Exeter; Meri Linna; Saija Kassinen; Harrie Liveart; Jonathan Salvage, University of Brighton

November 18 (Friday) 13.00-14.00 (GMT); 15.00-16.00 (Helsinki), online

For ZOOM Link Register HERE at least a day before the event. You will receive the zoom link an hour before the program begins.

 The human coffee room combines methodological praxis of the arts, humanities, and biological sciences, to investigate the ethics of bodily mechanisation and faecal commodification as endured by Asian palm civets (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), the producers of the famous civet coffee. Civet coffee (often known by its Indonesian name “kopi luwak”) is a coffee with an international reputation as the rarest and most expensive coffee in the world (Marcone, 2004). Prized by coffee partisans for its exclusivity, civet coffee reaches prices of up to ~€240 per kilo (Muzaifa, Hasni, Patria and Abubakar 2018). Civet coffee’s unique taste is said to be acquired through the enzymatic processes which occur when coffee cherries pass through the civet’s digestive tract. Yet with increased consumer demand has come increased profit margins as humans have taken to capture civets for mass civet coffee production. Civets are thus mechanized in a mouth the anus production line.

Whilst multispecies scholars often advocate for “becoming with” their non-human interlocutors (Altvater et al., 2016) in a bid to move beyond anthropomorphic, and thus anthropocentric, interpretations of the non-human world (such as Kohn 2007), becoming with animals enmeshed in exploitative systems involves more challenges of separation than is presented merely by taxonomic class. Not only does civet coffee occur in spaces hidden from public view, witnessing alone presents its own ethical issues. Through the act of spectatorship researchers can themselves become unwitting participants within Foucauldian biopolitics of bodily control and surveillance. In such cases, the researcher remains separate from the animal whom they seek to understand whilst integrating themselves into the anthropocentric hierarchies they may intend to contest. It was upon these ethical and methodological considerations surrounding our interest in the mechanization of civet bodies for civet coffee production that the Human Coffee Room emerged.

This research applies a transdisciplinary and transnational approach between visual artists, anthrozoologists, and biological scientists to problematize the acclaimed status of civet coffee, its methods of production, authentication, and economic worth. Firstly, attempting to gain an embodied perspective of animal mechanization, we used our own bodies to ‘become with’ our civet informants. By adhering to the same procedure as civet coffee production, we created 80g of human digested coffee. Secondly, we followed the scientific protocol utilized for civet coffee authentication, in which we examined samples of our product using scanning electron microscopy, the results of which we then compared to previously published findings for civet coffee. Our results illustrate the complexities involved in multi-species world making whilst highlighting the significant ethical issues surrounding digested coffee production and the flawed process of authentication. Finally, in selling our product on the open market, we have revoked civet coffee’s claims as the most expensive coffee in existence[1].

First presented as part of the Harrie Liveart solo exhibition dubbed by critics as “artistic research at it’s best”, we propose to bring the Human Coffee Room to the virtual realm of Environmental Humanities Month. We propose the presentation of a 15 minute video performance detailing the embodied perspective gained through the world-making potential of our digestive tracts, a 1 hour seminar exploring our scientific research findings (to which our academic paper is currently in press).


Altvater, E. et al. (2016) Anthropocene or capitalocene?: Nature, history, and the crisis of capitalism. Pm Press.

Kohn, E. (2007) ‘How dogs dream: Amazonian natures and the politics of transspecies engagement’, American ethnologist, 34(1), pp. 3–24.

Marcone, M. F. (2004) ‘Composition and properties of Indonesian Palm civet coffee (kopi luwak) and Ethiopian civet coffee’, Food Research International, 37, pp. 901–912.

Muzaifa, M., Hasni, D., Patria, A., and Abubakar, A. . (2018) ‘Sensory and microbial characteristics of civet coffee.’, nternational Journal on Advanced Science, Engineering and Information Technology, 8(1), p. 165.

Useful Links

Press coverage of the Human Coffee Room at the Harrie Liveart Solo Exhibition: https://www.hs.fi/kulttuuri/art-2000008823165.html?fbclid=IwAR0CYyQx0DtU0wVMBgXwY0XWKiR7Nj8iB3ZwbwFuib0LHss6VGVSn9Qqk-g

An over-view of the collective project Embodied Perspective (including images taken from the video performance): https://www.thecivetproject.com/embodied-perspectives

Jes Hooper’s research website, The Civet Project: www.thecivetproject.com

Harrie Liveart’s website: https://harrieliveart.com/

[1] The first 20g of Human Coffee sold at auction (as part of the Harrie Liveart Solo Exhibition) for €560

Indian Animal Studies Collective: Towards Animal Subjectivities of Waste: Street Dogs and Urban Spaces

Susan Haris, IIT Delhi, India; Anu Pande, The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India

November 25  (Friday) 13.00-15.00 (Helsinki), online

For ZOOM Link Register HERE at least a  day before the event. You will receive the zoom link an hour before the program begins.

Founded in July 2021, the Indian Animal Studies Collective has so far held a series of online conversations with academics writing on human-animal relations called “Table Talks”. These conversations were designed to be an informal exchange of ideas with the participants encouraged to ask questions or comment at any point. We want to retain that sense of openness to ideas and questions in the workshop we propose to hold in November. Our hybrid workshop aims to discuss the relation between waste and stray dogs and asks two important questions: a) should waste benefit animals? b) how can we figure animal subjectivities of waste, particularly in the Indian context?

Urban animals such as street dogs and cows feed on food waste for survival but this has raised concerns about public health, especially of rabies, and ecology. At the same time, public perceptions of street dogs in India are more complex than in many other cultural contexts. They are not necessarily seen as out-of-place animals but as rightful cohabitants of the multispecies cityscape (Narayanan 2019). More-than-human geographers charting human-animal relations in urban spaces have noted that (i) waste feeds animals, (ii) certain vulnerable groups of people are in closer proximity to waste-eating animals, and develop relationships of interdependency and reciprocal care with them which contribute to the psychosocial well-being of both parties, (iii) changes in urban structures and garbage creation have contributed to human-animal conflict (Kumar, Singh and Harriss-White. 2019).

In public discourses around waste, there is no room for animal subjectivities which mark their diverse relationships to waste other than as what is discarded by humans. Instead, animal subjectivities are reduced to bodies that are out of place (“stray”) or as a metabolical and biological problem (waste-eaters and rabies-carriers). Is it possible to recentre this conversation if we trace how much street animals rely on waste for survival? The postcolonial legacy of waste rooted in “slow violence” and the caste history of scavenging in India make it difficult, indeed even problematic – and hence imperative – to undo this anthropocentrism.

The workshop will be a day-long event that will be open to undergraduate and postgraduate students and activists interested in environmental humanities, waste studies, postcolonial studies and animal studies. We hope to bring together a diverse range of perspectives that can bring into relief the different knots of this problem. To this end, the workshop will be divided into two parts. In the first part, we will have a series of short discussions around select articles that assess the human-animal interface around waste in different contexts. The second part will be a collaborative exercise to bring together all the diverse strands, and the organizers will guide the participants in making sense of each position, its inherent biases and assumptions, and exploring its usefulness for the local realities in India. The results of this collaborative exercise will be sketched out and collated into a report by the members of the Indian Animal Studies Collective.

“Echoes from the Past” by Spyridoula Fotinis and Scott Williams


Echoes from the Past is a multimedia exploration of how America’s history of colonialism affects and reflects the now and the future, with personal reflections about the creators’ communities.  Through a combination of historical research, legal cases, and current statements from various American Indian tribes, this project digs deep in the culture, language, and lives of pre-colonial people in the Northeastern United States.  It follows the creators’ journey in learning about their part in this crime and more broadly on how post-settlement people in America can increase their understanding and take meaningful action to remedy past wrongs.

Spyridoula and Scott’s project was created in conjunction with the IHME Helsinki Commission 2022 course entitled Learning from Doubt. This project will be showcased in November. Follow this blog for more updates.

Human motivations and environmental development from a historical perspective

Gábor Koloh, Research Centre for Humanities, Institute of History, Hungary

November 28 (Monday) 11.00-12.00 (Helsinki) 10.00-11.00 (CET), online

For ZOOM Link Register HERE the day before the event. You will receive the zoom link an hour before the program begins.

In my presentation, I would like to present some general conclusions about human and community motivations and the use of the natural environment by examining two communities in Hungary in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Habsburg Empire liberated the territory of Hungary from Turkish occupation in the last decades of the 17th century. In the unfolding international trade, several heavy losses were suffered during the 18th century, exemplified by the Spanish and Austrian War of Succession. The Habsburg Empire became interested in making the best economic use of the newly conquered territory, so it settled the depopulated areas in a more or less organised way and encouraged the population to increase production.

A comparison of the farming practices of Hungarian and German settlers in Southern Transdanubia allows us to draw a number of conclusions about the cycle and sustainability. Their analysis shows that culturally based farming traditions have led to significant differences in the extent to which the environment is used and transformed.

Among the Hungarians living along the Drava River, who had a tradition of livestock-keeping, fishing and hunting, the maintenance of the existing state of nature was a primary economic interest. For generations, their way of life was directed towards maintaining and preserving it. Among the German settlers, environmental transformation took a much more pronounced form. The German community in southern Transdanubia quickly turned to wine and tobacco production, which was accompanied by a decline in animal husbandry and the destruction of forests. Their primary economic concern was to recoup the financial costs of resettlement from the Holy Roman Empire and then to establish a more stable livelihood. As a consequence, they were more flexible in their response to economic opportunities and technical innovations, while they did not have a generational farming tradition adapted to local conditions.

Although the two communities both approached the environment from a utilitarian perspective, they exploited it differently because of their farming traditions. My analysis of the period up to the mid-19th century already shows the consequences of this environmental transformation. More and more of the land under intensive farming was becoming unproductive, largely due to gullying. In the rural areas inhabited by Hungarians, restrictions on the use of forests by the manorial estates forced the serfs to shift to more extensive arable farming. Apart from the relevant differences, the two communities’ farming had in common that they tended to accumulate. In this deeply human endeavour, for generations, the maintenance or modification of environmental conditions has always been a function of the moment.

“Forest as a war victim – 1950’s as turning point of Finnish industrialization and Forest industry” by Joonas Pulkkinen


Forest as a war victim is conversation between two students of the Academy of Fine Arts which share common interest with the environmental history of Finnish forests.

Joonas Pulkkinen is second year MA student at the The Praxis Master’s Programme in Exhibition Studies focused on art curating and mediating. In his essay “Logged, cutted, torned, crashed, burnt, destroyed” written as a part of the course Pulkkinen makes open questions based on Finnish Defence Forces archieves during II World War. Pulkkinen researches why destroyed forest has been a part of the documentation of Finnish Defence Forces photographers and how those photos have been described literally. Pulkkinen tries to understand the need of the documentation and also contexts around the condition of the Finnish forest before the war and in the post-war context of Finnish societal modernization and industrialization project.

Pulkkinen has invited another MA student from Academy of Fine Arts, Lauri Lähteenmäki to conversation related mentioned themes and Lähteenmäki’s own work and practice. In his MFA exhibition in Kuvan Kevät 2022 Lähteenmäki’s photo book and exhibition Vihreän kullan kuume (Green Gold Fever, 2022). Lähteenmäki’s photo books is based on a media data collected from public news sources regarding the debate on forest use in Finland.

Joonas’ project was created in conjunction with the IHME Helsinki Commission 2022 course entitled Learning from Doubt. This project will be showcased in November. Follow this blog for more updates.

”The Road and I” by Kaisa Penttinen


In my project “The Road and I” my main focus is on change and subjectivity in experiencing a location; I have explored a relationship to a place while years and kilometers pass. It is a small and subjective display of how one’s relationship with a place, people, things, and life is changing in long term, in a foreign cultural and societal settings – and how the individual is changing along.

“The Road and I” is an autoethnographic narrative taking place in the Land of Smiles, where I have spent several years with my camera in different periods of time, in different roles in various communities within ten years. I believe that similar, and at the same time unique stories, could be found and told from anywhere in the world. I cannot say, what and who has changed and how much within these years – me, my gaze or Thailand – but I believe this is as subjective truth as any.

In my work I combine multiple different techniques of photography to assist in sharing the story – the stories. Originally, the pictures have been placed in ten different envelopes to benchmark the ten years being displayed in this work.

Kaisa’s project was created in conjunction with the IHME Helsinki Commission 2022 course entitled Learning from Doubt. This project will be showcased in November. Follow this blog for more updates.

“A poem from a former child soldier” by Zagros Manuchar


The poem.

The audio tape.

The former child soldier.

The artwork is just and about the read poem from a former child soldier.








Zagros’ project was created in conjunction with the IHME Helsinki Commission 2022 course entitled Learning from Doubt. This project will be showcased in November. Follow this blog for more updates.