The Institute of Musicology

Dissertationsprojekt von Sara Rohr

Performing an Inuit Environmentalism

Inuit[1] communities are among the most affected by global climate change, as the Arctic is experiencing rapid rates of ice and permafrost melting. Even though, Western scientific discourse on climate change has so far neglected Inuit perspectives and local knowledge, which constitutes the so-called Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ). There has been little research into how Inuit address environmental change and resulting social and cultural impacts. However, contemporary female Inuit artists and activists in Canada are increasingly using throat singing mixed with popular music or digital storytelling to perform, develop and share past and present Inuit ontologies, epistemologies, and IQ. By doing so, they are an integral part of Inuit environmental activism while contributing to identity-making and decolonizing efforts. This dissertation aims to explore how and to what extend these recontextualized cultural expressive forms and the production and transmission of IQ become resilience and sustainability strategies for Canadian Inuit in their adaptation process to the local impacts of global climate change. Therefore, examining the hypothesis, that climate change threatens the sustainability of Inuit culture and identity, which is inextricably linked with their arctic environment. To achieve this, the project proposes an interdisciplinary approach that combines ethnomusicology with gender studies, oral and environmental history and Indigenous[2] scholarship. Key data will be collected through on-site and virtual fieldwork, particularly by conducting interviews and analyzing artistic and digital output in form of case studies. Implementing an applied ethnomusicology approach, both the data and the results will be public accessible on a website. Although the dissertation is based on academic work, it is central to the project to implement collaborative research with Inuit activists, to prioritize Indigenous research concepts and methods and to embed the findings in a context of self-reflexivity and situated perspectivism to make a significant contribution to the decolonialization of ethnomusicology as an academic discipline. Finally, insights into the environmental activism of female Inuit artists based on their interrelationship with the Arctic will highlight alternative approaches to climate change adaptation.

[1] Inuit means “the people” in Inuktitut. An Inuit person is known as Inuk. In Canada Inuit designates Indigenous people who inhabit the northern arctic regions (

[2] While in many ways heterogenous, Indigenous people share a self-identification as Indigenous, a continuation of historical pre-colonial or pre-settler societies, strong links to territories and natural resources, a distinctness of social, economic or political systems and a non-dominant position in broader society (United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Factsheet,