Inuit women's perceptions of pollution

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Egan, Christine
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Inuit women's perceptions of pollution are examined through a qualitative ethnographic study conducted in Coral Harbour, Nunavut. Pollution is evident in the Arctic food chain through the presence of such substances as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals. This study examines the cultural construction of Inuit women's perceptions of pollution. A broad cultural conception of pollution was utilized in which pollution is understood as the culturally constructed disintegration of social boundaries. Using a feminist methodology, in-depth interviews were conducted with 47 Inuit women in order to highlight women's voices and to contrast their discourse with the scientific discourse and the discourse of the popular press regarding pollution in the North. For many Inuit, cultural identity is linked to the procurement and consumption of traditional foods. The possibility of access to their foods being limited by pollution or perceptions of pollution in the Arctic food chain concerned Inuit women as this would pose a threat to their cultural identity. Many women stated a willingness to consume their foods despite the potential risk of contaminants. Inuit women are aware of the discourses on contaminants but their concerns focus on pollution and the social. Their perceptions of pollution focus on the invasion of pollutants, such as drugs and alcohol which have been brought into their communities from the outside and which are causing disruptions.