Commentary: Frameworks For Difference - North Slope Inupiaq Women in Anchorage

  • Nancy Fogel-Chance
Keywords: Acculturation, Culture (Anthropology), Customs, Inuit, Native urban residence, Social change, Social interaction, Women, Alaska, Northern, Anchorage


... Findings in my Anchorage research indicate that Western views presuming that assimilation of non-Westerners is the proper outcome regarding the question of difference have little explanatory power. The success of Inupiaq women's adjustment to urban living resides not in rejecting one way of life for another, but in combining both worlds. These women have resisted being "melted" into the larger and dominant society through flexible, strategic choices based on heterogeneity. There is nothing natural or inevitable in beliefs or practices related to mutual aid. Sharing is not a cultural trait carried forward unchanged from a fixed past, but something that is continually forged and reconstituted in response to current needs and circumstances. One way of countering external pressures that threaten to extinguish North Slope Inupiaq culture is found in the loose solidarity fostered by sharing. It is a modern "take" on a cultural practice with historic significance. As such, contemporary urban sharing networks are modern pathways calling upon the traditional to define and maintain Inupiaq culture. In this sense, the modern world generates difference rather than erases it.