The Real Arctic (Matthew Sturm)

Video Shot in: 2009

Dr. Matthew Sturm describes Barrow (now called Utqiaġvik), Alaska, as a place filled with contradictions. On the one hand, it is modern and well-connected to the rest of the nation, with easy accessibility and political sophistication. On the other hand, it holds onto core values related to whaling and a traditional way of life. The people of Barrow embody these contradictions, where whalers embrace tradition while using high-performance snow machines and modern technology like cell phones and radar pictures of ice. Dr. Sturm aims to capture this complex and nuanced Arctic reality in his writing, challenging the common stereotypes of the Arctic as either a noble savage or socially problematic place. He believes that the Arctic’s adaptations have a unique twist and offer a rich tapestry of modern and old intertwined. The real Arctic, according to Dr. Sturm, is confounding, messy, and continuously evolving, contrary to the notion of a frozen-in-time culture. Barrow (Utqiaġvik), with its diverse cultural influences from Polynesian, Filipino, Japanese, and black communities, exemplifies the fascinating and multifaceted nature of the Arctic.