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GSSC Seminar Series
17 October 2023


“To be or not to be”? Tourism development plans and the voice of the river 

Anna Stammler-Gossmann (Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Finland)


The distinctiveness of this place located by the river is “sensed together” by locals and outsiders –Amma River has an iconic status as the most beautiful and the cleanest river in the whole region of the Republic of Sakha Yakutia. The small village with its dramatic watery scenery, picturesque natural surroundings, and sandy shores, has attracted more and more non-organized tourists in recent times. However, since 2007, the municipal and regional strategic plans for ‘developing’ the local tourism sector have endured on paper.

For the residents, closeness to waterflow brings different ways of thinking and experiencing the river, which involves taking the river beyond its physicality. However, differently from a “man-made” place of worship or a natural sacred outcrop, a river as a “natural sacred site” might be perceived by tourists as just another place in the landscape.

The proposed account presents a story where the human-river relationship seems to involve a pronounced reciprocal agency, where the river appears as a visible source of power and not just a backdrop of human action or a resource. The paper is concerned with the relationship between human experience with the river and the creation of undercurrents of meaning that also permeate the community’s attitudes towards developing local tourism.

Anna Stammler-Gossmann, Ph.D., is Senior Researcher in Social Anthropology and Coordinator of the Arctic Studies Programme at the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, Finland. Her current research focuses on practical and theoretical developments in communities’ studies, specifically how different forms of knowledge become entangled in negotiations for legitimacy. Within this field she explores the ways nature and communities across the Arctic and Sub-Antarctic (Patagonia) embed themselves into the context of societal and environmental changes. Her current work draws on theoretical trends linking anthropology of space and place, cold, disaster, northern economies and food with concepts of circularity, sustainability and adaptation.


Publications related to human-water relationship include “Living by the River: Means, Meanings and Sense of Place” (2022), “To Be or Not to Be”? Tourism Development Plans and The Voice of the River”, “People of the Permafrost Land” 2019); “The Big Water of a Small River: Flood Experiences and a Community Agenda for Change” (2012); “'Translating' Vulnerability at the Community Level: Case Study from the Russian North” (2010).