Inuit norms of attention: Illagiituni namakatigingichok illsluasinik (mending relationships) through the emotional geographies of takuphuguhutok (compassion) in Kugaaruk, Nunavut

Authors: Sean Robertson*, University of Alberta - Faculty of Native Studies
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Cultural Geography, Legal Geography
Keywords: emotional geography, Indigenous, law, legal geography, Nunavut, wellbeing
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 31
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Law is essential toward addressing a number of issues in society, such as resolving disputes, managing resources, and fixing relationships. Emotions, such as compassion, and rationality may be understood to inform the moral philosophies that underpin normative systems. In community-based research on the intersection of pidquhiit (rules) and ikpiginirq (emotions) with the Arviligruamiut, the Inuit community at Kugaaruk, Nunavut, fixing relationships emerged as a key task of Elders. Here, compassion appears in additional guises as it draws people to attend to those with (relationship) problems. Compassion also points to mending problems through openness to one’s feelings as well those of one’s relations. In this case study of a men’s group, Elders’ counselling practices are shown to shape feelings and spaces supportive of relational openness, understood as important to wellbeing. From being on the land with (non)humans to “letting it all out,” the sharing of feelings is understood to be more effective through pidquhiit than state-based services. To the extent that the reinvigoration of Inuit normative systems and approaches to counselling signal empowerment, it is speculated that they further enhance wellbeing. This study contributes to emerging scholarship on emotions/law/space and on mental health strategies in Indigenous communities informed by local knowledge keepers.

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