Amanda Esther Althoff

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Columbia U.

Grant number

Gr. 10668

Approve Date

April 15, 2024

Project Title

Althoff, Amanda (Columbia U.) "Botflies, Worm-Man, and the Giant Caterpillar: Tracing Insect-Objects in Western Alaska through Time and Space"

Insect-depictions have a long-standing presence in Western Alaska. Earliest examples appear over a thousand years ago at Point Hope and Deering, but examples can also be found in 16th – 17th centuries archaeological collections, and 19th and early 20th centuries ethnographic collections. Why were insects frequently depicted in different media across time in this region? This project seeks to answer this broader question by investigating Yup’ik and Iñupiaq insect taxonomies, oral traditions, and local ecologies. Situating the insect-objects in these contexts and additionally discussing both their far-reaching functions as items, as well as their historical situatedness allows for a nuanced understanding of why insects matter(ed), and how they fit – then and now – both ontologically and ecologically into everyday life in Western Alaska. In a landscape shifting with unprecedented climate change, insects become another important indicator of altered ecosystems. Working with descendant communities, conducting interviews to record stories, etymology, traditional ecological knowledge, and mobilizing existing museum collections across continents provides the data to conduct this research.