Opening of the Conference


Welcome to the 15thth International Inuit Studies Conference

For the first time in Paris, at the end of October 2006, we are delighted to host the International Inuit Studies Conference around the theme of Orality. More than ever it is a crucial aspect of Inuit, Yupik and Aleut societies.

Orality includes all aspects of oral communication, verbal arts (oral literature, stories, songs) political discourse as well as informal conversations on the internet. Despite the importance of writing in the contemporary Inuit world, orality remains an integral part of both private and public discourse. It is at the core of the lives of Inuit people. The power of speech is fully recognized as occupying a central part in self-representation and self-definition. Attachment to orality remains strong, and where speech seems to have been constrained, orality is now regaining status.
Preserving the variety of expressions of orality as well as the vast field of their meanings, while favouring the development of writing, constitutes a major undertaking. We intend for these sessions to add to ongoing reflexions in a dialogue involving all actors, Inuit and Qallunaat; including academics, territorial, regional and national government workers, independent researchers and graduate students.

The 15th Inuit Studies Conference is organized around three interconnected axis: language, space and culture. These axis are the founding principles that unite the organizing team's research projects.
Eskaleut linguistics has been an important part of the International Inuit Studies Conferences since the beginning. It has made an important contribution to language sciences. We are keeping with this tradition, as a sizeable number of linguists have answered our call for this edition. Research presented will focus mainly on typology and diachronics. It equally reflects on discourse and oral communication in many different types of situations, areas that have to be further explored.
Urbanity is growingly informing Inuit identity. It displays its many aspects in ways that are highly connected to the spatial context in which the person finds themself located at a given time. The theme of orality encourages us to turn our attention to discourse (stories, songs, place names etc.) to better grasp how the sense of space and place is constructed in contemporary Inuit worlds. The emotional and poetic dimension, carried by conscious speech, is at the heart ot this construction. As well, map makers, as they strive to represent space and places are challenged by orality. Geographers cannot ignore this issue.
Orality involves the person as a whole, body and voice. This calls for further exploration of the notion of self, currently a major theme in the social sciences. Recent research projects conducted in true partnership between Qallunaat and Inuit have revealed their conception of knowledge as an individual practice based on an accumulation of unique lived experiences. Such knowledge resists generalisation, enhancing the importance of the self. Inuit orality fully supports this conception, thus offering an opportunity for Western science to move forward.

26 octobre 2006

Béatrice Collignon, University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Nicole Tersis, CNRS-CELIA
Michèle Therrien, INALCO-CERLOM