Since time immemorial, Inuit drum dancing songs have been used throughout the Arctic to reaffirm kinship ties, decompress from the rigors of hunting and gathering, and redirect competitive behavior. The Effects of Inuit Drum Dancing on Psychosocial Well-Being and Resilience: Productivity and Cultural Competence in an Inuit Settlement explores the sociocultural context surrounding two forms of traditional Inuit drum dancing in Ulukhaktok, an Inuit settlement in the Canadian Northwest Territories. Tim Murray uses case studies and social script analysis to argue that drum dance participation has emerged in this community as a way of supporting the psychosocial well-being of the settlement’s younger population and to explore how in the wake of colonization, drum dancing has resolidified in Ulukhaktok. Specifically, chapters examine the impacts of generational isolation and its downstream effects on the lives of settlement youth and young adults, the deployment of drum dancing as a tactical resource for modulating emotional access with elders, and its reemergence within the Ulukhaktok taskscape as a platform for reinterpreting local understandings of productivity and cultural competence.
Tim Murray holds a PhD and an M.A. in ethnomusicology from the University of Florida, where he is also currently an adjunct professor of music.
List of Figures and Tables
Introduction: An Old Tool with a New Purpose
Chapter 1: Ulukhaktok: Historical Background and Cultural Context
Chapter 2: How We Go Here: Metacommunication and the Optics of Productivity
Chapter 3: Drum Dancing, Social Boundaries, and a Strategic End by Tactical Means
Chapter 4: Performing Cultural Productivity and the Adapting Taskscape
Appendix A: Glossary of Inuinnaqtun Terms
Murray has a keen eye for observations rich with detail on multiple levels. I can nearly feel the crunch of snow under my feet and feel the drumbeat in a community dance. More importantly, he captures the tensions between generations, between tradition and technology, and between the idealized past and actual realities of life in an irrevocably altered culture. Of particular merit are his insights into psychological functions of traditional music and dance, creating identity and community connectedness, and joining the young people to a heritage that might otherwise evade their grasp. Notably, Murray himself appears to have gained the ability to understand and learn from communication via subtext, no small feat for an academic and something all scholars of culture should aspire to achieve.
Murray’s research stands out because he grounds the concept of well-being squarely within cultural practice. The study of well-being among arctic peoples is an increasingly important topic, but the majority of this work attends to documenting “traditional” conceptions of well-being or simply asserts that engaging in “traditional practices” has positive outcomes for Inuit well-being. Murray’s book explores how cultural practices around drum dancing have been actively constructed and adapted to meet Inuit needs within the contemporary community. Murray’s work with drum dancers documents well-being as an active and creative process, in reference but not strict adherence to the values of their grandparents or great-grandparents. His ethnographically rich perspective details the economic, political, and social difficulties younger Inuit face as they try and find their way in a dynamic and uncertain social environment. The result is a work that makes a significant contribution to understanding well-being in the Arctic while documenting important cultural and ethnomusical processes.