May 31st 2024: Indigenous People with Disabilities in the Arctic: Workshop for Initiating Research Collaboration

Barbara Schellhammer participates in this one-day workshop that will bring together an international and interdisciplinary group of researchers and experts interested in the lived experiences and inclusion of indigenous people with disabilities in the Arctic regions of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Sápmi. The aim of the workshop is to (1) map existing knowledge and identify knowledge gaps and (2) develop a shared research agenda. The workshop is organized by the Nordland Research Institute in collaboration with the Centre for Saami and Indigenous Studies at Nord University in Bodø, Norway.

Barbara Schellhammer's contribution is inspired by her erxperiences during the time she lived in the Canadian Arctic and by the research conducted at the chair for Intercultural Social Transformation. She will talk about:

Disabled Sexuality? Inuit Perspectives of Self-determination with regards to Intellectual Handicaps – Lessons from the Canadian Arctic

With an interdisciplinary group of researchers, I just finished an inclusive project on the multifaceted challenges of sexual autonomy for people with mental disorders – people who depend on support in almost all spheres of their lives and who are affected by sexual abuse to a particular alarming extent. We found that “disabled” sexuality mostly speaks to the fact, that people with mental challenges are above all “disenabled” by the socio-political contexts they live in.

Although the empirical study was conducted in Germany, I gained most important insights from the philosophical work I have been doing for a number of years now with Indigenous peoples in the Canadian Arctic. Here, particularly the term “autonomy”, or better “self-determination” stood out. The Indigenous concept of self resists a logo-centric notion of personhood and highlights the importance of the body. Especially Indigenous women and Queer people refer to the self-determining power they gain through their bodies and natural desires referring to concepts like “sovereign erotics” or “eco-eroticism”.

In my contribution I will further explore these thoughts to challenge the very influential Eurocentric understanding of autonomy which often leads to repression and exclusion, particularly when it comes to mental disorders and sexuality. Moreover, I would like to gain more knowledge about the situation of people with mental disabilities in Arctic regions and how the notion of self and self-determination impacts the ways in which they are able or enabled to experience relationships, love, and sexuality.


Find more information on all presenting researchers and partners here.