Team up with faculty on groundbreaking anthropological research.

The Department of Anthropology was founded in 1935 as part of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Alaska. The first undergraduate degrees in Anthropology were given in 1959, the first MA degrees in 1968 and the first PhD degrees in 1988. We are the only anthropology program in the United States that maintains a holistic approach to circumpolar studies, providing instruction and research in all aspects of anthropology.


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  • Sled dogs as gifts: An ethnography of dog exchanges among kennels in Alaska

    May 6th 9am-11am AKST
    Allison Cruz Anthropology MA Thesis Defense Friday, May 6, 9am-11am AKST Room 302 Bunnell Building and via Zoom Sled dogs as gifts: An ethnography of dog exchanges among kennels in Alaska Abstract: This thesis investigates the social relationships that develop through the circulation of sled dogs among Alaskan kennels. Drawing on multisited ethnographic fieldwork in and around Fairbanks, AK, as well as on anthropological literature on kinship, personhood, and gift-giving economies, it examines how sled dogs are acquired and exchanged in Alaska. It also offers a novel perspective on the value of “bloodlines” and the “special relationships” that unite breeders, mushers and sled dogs. A main argument is that Alaskan sled dogs are exchanged as relational gifts (rather than commodities). Research results reveal that the value of sled dogs as gifts reflects the bond that exists in human-canine relationships. This relation stems from the specific forms of interaction that are at work in the interspecies team. It is also characterized by a profoundly spiritual dimension that reveals itself out on “the trail,” a liminal space cutting across the Alaskan “wilderness.” The overall findings of this work determine that sled dogs, as relational gifts, are central figures within the mushing community and play a key role in creating multifaceted connections within and among kennels in Alaska.