The Inuit Exception - From savage hunters to eco-labels

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Departing from the memory of a COP-15 rally outside the Danish parliament in 2009, this article meditates on the racializing mechanisms that led to a verbal attack on the author’s pair of Kalaallit (Greenlandic Inuit) sealskin mittens. Relating this personal experience to the international sealskin disputes, the article examines the colonialist imaginaries in contemporary Western narratives on Inuit seal hunting. In light of their devastating effects on Inuit sealing economies, the article traces the early anti-sealing campaigns’ portrayals of seals as ‘white babies’ to be protected from ‘savage hunters’, to the recent narratives engaged in ‘the Inuit exception’ in the general EU seal product import ban (European Union, 2009). While the Inuit Exception accepts sealskins that stem from Indigenous hunting, the EU legal framework hinges narrowly on Inuit hunts as ‘traditional’ and ‘subsistence-based’. In this framework, commercial and subsistence hunting become irreconcilable; Inuit hunters are not allowed to hunt in order to earn an income, and they have to certify that their hunts are ‘humane’ to gain access to European markets. The article thus ponders on the Inuit exception as a forced eco-label which rests on processes of colonization and racialization, inseparable from the historic and ongoing erasure of Indigenous stories, ways of life, and intimate relations to hunted animals.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2020

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