About the Hearth: Perspectives on the Home, Hearth and Household in the Circumpolar North.
Edited by David G. Anderson, Robert P. Wishart, and Virginie Vaté. New York: Berghahn Books, 2013.
Vera Skvirskaja. Address for correspondence: Department of Anthropology,
University of Copenhagen, Øster Farimagsgade 5, 1353 Copenhagen, Denmark.
In the ethnographic literature on the indigenous peoples of the North, the dwelling has always occupied a prominent position. About the Hearth is a continuation of this longstanding academic interest. The theme of the three Hs—home, hearth, and household— frames a project bringing together scholars from different disciplines: mostly anthropology but also archaeology, museum studies, and historical demography. In the introductory chapter, Robert P. Wishart situates the project intellectually and elaborates on the structure of the book. The conical lodge is presented as the first level of inquiry, guiding scholarly attention to relationships that animate, and are sustained by, this vernacular architectural form. Multidisciplinary thinking is then harnessed to discuss various types of northern dwellings, past and present. The editors suggest the home as a metaphor for the book as a whole, with the lodge representing its “hearth.” This juxtaposing of metaphors is not an idle exercise in literary style, but serves the purpose of ordering individual contributions geographically according to their position in the circumpolar North, like the walls of a lodge. This format is explained as a solution to the problem of how to group the different chapters (rather than by, say, discipline or theme).