Northern Illinois University Press

The Hands Feel It

Healing and Spirit Presence among a Northern Alaskan People

Edith Turner

"Turner reveals herself to be a rigorous and thoroughly engaged fieldworker who tests her own emergent insights against the opinions of her subjects in a dialogue."
American Anthropologist

"Turner's work is unique.... This book breathes with life."—Rosemary Lévy Zumwalt, Davidson College

In a treeless land far north of the Arctic Circle, the Iñupiat live immensely practical lives, yet they have a profound belief in the spirit world. For them, everything—whether living being or inanimate object—has a spirit. This outlook reflects their sense of the connectedness of all life.

The Hands Feel It is the account of one person's experience among the Iñupiat. Anthropologist Edith Turner records occurrences of healing, spirit manifestation, and premonition in her narrative of a year in the life of an Eskimo community. Her diary captures for the reader sea ice, tundra, gravel beaches, and a determined and cheerful population. Sights, sounds, and even smells that Turner encounters provide context for a study in tune with the spiritual.

Accounts that ethnographers have often termed "myth" and "legend" Turner sees from a different point of view—not as mere stories but as real events the Iñupiat sincerely report to her. The value of Turner's work originates in her own connection to spirituality and in the growing receptiveness of the Iñupiat to her.

(1996) 288 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-212-1
cloth $42.00

ISBN: 978-0-87580-573-3
paper $22.00

Table of Contents

Families and Persons Mentioned in the Text
1 Arrival
2 A Dream of the Loss of Childhood
3 The Healer
4 Embattled Politics: The Ancient Master Returns
5 The Taste of Sea Mammal Awakens Iñupiat History
6 The Seal and Its Organs: A Prophetic Seeing
7 Winter: Western Celebration Converted
8 Winter Solstice
9 The Messenger Feast: The Work of the Eagle
10 A Man Lost in the Tundra: The Finding
11 The Grandmother Speaks a Word
12 The Laughing Mask
13 Preparations for Whaling
14 The Bowhead Whale: Balaena Mysticetus
15 The Whale's Head: Presence and Absence
16 Rich Parka and Festival Food
17 The Whaling Festival: Qagruq, the Beaching
18 The Shaman's Four-Day Syndrome
19 Reconnecting After Absence
Conclusion: The Threads of Connectedness

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-212-1
cloth $42.00
ISBN: 978-0-87580-573-3
paper $22.00