White lies about the Inuit

Author(s): Steckley, John, 1949-

Publisher: Broadview Press,

Place of Publication: Peterborough, ON

Type: Book

Page Count: 168 p.


Year of Publication:



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The Inuit are a familiar part of Canadian identity but also exotic residing in the remote Arctic. The mix of the familiar and the exotic has resulted in the creation and perpetuation of a number of “White Lies.” These are stories that have been developed over long periods of time, reproduced in classrooms, anthropology and sociology textbooks, and other media, but have been rarely challenged, contributing to misunderstandings that have ultimately, in subtle ways, diminished the stature of Inuit traditional culture. In this lively book, designed specifically for introductory students, Steckley unpacks three “White Lies”-the myth that there are fifty-two words for snow, that there are blond, blue-eyed Inuit descended from the Vikings, and that the Inuit send off their elders to die on ice floes. Debunking these popular myths allows him to illustrate how knowledge is shaped by Western social science, particularly the anthropology of the “Other,” and that it can be flawed. In the process, students learn not only about Inuit culture, but about the difference between popular and scholarly research. Comments: “Bold, perceptive, provocative, and incisive, White Lies about the Inuit cautions us to question what we see, hear, read, talk about, and presume to be true. Steckley’s book is a long overdue exploration and critique of the cultural assumptions, arrogance, ignorance, and mythologizing that has led to misreadings and misunderstandings of Inuit societies and cultures.” – Mark Nuttall, University of Alberta ” White Lies about the Inuit is a remarkable textbook that teaches the critical reading of ethnography. Anthropologists, both in the past and the present, have often chosen the ‘good story’ over the complexities of real life. This is one book where I’m glad to see my work not cited!” – Nelson Graburn, University of California Berkeley. John Steckley teaches Anthropology at Humber College in Toronto. He is the author of Aboriginal Voices and the Politics of Representation in Canadian Sociology Textbooks (Canadian Scholars’ Press) and Words of the Huron (Wilfrid Laurier University Press).


Biomedical (Vancouver Style):

Steckley, John, 1949-. White lies about the Inuit. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press,; 2008.