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Unsettling Topographies
Julia Christensen
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In 2010, while conducting research on housing and home in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, a woman who grew up in the 1950s recounted to me the time she and her family moved into their first house—a small, boxy structure the Canadian government shipped up the Mackenzie River in pieces on a barge. A housing officer took her family through the house, showing them how to turn on the lights and how to light the stove. It was only after the officer had left that her father remarked on the placement of the front door. That door, awkwardly oriented to the north wind, became a constant problem. Snow piled high against it, especially during storms. The poor air circulation inside the house made matters worse. Like most Inuvialuit, her mother boiled much of the food they ate, but because the windows needed to be kept shut during the winter, condensation built up inside. Consequently, mildew and mold grew on the walls and around the windows.

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