Stephen Pax Leonard is an ethnographer who has worked principally in the Scandinavian and Arctic region. He has been a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at ISCA and a Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. Previously, he was a Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge and a British Academy grantee. His doctoral research at Oxford examined how linguistic norms and social identities were established in early Iceland and how this identity was reflected in the literature. He has done long-term fieldwork in Greenland and the Faroe Islands, and has also lived in Norway, Sweden and Iceland. He has published 5 books on Scandinavia and the Arctic, and his work has been covered in the print media, television and film (BBC, the Guardian, CNN, NBC).
Stephen Leonard set off on a journey to document the language and spoken traditions of a small group of Inuit living in a remote corner of north-west Greenland. This group call themselves the Inugguit (the ‘big people’) and they speak an exceedingly complex language understood by few outsiders. The Inugguit number 700 and live in the northern most permanently inhabited place in the world, occupying four different settlements scattered across an area the size of Germany. Leonard lived with the Inugguit for 12 months, learning their language and living their way of life, not leaving the region at any point. As a teenager, Leonard had read about the Inugguit through the accounts of the explorer, Sir Wally Herbert who lived in the region in the early 1970s and who had been a motivation for his journey.