2014 Autumn

Visiting speakers

In colloboration with the Department of Anthropology, Arctic Domus will be sponsoring several seminars by distinguished speakers or by members of the project on research themes related to the project. The talks will be held on Thursdays in room F61 Edward Wright Building from 15.00-17.00 unless otherwise noted.

25th September 2014 - Dolly Jørgensen

 Dolly Jorgensen

 

Dolly Jørgensen is a researcher at the Department of Ecology & Environmental Science at Umeå University in Sweden. She will be visiting the Department of Anthropology between 22-26 September and is happy to share her research experience with colleagues at the University of Aberdeen during informal discussions.

Dolly will also give a formal talk The Shaggy Saviour of Northern Norway on the 25th of September.

Abstract

In 1929, 26 muskox calves were relocated from eastern Greenland to Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean under Norwegian sovereignty. The animals were let loose on the large island of Spitsbergen, which had historically been used primarily as a whaling station. In the relatively barren Svalbard landscape, the hope was that the muskoxen would turn into a self-reproducing meat resource for hunters and new settlers. The dream of muskox meat never became reality. Instead, the muskox was a protected animal on Svalbard, illegal to hunt, until the population crashed and eventually disappeared in the 1980s. 

The Svalbard episode was only one of a series of attempts in northern Norway to introduce or reintroduce muskoxen as an economic good. In addition to attempts to introduce wild populations, wild-caught muskoxen were also relocated onto Norwegian farms as a new domestic animal from the 1960s. Struggling against the unruly nature of muskoxen as well as local residents, the new wool business never proved solvent.

This paper will examine the idea of making the north economically and ecologically productive through the import of muskoxen as both wild and domestic animals in Norway from the 1920s through 1980s. Both because of its meat and its highly prized wool coat, the muskox was envisioned as a savior for the economically challenged north. The repeated failures of the muskox projects, reconstructed from Norwegian archival documents and contemporary newspaper accounts, reveal how people can become enchanted with a vision of ecological improvement even when results continue to be dismal.

9th October 2014 - Jeff Kochan

 

 Jeff Kochan is a Substitute Full Professor of Science and Technology Studies (Winter 2014-15) at the University of Freiburg and an Associated Research Fellow, Zukunftskolleg, University of Konstanz. He will be visiting the Department of Anthropology between 9-10 Ocobter and is happy to share his research experience with colleagues at the University of Aberdeen during informal discussions.

Jeff will also give a formal talk Scientific Styles in Northern Canada on the 9th of October.

Abstract

In the science studies literature, natural field sites are often treated as extensions of the laboratory. But this overlooks the unique specificities of field sites. Unlike the lab, the field is a public space inhabited by diverse people and groups. While lab scientists seek to contain and control their work spaces, field scientists must often adapt their work to the demands and interests of local agents. Lab studies regularly emphasise contestation; the field sciences more typically involve collaboration. I suggest that the difference between the lab and the field may be addressed as a difference in styles of reasoning. A field style treats epistemic alterity as a resource rather than an obstacle for objective knowledge production. A stylistics of the field should thus explain how objective science can co-exist with radical conceptual difference. I discuss examples from the Canadian North, focussing on collaborations between state wildlife biologists and managers, on the one hand, and local Aboriginal Elders and hunters, on the other. I argue that a stylistics of the field allows us to overcome issues of incommensurability, and to better understand how radically diverse agents may collaborate across cultures to produce reliable natural knowledge.