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Department of Geography, University of Cambridge



Unmasking Voices, Unmasking Places: Knowledge, Governance, and Agency in Arctic Canada

Friday 20 April 2007

A colloquium convened by the Circumpolar History and Public Policy Research Group (HiPP),
Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge University.

History and Public Policy Research (HiPP)

Research in our group covers a wide range of topics and approaches: the historiography of science and imperialism, travel literature and colonisation, the environmental history of human-animal relationships, the historiography of northern peoples, and strategies of resisting the traditional development narratives of missionaries, trading companies, and states.

Circumpolar governance today poses many new challenges, as older models predicated on centre-periphery relationships give way to a much broader range of stakeholders. In practice, policymaking is all too often subject to short-term priorities and historical memory is normally very limited. Our group uses historical and ethnographical research to explore policy issues and options over a longer timeframe, focusing in particular on science policy, the traditional knowledge of northern peoples, and transnational governance. Although HiPP's work is Arctic-specific, our research aims to examine knowledge in interdisciplinary and cross-cultural contexts.

Workshop themes

The main themes we hope to explore at our April 20 colloquium involve relationships between emerging (often indigenous, but not always) groups and the state in northern Canada (1920-Present). We hope to use the workshop to better understand how knowledge is put to work in situations where emerging groups, with distinct socialities, often see themselves in tension with the state. However personal and institutional tensions also play a role in constituting new knowledge and shaping identity formation. If narratives are crucial in carrying meaning, then narrative tension is an essential ingredient in the ways that knowledge is created or transformed in new or extended networks (cf. D. Turnbull). In our papers and discussion, we hope to explore how narrative and networks can enable us to rethink assumptions about institutions, boundaries, and knowledge. Specifically in the context of the Canadian Arctic, we will examine how knowledge shapes the formation and sedimentations of public and private spaces of knowledge. Further, we strive to look beyond monolithic models of the state to better understand the tensions that sustain expert bureaucracies.


We will begin at 10:30 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. Each of the four speakers will have a 45-minute session, consisting of a 15-minute presentation and 30 minutes of discussion,

10:30-11:00 Coffee in the SPRI Museum

Morning Session

11:00 - 1:00 Discussant: Michael Prince (University of Victoria, Canada)

11:00-11:15 Introduction & Welcome

11:15-12:00 Peter Evans

12:00-12:45 Christina Sawchuk

1:00-2:00 Lunch

Afternoon Session

2:00 - 5:00 Discussant: David Turnbull (Deakin University, Australia)

2:00-2:45 Martina Tyrrell

2:45-3:30 Michael Bravo

3:30-4:00 Coffee

4:00-5:00 Conclusion

5:00 Colloquium Dinner