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Research seminars in Polar Social Science and Humanities 2005/6

Research seminars in Polar Social Science and Humanities 2005/6

Travelling Passions: the Life and Legacy of Vilhjalmur Stefansson, the Arctic Explorer

More information on this public lecture is available.

Lecture by Sheila Jasanoff

Wednesday November 9, 2005, 1 - 2.15pm, Scott Polar Research Institute, Seminar Room

Professor Sheila Jasanoff (Harvard), Leverhulme Fellow, will be discussing her new book project "The Imagined Earth". In this work-in-progress, Sheila will present an outline of her plans to make a comparative study of the reception of the modern concept of the "environment" into pre-existing understandings of human-nature relationships in Britain, Germany, India and the United States. She will discuss her outline of the study and some of the early conclusions emerging from it.

The Barents Sea: Oceanography in the 1890s-1920s at the Intersection of International and National Research Networks

Julia Lajus (European University, St. Petersburg)

Thursday 12 Jan 2006, 2.30pm
Scott Polar Research Institute, Seminar Room

This is to coincide with her visit to Cambridge for the International Polar Year Workshop at the Scott Polar Research Institute "Polar Field Stations and IPY History: Culture, Heritage, Governance (1882-Present)".

The Invention of the Cartographic Tradition of "Terra Australis Nondum Cognita"

Jorge Guzman Gutierrez

1pm, Wednesday 1st March 2006, SPRI Lecture Theatre

The subject is part of the first chapter of the speaker's PhD thesis, and refers the invention of the idea of the existence of a Southern Polar land, which was based in speculation and suppositions (only).

This idea eventually came to be a cartographic tradition supported by a group of mathematicians and philosopher members of a network of European universities ("the other place, Paris and Salamanca).

The Terra Australis Nundum Cognita or Incognita came to be a sort of certainty in cartography during the age of the conquest of America, the exploration of the Pacific Ocean and the race for positions in the far East.

The idea also encouraged the trade of map and books on voyages during the XVI and XVII centuries and some how survived in the Western scientific tradition until the second voyage of Captain James Cook.

From good to eat to good to watch: Whale watching, adaptation and change in Icelandic fishing communities

Professor Níels Einarsson (Director, Stefansson Arctic Institute)

4.15pm, Thursday 9 March, Seminar Room, Department of Geography [Directions]

Many scholars of Arctic and North Atlantic fishing communities have doubted the prospects of a viable whale watching industry due to perceived local opposition and traditional consumptive attitudes toward marine mammals and their uses. The topic of this lecture is the introduction of the internationally growing industry of whale watching in a fishing village in north-east Iceland and how local inhabitants reconcile opposing views on whales and whaling, as well as whale watching as potentially economically viable option to fishing. The lecture discusses the conflict between fishermen and marine mammals and how it is managed in an area where fishing is still the mainstay of the economy and marine mammals are by many seen as competitors for scarce resources, even as pest. This case study is also used to address the wider issues of adaptation, viability and resilience in small resource-dependent coastal settlements coping with rapid social and ecological change.

This seminar is being co-sponsored by the Department of Geography and SPRI.

Greenland: A thousand years of Cultural Integrity

Klaus Georg Hansen

Thursday 27th April, at 2pm, SPRI Lecture Theatre

Klaus is an anthropologist, linguist and research librarian. He will be giving a symposium on Greenlandic history and culture, entitled "Greenland: A thousand years of Cultural Integrity".

For five years he was head of Groenlandica, the national library in Greenland. For the following five years he was head of Sisimiut Museum. Now he is assistant professor at the language centre in Greenland.

Klaus is also attached to the Department of Geography at Roskilde University in Denmark as a part-time PhD student on a project about ICT and democracy in the Arctic.

Kinship in Shamanic spiritual warfare

Tatiana Bulgakova

2pm, Wednesday 10th May

Tatiana has worked for over twenty years among the Nanai (an indigenous people in eastern Siberia at the crossroads of Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean influences). She will show how kinship is involved in shamanic practice and how this practice consolidates people into lineages and clans.

Post-Chernobyl Saami Political Ecology in Sweden

Professor Hugh Beach, University of Uppsala

2pm, Wednesday 17th May, Lecture Theatre

Post-Chernobyl Saami Political Ecology in Sweden

Hugh Beach is Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. His primary field of expertise concerns reindeer pastoralism in Sweden but also Saami issues in general. He has done research in a number of northern locations and on topics such as the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on Saami livelihoods, post-Soviet social and economic transformations among northern Russian indigenous groups, wildlife management politics and "ecocolonialism" in the Arctic region. He has also been actively engaged in the debate on the status and development of northern indigenous peoples' rights.

All welcome. For further information please contact Michael Bravo or Niels Einarsson (

Traveling as living: Some reflections on Inuit conceptions of trails, travel and geography

Dr. Claudio Aporta, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Carleton University

Wednesday June 21st 2006, 2.30pm, Scott Polar Research Institute Lecture Theatre

Traveling was and still is a very important aspect of people's lives in most Inuit communities of the Canadian Eastern Arctic. In their movements, the Inuit of Igloolik do not randomly travel extensions of a monotonous landscape, as the Arctic tundra and sea ice are frequently perceived by outsiders. On the contrary, Inuit travel along well-known routes that belong to the individual and social memory of the people, and that are traced every year in the same general locations. Most of the routes used by the Inuit of Igloolik today follow very old courses, which have been known, transmitted and laid out on the snow year after year for generations. This talk will focus on the spatial and social characteristics of Inuit routes, and their importance in the Inuit relationship with their environment. It will also analyze how traditional trails and other geographic information are remembered and transmitted without the use of maps. Finally, it will reflect on how the perception of trails and travel is changing due to generational differences, a new social context, and the use of new transportation and orienting technologies.

This talk will rely on geographic and ethnographic data gathered in the communities of Igloolik, Repulse Bay, Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet. It will also present some preliminary results of a recent snowmobile trip (Spring 2006) that documented a traditional Inuit trail between Igloolik and Repulse Bay.

For more information, contact Dr. Michael T. Bravo.

Political anthropology seminar

Tuesday, June 27, 2006, 10am
Scott Polar Research Institute Seminar Room

This seminar consists of a group of PhD students with topics relating to political anthropology. Students will present from a variety of different disciplines. The seminar will start at 10 am and finish around 5 pm. Tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided by SPRI.

All are welcome so please join us. We will also discuss the launch of a weekly discussion group on political anthropology and similar fieldwork-based research.

The Political Anthropology Reading Group aims to provide a space for discussion and support, primarily for those who research political systems. As the name suggests, an emphasis will be put on the study of politics in relation to society and culture. However we welcome the participation of scholars from all disciplines: we hope the group will serve to challenge and broaden its members' understanding of politics per se. We initially intend to read texts in advance of each meeting, however we see the group's format as developing in tandem with its members' needs. We plan to meet every week, starting from July.

For more information or to be added to the mailing list, please email Elizabeth Beiswenger Shea at

10:00-11:00am Short welcome and Presentation by Eleanor Peers
'Controlled Explosions: Buryat Nationalist Discourse in the Political Sphere'
11:00-11:30 Coffee and Tea Break Provided by SPRI
11:30-12:30 Presentation by Matthew Carey
'Ephemeral Institutions: Cultures of Anarchy in the Moroccan High Atlas'
12:30-12:45 Introduction and explanation of Political Anthropology Reading Group with e-mail sign-up sheet
12:45-2:00 Lunch
(Please bring your own sandwiches and snacks as we will continue conversations during lunch)
2:00-3:00 Presentation by Elizabeth Beiswenger Shea
'The Oligarch, the Reindeer and the Whale'
3:00-4:00 Presentation by Tod Hartman
'Moral Vectors and the 'Utopian Object of Impossible Fullness''
4:00-4:30 Coffee/Tea Break Provided by SPRI
4:30-5:30 Presentation by Ashley Lebner