EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


Polar mobilities: resilience and transformations (ANTHROMOB)

Location M-225
Date and Start Time 02 August, 2014 at 09:00


Roger Norum (University of Leeds) email
David Picard (University of Lausanne) email
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Short Abstract

Scholarly debates on mobility focus on the interconnectedness of contemporary life. Are there particular innovations and continuities in mobilities in the Arctic and Antarctic regions? How can we reconcile local practices and narratives with globally imagined political and commercial polar projects?

Long Abstract

The earth's polar regions attract particular kinds of mobility, from everyday livelihoods to metropolitan exploration, commercial adventures or particular kinds of tourist venture. We ask how these mobilities are driven by and are affected by growing global imaginaries of the polar regions in the context of:

- a proliferation of transport, hunting, information and communication technologies;

- hypermediatisation of the polar regions as metaphors for (or indicators of) environmental change in general;

- the emergence of new forms of (legal) advocacy defining the Poles as quasi-sacred 'wilderness';

- melting ice easing access for extractive industries, ensuing land and resource tenure conflicts and a steady growth of eco-tourism.

The panel addresses questions such as: Do the polar regions afford particular instances of indigenous tourism? What is the significance of highlighting environmental questions through exploratory travel or politically motivated journeys? What is the legacy of richly imagined (and often heavily mythologised) Arctic and Antarctic natures? What kinds of mobilities do different actors adopt? And how are everyday mobilities of polar inhabitants affected by circulating global imaginaries? The papers in this panel also consider how different mobilities are entangled, for example the ways in which science and tourist mobilities are facilitators of (and facilitated by) mobilities in military and geopolitical spheres.

We particularly welcome papers that explore collaborative engagements between a wide range of actors (e.g. whalers, hunters, indigenous activists, scientists, polar bears, penguins, fjords and icebergs) and that engage with an anthropology of/in the Anthropocene.

Discussant: Simone Abram

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


An Anthropocene ethics for Arctic tourism?

Authors: Roger Norum (University of Leeds)  email
Berit Kristoffersen (UiT- Norway's Arctic University )  email

Short Abstract

This paper looks at experiences of whalewatching tourism in Northern Norway to consider the contrasting ways in which Arctic spaces stand as at once emblematic of the Anthropocene and a threat to Anthropocene versions of human-nature planetary relationships.

Long Abstract

The Arctic is widely presented as the emblem of the Anthropocene. As a pure, wild and indigenous space, it is imagined from the outside as the destination for one of the last great wilderness adventures available on Earth. At the same time, it is the focus of intense political action, as one of the parts of the planet that yields the clearest patent indications of anthropogenic climate change, attracting scientists and environmentalists as witnesses to its material evidence, and politicians to employ it symbolically as an environmental credential. In this paper, we examine the entanglement of tourism with politics, geo-politics and human encounters in order to assess what kind of ethics is being adopted for an Anthropocene era, looking at the extent to which different tourism operators 'sell' an Anthropocene version of human-nature relationships in the Arctic. If the Anthropocene is a designation that brings primary responsibility for environmental change to humans, how can this be reconciled with increasing tourism and travel in the Arctic? How do ecotourism enterprises (e.g. whalewatching tours, aurora-safaris) seek to reconcile the contradictions of increasing tourism and increasing anthropogenic climate effects? This paper reconsiders the reliance on Enlightenment ideas of nature as external to the human condition, exploring instead the intertwined inhabited space of those who live in the region (Rybråten 2013), and their inherited knowledge practices such as those related to fishing sustainably (Dale, 2011, Stuvøy and Kristoffersen 2013) or travelling lightly.

An ethnographic account of everyday mobilities in King George Island, Antarctica

Author: Juan Francisco Salazar ( Western Sydney University)  email

Short Abstract

An ethnographic account of the relational, mobile, networked, and actor-centred geographies of place-making in King George Island, Antarctic Peninsula.

Long Abstract

This paper presents an ethnographic account of emerging Antarctic communities, mapping mobile and relational geo-cultural dynamics and the material interfaces that regulate mobility in/out of Antarctica. Drawing on critical socio-spatial approaches to conceptualizing place and the practices of place-making, the paper scales-down [or sideways] the discussion of Antarctic geopolitics to an ethnographic account of embodied and situated everyday mobilities in Fildes Peninsula, King George Island.

Aspects of Sami representations at Jokkmokk Winter Market in the north of Sweden

Author: Anna Varfolomeeva (Central European University)  email

Short Abstract

The paper analyzes indigenous representations at Jokkmokk Winter Market 2014. The festival is developing in two dimensions: as a tourist event with a clichéd image of Sami culture and as an opportunity for indigenous activists to gain attention for the environmental problems of the North.

Long Abstract

One of the most well-known tourist attractions in the Northern Sweden is Jokkmokk Winter Market which takes place annually in February. The festival has a history of more than 400 years and started as a market place and also an annual gathering for indigenous Sami people in the area.

The Sami people often use the Winter Market as an opportunity to gain wide attention to regional problems and conflicts. This year alongside with the festival two demonstrations against mining prospects in the Jokkmokk area took place; they were complemented by anti-mining installation in the local museum and a documentary screening. As a result, the Winter Market is developing in two parallel dimensions: as a tourist event (in many cases with a clichéd image of Sami culture) and as an area for Sami activists to express their concerns and to feel united.

Through participatory observation methods and media analysis the paper aims to discuss the aspects of indigenous representations at Jokkmokk Winter Market 2014. The research shows that whereas the tourist office of Jokkmokk (primary organizer of the event) is still relying on the popular images of "last wilderness of Europe" and "mysterious indigenous people", the Sami activists are nowadays using the festival in their struggle against colonization of the North. At the same time, the festival's visitors, especially non-Swedish speakers, rarely get the opportunity to explore the "activist's" dimension of the event due to the lack of promotion outside the Sami circles.

Change and continuity in the Russian Northeast: the reconstruction of the Kolyma Road

Author: Norman Prell (University of Aberdeen)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores contemporary changes in the understanding of northern mobility following the example of the Kolyma Road in the Russian Northeast.

Long Abstract

Since its construction by thousands of Gulag prisoners under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin, the Kolyma Road had functioned as a main catalyst in the development of the Russian Northeast as a leading gold mining industry. After more than a decade of post-Soviet ruin and abandonment, during which the road had almost stopped operating, Moscow decided to reopen the road as a Federal Highway between Yakutsk and Magadan in 2007. Since then considerable amounts of money have been invested in the reconstruction of the old Kolyma Road, while the region's diminishing settler population has hardly benefited from these changes.

This paper analyses contemporary processes in the region from the perspective of the Kolyma Road. Mainly drawing on historical and ethnographic data (fieldwork period: 2011-2012), I try to understand the ways in which the road combines different aspects of social and physical marginalisation. Here I am particularly interested in how local strategies of settling in and identifying with the land have changed since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Contrasting the new road project with memories of the old Kolyma Road, I propose a local understanding of mobility that still largely depends on but has also grown more critical towards national and global narratives of development and progress.

Choreographies of darkness and light: encountering Aurora Borealis

Author: Katrín Anna Lund (University of Iceland)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the the image of darkness and its, sometimes, magical effects and how they are staged, narrated and choreographed in relation to Northern Light tourism in Iceland.

Long Abstract

Conventionally darkness has been associated with negative forces as it obscures and hides the visually tangible field of daylight and the downside for tourism in Iceland has for long time been its bleak and uninviting dark winters. It can however be argued that increasing presence of Arctic regions in global context has re-evaluated the image of darkness and its, sometimes, magical effects. During the last three years Northern Light tourism in Iceland has been booming and the Aurora Borealis have become an established feature in the portfolio of winter tourism supply in Iceland. However, it is a well known fact that the lights are not to be disciplined, neither by tourist promoters nor the scientific community. Although science can tell you what they are and explain their nature up to some extent the dynamics of their vibrant appearances or non-appearances remain mystery. Fortunately, mystery sells.

In this paper I explore the ways in which the Northern Lights, as a product of mystery and the exotic, are an assemblage of heterogeneous mobile substances. These include for example energetic charged particles, Earth's magnetic field, tourists, tour guides, tour providers, weather, transportation systems and, not the least, the flow of darkness. I follow some of the ways in which these are negotiated through creative encounters and performances. I suggest that these are mediated through improvisation and choreographies that entangle human and non-human actors in their play with the elements of darkness and light.

Mobile working in the cold: conditions of labour in the Russian Arctic petroleum sector

Author: Gertrude Eilmsteiner-Saxinger (University of Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

Resource exploitation in the Arctic demands increasing mobility and consequently a multi-local lifestyle due to fly-in/fly/out operations in the Petroleum sector

Long Abstract

Since the 1980s, and especially over the last two decades, long-distance commute work (LDC) has become increasingly important for the provision of workforce in the oil industry in the Russian North. Resource exploitation, which is occurring in areas ever more remote from urban agglomerations, demands increasing mobility and consequently a multi-local lifestyle. Furthermore, LDC is cheaper than recruiting from among the local population along with expanding resource communities. This makes LDC attractive for the industry that is involved in the dynamics of a globalized neo-liberal market economy. This paper discusses contemporary labor conditions in the oil industry in the remote Russian Sub-arctic, while looking back at the Soviet era legacy, and attempt to explain the perceptions of employees today on their working conditions. The quality of labor conditions is variously perceived by employees and depends to a great extent on whether people work with large corporate companies or in one of the many sub-contracting firms. Furthermore, a large portion of workers work under conditions of so-called wild commuting (dikaya vakhta). In these many cases companies bypass labor laws, safety and security regulations, or do not pay the salaries agreed.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.