Discussion: pros and cons of research cooperation between academia and military/security organisations

This month’s reading and discussion circle of our Arctic Anthropology team is open to all interested participants! Given the relevance of the topic for the entire academia, we explicitly welcome scholars and students also from other research groups and academic fields than ours. We will discuss the pros and cons of research cooperation between academia and military/security organisations.

TIME: 22 August 2019, 12:00 (noon), Helsinki time (UTC+2)

PLACE: Arctic Centre, Borealis room, 2nd floor, Pohjoisranta 4, Rovaniemi, Finland.

Skype participation is also possible, please contact lukas.allemann@ulapland.fi

Chapter to read: Rubinstein, Robert A. 2011. “Ethics, Engagement and Experience: Anthropological Excursions in Culture and the National Security State.” In Dangerous Liaisons: Anthropologists and the National Security State, edited by Laura A. McNamara and Robert A. Rubinstein, 145–66. Santa Fe, N.M.: School for Advanced Research Press. It can be downloaded from here.

A short introduction to the topic: Rubinstein (2011, 145) observed that “security agencies and organizations are expending considerable efforts and resources to figure out how to […] bring anthropologists and other social scientists to work with them.” This includes not only direct employment but also funding of and access to publications and conferences (Ferguson 2013). A recent example is a common workshop held in Rovaniemi in Spring 2019 about security issues, to which Arctic Centre (University of Lapland) and NATO experts were invited and which was fully funded by the latter.

The traditionally left-wing preponderance in anthropology tends to strong ethical reservations, up to complete denial, towards any forms of academic cooperation with military and other security organisations, due to concerns about misappropriation. We should, however, also admit that denial and outrage often goes hand in hand with generalisations about the military “in a totalizing fashion that our discipline would never sanction were they to be applied to other peoples” (Rubinstein 2013, 121). Also in our discipline there are voices advocating a responsible cooperation in order to contribute to better-informed decisions within military structures. After all, a pragmatic discussion acknowledging the presence of the military as an immutable fact boils down to one question: does bringing knowledge about societies into the military rather increase or reduce harm inflicted to people.

As overt and covert interest of military and security organisations in our work as social scientists is potentially everywhere, we will discuss in this session a chapter that tries to offer a balanced discussion, without slipping into sweeping generalisations and negative stereotypes about “the military”. The goal is to discuss according opportunities and dangers of cooperation.

Further readings for those interested in the topic:

Chamayou, Grégoire. 2015. Drone Theory. New York: Penguin.

Ferguson, R. Brian. 2013. “Full Spectrum: The Military Invasion of Anthropology.” In Virtual War and Magical Death: Technologies and Imaginaries for Terror and Killing, edited by Neil L. Whitehead and Sverker Finnström, 85–110. Durham; London: Duke University Press.

Rubinstein, Robert A. 2013. “Master Narratives, Retrospective Attribution, and Ritual Pollution in Anthropology’s Engagements With the Military.” In Practicing Military Anthropology: Beyond Expectations and Traditional Boundaries, edited by Robert A. Rubinstein, Kerry B. Fosher, and Clementine K. Fujimura, 119–30. Sterling, Virginia: Kumarian Press.

Price, David H. 2016. Cold War Anthropology: The CIA, the Pentagon, and the Growth of Dual Use Anthropology. Durham; London: Duke University Press.

Ssorin-Chaikov, Nikolai. 2018. “Hybrid Peace: Ethnographies of War.” Annual Review of Anthropology 47 (1): 251–62. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-anthro-102317-050139.

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Arctic anthropology job in St Petersburg

Our colleagues from Arctic Anthropology at the European University in St Petersburg have a job vacancy at their department. I guess reading on from here is relevant only for Russian speakers, as you need to know Russian for applying Continue reading

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The perfect place for comparative border studies?

Being here in Blagoveshensk (for a conference on a different topic), I realise how cool this place is for border studies.


On the left side the Chinese skyscrapers of Heihe, on the right the Amur embankment. The tower is a control tower, I guess for the border, but also for the safety of the swimmers in summer, because it’s placed at a public beach:)

Continue reading

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Another Summer school: Oulu 12-16 August 2019

Colleagues from Oulu also put together an interesting programme for their doctoral course, with a focus on studying ‘dark heritage’, i.e. civil wars, atrocities. Here is their programme description, and they say there are still some places free:
The Human Science Doctoral Student course: Monuments, visual representations, and spaces of  dark heritage, 3 credits, in the University of Oulu, 12. – 16. August 2019. Location: HUTK-HUM330, third floor.

The course outlines international dark heritage scholarship, focusing especially on memorialization of civil wars, places of atrocities and other painful and traumatic sites. The course will focus on memorialization of civil wars, like in Ireland, the USA and Finland, sites of colonial atrocities towards indigenous people in Australia, and sites of ethnic violence at the end of 19th and 20th centuries. The course will focus on different kind of memorials and other visual materials and representations, for example photographs, of these sites and people; how memorials and photographs visualize the memory of the painful incidents that occurred in the places. This course is interested in the intersection of what we consider dark heritage, what is remembered (and what
is forgotten, or even silenced) and how they are remembered in terms of how they link to wider identity issues of race, class and gender.
Course teachers:
Professor Jane Lydon, The University of Western Australia, Australia.
Professor Paul R. Mullins, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, USA.
Associate Professor Laura McAtackney, Aarhus University, Denmark.
Docent, Senior lecturer Timo Ylimaunu, University of Oulu, Finland.

The Course includes six (6) hours teaching each day in one-week period, 12. – 16. August
2019, so there will be 30 hours teaching in the course. Teaching will happen two hour classes before the lunch and four hours at afternoon. Students will give a short max. 15 min paper of their own doctoral research topic during the course in the workshop-type classes. Course includes two field walks in different dark heritage sites in Oulu.
Meeting location: Central lobby at University of Oulu at 9 am. 12th of August. We will have a table at there. University campus maps: https://www.oulu.fi/university/campuses
Teaching language: English.
Students will repair for the course short paper in their own research topics before the course. There is no course fee. Students will be responsible of their own travels, accommodation and living in Oulu.

Contact: timo.ylimaunu(at)oulu.fi

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Anthropology and History: summer school 5-11 August

Colleagues from Russia put together a really interesting programme to revisit the relation of anthropology and history, particularly in Russia and post-socialist countries. Their summer school announcement sounds very attractive, including possible travel grants to the school venue in Tyumen, Russia, plus free accomodation and meals. If you are interested, contact our friend Nikolay Ssorin Chaikov (nssorinchaikov(at)hse.ru) or visit the summer school website

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Anthropology contra ethnography? 29 May 2019, 13-14:30, Rovaniemi

Sometimes in our field there are situations where we avoid calling ourselves anthropologists, for the sake of not being confused with those people who measure skulls. Instead we may say that we are ethnographers, especially in the post-Soviet Arctic. But is anthropology and ethnography the same? Many of us would say no. This is the topic of the next article that we are going to discuss in our next reading circle. Everybody is welcome! Also interested people from elsewhere, and you don’t have to be an anthropologist. All you need is to read the article and have an interest in the topic.

Place: Rovaniemi, 96100, Arctic Centre (Florian Stammler’s office, 2nd floor)
Date: 29 May 2019, 13-14:30
Article data: Ingold, Tim 2017. Anthropology contra ethnography. Hau Journal of Ethnographic Theory, vol 7, no 1. Open access at https://www.haujournal.org/index.php/hau/article/view/hau7.1.005

Looking forward to an inspiring discussion.

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Arctic Research: Co-production of Knowledge

The intensive Finnish-Russian PhD course “Arctic Research: Co-production of Knowledge” organised by the Arctic Centre (University of Lapland) will be taking place 20-24 April 2019, in Rovaniemi, Finland.

Attention to the issue of knowledge co-production in research, policymaking, services and public debates is growing, but what counts as co-production and what interaction between science and society should entail in practice remains often unclear. The Finnish-Russian intensive PhD course provides an opportunity to learn more about the forms and values of multiple, often conflicting concepts of knowledge and discuss options available for the integration of the ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ into the Arctic research. The school offers a platform for interdisciplinary exchange in different research fields: from environmental-, identities-, indigenous-, art and design- to tourism-, extractive industries-, virtual reality- and legal studies.

Acknowledgment: Course organisers wish to thank Finnish National Agency for Education EDUFI (grant number: 220000085711) for the financial support on this project.

Project coordination by Dr. Anna Stammler-Gossmann;
Project management by Dr. Nina Messtyb

See the Programme

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