The recent ICASS VII (June 22-26, 2011) paid respect to the ever increasing importance and public debate on extractive industries for Arctic residents.
Several sessions were especially dedicated to this topic, and as many of us have been active in them, this blog entry shall provide a short start summary and serve as a comment-and-discussion platform for issues related to Arctic extractive industries.
The session convened by Florian Stammler & Jessica Shadian focused on the topic of consultation and resource governance, and the 12 presentations covered a wide range of topics with presenters from international relations and economics to sociology to anthropology of particular cases all the way to ‘papparazzi ethnography’ an excellent paper given by Arthur Mason from Berkeley who has also his own blog .
At the end of the session we had a one-hour discussion about possible future directions of social sciences research in extractive industries of the Arctic. There was a pretty broad consensus that important links at the science/practitioner interface should be developed further. This is a challenge for us social scientists, as this means working with ALL interested parties, not only indigenous research partners in the field, but also industry-representatives, decision makers, and NGO’s. We were pleased that a representative of Exxon Mobile sat through a whole day of presentations and still found it useful by the end of the day, admitting that industry can benefit a lot from the sort of expertise that we have.
But we have asked ourselves often whether and how we can afford to be involved closer with actors that are publicly considered anything but ‘impartial’. Comments on this and other issues are very welcome.
Likewise, after a paper by Patrick Lantto (Umea University) on Sami and hydroelectric power and wind power, we discussed whether or not understanding of extractive industry should include such renewable resrouces industry that become ever more important and have a certain set of similar consequences for the people residing in the activity area. Comments welcome as well!
This session was also used as a sumup and 3 year activity report for IASSA’s extractive industries working group (EIWG). The EIWG is a very loose network of social scientists for exchanging news, ideas, contacts, projects and other with their colleagues. You can read a charter of EIWG in the IASSA newsletter “Northern Notes” 30 from 2009, p. 14. If you are interested in joining the EIWG email list, please drop an email to fstammle(at)ulapland.fi
Another extractive industries session was mostly on mining, convened by northern anthropologist Hannu Heikkinen from Oulu with Sylvie Blangy and included several presentations from their “DILACOMI” project that looks at the coexistence of mining, herding and tourism in Lapland. One question that arose was how anthropology with its distinctive method of participant observation can contribute more to assessing consequences from inside, i.e. through anthropologists working in the mining industry, in neighbouring reindeer herding areas or in tourism on the same areas. While this may not be possible to achieve within existing limited project funding, the potential insights from this angle may be significantly different and complement well those generated by interviews, surveys, reviews and statistics. Comments on this are welcome here too. If you are interested in this project, drop an email to Hannu Heikkinen in Oulu or Mikko Jokinen at METLA in Kolari.
Another session looked specifically at the topic of mobile and commute labour within Arctic extractive industries, convened by Gertrude Eilmsteiner-Saxinger & Florian Stammler. Eilmsteiner-Saxinger presented with her project members on various aspects of long distance commuting (LDC), or “vakhtovyi metod” (the Russian term for this form of labour). Their project “Lives on the Move” explores a largely understudied area and is therefore definitely worth following. The anthropology research team collaborated with them in the framework of the BOREAS MOVE INNOCOM project, and and outcome of this collaboration is an edited volume on live in the Russian northern industrial city. with several presentations by our team members and affiliates from Rovaniemi, Oulu and Vienna.
Extractive Industry was also touched upon in the plenary session on Arctic Social Science beyond the IPY, when Florian Stammler talked about the initiative of a future pan-Arctic extractive industries phD programme and could develop as a partnership in future research and education among several universities under the umbrella of the University of the Arctic. Ideas and comments on this are welcome to this initiative as well and can be directed to Jessica Shadian at Nordland University or Florian Stammler.