Arctic Work – conference call for papers


29 AND 30 MAY, 2015

The Department of Ethnology at the University of Tartu in Estonia is pleased to invite proposals for the international academic workshop “Arctic workshop of the University of Tartu: Work in the Arctic” that will take place on 29 and 30 May, 2015.

Life in the Arctic is often depicted as a place where people fight for survival, struggling with the harsh climate, long distances and the limited choice of consumables. Simultaneously, the Arctic is a resource frontier where circumpolar countries develop extraction industries by constructing or maintaining large-scale infrastructure with

Large scale industry city in the Arctic: Nadym
Large scale industry city in the Arctic: Nadym

settlements. A narrative of heroic work under hard conditions is part of the image of life in the Arctic, exploited enthusiastically both by people who live in the region and outside of it. Sometimes the gains of that struggle are measured in high northern wages, sometimes hard work in the Arctic proves the extraordinary toughness of “Northerners”, sometimes modern industry is presented as a symbol of progress.

This workshop will focus on different aspects and interpretations of work in the Arctic. Our goal is to assemble a truly interdisciplinary collection of presentations that will focus upon the cultural and social side of working in the Arctic, contributing to a better understanding of the economic, political or ecological aspects in general. Therefore, we encourage participation not only from anthropologists but also from economists, political scientists, historians, human geographers, biologists and others. The informal nature of the workshop is suited not only for senior scholars discussing their research results but also for PhD students.

Please send your abstracts up to 300 words to Aimar.Ventsel(at) by 30th of January 2015

Кольские саами и антропологи Арктики потеряли большого друга

С большой скорбью сообщаем сегодня о грустной новости. Скончался Лейф Рантала, в течение многих лет являющийся ключевой фигурой саамских исследований в Университете Лапландии. С самого начала существования исследовательской группы антропологов в Рованиеми Лейф был нашим благосклонным сподвижником и незаменимым советчиком, время от времени участвуя с большим интересом в наших дискуссиях. Особенно, когда дело касалось российских саами, он нам много помогал, делясь ценной информацией из своей памяти, подобной громадному архиву, а также предоставляя нам материалы из огромной личной библиотеки.

Leif Rantala
Photo: The Sámi Archives, Leif Rantala’s collection

Помощь Лейфа была неоценимой при составлении первичной заявки в Финскую академию наук на соискание гранта для финансирования проекта ORHELIA. Без его вклада часть описания проекта, посвященная саами, не оказалась бы достаточно богатой. Возможно, Лейф не был настолько широко известен в области антропологии Арктики, однако среди лингвистов, особенно финно-угорского направления, он пользуется огромной славой. Многие из нас также вспомнят его как замечательного переводчика на международных встречах. Лучше него никто не мог переводить любые языковые комбинации между финским, русским, саамским, английским и шведским языками. Мы всегда будем тепло вспоминать Лейфа за упорное продвижение фундаментальных знаний в науке, одновременно уважая его постоянные старания возвращать эти знания тем людям, которых они больше всего касались, – саами. Никогда не заботясь о рейтингах журналов и стандартах, придуманных другими людьми, Лейф преследовал только одну цель: чтобы его работа приносила пользу другим людям. Иногда кому-то это казалось лишним упорством, но эта ясность и дисциплина в самостоятельной научной деятельности достойна большого уважения. Суви Кивела написала  в своем некрологе на фейсбуке, что на самом деле нет ответа на вопрос: «А кто сейчас?». Лейф был уникальным и незаменимым человеком, как исследователь и как личность. Кто бы, на самом деле, подумал, что еще в прошлом году в Оулу он посетил концерт группы «The Scorpions»? Мы искренне надеемся, что все коллеги, работающие с его материалами и в его области исследований, будут бережно хранить переданное им наследие. Покойся с миром, Лейф!

Несколько ссылок: статьи о Лейфе в википедии на английском и на финском языках, со списками его публикаций; статья на русском языке о последнем общественном проекте Лейфа, выставке экспонатов Кольских саами из его личной коллекции; статья о составленном и опубликованном Лейфом списке репрессированных саами; статья Лейфа «Из истории саамского общественно-политического движения в ХХ веке».

Флориан Штаммлер, перевод Лукаса Аллеманна и Катрины Григорьевой

Kola Sámi research and Arctic Anthropology lost a great friend

We are sad to spread the following news today: Leif Rantala, long time at the University of Lapland the grand old man of Sámi research, has passed away. From the very start of the anthropology team in Rovaniemi, he has been a benevolent, albeit quiet supporter, and joined with great interest some of our discussions. He has also been a great help with background information from his immense library and archive in his head, as well as in his office and home, for much of our work connected to the Sámi in Russia. Our ORHELIA oral history project would not have got a Sámi component in the proposal that was rich enough in background information without Leif’s help. Leif is less known to international Arctic anthropology, but very well in Arctic language studies, end even more so Finno-Ugric linguistics. Many of us will also remember him from his numerous roles as translator at international meetings. Who else could translate in all directions between Finnish-Russian-Sámi-English-Swedish in the way he could? For us in the team Leif will also be in warm memories for his firm orientation in fundamental advancement of knowledge on the one hand, and for making this knowledge always available for the people themselves. He did not care about citation indexes, scopus, web of sciences, credits etc. He wanted to make sure that his work is useful, and was not ready to compromise it according to some criteria made by somebody else. At times this may have seemed stubborn, but it was admirable in its crystal clear agenda and strict rigour. As Suvi Kivela wrote in her facebook obituary, there is no answer to any of the questions “who now?” Leif was unique as a scholar, and as a personality. Who for example would have guessed that he went to see the Scorpions’ last concert in Oulu in 2014? We sincerely hope that all the colleagues working with his materials in the future, and on his field sites, will keep Leif’s legacy alive. Leif, rest in peace!

Here is some more info on Leif from online in wikipedia (English), or the same in Finnish (both with list of works and publications), and from the Sápmi news service in Finland

Corporate Social Responsibility or Corporate Diplomacy

The abstract below to an event in London brings up the interesting question if we are in an age of extractive industry conversation where CSR is over, and being replaced by what Gilbert calls “corporate diplomacy”, very restricted to few persons, who make the crucial decisions. What do you think about the idea that this diplomacy does not replace the CSR efforts, but – as Gilbert claims – emphasizes its hierarchies?  This reminds me of Arthur Mason’s “fieldwork” at those big oil and gas VIP meetings. You can check out his work here.

But here is the abstract by Gilbert, part of the RAI Research in Progress seminar series especially for post-graduates and early career researchers.

The Royal Anthropological Institute Friday, 16 January 2015 from 16:30 to 18:00 (GMT) London, United Kingdom

The extractive industries and the ‘Age of Conversation’: from corporate social responsibility to corporate diplomacy
Speaker: Paul Robert Gilbert, University of Sussex


Around the turn of the century, the extractive industries announced their renaissance. A series of high-profile international initiatives, toolkits and councils placed the most vilified of companies among the vanguard of an emergent corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda. Anthropologists attuned to the subtleties of The Gift have presented CSR programmes undertaken by extractive industry corporations as exercises in indebtedness engineering, or as anti-social instances of ‘failed exchange’. Drawing on ethnography of London’s market for mining finance, this paper examines a shift in emphasis from CSR to ‘corporate diplomacy,’ taking as a starting point another canonical work on exchange in economic anthropology: The Fame of Gawa.  The interplay of fame, influence and strategic control in the mining market comes to the fore even as the professionalised reputation managers employed by major extractive industry corporations insist that they have “left the citadel” and joined an “Age of Conversation.” The Age of Conversation, they argue, sees their employers absolutely disciplined by a digitally networked panopticon of the subaltern. Yet when corporate diplomats mount a mission, only a select few “influencers” are admitted into any meaningful conversation. The rise of corporate diplomacy does not signal the end of corporate social responsibility as anthropologists have come to understand it. Instead, corporate diplomacy both entrenches and makes more explicit the distinctly hierarchical social imagination that organizes extractive industry approaches to reputation and responsibility.