Arctic Workshop of Tartu University: Gatekeepers
3rd-4th of June 2016
It is well known that ethnographic fieldwork and participant observation are central to anthropological research. In practice, this means that the scholar lives in a particular community, participates, makes observations, and documents their findings. Therefore, the published research is usually associated with the scholar and their ability to collect data and analyse it objectively. In reality, the success or failure of the fieldwork often depends on a great number of people, who consult, help, support, or translate for the scholar. It is not unique to the Arctic, but extremely important for the Arctic, that a foreign (and even domestic) scholar has these people who usually receive their acknowledgement in a modest footnote of the publication. Notwithstanding the modest presence of such helpers in academic publications, their role in shaping the fieldwork is often impossible to underestimate. Local scholars, friends, or even relatives, are essential for the success of a research in the Russian Arctic, and probably in other Arctic countries as well. They help to organise transport, prepare the necessary documentation, find key informants, or advise what supplies one needs to take on a trip. Moreover, it is not unusual for students researching for their PhD thesis in another country, to be in a situation where they have to rely on local experts.
In anthropological vocabulary, such local helpers are usually called ‘gatekeepers’, and this year we would like to discuss in the Arctic Workshop the role of the gatekeepers in academic research. We ask participants to consider and conceptualise various aspects of the phenomenon called the ‘gatekeeper’. How much do/can gatekeepers shape the content of a research? What is your experience, why are gatekeepers essential, and where can their role be negative? How altruistic are gatekeepers? What are the motives of gatekeepers to engage with foreign scholars; apart from money?
The Arctic Workshop of Tartu University is an annual academic event where the results and methods of Arctic research are discussed in an informal and intimate setting. Therefore, the organisers of the workshop also welcome PhD-students who want to discuss their ideas prior to their fieldwork, or who are at the beginning of their careers.
Please send an abstract of 300 words carrying the title of the presentation, the name and affiliation of the presenter, by 20th of February 2016 to Aimar Ventsel, Aimar.Ventsel(at)ut.ee.