Posts Tagged ‘Reykjavik’



Opening night

Indigenous Plenary
Alexey Tsykarev, Member of United Nations expert mechanism on rights of Indigenous Peoples, Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stating that he is happy that this year there is [at least] more discussion on Indigenous issues that last year.

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21-25 April –

Nordic Conference


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town4/23: Starting up here now, second day, with Kathryn Lafrenz Samuels speaking about transboundary sites of scientific exploration on the Arctic scale. Struve Geodetic Arc. Points from a survey 1816-1865 — the survey helped determine the shape and size of earth, the nomination of the Struve Geodetic Arc as a world heritage site. Various attempts to commemorate sites through markers and postholes. Only in 1954 was its meridian measurements improved upon.

geoMid-Atlantic ridge, submerged underwater, UNESCO has no jurisdiction over the ocean, but can assign the ridge at the bottom as a site. Discovered in the 1950s, evidence of continental drift. Set in deep geological time. “Calibration of human experience with human and global terms” and linking that to policy and institutional frameworks for coping with transnational governance, for example, climate change. Elite and expert approaches. Science and technology as the lingua franca of international cooperation. Transnational governance: UNESCO World Heritage is one transnational solution to foster international cooperation around issues of resource management and conservation.

mapFrigga Kruse is up now talking about British involvement  in early industrialization of Spitsbergen. British mining, exploration, and geopolitics on Spitsbergen, 1904-1953.

Fascinating presentation by Genevieve LeMoine on Peary’s exploration and quest of the North Pole. She explores the sense of community Peary creates and interactions among Greenlanders, maritime laborers, and explorers, examining the techniques used in the contact situation of Peary’s 2-year occupancy of Floberg Beach.

Dr. LeMoine (and co-author Susan Kaplan) examine a variety of different sites, including Floberg, excavations of Lake Hazen occupied by Peary workers, and museum exhibitions. She examines a midden, a blight on the landscape in its own time. Proposed stove designs by Peary while on board the Roosevelt at Cape Sheridan, trained as an engineer and had the crew and families safety at heart (see image directly right-below).

Screen Shot 2013-04-23 at 12.02.17 PMSo, Dr. LeMoine identifies “tin stove pipes, making pails out of kerosine cans for Eskimo”. Why, as soon as they get there, where they making makeshift stoves [cups, bowls] from tin cans, to provide basic comforts?”

Some are skillfully finished and soldered, putting a lot of effort into making them. Repurposed tin cans are found all over the world, and there was an abundance of tin cans from the midden. Stoves play an important role in Inuit life, keeping a smoke free flame, light, and are strongly gendered artifacts, integral to women’s identity.

Screen Shot 2013-04-23 at 12.02.37 PMA traditional lamp burns seal, whale, walrus blubber, but Cape Sheridan was a bad location to hunt sources of fuel. Greenlanders did bring their own lamps, but could not bring enough fuel, and thus, probably these tin can stoves were makeshift possibilities to fit the new occasion. In fact, women were crucial for work, sewing, etc. but also “feminine companionship” not only for their partners but for the Peary’s non-Inuit crew. This created quite a bit of stress.

The stoves are, LeMoine argues, evidence to the stress and challenges to living at the Peary community as women who traveled to work on the exploration.
The entanglement of explorers and Inuit women, and the latter working with strangers far from home, under stress hand crafting stoves, etc. and to adapt and create what was important to them.

lunch4/22: Starting up on the first full day of the conference. The first set of presentations, we chose to attend, falls under the general title: Foregrounding Things, forms and faults of representation. Sounds interesting!

icelandersÞóra Pétursdóttir is up, now making introductory remarks, reading from Bjørnar Olsen‘s prepared talk, who could not be here, referring to Bruno Latour‘s conception of how things manifest themselves and portray their essence  to “us”, a take on the Heideggerian principle of ontological character of objects that take on continued historical patinas of social and cultural order.

Sensory aspects and tacit skills in fieldwork, the materiality of things, fieldwork, attentiveness, an intellectual exercise focusing on the physicality of things that belie a certain latent Aggressive Hermeneutics (citing Susan Sontag), a conquest over the real, a dissatisfaction of what is there, to get beyond what is there, to read a significance that is more appealing and sexy that neglects otherness and turning ontology into a disciplinary brigade of useful things for “us”.

museumA plea to acknowledge also, largely forgotten in theoretical regimes, the immediate effect of things, how their very presence strongly affects us, and also the way we comprehend things. Concluding by citing social theorist of ideology, Terry Eagleton, affections and aversions, of that which takes roots in the gaze and guts, the aesthetic, the most gross and palpable, of the body’s long tyranny of the theoretical.

Okay. That was great. Now. We have Thingly Qualities and Tacit Properties of Nuclear Waste, Cornelius Holtorf. 300,000 tons of radioactive waste in the world, and 12,000 tons added every year, with half lives of 24,000 years (Pu-239) to 17 million years (1-129). Talking about Sweden’s nuclear waste disposal site. Swedish Nuclear Waste and Management Company, for which this speaker received some research funds, and for the purpose to communicating the real properties and thingly qualities of nuclear waste.

museumHow do we represent or mediate things without risking that their genuinely thingly qualities are lost in translation? Such as Nuclear Wastes. Answer:  a category of qualities (1) Scientific prose and formal style — but language is problematic, unless there is a Rossetta stone. Tsunami stone markers in Japan, several hundred years old, that indicate where not to build villages, but still, they still do not mediate; (2) Other, more poetic/prosaic ways — symbolic representations that communicate to future generations to avoid digging in nuclear waste areas, such as a symbol of a skull and crossbones; (3) visual media and art, landmarks that communicate that a place is a forbidden zone, through a wall or installation, which communicates to other beings, such as the holocaust memorial in Berlin, communicate an eerie-ness, a similar technique, but more difficult to steer the particular meaning taken from it. The Pyramids, for example, were there to protect burials, but in fact, did not even last several generations.

inside alsomuseumQuestions of how to communicate radioactive waste to future generations. Conclusions: (1) The need for non-standard forms of representations is obvious (writing an academic article and burying it in the waste area is not helpful); (2) The aim is not to represent “the way things are and articulate themselves” but to prevent harm from future human begins (or their descendants); (3) Representing “genuinely thingly qualities” is done by and for people. It reflects how they look at these things and the future — In particular — Effort and Intended Content. OECD level working with nuclear regulators in Europe, trying to figure out how to label “no-go places”.

meetingThus, a major hazard for future people, not a resource or minor issue like other waste. What he says here, quite interesting, is that the way we view waste today, is that it is waste, but it could be viewed by future generations who could potentially use these products, as energy, for example.

photosCiting Susan Sontag, all photographs are memento mori, Sigrún Alba Sigurðardóttir, now up, redexplaining the lived experience embodied in a photograph which Sigrún is talking about to explain who she is, voluntary and involuntary memory, citing Proust, that which resides in our minds, while other memories reside in our senses, memories in our bodies that we do not realize that we have, now citing Walter Benjamin, talking about about lived and non-conceptualized experience, facing reality absorbing it.

Speaking of Photography… after lunch, we decided to catch up with Kristinn Magnússon, professional ljómyndari (photographer) of architecture, food, and people. Today, we found him hanging around one of the top restaurants in Reykjavik.

at work



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We met in the elevator and sped up to the top floor, moseying around, looking at the sites.

Watching him prepare the gig, set up the scene, we asked a few questions about preparation and concentration.

Kristinn is pretty focused and feels confident about moving on once he feels he has got the number of soft and hard shots he is after.double checking

Enrolled at the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale, where he spent some additional time working with a few folks, but born here on the Island, he moved back home in 2006.

We followed along for the ride to observe his technique, asking few questions so as to not really get in his way.inside
He was carrying out a quick-shoot for one of the various Icelandic magazines that he works for. We will catch up with Kristinn again soon, to see the sights around Reykjavik from the eye of a professional.

4/21: Here in beautiful Reykjavik at the 13th Nordic conference. What do we have? Up now, giving a few opening remarks from his recent trip to Washington DC, is the President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson.

We are going to turn the Paparazzi Ethnographic microphonic blog over to the President himself:

Coming back from Washington DC, talking about the Arctic for one week, now here opening your conference talking about the old ways of the world. From your title, you are somewhat influenced from the past, talking about Fringes, Margins, and Edge. hands

I know it is not usually done in my profession to open a speech by saying the title is somewhat out of place [laughter] but I think it is important, that we realize that the western view and opinion is not really in focus, and we have been brought up with all these maps thinking that we are in the center, where Greenland is a little place up there, but that it is half the size of Europe, and never indicated to us that long before we wrote the literature on the Viking period, there were people for thousands of years who made this “remote” part their home.

handsyCertainly at the beginning of the 20th century, Icelandic explorer, Stefanson, by discovering the most northern parts of Canada, coming back to NY, explaining to the Explorer club that indeed there were people up there, and so famous he became that folks wanted to make him the first president [of Iceland].

president looking greatLast week in Washington, the core of my discussions, with Senators, White House, Brookings Institute, and other pillars of policy dialogue, was that this Arctic neighborhood has become crowded. Last year every meeting I had with an Asian leader was their desire and right to have a seat at the Arctic table. This was the first topic, a month ago, in my meeting with the Prime Minister of India, was the future of the Arctic, during the first half hour of our meetings.

handsI said to both of them [China and India] because of our friendship, it is somewhat paradoxical that they did not want to talk about the ice covered areas of their world, Tibet, and didn’t want to talk about their people, but wanted to speak about my area of the world and my people.

If we now face a situation, where every national power wants to be a part of the Arctic, it is very important to bring to the attention the culture of the people who have lived here for thousands of years. We are recent arrivals.

shaking handsQuoting a Alaskan Elder, there was never any problems with nature and the people until the arrival of the White man. And I was reminded that there have been people in the Arctic much longer than [Icelanders] have. Quoting the elder again, there was so many negotiations with State of Alaska, federal government, oil companies, maybe he made a mistake, “Sitting Bull had been right after all” — Sitting Bull, who likely does not appear in any syllabus in your course readings, was the Indian Chief who refused to make any agreement with recent arrivals, “why should I make deals with those who want to take it over”.

And we enter into dialogue with the folks you decide to call “Fringes, Margins, and Edge” — this is their world, long before [the rest of us arrived].

friendsTo remind you and myself, that what we in Europe and the Western World, have looked at as a remote culture, as a people on the fringe and on the edges, is that their world is not on the edge, they are on the edge of our world, and that is a colonial view, but they are at the center of their world.

One of the most testing challenges, we face in the years to come, is whether we plan to respect the rights and culture, and that we are on the forefronts of human rights, but will we be up to the test of deciding on behalf of Northern Peoples when it conflicts with the interests of the state. So far, we have not been so successful.

presidentWhen we are [here] now, where the Arctic is the main global center of the political theater, where Asian leaders are requesting to be a part of the Arctic future, for those who have lived here for thousands of years, their lives are of utmost importance. Nowhere else will archaeology be so important than in the Arctic over the next several decades.

alsoWith these reflections, and reminder that maybe you should have chosen another title, I wanted to share this with you. I think it is utmost important that the scholarly work of Archaeology should not produce a colonial view that this part of the world is the edge, otherwise we will make fundamental challenges about the human rights and of how the world is composed.


peopleUp now is Keynote SpeakerLynn Meskell, Stanford University, talking about UNESCO and World Heritage. Let us provide a summary as Lynn speaks forward. Official observer at UNESCO meetings, archaeology reaches world heritage recognition, but archaeologists are absent. Archaeology offers a powerful lens on Heritage.

invitationSo, this is a very interesting talk, clearly very complicated, about assigning UNESCO heritage sites based on nation-statehood, and thus Palestine, for example, was not able to register a world heritage site because of geopolitical contexts.

Global Indigenous Council of experts within UNESCO. Okay, that sound interesting. It was promoted initially by Australian government but, oops, quashed a year later. The decision to formalize the group was delayed. The scale of the French objections were excessive. Citing Wendy Brown, political philosopher.

Citing a journalist for the UN, “The truth is that the UN is too weak, not strong enough”.

Coffee Break

Great coffee break– as usual. We had a chance to catch up with the talented archaeologist hailing from U Tromsø, nearly PhD (submitting her dissertation in one month) Þóra Pétursdóttir, who will be speaking shortly on the role of photographic imagery in archaeology.

Here are few folks we know, Drs. Kathryn Lafrenze Samuels and Genevieve LeMoine, looking smart and well rested after the long flight from the United States, where Kathryn, coming form North Dakota State U. (NDSU), and Genevieve, from Bowdoin College in Maine.
Kathryn has brought with her a group of undergraduates, nearly graduate, and graduate students, funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF) — Good for NSF and also NDSU.

We had a chance to chat briefly with the students, several of whom are archaeologists and two cultural anthropologists working in heritage, and we would just add that we were impressed indeed, with the sophistication of conversation coming from residents of the newly oil rich state just south of the Canadian border.students etc.
> The session focuses on the heritage of science and technology in the Arctic.
> The conference is the XIII Nordic-TAG (http://www.nordictag2013.hi.is),
> which will take place at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, April
> 21-25, 2013. While ostensibly the conference is an archaeology conference,
> it encompasses a broad view of any research on the past, temporality,
> heritage, etc. (“heritage” here being defined as: the study of how the past
> is used in present). I’m pasting below the session abstract, which includes
> a fuller description.
> Again, please accept my many apologies for the short notice on the
> symposium. I hope you’ll consider joining the session, as your work on
> energy development would be key for the aims of the session.
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Banquet Scene


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Waltzing toward the airport departure gate watching advertisements posted on the wall creates the impression of a portrait gallery.

After Security

Airport 6AM: I just cleared the morning brine from around my eyes, so anyone noticing me in the past hour probably thinks I have been crying. But who leaves such a beautiful place like Iceland? I am not surprised the whole airport is not in tears.

Parting shots of Reykjavik

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→ Reykjavik

A Land of Pools and Pipes

6/29: Last Day in Iceland.

Doors open when the weather is warm in Reykjavik.

Doors left open and slightly ajar. Maybe it means something.

Reykjàvians are loungers. That is all there is to it. When the weather is warm, they sit around on benches, listen to music or read the news tattlers over soda. Perhaps I am dramatic, and difficult to follow. But there are many sofas around town.

Sofas in art houses and coffee shops

Sofas in restaurants

6/28: Reykjavik is a little more edgy than Akureyri. The night spots.

We spent the evening with a few Greenlanders who blew into town. I was happy to hear from them and suggested we visit a local dance bar near my flat.

In the heart of Reykjavik, it is, on the average, a rather quiet part of town. But there is in the capital of Iceland, a very different approach to living it up, so to speak. Of course, sitting in a corner having a quiet conversation, things seemed to be moving toward a boil, as the 1AM deadline on a Tuesday evening came to the fore.

Reykjavik night-life

Boys and Girls


“Kicking in chairs and knocking down tables in a restaurant….”

Earlier in the day, when there was more sunlight, we booked a few tickets on the tourist travel bus around Iceland’s Golden Circle.

Luckily, ICASS participant, Angela Byrne, PhD and Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Mobility Fellow, Department of History at NUI Maynooth as well as the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto — the genius that she is — gave me a tour of Ireland’s 18th to 19th centuries’ science and antiquarian studies of the North while on the bus. Quite frankly, without her, I would have been bored to tears looking at all that grassland without some accompanying intellectual chatter.

Angela spoke volumes about Ireland’s intellectual history — the development and routing of a Catholic Monastic literati, the rise and final rousing of an Anglican Irish, the Grand Tour diaries and diaspora of Ireland’s Gentry into the Prussian, Central European and Russian Armies based upon a noble registry. W-o-w! I will need to re-write my own interest in the intellectual professionals with some of her own perspectives.

Discovery on the bus was not the only thing that occurred during the trip.

We found an image of the Arctic without any ice in Greenland or the Arctic. And that is bad news. I do not know what year the publishers are referring to, but we will file this image in our discussion of In-Flight Warming.

Yes, we visited a power plant on the way. The entirety of Iceland seems to be one big Thermo-Gaia Reactor, bringing to mind my Islands of Inland Empire. We will just table these two ideas. Let us move on.

We found what I call the Heideggerian handle. In a different posting, I refer to the work of Martin Heidegger, on the topic of the ontological which takes the essence of the human form.

I was going crazy over these two handles when a few ICASS stragglers caught up.

Heidegger’s Handles versus the Concrete

Nuccio Mazzullo and Hannah Strauss

Dr. Nuccio Mazzullo of Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography and Hannah Strauss of the Thule Institute spotted us right away.

I explained that Heidegger concerns himself with the use and imprint of the human hand on things– e.g., in The Origin of the Work of Art, and that years ago, I came across a wooden picket fence, hewn roughly so that it would be easy enough to get a splinter.

But there, in the very space where you might think to grasp the fence to open the gate, the wood was well polished, patina-like as if it had been touched by the human hand for 20 years. Such investment, without consciousness, without deliberation, without a sense of virtue or demand, but simply the habit of human life struck me in a peculiar way. It appeared to me as a sense of accomplishment, fragile and ordered.

The Human Touch

Space of Neglect

And here, Nuccio said something brilliant. Listening to me, he stated, “yes, you can say that this is where Human Action comes into Focus”. That was the exact phrase I was looking for. Thank you Nuccio!

6/27: Swimming at the Blue Lagoon.

Passing pipes along the way.

Reykjavik in one fell swoop. That is what it felt like at any rate.

We blew down from Akureyri, starting about midnight. David Koester and Victoria Petrasheva, with me riding shot gun and gabbing the entire time about all my doings. Only Victoria heard in my voice a lullaby and not our driver, David, who managed to stay awake the entire time.

We went down a list of academic books we had read recently and suggested names for key note plenary speakers of the next ICASS. I mentioned to him ideas I had developed with my bare hands– all kinds of sense making, much of which is posted on this site.

Arriving at Brynja’s place, between David’s driving and my speaking, we were spent.

Bryna Des Vals is an Icelandic Professor who studied Russian years ago during a field year in Moscow. She is a long time friend of Victoria, the latter from Petropavlosk, and was gracious to open her home to two additional guests last evening, David and myself. I awoke inside what can only be described as a charming cottage, with an opened door to the outside, hearing the wind kick up a backyard of domestic plants gone wild.

Through-the-Looking glass was an apt description of my desire to take a coffee on the balcony.

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