Posts Tagged ‘Svolvær’


Site Visitation and Ad Hoc Conversation with Dr. Traci Speed: Geography of Established Landscapes (or, the “nature” of exotic spaces).

It is difficult to drive through Lofoten with its majestic landscapes without referring to a few passages from Nina Witoszek‘s analysis on nature and culture in nineteenth century Norway (ch.2, Origins of the Regime of Goodness). “The mountains are, in the last instance, our best Norwegians”, citing Henrik Wergeland, Norway’s romantic poet, as a way for Nina to describe nature and nature-related imagery as a totemic possession of Norwegians.downtown

Unlike nineteenth century Romantics elsewhere, for whom imagination, mystery, and miracle, were linked to worlds of madness synonymous with thraldom, a loss of the self in the uncanny eternal forces (p. 36), Norwegian nature was reasonable:

hillsidebeach“[Nature] is the rational element (in man) which we must believe to have been innate in the soul from its beginning [and] was the work of an Author who is himself ‘rational’; [whereas] the non-rational element is not properly called ‘natural'” (Tertullian cited in Witoszek).

nansenNotably, this conversation would be truly amiss–if the point was not further supported by the fact that reason, nature, and scientific rationality continue to play an important role in Norwegian cultural reason today.

As evidence, for example, consider the importance that Norwegian scientists place on the imagery of nineteenth century ecologist, explorer, and cosmopolitanist, Fridtjof Nansen, as he appears here on the left, in a life-sized oil and canvas portrait that, today, hangs within the institute that bears his name, in Lysaker, outside Oslo, and run by the distinguished Arctic social scientist Arild Moe.

And again, in a speech by marine biologist and scientific leader, Paul Wassman, as seen below, during his lecture at the Norwegian TransAtlantic Science Conference held at Rice University, Houston, in late 2012.nansen nansen2

Well, anyway.

What was really on our mind as we gazed over the spectacle, indeed, was whether or not the issue that captivated us–was perhaps an element of exoticism having to do with specified labor practices attributed to a geography that, in fact, has no basis for present conditions in reproducing the way people today live on the landscape.
there What we simply could not arrest from our thoughts was the possibility of seeing a landscape in which the total organizing potential refers to an entirely different form of labor than what is now possible through careerism, and thus, making it impossible for us to comprehend nature outside of an exotic framework.

Stated more simply: Who lives by organizing their entire social, political, and economic energies via cod fishing at high latitudes of variable weather patterns established by the Gulf stream?

It is a wonder to behold.
seagrass Inevitably, our pondering required caffeine and of course, aestheticized interiors, whether enjoying the comforts of a climate controlled automobile or the visible interactions of cafe society down in the Lofoten chain.
gummy shoptea

Additional shots by Traci Speed (!):



cola jello



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8/10: US-Norway Fulbright Orientation….

Where Does One Begin?

Perhaps with Fulbright maven, Ragnhild Sohlberg, Ph.D., of former Norsk Hydro management and Rand specialist to whom, alongside Sonia Mykletun (see bottom), can be attributed the recently established Arctic Research Chair position?

With newly minted Fulbrighters musing on Art and Love in the Oslo Fulbright Office?

We back up and return to our visit at Nobel Institute?

To our roof-top reception following our Award Ceremony?

With where Prez B. Obama received his Nobel Peace Prize?

To imagine ourselves at Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

After introductions to begin a series of discussions about life in Norway?
Chatting, down the steps, onward toward ceremony and reception?

Let’s walk alongside past the King’s Royal gardens?

To begin under the celebrated chandeliers?

The paparazzi search beams, yes, for stars of my left and my right?

With the gendered children’s spam (pâté for the sensitive)?

There indeed are so many places to begin, as if to say, how can any one paparazzi ethnographer capture all the fleetings of such ritualized settings?

8/9: Entering into the Fulbright reception:

6/23/2012: I was awarded the US-Norway Fulbright Research Chair 2012-2013 at University of Tromsø (yay!). Reading my previous blog, see below, seems like a long time ago that I began the application. And it was! One year ago. I want register here and now that I plan to attend the Fulbright Orientation upcoming in August and to capture that event in paparazzi ethnographic style… 🙂

I recounted the entire saga of the award application to Svetlana L., with whom I had several wonderful conversations in April at Cambridge U. while attending the BASEES conference. Afterward, we met up in London over drinks at the Lanesborough where I poured out the entire story. She confessed to me that my tale was indeed, interesting. Here is Svetlana chatting on Hyde Corner:

To provide one example, I received news of the Fulbright award while in a hotel room in Jinan, China. I was visiting folks at the Department of Anthropology at Shandong U., with the generous offer to take the position as Associate Professor. For several days, I wandered around Jinan wondering how in world I would fit into that city scape, with all its unique food items, such as sea slugs, rose petals, and lettuce, as shown in the image below, taken at a high-end delicacy restaurant.

On the third day of my visit, returning to the hotel from a preview of the apartment that the university offered me as part of the hiring package and after walking out of the shower — a blast furnace of a water faucet, thank the lord — I noticed a new email in my inbox, from the Fulbright Foundation in Washington DC.

It was an eye spot. I paused for a few moments before reading the word: “congratulations”. And I plan to provide some updates right here, especially as I get news of the orientation.

6/23/2011: Last month, in Houston, I had dinner at the residence of Sonia Mykletun, recently Executive Director of the US-Norway Fulbright Program. Toward the end of the evening, she graciously invited me to apply for the newly created US-Norway Fulbright Arctic Chair, launched during her tenure. Sonia’s husband is the Royal Norwegian Consul General, Dr. Jostein Mykletun.

Both Jostein and I attended the Arctic Oil and Gas North America Conference that week where we were invited as keynote speakers.

Jostein presented the Norwegian Government’s High North Strategy, since he was Foreign Ministry Ambassador for the High North.

I decided to take Sonia up on her offer to apply for the Arctic Chair and have created here a post to document the process of putting together the Fulbright proposal.

What I find interesting, in fact, are all the threads that come together to make an application happen. In advance of my discussion with Sonia, I had discussed this opportunity with anthropologist Sidsel Saugestad of University of Tromsø (UiT). Initially, I was short listed for assistant professor in her department, though the job went to David Anderson, formerly of U. Aberdeen.

Some months followed and Sidsel and I chatted in SFO at the Anthropological Meetings about my spending time in Norway. And now, we are coordinating on the application.

Nezune Menka and the Band

The artist community of Svolvær in mid-winter

Another connection at UiT is Dr. Paul Wassmann of the Marine Biology Department who also has joined the Fulbright application effort on my behalf.

Not too long ago, Paul invited me along with early career scholars to Svolvær, Norway, in winter, on a cruise ship traveling the Norwegian inside passage from Tromsø, so that we could talk shop on oil and gas development in the Arctic. The conversations were intense. To cool off, we were provided with our own entertainment, in the form of a salsa band flown in from Barcelona, Spain.

That was an amazing voyage and Svolvær is so beautiful, especially in winter. In fact, there were artists in residence and we attended gallery showings. One of my favorite set of paintings was from Maud Brood, who, a bit of a recluse, became quite animated when talking about her work.

Hill Side by Maud Brood

Anthropologist Carly Dokis

pausing to catch a breath

During that trip I came to know quite well anthropologist Carly Dokis, who is wonderfully witty.

We spent all our time just hashing out ideas, intellectualizing our emotional lives, recounting our individual experiences through the language of anthropological texts. It is impossible not to do so when you have spent so much of your life sitting around reading. Having an interlocutor of that caliber, like Carly, made the trip.


heading south

But I should not forget the wonderfully clever anthropologist Najune Menka, also in attendance and who originates from Alaska. Najune works at the intersection of science, environmental politics and identity.

What is funny, Carly was living in Calgary, Alberta, where I was also living at the time, having been awarded the US-Canada Fulbright Scholar, North American Research Chair, at the University of Calgary.

The project I am proposing to carry out now extends my research into energy analysts in Norway. For this, many persons I have met so far as part of the US National Science Foundation research, including Arild Moe, Kaare Hauge, Elana Wilson Rowe, will be part of the project.

I have just completed what is nearly a first draft, and I am quite excited about it, and perhaps for this reason, I decided to create this post.

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→ Svolvær

2/2: What a great trip! We are just a few hours from docking back in Tromsø, having completed student poster presentations, mentor evaluations of the presentations and student evaluations of the mentors. Everyone is packed up with their luggage ready to go.

The final presentations were mock proposals, requests for funds from the Norwegian Research Council. Each project was multidisciplinary and having to do with oil development in the Arctic, following the theme of the Arctic Frontiers conference on Energies of the High North. Participants were mainly PhD candidates and MA students, chosen from various countries including India, Finland, Russia, USA, UK, Germany, Norway, Canada, Sweden, Italy.

There is always a sentimental feeling at the end of such gatherings, having spent a week or so living so close to each other, involved in work projects, conversations, dining, and touring activities. And here, Stig Falk Petersen, project leader, gave such a poignant few sentences, suggesting that members of the group most likely would probably never meet up with each other again but that we had this time together and that was what it is. Here in this video clip below is a sampling of the song/presentation combo. The singer is political scientist from Russia, Julia Skupchenko, and the guitarist is statistician from Barcelona, originally from South Africa, Michael Greenacre. Directly following, is the beginning of one of the presentations which participants had to formulate over the past several days. They lasted about one hour each, and then, the following day, the mentors gathered to critique the projects.

Svolvær is one of the most beautiful places I have visited in my travels. We walked to the end of the cape, passed the fish drying stilts, and managed to laugh about everything on our minds and in our hearts.

1/30: Spending lunch in different places. Working, reading, talking…. Today, we are visiting the Norwegian Coastal Administration Office and getting a dose of how the coast of Norway is managed. What a fabulous presentation, including a discussion in how the government dammed an entire inlet for dredging purposes. Incredible. Great lunch too. There were rolls with shrimp, roast beef and ham.

Karen Andreassen, U. Tromsø glaciologist and Arctos mentor. What a great lady! Karen and I had such a good time chatting away, living off each others words so to speak. We met each other in Murmansk, Russia, last year at the Norwegian Research Council (NRC) sponsored Norwegian-Russian offshore oil and gas workshop, led up by NRC’s Siri Helleman and Russian Academy scientist, Vladimir Pavlenko. In this photo, Karen is shown identifying the various participants of that meeting for my notes.

1/29: We headed to church for a crazy folk concert that I have to get the details on. What a trip. It was in one of Norway’s largest wooden churches, and part of the extensive cultural program in the course. In this video, I went for the organ music, but in fact, the majority of the recital was made up of vocals of a middle aged bard, with whom everyone in the audience seemed to be quite familiar with, and on several occasions sang along with the lyrics.

We went to the candle factory today for lunch. On my previous trip to Svolvær, I remember this visit fondly, spending quality time as I was with anthropologist, Carly McLafferty Dokis. It is a long and beautiful drive, followed by a tour of the local art gallery, and after lunch, we hit the aquarium along with other things…

Cramming in so many activities, I can only refer to them by photograph…. The weather was fabulous. In between the cultural activities, we got a chance to exchange presentations. St. Petersburg State University’s Yulia Smirnova, for example, gave a great talk on Polar Lows, that create all kinds of strange weather patterns, threatening off-shore platforms….

1/28: Having dinner together down in Svolvær. Here is the mentor’s table…

That is Michael Greenacre on the right, consummate musician and statistician from Barcelona. He is chatting with U. Tromsø glaciologist Karin Andreassen, behind her is Stig Falk Petersen, the chief of the operation, and U. Tromsø Professor, across from him is Akvaplan-Niva’s Paul Renaud…

And at the student tables… well let us see…. There is Ms. Polar Lows herself, Yulia Smirnova, up front on the left, sitting across from Murmansk University biologist, Sofia Afoncheva.

…And behind Yulia is U. Tromsø’s gas hydrate master, originally from India, Sunil Vadakkepuliyambatta, and behind him is Canadian newly minted PhD, now working for Government of Canada’s Off-Shore regulatory division, Candace Newman.

Oh Gosh, and here on the left we have Fabio Buansanti, and behind him is the lovely Nadezhda Filimonova, working on arctic gas development in the Barents Sea of all things, right in our back yard…

On the steamship down to Svolvær we gave talks and went on walks during stops…

1/27: en route to Svolvær, just finished my presentation on the boat and I thought it went pretty well. Folks seemed to like it.

Several years ago, I went on this voyage and thought I would never get a chance to go again, but here I am. It is such an amazing privilege and so interesting. We are basically floating along the inside passage on the Hurtingurter Steamship line, talking, eating, sleeping.

We got on board late last night, at around midnight, and the boat departed at 1:30AM

The Scientists…

The view from my window just before departing…

12/28: I have been invited to serve as social science mentor on the PhD field program associated with University of Tromsø Arctic Marine Network. We leave Tromsø, Norway, by boat and head down to the artist community of Lofoton where we hash out our new science ideas. This is an ideal location and group of folks to plan out new coupled-systems research in the Arctic, especially on issues of oil and gas development, and I plan to provide details.


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