11-12 May, 2017: Workshop on Anticipating Abundance: Economizing the Arctic (Durham)

Anticipating Abundance: Economizing the Arctic

Resources Subproject

11-12 May 2017, at W414, West Building, Department of Geography, Durham University, UK

This invitational workshop focuses on practices of resource-making in the Arctic, and brings together geographers, anthropologists, specialists in cultural economy and scholars of Arctic resource development. It explores how the materialities of polar environments and resources enable and disrupt anticipatory economies. The structure of the workshop combines a small number (8) of papers with cross-cutting discussion around three core themes (narrating, knowing and valuing, disrupting).

The workshop will include a framing paper on ‘anticipatory resource economies’ written by subproject convenor Gavin Bridge, followed by presentation and discussion of precirculated papers. The overall objective of the workshop is to think through how the materialities of polar environments enable and disrupt an anticipatory economy. Four guiding questions to structure the workshop include:

  • What role does the anticipation of resource abundance have in histories of Arctic futures?
  • In what ways do epistemologies (indigenous, scientific, other) of Arctic space shape contemporary narratives of its abundance and scarcity?
  • How are Arctic spaces and materialities represented in ways that can bear value, and/or sustain calculations of risk and reward?
  • How do the diverse materialities and temporalities of the Arctic disrupt practices of economisation?

The workshop will also seek to benefit from audience participation by a small number of Durham-based colleagues as well as other scholars involved in the ICE LAW Project.


Thursday 11th May

9.30     Welcome and Introduction to ICELAW project (Gavin Bridge and Phil Steinberg)

9.45     Gavin Bridge (Durham University), Economizing the Arctic: polar orientations 

10.15    Karen Hébert (Carleton University), The biggest, the best, the most, the last: producing valuable and vulnerable natural resources in coastal Alaska

10.45    Nina Doering (University of Oxford), Hopes, concerns, and expectations in Greenland’s emerging oil economy: a case study from Aasiaat and Qeqertarsuaq

11.15     Coffee

11.40    Dag Avango (KTH, Stockholm), Narratives about Arctic resource futures: ascribing value to geologies at Svalbard

12.10    Discussion: narrating abundance and scarcity in Arctic futures

1.15      Lunch

2.15     Berit Kristoffersen (UiT – the Arctic University of Norway), Networks of oil, cod and guests in Røst, Lofoten: uncertain entities in meaningful seascapes

2.45     Brice Perombelon (University of Oxford), Narratives of energy production: dialogical alienation in an indigenous resource enclave of the Canadian High North

3.15     Coffee

3.40    Discussion: knowing and valuing Arctic natures and space

4.45    Summary and plans for tomorrow

5.00   Close

6.30ish Drinks and dinner

Friday 12th May

9.30     Kärg Kama (University of Oxford) and Gisa Weszkalnys (LSE), Resource Temporalities: anticipations, retentions and afterlives

10.00  Magdalena Kuchler (Uppsala University), Rendering post-conventional energy futures governable: implications for the Arctic

10.30   Coffee

10.50   Discussion: enabling and disrupting practices of economisation

11.50    Resource-making: re-orientations (framing paper revisited)

12.45    Next steps and wrap up

1.00     Workshop concludes; lunch


About our speakers

Dag Avango is Researcher in the Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. His research addresses the relationship between resource extraction, science and geopolitics in the Polar Regions, and the effects of such interactions on environments and societies, from a long term historical perspective. Dag sits on the executive committee for the Nordic Centre of Excellence group, Resource Extraction and Sustainable Arctic Communities, and leads the Research Task ‘Material legacies as resources for sustainable futures’.

Gavin Bridge is Professor in the Department of Geography, Durham University, UK. Gavin’s research centres on political ecologies of resources scarcity and security, and examines questions of property, access and control associated with ‘new geographies’ of resource production and consumption. He has published extensively on the topic of oil and resource extraction, and most recently on the global gas market. He is the leader of ICE LAW’s Resources subproject and will be collaborating with Magdelena Kuchler as part of her project, Fractures in the EU energy future: at the crossroads between security, transition and governance.

Nian Doering is a DPhil candidate in the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford, UK. Supervised by Richard Powell and supported by the Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership, Nina’s thesis analyses local participation in Greenland’s emerging minerals industry. In particular, her thesis will examine local perceptions of the decision-making processes, the use of public meetings and views on citizen engagement. Between 2015 and 2016, Nina spent nine months in West Greenland to carry out fieldwork for this project.

Karen Hébert is Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Caleton University, Canada. Karen’s research examines changing natural resource economies, environmental politics, and struggles over sustainability in the subarctic and circumpolar North. She originally trained as an ethnographer and has extensive fieldwork experience in Alaska, particularly in the Bristol Bay region of the southwest. Karen is currently working on how the experience of living in an environment “at risk” shapes livelihoods and resource politics across coastal Alaska.

Kärg Kama is Research and Teaching Fellow in St. Anne’s College and the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford, UK. Kärg’s research combines resource and energy geographies with economic sociology, and science and technology studies. Her recent work elaborates on the practices through which certain components of the material world become intelligible as ‘resources’ and are thus deemed technologically possible, economically viable and socially acceptable to exploit. During her fellowship, Kärg is preparing a monograph on the science and politics of resource-making based on the study of oil shales.

Berit Kristoffersen is Associate Professor in Political Geography at the University of Tromsø, Norway. Berit’s research examines how presence and futures are negotiated in the Arctic, how politics turns into geo-politics and how climate change turns into opportunistic business opportunities. She recently completed a post-doctoral scholarship on the HERA-funded Arctic Encounters project, for which her research focused on tourism and the environment in the Loftoen and Vesterålen, and Andenes regions.

Magdelena Kuchler is Associate Senior Lecturer in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development, in the Department of Earth Sciences at Uppsala University, Sweden. Magdalena is PI on a 3-year Swedish Research Council (FORMAS) project, Fractures in the EU energy future: at the crossroads between security, transition and governance, which examines the evolving politics of shale gas regulation in the European Union, Poland and the United Kingdom. Between March and May 2017, she is a visiting fellow at the Department of Geography, Durham University, during which she will collaborating with Gavin Bridge on topics around political ecology, resource politics, governance and energy.

Brice Perombelon is a DPhil Candidate in the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford, UK. Supervised by Richard Powell, his thesis examines indigenous representations of geo-power amongst the Sahtú Dene in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Brice’s thesis will critically evaluate the way geopolitical changes (particularly land and natural resources governance) affect everyday lives and contribute to the shaping of an indigenized geopolitics based on aboriginal ways of knowing.

Gisa Weszkalnys is Assistant Professor in Anthropology at the London School of Economics, UK. Gisa specializes in the ethnographic study of natural resources, particularly oil, and is currently preparing a monograph (provisionally) entitled, Hope and Oil: An Ethnography of Speculation and Absence. Her work critically examines expectations of oil as a future source of wealth and prosperity but also as a possible harbinger social conflict, thus employing ethnographic methods and anthropological theory to re-think problems that have been the mainstay of economists and political scientists.

A map of Durham University campus is available here. For more information, please contact subproject convenor Prof Gavin Bridge.