ASSW 2016

The 2016 Arctic Science Summit Week was held at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks from 12-18 March 2016. What was an Antarctic humanities researchers from Hobart doing at an Arctic Science conference in the opposite hemisphere? I was in Alaska for the APECS (Association of Polar Early Career Scientists) Executive Committee meeting (10-11 March 2016), and it seemed a shame not to stick around to hear what our norther counterparts had to say about the state of polar research. I spent the following few days learning all about how things work on the other end of the earth, looking for connections in terms of research themes and approaches, and raising the profile of our HASSEG Antarctic work in the process.

I’m part of the SCAR Humanities & Social Sciences Expert Group, so it was really interesting to come along to the business meetings of the IASC Social and Human Working Group and hear the discussions that are taking place in the Arctic. Not only did this help me to clarify ways of articulating differences between the poles (something I have to do in the my thesis to argue why I am only looking at antarctic adverts – the presence of indigenous people in the North is a major difference), but it also revealed some exciting similarities in terms of research approaches.

Values, framing, the problem of “wilderness,” and the development of interdisciplinary projects are important contemporary topics in both areas. So too is the dominance of science as the frame through which both poles are viewed – indigenous communities in the Arctic have pointed out how this is problematic, and the many discussions at #ASSW20216 regarding the co-production of knowledge indicate that the problem is at least on the agenda up north. In Antarctica, this dominant view is trickier to challenge, but that’s essentially what our work on imagined versions of Antarctica is doing (most people never go to Antarctica, so their imagined version is far more real to them than the actual ice itself).

SCAR and IASC have already held one joint meeting to discuss aligning goals. The 2018 SCAR conference will be held in Davos, alongside the IASC meeting, so there will be a huge number of Arctic and Antarctic researchers in the same place at the same time. That makes this an ideal time to start building bridges between the two communities, and developing projects to address our similar questions. In 2017, both HASSEG and IASSA (the International Arctic Social Sciences Association) will be holding conferences, and we’re looking to include an Antarctic panel at the northern meeting, and an Arctic panel down here. I’m looking forward to talking more with Arctic colleagues, and learning about the north whilst championing the southern continent that has captured my obsession. Exciting times lie ahead!

Below is a summary of some of the discussions held during #ASSW2016. It is by no means exhaustive, but provides a taster of some of the topics I found interesting.



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