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Post-graduate summer school report: Change and Continuation in the Arctic

Post-graduate summer school report: Change and Continuation in the Arctic

The Post-graduate summer school ‘Change and Continuation in the Arctic’ - An interdisciplinary summer school of the humanities and social sciences was held in Aalborg 12-15 August, 2015 at Aalborg University

The Post-graduate summer school ‘Change and Continuation in the Arctic’ - An interdisciplinary summer school of the humanities and social sciences was held in Aalborg 12-15 August, 2015 at Aalborg University.  Selected from 43 applicants, 15 participants were accepted – scholars from Canada, Greenland, UK, Finland, Alaska, Denmark, Iceland and Russia.

The summer school was jointly organised by Aalborg University’s Arctic research center CIRCLA, Arctic Research Center ARC at Aarhus University and University of the Arctic.

The Summer school of 2015 aimed to:

  • Inspire young/aspiring researchers to think (trans-culturally) about ways to bridge gaps between sometimes differing visions of Arctic development.
  • Address critical questions pertaining to private sector involvement in the Arctic, especially concerning profits, benefits, environmental and cultural concerns in connection with e.g. oil and mineral exploitation.
  • Explore issues of social exclusion and inclusion with a focus on participatory democracy, public involvement as well as indigenous expressions of community belonging, ownership and citizenship rights.
  • Inspire discussions of modernisation and traditional ways of life, including the negotiation of conflicts arising from urbanisation and globalisation.
  • Assist young/aspiring researchers in exchanging and ideas with each other and with established scholars.

Attending students presented work in progress and ideas for Ph.D. projects (30 minute presentations), and brought up theoretical and methodological concerns and questions. The presentations were listed under three subthemes inspired by submitted abstracts:

  • Industrial development and public engagement.
  • Generational change and social continuities. 
  • Northern identities and indigenous rights in a global context.

As a successful gathering, the summer school made new and unique contributions to Arctic Studies by bringing together scholars from the social and human sciences to discuss ‘Change and Continuation in the Arctic’. Inspired by Sejersen (2015), Lill Rastad Bjørst (Aalborg University) and Pelle Tejsner (Aarhus University) asked the participants to think of the Arctic as a region of flow and, in line with that notion, to rethink how they were studying the Arctic? Questions such as: what is absent?, what is present? and what is overlooked? when studying the Arctic were frequently visited during the summer school in 2015.

Excellent invited speakers contributed to the quality of the summer school: Joan Nymand Larsen (Stefansson Arctic Institute, Akureyri) based her presentation on the findings from The Arctic Human Development Report II (2015) which she co-leads, and the title of her presentation was ‘Sustainable Resource- and Human Development for a Viable Arctic’.  Anne Merrild Hansen (Aalborg University) spoke on ‘Extractive Industries and ways to strengthen social change management for the benefit of Arctic societies’, which included new insights from studying the ongoing processes in Greenland and working towards improving the potential for higher level assessment and more effective public participation. Grete Hovelsrud (University of Nordland) addressed ‘Perceptions of risks and adaptive capacity’ in Northern societies and Frank Sejersen (University of Copenhagen) explored the question of ‘Future-makers in the Arctic’ and advocated for a critical view on globalisation, urbanisation and change. Finally, Postdoc Jakob Sievers, member of APECS (Association of Polar Early Career Scientists) talked about ‘Shaping your Arctic career as an early career researcher’ and the many ups and downs when writing a PhD Thesis.

The ‘icebreaker reception’ on the first day of the summer school was a harbour sightseeing (Limfjorden) by boat to gaze at Aalborg from the seaside. Later at the summer school we had the possibility to visit The Greenland Harbor (Grønlandshavnen) in Aalborg, from where most cargo to Greenland is shipped. Sales and Marketing Manager at the Port of Aalborg Ole Brøndum gave a guided tour and told us about strategies and visions for the port. From Arctic Consensus situated at Aalborg Municipality, Emil S. Christophersen thereafter invited us to learn about how Arctic Consensus works to enhance unique collaboration between the Arctic, Denmark and the EU via networks, seminars and projects.

The summer school received generous support from the Port of Aalborg and Arctic Consensus and was kindly sponsored by The Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation and University of the Arctic. The organizers would like to express their sincere thanks to Aalborg University and Nordkraft for providing its premises, technical equipment and ever helpful staff. Last, but certainly not least, the organizers wish to wholeheartedly thank all contributors and participants to this event for making it an inspiring as well as enjoyable four days!

Assist. Prof. Lill Rastad Bjørst, Centre for Innovation and Research in Culture and Learning in the Arctic (CIRCLA), Aalborg University,

Assist. Prof. Pelle Tejsner, Arctic Research Centre (ARC), Aarhus University

Proj.  Administrator Ulla Langballe, Department of Culture and Global Studies, Aalborg University



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