Arctic workshop

Snapshots from the Arctic: ‘Field’ Experiences and Reflections from Postgraduate and Early-Career Research in and on the Arctic

We are pleased to invite you to Snapshots from the Arctic ‘Field’, a one-day workshop to be held at St. Mary’s College, Durham University on Saturday 14th May 2016. The workshop will focus on fieldwork experiences of postgraduate (PG) and early-career (EC) researchers studying the Arctic, primarily in the social sciences and humanities. In addition to PG/EC interventions, Professor Phil Steinberg, Durham University, will be keynoting the event by sharing some of his experiences from the field and pointing to some of the challenges present in conducting Arctic fieldwork.

Arctic research and science writ large plays an important role in Arctic policy and diplomacy. The UK has a longstanding history of Arctic exploration and research, and the government is now aiming at positioning the UK as an important ‘science actor’ in the region. While this effort focuses largely on the physical sciences, UK-based researchers in the social sciences and humanities cannot exempt themselves from reflection on the implicit politics of our practices in and outside the field. Reflection on researcher positionalities and responsibilities specific to the region is crucial, not least considering how Arctic past and modern history is often marked by (post)colonial encounters. The workshop aims to provide a much needed opportunity for interdisciplinary and inter-institutional networking by creating a forum for joint reflection on moments of encountering the Arctic through the process of fieldwork.

The workshop’s format will be an informal roundtable, aimed to stimulate wide participation and discussion. Each presenter will be asked to bring one item, photograph, or other ‘prop’ around which to talk for 10-15 minutes about their own experience as a UK-based PG/EC researcher in the Arctic ‘field’ broadly defined. The topic is purposely kept broad in order to encourage a wide range of perspectives, approaches, and creative ‘snapshots’.

Participants are encouraged to share something about their experiences as UK-based scholars in the Arctic specifically, but we welcome a wide range of interpretations of the relationship between researcher and field; empirical, theoretical, and anecdotal interventions are all equally suitable, whether humorous or sad, positive or negative. Knowledge of the Arctic is generated in a myriad of different spaces, all of which may be thought of as ‘Arctic field sites’, whether or not they are geographically located north of the Arctic Circle. These include archives, libraries and museums; virtual and representational spaces such as art, literature and film; the intimacy of homes, villages or settlements; offices of politicians, state officials or business people.

Topics for reflections may include (but are not limited to):

  • Researcher positionalities and Arctic fieldwork
  • Spaces of the Arctic field – defining and constituting the field itself
  • Expectations versus the unexpected – anticipation, preparedness and encounters
  • Encountering local cultures, people(s) and knowledge systems
  • Engaging policy makers and politicians
  • Embodied experiences of being-in-the-field
  • Reflections on representing a European institution in the context of conducting Arctic research

The workshop is primarily directed at PG/EC researchers from across the social sciences and humanities. However, we welcome participation also from the physical sciences and beyond, as we hope the workshop will foster discussions that bridge traditional disciplinary boundaries. Thus, participants will get the opportunity to share and discuss thoughts and reflections on their Arctic encounter in an interdisciplinary environment. This will not only benefit the individual in their research, but also facilitate important knowledge sharing and networking across the UK’s Arctic research community.

The workshop is planned as a one-day event, starting at midday on Saturday, in order to allow participants to travel to/ from Durham on the day if necessary. The town’s transport connections are excellent, and accommodation options are available at the University’s colleges. While the workshop itself will end at 6pm, it will be followed by a wine reception, including poster-displays of some of Durham University’s Arctic research. There will also be an informal post-workshop dinner at a venue in the town. While we are unfortunately not able to provide financial support towards travel, accommodation, or the post-workshop dinner, we are pleased to be able to offer food and refreshments through the workshop, supported by Durham University.

If you wish to participate, please email a brief description/outline of your Arctic field research ’snapshot(s)’ (no more than 250 words) and a short biography to Ingrid A. Medby ( or Johanne M. Bruun ( Please include institutional affiliation, position, and contact details. The deadline for submissions is 31st March 2016. We also welcome participation from people who do not wish to present, but would still want to contribute to the general debate and draw benefit from the experiences of others.

Ingrid A. Medby and Johanne M. Bruun,

Department of Geography, Durham University



Distinguished International Visitor Conference: Geographies of Austerity

14th May 2015, 12:00 to 15th May 2015, 15:30, W309, Main Geography Building, Durham University

We are delighted to present 2015’s Distinguished International Visitor conference, welcoming Professor Mark Blyth (Brown University, USA) as our keynote speaker at a two-day event on the Geographies of Austerity.

Co-sponsored by the Culture-Economy-Life, Urban Worlds, Geographies of Health and Wellbeing and Politics-State-Space research clusters, and featuring talks from both Durham academics and other visitors, we welcome all interested colleagues to attend.

Summary Programme

Thursday 14th May
12.00 – 13.00 Lunch
13.00 – 14.30 Durham Geography Distinguished International Visitor Plenary Session

‘Whatever happened to Europe? From Social Democratic Heartland to Heartless Creditors Paradise’
Mark Blyth (Professor of International Political Economy and Faculty Fellow, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University, USA)

14.30 – 14.45 Tea / Coffee
14.45 – 16.15 Austere Security
Panel Session sponsored by Politics-State-Space Research Cluster‘Security as Economic Opportunity’
Andrew W. Neal (Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, Edinburgh University)

Roundtable Response and Discussion
Led by Louise Amoore and Phil Steinberg (Durham Geography)16.15 – 16.30Tea / Coffee16.30 – 18.00Austerity Housing Practice in the North-East
Panel Session Organised by Durham Geography Research PostgraduatesIntroduction
Emma Ormerod (Durham Geography)

Chris Anderson (Planning Aid England Advisor, Royal Town Planning Institute)
David Jones (Head of Engagement and Community Development, Byker Community Trust)

Open Discussion
Chair, Julia Heslop (Durham Geography)19.00 -Dinner (Finbarr’s Restaurant, Durham)Friday 15th May09.00 – 10.30Austerity and Health Inequalities
Panel Session Sponsored by Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Cluster‘Space, Place and Health Inequalities in the EU During a Period of Austerity’
Jamie Pearce (Centre for Research on Environment, Society and Health (CRESH), University of Edinburgh)

‘Austerity, Inequality and Mental Health’
Kate Mattheys (Durham Geography)

‘Food for Thought: Exploring Health in Austerity Through an Ethnographic Study of an English foodbank’
K.A. Garthwaite (Durham Geography), P.J. Collins (Durham Anthropology) and Clare Bambra(Durham Geography)10.30 – 11.00Austerity Cultures
Panel Session Sponsored by Culture-Economy-Life Research Cluster‘Culture and Economy After Austerity’
Rebecca Bramall (London College of Communication, University of the Arts)

‘Beyond a dangerous idea: Austerity as lived and affective’
Esther Hitchen (Durham Geography)

‘Austerity, Suspended Dissonance’
Ruth Raynor (Durham Geography)12.30 – 13.00Lunch13.00 – 14.30Urbanism Under Conditions of Austerity
Panel Session sponsored by Urban Worlds Research Cluster‘Austerity Urbanism and the Makeshift City’
Fran Tonkiss (Professor of Sociology and Director of the Cities Programme, London School of Economics)

Roundtable Response and Discussion
Led by Ben Anderson and Gordon Macleod (Durham Geography)14.30 – 15.30

Debating Geographies of Austerity in the North-East and Beyond

Roundtable debate featuring:
Mark Blyth (Professor of International Political Economy and Faculty Fellow, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University, USA)
Clare Bambra (Durham Geography)
Joe Painter (Durham Geography)
Antonis Vradis (Durham Geography)



Contact for more information about this event.