Building Arctic Futures:
Transport Infrastructures and Sustainable Northern Communities

ERC Advanced Grant

Project TIME FRAME

1.1.2021 – 31.12.2025

Further Links

Open Positions

Infranorth is a research project funded by the European Research Council (PROJECT-ID: 885646) and realized at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Vienna.

Project Partners

THE ABSTRACT

The “new Arctic” is attracting global attention for a variety of reasons, including geopolitics, militarisation, resource extraction, wilderness tourism, and calls for environmental protection in the face of rapid climate change. Many of these activities necessitate the construction or upgrading of transport infrastructures in this relatively remote, inaccessible and scarcely-populated part of the world. While these large-scale infrastructures are mostly sponsored by outside interests, they can have profound impacts on local residents.

We propose to focus on how residents of the Arctic, both indigenous and non-indigenous, engage with these infrastructures, and to examine the intended and unintended consequences these projects have on their lives. 

Our challenge is to understand whether existing and planned transport infrastructures will support permanent human habitation and sustainable communities in the Arctic, or whether they will strengthen a trend of substituting permanent residents with “temporaries” like shift workers, tourists and military personnel. In addressing this challenge, we adopt a relational affordance perspective, which will document the material and non-material entanglements of local residents and transport infrastructures in three distinct arctic regions (Russian Arctic, North American Arctic, European Arctic). 

Our approach combines ethnographic fieldwork with mapping exercises and archival research. Our project team of anthropologists and geographers will use quantitative population data to upscale to the regional level, and regional patterns will be contrasted and compared to reach conclusions on the panarctic level. 

We will use interactive scenarios to collect input and to develop decision options. Our overarching research question – What is the role of transport infrastructures in sustaining arctic communities? – is of urgent relevance on both theoretical and practical levels, and by addressing it we will contribute locally informed results to critical conversations about arctic futures.

Project Lead

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Peter Schweitzer

Department of Social & Cultural Anthropology
University of Vienna

Project Administration

Mag. Johannes Kramer

Department of Social & Cultural Anthropology
University of Vienna

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