Arctic communities in transition: resources and post-extractive futures. Fall 2018

This REXSAC PhD course focuses on transitions processes in the Arctic: transitions in terms of environment, economy, identity and culture, in the past and the present, and how local communities have dealt with and shaped these changes. The course takes place in Alta, October 25-29, followed by a REXSAC program-wide meeting ending on November 1.


This course focuses on Arctic communities that are undergoing transitions in terms of economy, identity, culture and environment. It can be transitions from an existence based on extractive industries to a post-extraction future, from reindeer herding to hydro-power or fisheries to oil and gas. Transitions can also take the form of towns being pulled down or moved because of mining operations. In this course we will explore a variety of transitions in the past and the present, and how stakeholders and local communities have dealt with and shaped these changes – through engagement and resistance as well as remediation and heritage processes –  and discuss what lessons can be learned from such processes for the future.

The course will consist of both of class room lectures and learning activities at different places subject to change in the present or past – the Alta hydrodam, the Repparfjorden mine and the Snøhvit gas extraction field at Hammerfest. In this way we will make this region of northernmost Norway into a lens for studying processes of change influencing many communities across the Arctic, in the past and the present.

Objectives and learning goals

The objective of the course is for PhD students to gain a thorough understanding of transition processes in the Arctic – explanations of why they take place, what their social, cultural and environmental consequences are and how stakeholders in the Arctic have dealt with them. The course will explore transition processes from an international comparative and multidisciplinary perspective. When having completed this course, the students should have a firm knowledge about:

  • Major transition processes in the Arctic, in the past and in the present
  • Different explanations of why such transition processes have taken place
  • The social, cultural and environmental consequences of transitions, and
  • How local residents and different stakeholders have dealt with change and why.

The course content in terms of literature and learning activities will be focused on research topics related to the overarching goals of REXSAC, in particular the question of how communities in the Arctic can transition to post-extraction futures. The course is multidisciplinary, involving teachers from the social, human and natural sciences.

Scope and learning activities

The learning activities consists of lectures and seminar discussions (in the field and inside), field work assignments, reading of course literature (all in all about 1600 pages), and written assignments. The total work amounts to five weeks of full time work. The lectures, seminar discussions and field work assignments are concentrated to five days in Alta and other locations in the region. The course is followed by a REXSAC program wide workshop and Coordination Board meeting.

The main teachers and course organizers are:
– Britt Kramvig, cultural anthropology, tourist studies, material semiotics, Sámi studies
– Dag Avango, history of science, technology and environment, cultural heritage
– Arn Keeling, historical geography, environmental history, environmental remediation
– Berit Kristofferson, human geography, oil and gas exploitation

In addition there are several other teachers involved, named in the course program which you can download here: Courseprogram_transitions

The overarching course plan is the following:

Week 1 and 2: On September 28th students in the course will meet online for a short introduction to the course contents and schedule, led by Britt Kramvig, Berit Kristoffersen, Arn Keeling and Dag Avango. After this meeting students read and prepare assignments for the course week in Alta.

Week 3: October 25-29 (+ Oct 30 to Nov 1). Seminars and lectures at and in the region of Alta + participation in program wide workshop.

Week 4 and 5: Preparation of final written assignment, followed by an online seminar where these written assignments are discussed. This seminar should take place at a date in the beginning of December 2018.

The course gives 7,5 ECTS credits.

Photo: on site lecturing at Alta rock art world heritage site. Photo: Britt Kramvig