Visiting Speakers

2016 Winter

In colloboration with the Department of Anthropology, Arctic Domus sponsored several seminars by distinguished speakers or by members of the project on research themes related to the project. The talks were held on Thursdays in room F61 Edward Wright Building from 15.00-17.00 unless otherwise noted.

4th February 2016 - Michaela Fenske



Michaela Fenske is a Heisenberg Fellow (German Research Foundation) with the Institute of European Ethnology at Humboldt University in Berlin. 

Dr. Fenskey gave a formal talk on Green Cities - Urban Natures? How citizens and honeybees arrange postmodern urbanity on the 4th of February.


Since 2006 the so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the decline of the European (or Western) Honeybee, is a widespread phenomenon in the western world. The public became aware of the honeybee’s importance not only for the production of honey but also because for its pollination of vegetables, fruits, and other plants. As a consequence more and more people living in the metropoles and towns of industrialized countries in France, the USA, Great Britain, Austria, Switzerland or Germany practice urban beekeeping. Based on a case study of urban beekeeping in the German capital of Berlin, my project focuses on how the citizens use honeybees as new partners. Although the western honeybee has been domesticated since premodern times, some postmodern beekeepers interpret their bees as ambassadors of nature and teachers of sustainability. Honeybees are regarded as keystone animals for both the problems and the solution of the multiple crises at the beginning of the third millennium. My project aims to assess the complex question how, why, and in which contexts and milieus urban beekeeping has become in which manner important, and which aspects of the bee are regarded as relevant (e.g., bees as artisans, roboter-bees, beelarves as human nourishment, different kind of knowledge concerning bees etc.)? Another focus is concerned with the effects of the bees as new actors within urban settlements. What are the bees “doing” with human beings, how do they influence humans and their aspiration of inventing a better future? My internationally embedded case-study is conceived against the theoretical framework supplied by Human-Animal Studies, Multispecies Ethnography, Political Anthropology and Ecology, and Urban and Rural Studies. By applying different ethnological methods, the project will also demonstrate in which way anthropology may contribute to responding to the methodological challenges of research on human-animal interaction.  

The seminar will take place on 4 February (Thursday), F61.


11th February 2016 - David Koester


David Koester is a LE STUDIUM Research Fellow 2016, from the Loire Valley Institute for Advanced Studies and Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Dr. Koester gave a formal talk on Expressive Culture and Alienation in Kamchatka: Salmon in Itelmen Folklore and History on 11 February. 


Salmon have traditionally been immensely important as a subsistence resource for Itelmen people in the Russian Far East.  Yet despite this central position, salmon were, until recently, remarkably little represented in Itelmen performative, expressive culture.  Since the mid eighteenth century Itelmen people have been known in world ethnographic literature for their connection with the huge salmon runs of Kamchatka peninsula.  Contemporary, recent and historical sources also affirm this connection to salmon as a vital economic resource around which subsistence activities were organized and social life was ordered.   Yet, despite this acknowledged practical importance, and in contrast to the prominence of salmon themes among indigenous counterparts around the North Pacific,  relatively little reference was made to salmon in the numerous Itelmen folk tales and stories that have been recorded.  Salmon, it seems, were so much a part of daily life that, as objects of cultural interest, they were unelaborated background.  Over the years conceptual, economic, political and even ethnic modes or forms of alienation have increasingly separated Itelmen people from this traditionally inalienable resource.   This presentation begins by exploring the extent to which salmon have been discussed, reflected in institutions and presented in Itelmen expressive culture. It then examines how various forms of separation have emerged to alienate Itelmens from this most traditional of resources.  The historical development and nature of these forms of alienation figure directly in Itelmens’ current political struggle for resource rights, while at the same time salmon have shifted from essential subsistence background to culturally expressive foreground. 

The seminar will take place on 11 February (Thursday), F61.

Painting by V. Zaporotsky

18th February 2016 - Matei Candea



Matei Candea is a Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge.

Matei Candea gave a formal talk on How anthropologists compare, how biologists doubt: Notes on the epistemic cultures of Social anthropology and Behavioural biology on 18 February.


Much has been made in recent years of the way in which anthropological confrontations with alterity can generate productive conceptual uncertainty. This methodological infrastructure for the production of doubt can be thought of as a type of ‘frontal' comparison in which a ’them' position is confronted to an ‘us' position. This paper contrasts this methodological device with that of lateral comparisons, in which different cases are laid side by side. Frontal and lateral comparisons produce different, and complementary dynamics of conceptual uncertainty and productive doubt. The paper explores this question by thinking of anthropological comparison alongside the epistemic practices through which behavioural biologists produce and regulate doubt.

The seminar will take place on 18 February (Thursday), F61.