Histories from the North – environments, movements, narratives (BOREAS)

Iaranga from the Chukotkan village of Snezhnoye, North-Eastern Siberia (Russia) / Patty A. Gray

The circumpolar North is widely seen as an observatory for changing relations between human societies and the environments. This region, which includes the Arctic and the sub-Arctic, has also moved to the centre of global debates on new post-cold-war partnerships and issues of post-colonial governance, strategy and regional sovereignty.

Through its core focus on time, space, change and movement, BOREAS aims to bring commensurability to the time scales of geophysics, archaeology and lived human experience. It will analyse how seasonality and climate change drive the high level of human and animal movement and create highly integrated zones of contacts. It will explore local perceptions of environmental, cultural, social and economic change, thereby facilitating dialogue between local and scientific models.

BOREAS as a coordinated programme of research on the North will enable the humanities to collaborate more effectively and offers synergies between social, natural and medical sciences. This is the first circumpolar initiative in the humanities, with innovative collaboration between Europe, the US, Canada and Russia.

The North has long been influential in the history of European humanism and science, and this significance is set to increase in the run-up to International Polar Year in 2007-8.