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Reassembling the Environmental Archives of the Cold War

Perspectives from the Russian North

Time: Fri 2021-08-20 16.00

Location: Videolänk:, Du som saknar dator /datorvana kontakta / Use the e-mail address if you need technical assistance, Stockholm (English)

Subject area: History of Science, Technology and Environment

Doctoral student: Dmitry V. Arzyutov , Historiska studier av teknik, vetenskap och miljö

Opponent: Assistant Professor Bathsheba Demuth, Brown University

Supervisor: Docent Peder Roberts, Historiska studier av teknik, vetenskap och miljö; Professor Per Högselius, Infrastruktur, Historiska studier av teknik, vetenskap och miljö; Associate Professor Julia Lajus, Higher School of Economics in Saint Petersburg

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To what extent the environmental history of the Arctic can move beyond the

divide between Indigenous peoples and newcomers or vernacular and academic

ways of knowing? The present dissertation answers this question by developing the

notion of an environmental archive. Such an archive does not have particular reference

to a given place but rather it refers to the complex network that marks the relations

between paper documents and human and non-human agencies as they are able to

work together and stabilise the conceptualisation of a variety of environmental

objects. The author thus argues that the environment does not only contain

information about the past but just like any paper (or audio and video) archive is

able to produce it through the relational nature of human-environment interactions.

Through the analysis of five case studies from the Russian North, the reader is

invited to go through various forms of environmental archives which in turn

embrace histories of a number of disciplines such as palaeontology, biology,

anthropology, and medicine. Every case or a “layer” is presented here as a contact

zone where Indigenous and academic forms of knowledge are not opposed to each

other but, on the contrary, are able to interact and consequently affect the global

discussions about the Russian Arctic. This transnational context is pivotal for all the

cases discussed in the dissertation. Moreover, by putting the Cold War with its

tensions between two superpowers at the chronological center of the present work,

the author aims to reveal the multidimensionality of in situ interactions with, for

instance, the paleontological remains or the traces of all-terrain vehicles and their

involvement into broader science transnational cooperations and competitions. As a

result, the heterogeneous archives allow us to reconsider the environmental history

of the Russian North and the wider Arctic and open a new avenue for future research

transcending the geopolitical and epistemic borders of knowledge production.