What do Antarctic Social Scientists research? Below you can find a list of the wide variety of topics researched by APECS members, together with a brief explanation of the topic. To find out more about experts in each field, visit the SCAR Humanities and Social Sciences web page at http://antarctica-ssag.org/.
For Sociocultural Anthropology, Antarctica is an emerging scenario of practices and associations between humans and non-humans, spatially located and specifically built and experienced by men and women who live and work in Antarctica. From ethnographic work in Antarctica, anthropologists have established their everyday relationships in the field, with scientists and military personnel mainly, trying to understand in situ, how the practices and techniques of everyday life that human beings establish and run, give substance and senses to the associations and networks which build the exceptional values and uses of Antarctica and the Antarctic Treaty System. It is from the ethnographic study of this process by which Anthropology aims to understand the modes, powers and tensions of inter-trans-nationals that characterize the processes of human colonization of Antarctica.
Antarctica is an exciting research field for anthropologists. Still, it was not explored enough by this discipline. Only five known anthropologists studied the Antarctic: Palinkas, O'Reilly, Resende de Assis, Soto and Salazar. But if anthropologists in the Antarctic are few, their work open the field of research, attracting readers and students. By using ethnography as a method they research settlements and Antarctic National Programs (USA, Brazil, New Zealand, Chile and Australia) they grow elemental data for the understanding of micro-societies, socio-environmental dwelling strategies, transnational networks and local movements to implement the Antarctic Treaty System. They also produce pioneer research over scientific, military and logistical practices in the ice, gender and labor relations, the emergence of gateway cities (e.g. Ushuaia and Christchurch) and arising symbolic and moral values connected to the Antarctic.
Exploration of Antarctica began in earnest when the classical era of Imperialism was beginning to come to a close, with the emergence of the two Cold War-era superpowers following suit. This led to the emergence of a singular legal regime superseding previously accepted notions such as effective occupation, with science at its core and an attempt to limit both geopolitical competition and environmental impact. The study of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty and the wider “Antarctic Treaty System” is of interest to legal scholars not only in and by themselves, but also to reflect on some of the possible directions international law may take in the future. In this regard, it may be of particular interest to those working on territorial disputes, natural resources law, and space law. At the same time, technological change, thirst for resources, continued competition and tensions among nations, and the (re)emergence of powers not associated with the birth of the regime, are putting added strains on the system. To sum it up, just like many fields in modern science have benefited from that giant laboratory called Antarctica, so can more than a few areas of the law. Stay tuned to learn more!
Antarctica is by definition an international arena, given the combination of (sometimes overlapping) territorial claims, an international legal regime, and scientific activities by many countries. Cooperation and competition takes place hand by hand, and while the latter has taken a peaceful form in the continent herself, we cannot forget that the surrounding area has sometimes been home to armed conflict, as in the 1982 Falklands War. Antarctica is essential in terms of soft power for any country wishing to appear as a leading nation in the eyes of the world, while at the same time providing some hope to those voices wishing to leave behind territorial conflicts and zero-sum competition for resources in favor of greater understanding and cooperation. The region also shows how international civil society is coming to have a greater voice in global affairs, no longer the exclusive domain of the nation-state. For these, and many other reasons, no serious student of international affairs can afford to ignore Antarctica. Make sure to follow us!
Environmental forces, animal life, or natural events are no longer the only ones that need to be taken into consideration for those who aim to understand Antarctica. Nowadays, social relations inside and outside Antarctica, produce effects on its wilderness that can no longer be ignored, as the region now encompasses a broad range of human relations and interactions that must be understood in order to comprehend and preserve its whole existence. Social interactions are held by visitors, tourists, researchers, policy makers, and all who build and share common perceptions about this place and their experience on it. Besides, host societies get informed about Antarctica, creating and reproducing different collective imaginaries by these reports. Consequently, they directly influence the region’s outcomes as well. Therefore, as Antarctic development is deeply intertwined with human interaction, social studies on Antarctic practices are vital for those who want to understand it as a whole.