Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas

Research Fellowship in Urgent Anthropology: The Circumpolar North

The British Museum and the Anthropologists’ Fund for Urgent Anthropological Research offers two Research Fellowships in Urgent Anthropology. The Fellowship provides (non-salaried) financial support for an eighteen month period of field research and writing, with a specific focus on the circumpolar north. The Urgent Anthropology Fund is managed by the Royal Anthropological Institute and the fellowship is designed to facilitate ethnographic research on peoples whose culture and language are currently threatened. The programme’s primary aim is to contribute to anthropological knowledge through detailed ethnography, and also if possible help the peoples being described in their particular circumstances. The British Museum is hosting the fellowship programme for the years from 2018 - 2020.

The British Museum Urgent Anthropology Fellowship Programme has a specific focus on threats to Arctic and Sub-Arctic indigenous communities as a result of the impacts of global climate change. The Arctic is warming almost twice as quickly as the rest of the world. For indigenous circumpolar north residents who continue to rely on pastoralism or harvested foods and materials from land and sea, these changing weather patterns are threatening all aspects of life. The range of and access to animals is changing. Weather patterns today, do not adhere to indigenous models that have been built up over centuries, thus making hunting and traveling more dangerous. In response, hunters and herders are generating new tools and transportation technologies in order to make a living. In some cases, these innovations and altered practices result in risky behaviour. Diminished sea ice packs are less able to protect arctic coastlines from severe storms, forcing some communities to plan for relocation. Soil erosion from melting permafrost erodes village infrastructure, such as schools, houses, transportation facilities. These threats have the potential to drastically affect the material, social, economic and political lives of circumpolar residents.

The British Museum has substantial circumpolar north collections (especially strong in the North American) representing archaeological assemblages, ethnographic material collected by European explorers to the Arctic, and contemporary indigenous art from the 21st century. The Museum collections materially demonstrate almost 500 years of social, economic, and political indigenous responses to the Western world, including: the quest for the Northwest Passage, the global fur trade, European and Russian imperialism, colonialism, and global indigenous rights movements. Today, as circumpolar residents respond to a new challenge of global climate change, the British Museum welcomes proposals that use long-term ethnographic research to thoroughly document how changing weather patterns affect indigenous circumpolar north communities and how those communities develop strategies to mitigate such threats. Proposals may also consider an investigation across northern communities to understand how different groups of indigenous people are working together to raise awareness and address the impacts of climate change. These proposals would ideally consider how those changes reflect on the Museum’s considerable Arctic and Sub-Arctic collections. We anticipate that the fellows would help document contemporary indigenous meanings of the Museum’s historic collections in the context of global climate change.

The Fellowship makes it possible for a budgeted project to be carried out over about 18 months: this period to include both field research and writing-up. Fellows are required to spend part of their fellowship period in the field and part in the British Museum, and where they are expected to contribute to its academic life and collections research. In the Museum, the fellows will be affiliated with the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas.

The Fellowship will provide £45,000 to be spent over 18 months, inclusive of all costs except overheads to be borne by the Museum for time spent in London, but exclusive of salary. The Fellowships are awarded to post-doctoral applicants with previous research experience in the circumpolar north. The fellowships are by open competition without restriction of nationality or residence. Applicants should send an application comprising project proposal including research plan and timeline, intended outputs and budget. The budget should include all personal and research expenses (within the research community and in the UK), insurance, and costs of equipment necessary for the project. The proposal should not be more than 4 pages, excluding bibliography. Applicants should also include a CV, a brief summary of previous research experience (maximum 1 page), and two letters of reference.

Please submit applications to AOA@britishmuseum.org

Closing date is 4 December 2017.

First Fellowship begins March 2018
Second Fellowship begins June 2018 (flexible)