SENKU-seminar med Peder Roberts
Arctic Anthropologists and the Canadian State in the 1950s
Arctic Anthropologists and the Canadian State in the 1950s This talk is about how and why the social sciences — and in particular the discipline of social anthropology — became regarded as important and useful to the Canadian state in its efforts to develop and administer its northern territories during the 1950s. I begin by sketching the overall picture of Arctic anthropology in the early 1950s, which continued to focus heavily on linguistics and ethnographic description. I then discuss the creation of the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources in 1953 and how one of its senior bureaucrats — Graham Rowley — worked to establish social science research as part of its mission. Rowley differentiated between social anthropology (which he defined as “applied” due to its potential to help inform concrete social policy-making) and physical or cultural anthropology: the former would be prioritized by his department, the latter left for academics and the National Museum. After discussing some examples of social anthropology that Rowley’s department supported, I conclude with reflections on how this division of anthropology into more and less applied categories worked in practice to shape government policy-making.
Peder Roberts is associate professor of modern history at the University of Stavanger and a researcher at KTH Royal Institute of Technology. He is leader of the ERC-sponsored research project Greening the Poles: Science, the Environment, and the Creation of the Modern Arctic and Antarctic. Peder has written widely on the history of science, politics, and environmental management in both the polar regions and the oceans during the twentieth century.