Building Arctic Futures: Transport Infrastructure and Sustainable Northern Communities

An ERC Project


Project Lead: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Peter Schweitzer

Research Administrator: Mag. Johannes Kramer

Open positions:



Funding: European Research Council, 01/2021 - 12/2025

The “new Arctic” is attracting global attention for a variety of reasons, including geopolitics, militarisation, resource extraction, wilderness tourism, and calls for environmental protection in the face of rapid climate change. Many of these activities necessitate the construction or upgrading of transport infrastructures in this relatively remote, inaccessible and scarcely-populated part of the world. While these large-scale infrastructures are mostly sponsored by outside interests, they can have profound impacts on local residents.

The INFRANORTH project focuses on how residents of the Arctic, both indigenous and non-indigenous, engage with these infrastructures, and examines the intended and unintended consequences these projects have on their lives. Our overarching research question – What is the role of transport infrastructures in sustaining arctic communities? – is of urgent relevance on both theoretical and practical levels, and by addressing it we will contribute locally informed results to critical conversations about arctic futures.

Our challenge is to understand whether existing and planned transport infrastructures will support permanent human habitation and sustainable communities in the Arctic, or whether they will strengthen a trend of substituting permanent residents with “temporaries” like shift workers, tourists and military personnel. In addressing this challenge, we adopt a relational affordance perspective, which will document the material and non-material entanglements of local residents and transport infrastructures in three distinct arctic regions (Russian Arctic, North American Arctic, European Arctic). Our approach combines ethnographic fieldwork with mapping exercises and archival research. Our project team of anthropologists and geographers will use quantitative population data to upscale to the regional level, and regional patterns will be contrasted and compared to reach conclusions on the panarctic level.

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