Final BOREAS Conference: Environments, Movements, Narratives in the Circumpolar North

BOREAS is a major international and interdisciplinary research program in arctic social sciences and humanities. BOREAS was started in 2003 through collaboration between the European Science Foundation, the U.S. National Science Foundation, and the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council.

Seven collaborative research projects were selected for the BOREAS program. These projects focused on relationships between humans and environments, exploring the importance of the movement of people (both seasonal and long-term) with special attention to movements associated with the creation, permanence, and dissolution of communities. Research partnerships between indigenous people and western scientists allowed BOREAS projects to explore the intersection of local and scientific models for understanding environmental, cultural, social, and economic change.

A significant feature of the BOREAS program is the series of international workshops and conferences designed to ensure networking opportunities between the collaborative research projects. Between 2006 and 2009 the program organized 13 formal activities to gather scholars representing a wide variety of humanities and social science disciplines, and drawn from a large geographic range of institutions across North America, Europe, and the Russian Federation.

The final conference was held 28-31 October 2009 at the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, Finland, with over 100 participants, including members of the seven funded collaborative research projects, invited speakers from outside the BOREAS and northern research communities, and 22 students from North America and Europe. The conference, supported in large part by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, provided a forum to emphasize a humanities perspective in scholarship of the north, as well as a final opportunity for the BOREAS researchers to discuss their research.

A key theme of the conference was open discussion on the role of local and indigenous scholarship in northern research, and communication between the academic community and local northern residents. In addition, BOREAS researchers agreed to lead discussions with the European Polar Board to strengthen the role of humanities and social sciences in their agenda. The 2009 conference marked the conclusion of networking activities sponsored by the BOREAS Program. A final conference report will be available in summer of 2011 through the Boise State University Department of Anthropology.

Photo courtesy: Yvon Csonka.Inuit hunter checking sea ice conditions offshore from Arviat, Canada. Photo courtesy: Yvon Csonka.

The BOREAS final report, "Histories from the North – Environments, Movements, Narratives (BOREAS)," was published in December 2009. The report contains a summary of the seven collaborative research projects and a final program evaluation by a BOREAS review panel. The panel identified BOREAS as the first major circumpolar-North research program to be based in humanities, arts, and social sciences. The panel also recognized the program's impact in broadening the scope of research in the region. The report recommends further development of the humanities in future arctic research efforts. To read the BOREAS Final Report, see the European Science Foundation website:

For more information on the final BOREAS conference, see: or contact John Ziker, Department of Anthropology, Boise State University (jziker [at] boisestate [dot] edu).