Hugh Beach

Department

Department of Cultural Antropology and Ethnology

Organization

Uppsala University

Email
hugh.beach [at] antro.uu.se
Phone
+46-70565-5453

Address

Herman Ygbergs Väg 13
Bromma
Sweden

Brief Biography

My research interests have been dominated by two major experiences: 1) a serendipitous childhood encounter with Sámi reindeer herders in the Swedish mountains which launched me into an anthropological career, and 2) an inspirational travel/study year around the world during my BA program at Harvard led by anthropologist and cyberneticist Gregory Bateson. As a result, my scholarly production has grown from a concentration on Sámi culture and livelihoods to embrace comparative aspects of reindeer economies throughout the circumpolar area. This in turn has caused me to immerse myself in studies of indigenous rights, ethnicity and political ecology in general.

I have lived among Sámi reindeer herders for extensive periods of time in Sweden, Norway and the Kola Peninsula of Russia, have studied the determinants of change in reindeer herding practices and also the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, have worked as a reindeer herder in Alaska with the Inuit NANA Regional Corporation herd, and been chairman of the Swedish Minority Rights Group and expert advisor on Sámi affairs to Sweden’s first two ombudsmen against ethnic discrimination. Because of a general systems perspective inspired by Bateson, my work has been devoted to jerking the studies of reindeer herding away from a dominance of descriptive “culturology” of traditional ways with accompanying historical categorizations into analytical forms of study based on the recognition of embedded hierarchies of resource/consumer relationships and property regimes to enable comparative work across time and space.

A number of my later publications concern topics of political ecology, human-animal relations, and ethnicity. I have been engaged in and continue to lead a number of inter-disciplinary and international research projects, for example, the American National Science Foundation funded project Dynamics of Circumpolar Land Use and Ethnicity (CLUE): social impacts of policy and climate change. This is a project based upon numerous fieldwork expeditions in the Russian Federation resulting in a vast amount of recorded interviews which will continue to occupy my attention long after my (imminent) retirement.

I also continue my work on the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster for the Swedish Sámi, and have recently begun fieldwork to discern variably lingering social effects 30 years after the event both in areas that were heavily impacted by fallout as well as in those that were lightly impacted. It is my contention that such studies can also help pinpoint and analyze many of the factors involved in contemporary discussions about Rapid Climatic Change.

Science Specialties

cultural anthropology, circumpolar cultures, ecology, reindeer herding, ethnicity, Post-Soviet Transformations among the "small peoples of the north" of Russia.

Current Research

Managing the Wilderness, the politics of ecology in Swedish Lapland expertise: circumpolar peoples, Saami, reindeer herding, indigenous rights.
The effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster for the Swedish Saami.
I have been engaged in and continue to lead an inter-disciplinary and international research project, the American National Science Foundation funded project Dynamics of Circumpolar Land Use and Ethnicity (CLUE): social impacts of policy and climate change.