“Having many excellent researchers on Arctic and Greenland from the field of humanities and social sciences, the AAU-CIRCLA possesses a rich cultural soil in which the sprouts of new research ideas are awarded their due respect and nurtured to grow and develop. Furthermore, its numerous meetings and seminars offer a venue for a free and open exchange of opinions and help create an environment in which everyone can brush up on their research. The very comfortable facilities provided, including the private room given to me, allowed me to spend ten wonderful months, during which I was able to fully focus on my research.” ~ Minori Takahashi
Takahashi comes from the Hokkaido University, Japan, where he works as an Assistant Professor in the Arctic Research Center and Slavic-Eurasian Research Center. His stay at AAU is supported by Japan’s Arctic Research Project (2015-2020) called “Arctic Challenges for Sustainability” (ArCS).
During his visiting period, Takahashi’s research focus has been on three broader topics; 1) the right to self-determination and the logic of autonomy structures in Greenland, 2) the question of indigenous people and the exploitation of marine mammals and fisheries and 3) the changing security factors in the Arctic. He also reveals to be preparing a book with his colleagues about the security issues in the Arctic, especially in relation to the Thule Air Base located in Northwest Greenland.
Takahashi explains that his research interest towards Greenland and Arctic generated partly due to his own background and personal experiences: when he was a kid, his family lived in Denmark almost for eight years. Nowadays, Takahashi is used to traveling to Greenland once or twice per year due to his work. He tells that in previous summer, he spent one month in Greenland by conducting fieldwork and interviews with the locals. Takahashi and his research group have also held a public workshop in Qaanaaq area, one of the northernmost places in the world, where they discussed the interactions between the local people and scientific research. They addressed, among others, the issue of how to combine Western science and traditional indigenous knowledge meaningfully.
In addition, Takahashi tells to be pursuing a very interesting research on the history of the Danish state’s policy toward the Arctic. The goal of the research is to shed light on the thinking and the background behind the “Kingdom of Denmark’s Strategy for the Arctic 2011-2020 (Kongeriget Danmarks Strategi for Arktis 2011-2020)”. He continues that Denmark is an interesting case to study as it is the only entity that enjoys maritime rights and benefits thanks to the fact that it possesses legal proximity to the Arctic Ocean through Greenland. According to Takahashi, the position of the Danish state can be explained by using the analytical concept of “geographical neutrality”, as being in between the actors that have no geographical proximity to the Arctic Ocean (such as Sweden, Finland) and those that have (such as Russia, Canada, Norway or Greenland). Takahashi explains that during the remainder of his stay, he intends to continue his efforts to examine in what sense is the positionality of the Danish State relevant for understanding the differences between nations in their views of sovereignty and jurisdiction and in their perception of security threats and the regional order brought about by political commotion in the Arctic?
Group photo from Arctic Politics Research Seminar.
Overall, Takahashi states that he has been very satisfied with his stay at AAU and would warmly recommend the experience for other researchers as well. He praises that Aalborg University is one of the best places to create connections and networks with Arctic experts: “the professors who are working here -Lill Rastad Bjørst, Ulrik Pram Gad and Robert Chr. Thomsen- are all very famous in the field of Arctic research and it has been a pleasure to meet and work with them”. The most notable cultural difference that he has observed during his stay has to do with the working hours. He explains that “here some of the professors go home very early whereas in Japan the normal workday is from 8 am to 8 pm”. He continues that “in Denmark, people respect and protect a good work-life balance, which is only a good thing in my opinion”.
Takahashi’s visiting period will come to an end in January 2018, but he hopes that AAU and his home university, Hokkaido University, will continue to strengthen their relationship regarding Arctic-related research in the future. He also reveals that Hokkaido University will launch a new Arctic Studies course for Master and Ph.D. students in April 2019.
Author: Jenna Kuronen, trainee at AAU Arctic