Dr Robert Wishart

Dr Robert Wishart


Dr Robert Wishart
Dr Robert Wishart

Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 273408
The University of Aberdeen Department of Anthropology
University of Aberdeen
Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire
AB24 3QY
Office: Edward Wright G16


Research Areas

Sub-Arctic Canada, Gwich'in, Ojibwe, Scottish Fur Traders, Scottish Fishers, Development Alternatives, Mining, Energy Development, Oral History, Identity, Wildlife Management, Continuities in Hunting Traditions, Ethnohistory, Landscape, Human Animal Relationships, Colonialism, Arctic Domestication.

Academic History

BA Anthropology - Concordia University, Canada
MA Symbolic Anthropology - University of Western
Ontario, Canada
PhD Anthropology - University of Alberta, Canada


Research Overview

Research Areas

Sub-Arctic Canada, Gwich'in, Ojibwe, Scottish Fur Traders, Scottish Fishers, Development Alternatives, Mining, Energy Development, Oral History, Identity, Wildlife Management, Continuities in Hunting Traditions, Ethnohistory, Landscape, Human Animal Relationships, Colonialism, Arctic Domestication.


Arctic Domestication (2012-2018)

As a member of the ERC Arctic Domus Project (http://www.arcticdomus.org/) I am conducting ethnographic, ethnohistorical, and history of science research on human-animal relations in the Canadian North. I am particularly interested in how the Canadian government represented the animals in the north as wildlife and how this lead to policy implications for Indigenous rights, land management, missionary activity, and policing. An alternative view allowing for the sensibilities of northerners who insist that they cultivate multiple relations as evidenced by their stories, actions, and political negotiations is adding to our circumpolar reformulation of the idea of the Domus.

The Franz Boas Papers (2013-2018)

As a team member and editorial board member for The Franz Boas Papers: Editorial Editions (http://www.franzboaspapers.uwo.ca/) I am managing and conducting research on Boas' thoughts on the environment and domestication.  The Franz Boas Papers: Documentary Edition is major new research initiative that aims to reassess and re-contextualize the papers of preeminent anthropologist Franz Boas. Boas’ ideas about race, language, culture and ethnography were pivotal in the development of American anthropology, however his Canadian fieldwork has largely been ignored by scholars. This documentary edition will highlight the importance of Boas’ fieldwork on Baffin Island and the Northwest Coast while also serving as comprehensive and essential resource for Boas researchers.

Indigenous Conservation and Development Alternatives (2014-2019)

As a team member for CICADA (Centre for Indigenous Conservation and Development Alternatives http://cicada.world/) I am continuing my research on mining, petroleum development, and wildlife management in the Western Canadian sub-Arctic looking for new ways to have impact on development policy. CICADA is a multidisciplinary research centre that targets the conceptual and practical potential of indigenous peoples’ collective ‘life projects’ to generate innovative regimes of environmental protection and alternative visions of development in the Americas, East Africa, and Australia.

Circumpolar Architecture (2006-2012).

As a team member of the Home, House, and Household project funded by ESF Eurocores Boreas programme (http://site.uit.no/boreas/) I conducted ethnographic and ethnohistorical research on vernacular architecture in the Western Canadian Arctic. I became particularly interested in the adoption and development of log cabins in the Mackenzie River Delta and how their construction is tied to Indigenous life ways and to on-going struggles with government and development interests.  

Scottish Diaspora in "Gwich'in Country," Northwest Territories, Canada. (2003- 2010)

Building on my doctoral research, I was researching cultural exchanges between Gwich'in and Scottish fur traders during the height of the Fur Trade in Gwich'in Country (approximately 1800-1920). This period was characterized by an increased level of contact between the fur traders and the Gwich'in and resulted in many marriages between Scots and Gwich'in women. The children of these marriages (often referred to as Métis) went on to live a way of life thought to be desirable by the Gwich'in. They became examples of the core Gwich'in ethos of living on the land and brought new cultural forms of food, dance, music and language from their Scottish relatives. Scottish fur traders are often described in historical accounts as being a fairly homogeneous group shifting between being the other in a strange land or being the dominator. What is apparent in Gwich'in country is that Scots fur traders are not a homogeneous group, at least some of these Scots shared an affinity with Gwich'in practice and with their position vis-à-vis colonial expansion and were willing to perceive Gwich'in country not as a wilderness needing conquest but as a place of dwelling.

"Living on the Land" in Gwich'in Country (1998-2003)

I conducted my doctoral research at Fort McPherson (Tetlit-zheh), Northwest Territories, a Dene (Gwich'in) community. My dissertation explores how Tetlit Gwich'in human-animal and human-land relationships have been maintained throughout the history of First Nations-European contact and the way these relationships continue to be maintained in the face of programs now presented by the State as sustainable natural resource management. During my fieldwork, I participated in all of the hunting and gathering activities of a seasonal round while paying particular attention to personal narratives of place and wider issues to do with oral history. Many of the personal narratives and historical accounts are set against the history, policies and actions of representatives of the state, including current "co-management" boards, and serve to instruct on issues of cultural maintenance and proper ways of behaving in relation to Tetlit Gwich'in constructions of the environment.


Teaching Responsibilities

Undergraduate Courses Currently and Recently being Taught

AT1003 Introduction to Anthropology: Peoples of the World

AT2510 Anthropology and Imperialism

AT2511 Colonialism Re-Imagined

AT3518 Society and Nature

AT4509 Anthropology of the North

SX1015 Oceans and Society


I teach on the core courses for the MRes in Social Anthropology and on the Msc People and Environment Programme

Current Postgraduate Supervisees

Tara Joly Encountering wetlands: oil sands reclamation in western subarctic Canada

Catherine Munro Historic and contemporary relationships between people and ponies in Shetland Alexander Oehler Hunting and herding in the Saian Mountains of South Siberia

Zoe Todd Lands, lakes and livelihoods: women’s subsistence fishing in Paulatuk, NT

Paula Schiefer

Jordan Gavin

Tamara Ranspot

Gioia Barnbrook

Erin Consigllio

Completed PhD

Candice Roze: Re-thinking environmental knowledge through an anthropological approach to people’s understanding of the forest in Vanuatu

Cesar Giraldo Herrera: Sweet dreams rocking Viking boats: Biocultural animic perspectivism through Nordic seamanship.

Pelle Tejsner: 'It is windier nowadays': Coastal livelihoods and changing weather in Qeqertarsuaq

Darrin Russell: Becoming related: The performance of ‘savagery’ and sociality in 17th century New France

Kamal Adhirkari: Ethnobotany and Corruption in Nepal




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  • Development Alternatives: Cicada conference

    Wishart, R. P.


    Other Contributions: Other Contributions

  • "We have a contract with them": Gwich'in articulations about helpful animals in their life world

    Wishart, R.

    Contributions to Conferences: Papers

  • Relationships of no small significance: Invisibility, animals, and the Domus. CHAGS conference

    Wishart, R., Loovers, J. P. L.


    Other Contributions: Other Contributions

  • Humans, Animals, Environment: Beyond Perception conference

    Wishart, R. P.


    Other Contributions: Other Contributions

  • Research Overview North America: Arctic Domus conference

    Wishart, R. P.

    Contributions to Conferences: Papers

  • 'We ate lots of fish back then': The forgotten importance of fishing in Gwich’in country

    Wishart, R. P.

    Polar Record, vol. 50, no. 4, pp. 343-353

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • The Mackenzie Valley Dene: The Continuing Relevance of Asch’s Ethnohistory to Development

    Wishart, R. P.

    Native Peoples. Wilson, C. R. (ed.). 4 edition. Oxford University Press, pp. 200-219, 20 pages

    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters

  • About the Hearth: Perspectives on the Home, Hearth and Household in the Circumpolar North

    Anderson, D. G. (ed.), Wishart, R. P. (ed.), Vaté, V. (ed.)

    Berghahn Books, New York. 324 pages

    Books and Reports: Books

  • Relating with Dogs, Fish, and Caribou: An alternative exploration of human-animal engagements in the Circumpolar North

    Loovers, J. P. L., Wishart, R. P.

    Contributions to Conferences: Papers

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