Conversations from the North: Scholars of many disciplines and inhabitants of many places in dialogue with one another, with animals and plants, and with the land 

The International Academic Conference was held immediately after the Forum in the King's College Conference Centre, located within the King's College Campus, Old Aberdeen. It started on the afternoon of Sunday, 27 August and continued over the following two days, 28 and 29 August.  

Accepted abstracts were emailed to in advance to enable the Audio Visual team to be well prepared to assist.  Oral presentations consisted of two hour session slots, with three to four presentations per session to allow speakers up to 25 minutes each (plus an extra 5 minutes for changeover times, session introductions and any late starts).  

Conference Theme 

What do we mean by the Arctic, or the circumpolar North? Is it a particular region of the earth’s surface, above a certain latitude? Is it defined by climate, such as extremes of winter cold? Is it a function of the dominant vegetation of the tundra or taiga, with its associated fauna, or the permanently or seasonally icebound oceans with their populations of fish and marine mammals? It may be all of these things. But from the point of view of the people who live there, the North is – in the first place – a conversation, or rather a tangled web of concurrent conversations that weave into and around one another. Like all conversations, they flow; spinning here and there into topics like eddies in a stream. Critically, these conversations are not limited to human participants. On the contrary, the world itself is understood by northern inhabitants as a medley of voices that are continually in dialogue with one another, including those of animals and plants, of the wind and weather, of celestial and terrestrial phenomena, and of the land itself. As inhabitants of a world in which everything is suspended in movement, people have always journeyed from place to place as their conversations have proceeded from topic to topic. 

This conference considered how northern scholarship can join these conversations and carry them forward into broader terrains of intellectual engagement. In so doing, it challenged dominant paradigms of research in both the natural and the social sciences, above all by calling into question the very separation of the world of nature from that of human society which underwrites the distinction between these two branches of scientific inquiry. In its place the conference sought to forge a new practice of interdisciplinary research, done in collaboration with northern residents and on their terms, which recognised that every discipline is itself an ongoing conversation, or a way of knowing, rather than a compartment within an overarching, hierarchically organised system of knowledge. Conversations from the North aimed to help generate a science that is more open-ended, responsive to environmental variation and respectful of the wisdom of inhabitants. 

Keynote speakers:

  • Professor Iain Stewart, Director of the Sustainable Earth Institute, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Plymouth University, UK

  • Professor Richard Bradshaw, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool, UK

  • Professor Nikolai Vakhtin, Professor of Arctic Social Studies, European University at St. Petersburg, Russia

  • Professor Susan Kaplan, Director of the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center, Bowdoin College, USA 

Conference Programme

Download the conference programme here.


  • 11.00-14.00: Registration and Coffee
  • 13.00-14.00: LUNCH
  • 14.00-14.30: Conference opening event
  • 14.30-15.30: PLENARY LECTURE - Richard Bradshaw, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool: "Long-term ecosystem dynamics at high latitudes: Consequences for human society past, present and future"
  • 15.30-16.00: COFFEE
  • 16.00-18.00: The Anthropocene in the Arctic (1)
  • 16.00-18.00: Language, Myth, Literature and Rhetoric


  • 9.00-10.00: PLENARY LECTURE - Iain Stewart, Sustainable Earth Institute, Plymouth University: "Communicating a Changing Arctic"
  • 10.00-10.30: COFFEE
  • 10.30-12.30: The Anthropocene in the Arctic (2)
  • 10.30-12.30: Education in the North (1)
  • 10.30-12.30: People and Reindeer 
  • 12.30-13.30 LUNCH
  • 13.30-14.30: PLENARY LECTURE - Susan Kaplan, Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center, Bowdoin College: "Sprucing Up the Community: Labrador Inuit Adaptations to and Domestication of their Environment”  
  • 14.30-15.00: COFFEE
  • 15.00-17.00: Health Care in the North
  • 15.00-17.00: Livelihood, Development and Culture Change 


  • 9.00-10.00: PLENARY LECTURE - Nikolai Vakhtin, Arctic Social Studies, European University at St Petersburg: "Can we trust them? Conversations with consultants in Northern towns"
  • 10.00-10.30: COFFEE
  • 10.30-12.30: Education in the North (2)
  • 10.30-12.30: Rights, Regimes and International Relations
  • 10.30-12.30: Craft, Skill and Environment
  • 12.30-13.30: LUNCH
  • 13.30-15.30: Living with the Weather
  • 13.30-15.00: The City in the North

POSTERS will be displayed from 23 to 29 August, in the James MacKay Hall, King's College

Free Wifi:  Use Aberdeen-city-connect

You will need to register to access this free service. Simply go to the wifi settings on your device and scan for the Aberdeen-city-connect network. Complete the registration process using Facebook, Twitter or Google Accounts. If you don't use any of these there is a simple form to complete. Once registered your device will pick up the network when you visit any of the locations where Aberdeen-city-connect is available within the city, including the University of Aberdeen buildings (not Halls), Robert Gordon University buildings, Aberdeen Sports Village, and Marischal College. You may need to reconnect your device to Aberdeen-city-connect on a daily basis and of course, you may already have a connection to an existing eduroam institution. 

Audio Visual staff were on hand to assist with wifi connection

Aberdeen Based Delegate Registration Rates

The following rates applied ONLY to Aberdeen based delegates.  Register by sending your details to

Conference only 27 August £10.00
Conference only 28 August  £20.00
Conference and sit down dinner and ceilidh 28 August  £50.00
Conference only 29 August  £20.00
Conference only 27, 28 and 29 August £40.00
Conference and ceilidh sit down dinner  27, 28 and 29 August £70.00
Delegate’s companion rate to join the ceilidh and sit down dinner on 28 August  £35.00
Delegate’s full day coach excursion rate, includes refreshments and lunch 26 August £60.00
Delegate’s companion rate to join the full day coach excursion, includes refreshments and lunch 26 August £60.00


UARTIC Rectors' Conference & Forum 2017

Keynote Speakers:


  • Professor Richard Bradshaw, Geographer focusing on human mediated and climate mediated impacts on forests at Liverpool University
  • Professor Susan Kaplan, Director of Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center at Bowdoin, Maine
  • Professor Iain Stewart, Geologist focusing on human mediated and climate mediated impacts on forests at Plymouth University
  • Professor Nikolai Vakhtin, Linguist, Department of Anthropology, Doctor of Science in Philology, Professor of Arctic Social Studies and founder of the European University at St. Petersburg