Greetings from the southern hemisphere! My name is Hanne Nielsen, and I am a PhD candidate at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies in Hobart, Tasmania. The Antarctic part is what I’ll be focussing on during my week of curation here at WeTheHums. Despite the continent being designated as a place for ‘peace and science’ by the Antarctic Treaty, there are a whole range of exciting humanities and social sciences projects going on down south, and that is what we will explore over the coming week.
These days my research is focussed on the ends of the earth, but that wasn’t always the case. I graduated with a BA (Hons) in German Literature from the University of Auckland, and it wasn’t until a travel mishap later that year that I started to turn my attentions south. Getting appendicitis reminded me of the tale of the Russian doctor who removed his own appendix in the Antarctic winter, and I had heard that subsequent expeditioners had to have theirs removed to avoid a repeat. In that case, surely I was now well qualified to join such an expedition - I decided right then that I would head south.
How does a literature major convince a national Antarctic program to send her to “the Ice”? Apply for a place on the Postgraduate Certificate of Antarctic Studies course at the University of Canterbury, and write about a German play that is set in Antarctica, of course. Ever since that first trip I have been hooked, both by the landscape and by the cultural representations of the place. I wrote my Masters thesis about representations of Antarctica in the theatre, then embarked on my PhD, where the focus is on representations of Antarctica in advertising.
In Antarctic studies acronyms are rife, and that is the case when it comes to the research group I am involved in. The Humanities and Social Sciences Expert Group(HASSEG) comes under the auspices of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), which is part of the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS). Looking at Antarctica from a humanities perspective is a relatively new development, so it’s an exciting time to be involved in the field. I’ll be keeping acronyms to a minimum, but these three are handy to know – otherwise the titles are 140 characters in themselves!
The city of Hobart is about as close to Antarctica as you can get, short of hopping on a ship that is iceward bound. I’ve done that a few times too, working as a lecturer on board Antarctic cruise ships during the summer (November to February for us Antipodeans!) Tourism is another issue we can discuss, along with aspects of Antarctic history, culture, and – my favourite – representations of the place. I look forward to sharing my passion with the icy continent over the coming week!
Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies
Humanities & Social Sciences Expert Group