Keeping knowledge in Narsaq

Lise Autogena is keen to ensure that future research in Narsaq will be of more direct benefit to the local communityTherefore, she has initiated a research station in Narsaq to bring together locals and researchers from around the world.

 

By Signe Ravn-Højgaard

 

Like most towns in Greenland, Narsaq is characterized by small wooden houses of every color. One of the smaller ones with only two rooms is the newly established Narsaq International Research Station. 

 

“It might seem like a very grand name for such a small place,” Lise Autogena admits. “But I like the idea that even in very small places, you can think big.”

Lise Autogena is a professor and head of the Art, Design and Media Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University in the United Kingdom. She established the not-for-profit organization Narsaq International Research Station after many visits to South Greenland. Here she had realised that many visiting researchers would leave and publish their research results in international fora, far away from the local community in Narsaq.

Connecting researchers and community

For years, the prospects of mines being built close to Narsaq have drawn researchers worldwide to the small town of around 1,300 people.

“Narsaq International Research Station can connect researchers from outside with the locals in Narsaq,” Lise Autogena

 

“Much of this research has not really been of direct benefit to the local population,” she explains.

 

“The vision is, therefore, that Narsaq International Research Station can connect researchers from outside with the locals in Narsaq and ensure that the knowledge that is generated here also benefits the local society.”

 

Lise Autogena believes that for knowledge to benefit the local society, it needs to be accessible there. For this reason, she wants to create a local archive of the research that has been carried out in the community. In the archive, locals should be able to read research articles or watch movies made by researchers about their community.

She hopes the research station can make research projects in Narsaq more relevant to the population by strengthening cooperation and dialogue between locals, schools, businesses, and visiting researchers. Some of the ways to ensure this will be by holding community meetings, engaging local advisors, and appointing locals to the board of the research station.

The research station is busy.

Although the research station will officially only open this year due to covid, it has already housed several researchers. Zane Cooper is one of them. He stayed for a month at the research station in the fall of 2021. He is a Ph.D. candidate at The Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States, where he is researching waste generated in the production and consumption of electronics.

 

“The stay at the research station allowed me to get a sense of Narsaq community, of how people live. And it helped me formulate a lot of my research ideas,” he says.

 

One of his insights is that in Narsaq, the predominating kind of waste generated is waiting time. People wait for the mine to happen – or not happen. They wait for certainty about the town’s future so that decisions can be taken and projects initiated.

 “The stay at the research station allowed me to get a sense of Narsaq community,” Zane Cooper

 

While he was in Narsaq, he interviewed people in the town and walked up to the potential mining site at Kuannersuit. The research station organized workshops at Campus Kujalleq, the high school in Qaqortoq. Zane Cooper gave lectures about the connections between technology, the internet, and mining in South Greenland. In this way, he could give some of his knowledge back to the community.

 

This summer sees a lot of activity when scholars from different parts of the world will visit Narsaq International Research station. For example, a group of design researchers will come from the United Kingdom to work together with local businesses and residents to develop co-design sustainable solutions for health, waste management, and improvement of living standards in South Greenland.

About Narsaq International Research Station
Narsaq International Research Station has been developed with support from Sheffield Hallam University, Danish Arts Council, and Kunsthal Aarhus, residents of Narsaq, and local and international experts.
Photos
Top picture: Lise Autogena. Photo: Private
Picture one: Zane Cooper gives a presentation at Campus Kujalleq. Photo: Per Lykke Søndergaaard
Picture second: Zane Cooper gives a presentation at Campus Kujalleq. Photo: Per Lykke Søndergaaard
Picture three: The station under the northern lights. Photo: Zane Cooper
Picture four: Zane Cooper gives a presentation at Campus Kujalleq. Photo: Per Lykke Søndergaaard