Les Field, Ph.D., professor and chair in the The University of New Mexico's Department of Anthropology, has been awarded an EAGER (Early Concept Grant for Exploratory Research) from the National Science Foundation, to begin a project entitled “Accelerating Anthropogenic Climate Change and Contemporary Agriculture in Southern Greenland.” 

The project will start in Sept. 2019 and will fund two exploratory trips to Greenland. On the basis of these exploratory research trips, Field will write another NSF proposal to conduct extended fieldwork and research.  

This project would look at environmental change in Southern Greenland through sociocultural lenses, in collaboration and conjunction with scholars from Greenland using the tools of sociocultural anthropology.  

“I’m incredibly excited to bring the outcomes of this research back to UNM and to enrich the classes I teach – and teach new ones — with unique data about climate change, indigenous identity, and nation-building in Greenland,” said Field. “I see this project as deeply linked to both my role as a researcher and a teacher at UNM.”

Anthropology is uniquely multi-faceted in its disciplinary ability to connect contemporary and historical transformative processes. Anthropology in the 21st century is deeply committed to collaboration between academic researchers and the communities where they work, in terms of creating research agenda, deriving innovative research methodologies, and a commitment to training of scholars from formerly under-represented communities and regions.  

Sporadic journalistic accounts that report environmental change in Greenland have hinted at expanding possibilities for Greenlandic agriculture. However, environmental change in the Arctic, including in Greenland, Canada, and Alaska is not straightforward in the sense of simply creating opportunities that enables the production of more food and other crops for the Greenlandic population, much less for export.   

If the changing environment may make it possible to expand some kinds of agricultural production, agricultural history in Greenland goes back over 1,000 years and understanding contemporary agricultural changes must be contextualized by a deeper historical inquiry. 

Because environmental change is an important issue, what is going on in Greenland offers compelling windows into present-day and historical processes of change.

“Anthropological fieldwork and analysis can elaborate how climate change is being experienced in a pivotal location like Greenland in ways that will contribute to a broader understanding of what is occurring in our time,” added Field. “Students at UNM benefit tremendously when professors can bring their current research about global changes and conflicts directly into the classroom.”