CORDIS - EU research results

Building Arctic Futures: Transport Infrastructures and Sustainable Northern Communities

Project description

The role of transport infrastructures in sustaining Arctic communities

The Arctic has been home to human communities for thousands of years but transport infrastructures connecting the North with southern centres of (colonial) power have remained minimal. Climate change, shifting geopolitics and economic globalisation have brought the Arctic into the limelight, resulting in transport infrastructure megaprojects designed to satisfy external interests. The question rarely asked is how existing and planned infrastructures will impact local residents. To address this question, the EU-funded INFRANORTH project will study the intended and unintended consequences of transport infrastructure projects on the lives of Arctic residents, indigenous and non-indigenous alike. By combining ethnographic fieldwork with demographic data and archival research, the project will shed light on the role of transport infrastructures in sustaining Arctic communities.


The “new Arctic” is attracting global attention for a variety of reasons, including geopolitics, militarisation, resource extraction, wilderness tourism, and calls for environmental protection in the face of rapid climate change. Many of these activities necessitate the construction or upgrading of transport infrastructures in this relatively remote, inaccessible and scarcely-populated part of the world. While these large-scale infrastructures are mostly sponsored by outside interests, they can have profound impacts on local residents. We propose to focus on how residents of the Arctic, both indigenous and non-indigenous, engage with these infrastructures, and to examine the intended and unintended consequences these projects have on their lives. Our challenge is to understand whether existing and planned transport infrastructures will support permanent human habitation and sustainable communities in the Arctic, or whether they will strengthen a trend of substituting permanent residents with “temporaries” like shift workers, tourists and military personnel.
In addressing this challenge, we adopt a relational affordance perspective, which will document the material and non-material entanglements of local residents and transport infrastructures in three distinct arctic regions. Our approach combines ethnographic fieldwork with mapping exercises and archival research. Our project team of anthropologists and geographers will use quantitative population data to upscale to the regional level, and regional patterns will be contrasted and compared to reach conclusions on the panarctic level. We will use interactive scenarios to collect input and to develop decision options. Our overarching research question – What is the role of transport infrastructures in sustaining arctic communities? – is of urgent relevance on both theoretical and practical levels, and by addressing it we will contribute locally informed results to critical conversations about arctic futures.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 2 499 998,00
1010 Wien

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Ostösterreich Wien Wien
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 2 499 998,75

Beneficiaries (1)