STUDY: Professor Thomas Eriksen is visiting from Norway for research.
STUDY: Professor Thomas Eriksen is visiting from Norway for research. Mara Pattison-Sowden

Norwegian social anthropologist studies Gladstone's boom

GLADSTONE'S boom is on the international radar as a leading Norwegian anthropologist delves into community perceptions.

Field work is an important part of research but deciphering the internal psyche of the Gladstone community has been somewhat of a challenge for Professor Thomas Eriksen.

Since November his curiosity has led to conversations with everyone from random strangers to heads of community to discover how people react to accelerated change or super growth - a situation well advanced in our industrial town.

"I'm not merely connecting the dots, but trying to figure out the shape of the jigsaw," he said.

His aim is to document the different perspectives on change as part of an anthropological history of globalisation in the early 21st century, a funded-research project he began in 2012.

"As is often the case with anthropology, hypotheses change somewhat as you go along, and Gladstone has turned out to be even more fascinating for me than I'd thought," he said.

Professor Eriksen said he had listened to many different narratives of people's genuinely mixed feelings about the changes in Gladstone, including that:

  • People in Gladstone seem to anticipate change.
  • There's a feeling from many that Gladstone doesn't get enough in return.
  • People often feel overrun by development.
  • There's a dilemma in Gladstone between growth and sustainability.
  • Industry, and thus the town, is embedded in what's happening globally.

Prof Eriksen said the research was fairly open-ended, as every person had a different take on Gladstone's changes, from the growth of industry, the impact of development, the environmental and ecological changes and how all these aspects affect each other.

He said the people who lived here had committed themselves to living in an industrial town, "and I'm yet to meet anybody totally negative".

Professor Eriksen will continue his research in Gladstone until March, and in order to gather an even wider cross-section of the community's views on Gladstone's past, present and future, he has welcomed anyone living, working or travelling through the town to stop by and have a chat with him.

STUDY: Professor Thomas Eriksen is visiting from Norway for research.
STUDY: Professor Thomas Eriksen is visiting from Norway for research. Mara Pattison-Sowden

Outings offer a feel for the region

PROFESSOR Thomas Eriksen is a social anthropologist from Norway, studying how the coal and gas industry has changed Gladstone over the years.

He will be based in town until March, while conducting a research project entitled Overheating: The Three Crises of Globalisation.

It's a wonderful place; very pleasant and welcoming.

The funded project is being conducted through the University of Oslo's Department of Anthropology.

For many years Professor Eriksen has studied identity politics, ethnicity, nationalism and globalisation, including publishing popular and controversial books on cultural complexity in Norway.

Getting a feel for the community in Gladstone has led him to outings within the region, from volunteering with the Toadbusters to beach cleaning on Facing Island.

"It's a wonderful place; very pleasant and welcoming," he said.



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