Bergen Pacific Studies

Located by the windswept coasts of the North Sea, Bergen is far away from the tropical islands of Oceania, but Pacific scholarship has a particular strength here in the West Country of Norway. The Bergen Pacific Studies (BPS) Research Group was established in 2005 at the University of Bergen’s Department of Social Anthropology, reflecting a growth since the 1990s of research on Oceania in the department and at the Bergen University Museum’s cultural history collections. Careers were started and recruitment expanded.

The rise of Pacific Studies in the Department of Social Anthropology has attained the scope and scale of an internationally significant and productive Pacific-focused research centre within a department of global ethnographic coverage, reflecting also the University of Bergen’s overall strategic focus on research and educations on global challenges. In those respects the Pacific Studies field represents an interesting corrective to mainstream lessons about development issues learned from research in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and perspectives from the Pacific also add significantly to the scope of global comparison, as exemplified by the BPS project Pacific Alternatives (2008-2012).

The BPS group has attained global prominence in Pacific Studies through its international relationships and responsibilities. BPS director Professor Edvard Hviding and BPS member Professor Knut Rio have been the elected chairs of, respectively, the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, ASAO (2012-13) and the European Society for Oceanists, ESfO (2010-12). In line with this, the BPS group organized and hosted the 20th anniversary international ESfO conference in Bergen in December 2012.

The BPS roles in international research leadership include the coordination of Pacific Studies on the European scale and in close cooperation with major Pacific centres of research and higher education. BPS director Edvard Hviding was Scientific Coordinator of ECOPAS; the European Consortium for Pacific Studies, which was funded by the EU’s 7th Framework Programme during 2012-2016. The ECOPAS Consortium brought the four major European centres for Pacific research (Bergen, St Andrews, Marseille, Nijmegen) together with the 12-nation University of the South Pacific and with the National Research Centre of Papua New Guinea, in order to provide research-based advice to the European Commission with a particular focus on EU-Pacific cooperation and the Pacific climate change frontline.

From 2018, the BPS is hosting and directing the interdisciplinary research project “Mare Nullius? Sea-level Rise and Maritime Sovereignties in the Pacific – An Expanded Anthropology of Climate Change”, funded by the Research Council of Norway’s TOPPFORSK programme and involving an international network of institutions and scholars in anthropology, Pacific Studies, climate science, law and maritime policy.