Bergen Pacific Studies: Research Projects
A seed money grant in 2005 from the Research Council of Norway for the development of bilateral research collaboration with the University of Hawai’i paved the way for the development by the Bergen Pacific Studies group of a distinctive agenda for large-scale projects with external funding.
The initial focus was Pacific Alternatives: Cultural Heritage and Political Innovation in Oceania (funded with NKR 9,8M during 2008-12 by the Research Council of Norway, and with 12 participating institutions) – a large international programme of original multidisciplinary research, museum studies and institutional cooperation on the European-North American-Pacific axis. Spin-off collaborative activities under “Pacific Alternatives” included path-breaking 3D digitalization in collections at the British Museum, support and training for Pacific national museums and cultural centres, a temporary online repository for research on the Western Solomons (following a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2007 that destroyed government research files), and a graduate scholarship programme for Pacific Islanders at the University of Hawai’i.
The BPS group expanded its international role in 2012 to take leadership of a pioneering large-scale European-Pacific research partnership in the European Consortium for Pacific Studies (ECOPAS), funded by the EU’s 7th Framework Programme (€1,5M for 2012-16) and tasked with advising European development assistance policy concerning the Pacific. With institutional partners in the UK, France, the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea and in the Pacific region at large through the 12-nation University of the South Pacific (USP), a central further ambition of ECOPAS was to develop pan-Pacific initiatives in research and higher education, particularly concerning the ethnographically grounded study of climate change and its diplomacy and politics. ECOPAS built an enduring global database of Pacific research (hosted by the French partner), wrote a Pacific Development Strategy for the European Parliament, and included a pioneering dissemination programme, in which the central element was the USP climate change stage production “Moana: the Rising of the Sea”. This production was brought to the Bergen International Festival in May 2015 by University of Bergen funding, and subsequently toured Europe (including a performance at the European Parliament) as part of ECOPAS dissemination. A professional film production (Moana Rua) resulted from the Bergen shows and was screened later in 2015 at the COP21 climate change conference in Paris.
The capacity of the BPS group to develop large externally funded research projects grounded in consistent, high-quality original scholarship is demonstrated by BPS member Professor Annelin Eriksen’s comparative project Gender and Pentecostal Christianity: A Comparative Focus on Africa and Melanesia, funded by the Research Council of Norway (2013-2016).
From 2018, the BPS is hosting and directing the interdisciplinary research project Island Lives, Ocean States: Sea-level Rise and Maritime Sovereignties in the Pacific, funded by the Research Council of Norway’s TOPPFORSK programme (NKR 25M for 2018-2023).
In 2020, Bergen Pacific Studies received a major grant (NOK 28m) through NORAD for the Norway-Pacific Ocean-Climate Scholarship Programme (N-POC), which through an innovative bi-institutional PhD agreement between the UiB and the regional University of the South Pacific provides for 25 fully funded doctoral scholarships for candidates from 15 Pacific Island countries, implemented through joint supervision and leading to a joint degree. N-POC is coordinated by BPS and hosted by the Department of Social Anthropology.
While projects and external grants have continued to expand in terms of thematic scale, ethnographic scope, multidisciplinary collaboration, and international cooperation and recruitment, the BPS group has remained a conducive environment for strong individual research agendas by its members, complemented by agendas of collectivity enabled by the recruitment over the years of young talented scholars into the group through the Department of Social Anthropology’s BA and MA programmes. In this regard, it is noteworthy that just about every one of the numerous BPS research assistants over the years has continued into PhD fellowships at UiB, thereby building ever more original Pacific-focused research at the university with a diverse range of new, timely topics.