beaver,  muskox,  news,  publication

Unexpected media blitz

Earlier this week the press department at my university published a write-up in Swedish about this project based on an interview with me: Utrotade arters återkomst väcker känslor. The university press contact Sofia Stridsman had seen that I had an article in The Washington Post and wanted to find out more about my research. I thought it was a nice gesture, so I quickly agreed to the interview.

Muskox at Myskoxcentrum. Photo by D Jørgensen.
A Swedish muskox? One of the muskoxen at Myskoxcentrum in Tännäs. Photo by D Jørgensen.

Sofia set up her piece with a question that has driven much of this project: Why do we see specific animals as typically Nordic and will reintroduce them, even though they have been gone for thousands of years? (“Varför ser vi på vissa djurarter som typiskt nordiska och vill återinföra dem, trots att de kan ha varit borta i tusentals år?”)

As we discussed that question, we honed in on the emotions that come along with reintroduction projects, which is a focus that the book I’m currently writing will also have. Guilt, hope and fear all enter into the picture in the histories of the beaver and muskox returns to Scandinavia. As I told Sofia, “It’s about more than biology and ecosystems and economic calculations. There are many emotions blended in.” (“Det handlar om mer än biologi och ekosystem och ekonomiska kalkyler. Det är mycket känslor inblandade.”) Uncovering those kind of motivations is what makes humanities research on this kind of topic necessary.

What I had not expected was that this article would lead to a number of local media appearances over the week. I was interviewed by a local newspaper reporter on Tuesday, did an television interview with SVT on Wednesday and a live radio interview with SverigesRadio P4 on Thursday. I was nervous about the TV and radio because they were in Swedish and wouldn’t involve being able to ‘fix’ my speaking like a print reporter can. Amazingly, I made it through both ok. The Norrbottens-Kuriren newspaper article “Forskare: ‘Vi lyssnar inte på de som påverkas'” is online. You can see the TV report (which includes both text and video) and listen to my full radio interview.

In a serendipitous convergence, a reporter from Atlas Obscura also contacted me this week about my work on the history of muskox. Cara Giaimo had found my blog and was interested in writing about the geopolitics of muskoxen on the Norwegian-Swedish border. I was delighted to have her interview me and use my research to write a fantastic article “The Great Scandinavian Musk Ox War”. It ties together many strands I’ve had on this blog since 2013. It’s quite an entertaining read and I highly recommend it.

One lesson we historians can learn from my experience this week is that the media is interested in humanities research, regardless of what we may hear from politicians. Environmental humanities research tackles the basic question of how humans get along with the non-human other, something which all humans do on a daily basis, whether or not they consciously think about it. This means we have something foundational to offer the public through our research. So we need to not be afraid to publicise our work by talking to our university press contacts, answering inquiries from reporters, and having a research blog that gets our work out into the world in real-time.

One Comment

  • David Neufeld

    Very much enjoyed the Great Musk-ox War. Have witnessed the trans-boundary wanderings of the north Yukon muskox herd in the 1980s and resulting disgruntlement of Inuvialuit hunters who complained they frightened away the much more tasty caribou.

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