Biocultural Heritage in Arctic Cities

Resource for Climate Adaptation?

Hard Facts

project duration: April 2024 - March 2027

funding: FFG for Belmont Forum

project leader (at IKSA): Olga Povoroznyuk

team (at IKSA): Peter Schweitzer

partner institutions: George Washington University, USA (consortium lead), Nancen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, Norway; Art Science International Institute, France; Indigenous, environmental and arts NGOs in the USA and Norway


  • project description

    The project applies the concept of biocultural heritage, combining the elements of natural environment, material and spiritual culture to explore the potential of urban green and subsistance spaces and associated forms of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and human-environment relationships in climate adaptation. Our main research question is, "Can biocultural heritage situated in urban landscapes serve as a resource for climate adaptation in Arctic cities?". In order to answer this question, we will work with local and Indigenous communities in Fairbanks and Nome in the USA, and Kirkenes and Tromsø in Norway. The project team, consisting of social and natural scientists, artists and activists, will combine quantitative and qualitative methods of social anthropology, human geography, climate science and remote sensing. The integration of scientific data with Indigenous long-term observations and artistic explorations should lead to publicly accessible, co-produced and place-specific arts and science products, including academic articles, disseminated via online media, as well as through an art+science exhibition.


An ethnographic filmproject

Hard Facts

project duration: February - September 2024

funding: LBG Open Innovation in Science Impact Lab

project leader: Sanderien Verstappen

team: Elaine Goldberg, Helen Vaaks


  • project description

    The ethnographic film project "Sorgeräume" is a cooperation between the Vienna Visual Anthropology Lab and the Ludwig-Boltzmann-Gesellschaft. Under the project supervision of Sanderien Verstappen, Elaine Goldberg and Helen Vaask will be conducting camera-based ethnographic research in the LBG Open Innovation in Science Impact Lab "Caring Communties for Future". The focus will be on care practices and transdisciplinary research processes. The outcome will be a short film.


The anthropology of the future: An art world perspective

Hard Facts

project duration: January 2024 - December 2028

funding: ERC: European Research Council

project leader: Manuela Ciotti



Hard Facts

project duration: January 2024 - December 2027

funding: European Commission - Horizon Europe

project leader (at IKSA): Peter Schweitzer

team (at IKSA): Susanna Gartler, Alexandra Meyer, Olga Povoroznyuk



  • project description

    Permafrost underlies 22% of the Northern Hemisphere's exposed land surface and is thawing at an alarming rate as a direct consequence of climate change. Permafrost thaw releases large quantities of organic matter and contaminants into the environment. Contaminants, including heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants and microbiological agents locked in permafrost, are a risk for both human and animal health. In addition, permafrost thaw dramatically impacts infrastructure in local communities with wide-ranging consequences for health, economy, and society. Yet the social, physical and health components of permafrost thaw have traditionally been studied in isolation, leading to inadequate policy options that ignore the holistic nature of the threat. There is a need for an integrated and participatory approach to the complex issues at the overlap between climate change, permafrost thaw, infrastructure damage, contaminants, health and well-being and for solutions founded on the cultural, natural and social frameworks of local communities. ILLUQ is an interdisciplinary project rooted in participatory research with local stake- and rightsholders. Its mission is to tackle this need by providing the first holistic approach to permafrost thaw, pollution, One Health and well-being in the Arctic and delivering timely products on the risks from contaminant release, infrastructure failure and ecosystem changes to stakeholders. ILLUQ's endeavor is a direct answer to the pressing needs of communities on potentially disappearing permafrost. It targets the missing link between studies performed by scientists, engineers and consultants in local communities and solutions with local stake- and rightsholders focusing on the long-term implications of decision-making in the context of permafrost thaw, a time frame generally overlooked in existing governance frameworks.

Less is More

De-Prescribing Pharmaceuticals for Patient Safety and Sustainable Public Health

Hard Facts

project duration: May 2023 - April 2026

funding: WWTF

project lead: Janina Meillan-Kehr

Co-PI: Lisa Lehner (at IKSA), Igor Grabovac (MedUni Wien)




  • project description

    Today, the right to health is often enacted as a right to access pharmaceuticals. This pharmaceuticalization of public health creates both opportunities for relief and new risks for patient safety and sustainability such as overmedicalization, waning effectiveness, and iatrogenic harm. In health policy making, a “less is more” approach of de-prescribing has become part of quaternary prevention with optimization of services at its core. Existing policies focus on guidelines for providers and indirect user regulation. Yet, little is known about provider and user experience or circulation pathways–pharmaceuticals’ “cultural efficacy”–that could inform a more context-sensitive, evidence-based policy approach.

Making Sense of Smartphone Addiction

Hard Facts

project duration: May 2023 - May 2026

funding: ESPRIT-Programm (FWF)

project lead: Suzana Jovicic


  • project description

    Although smartphone addiction is not officially recognised as a psychiatric disorder, it is a popular topic of public discourse around the world, especially in relation to the "zombified" young people who seem to be glued to their smartphones. To date, however, research on smartphone and internet addiction has been limited: It is often based on quantitative surveys produced by researchers and mental healthexperts who rather arbitrarily and top-down determine how much time spent with a smartphone is problematic. Moreover, such studies are usually conducted with college students in English-speaking countries and assume that smartphone users' behaviour is universal, regardless of social and cultural differences, historical attitudes towards media and patients' perspectives.

    This project thus aims to address the urgent need for additional, qualitative and more nuanced research on this topic, to take into account social and cultural differences, and to consider the perspectives of those affected by smartphone addiction or related phenomena such as internet and gaming addiction. To this end, the project focuses on how affected young people experience and conceptualise smartphone addiction themselves, particularly in relation to the issues of guilt and self-control.

    In order to capture their perspectives, the study will involve extensive fieldwork in an Austrian clinic specialising in smartphone, gaming and internet addiction, conducted by a social and cultural anthropologist based at the University of Vienna. During several months, the researcher will spend time with patients and medical professionals, participate in various activities and conduct interviews. The project will not only explore how smartphone addiction is conceptualised by young people and mental health professionals but will also actively engage young people in discussions about the phenomenon by creating a collaborative artwork that expresses their views. This will include participatory workshops involving patients, mental health professionals, digital interface designers and artists who will enable the creation of a collaborative audio-visual work to be publicly exhibited.

    The project is situated at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Vienna. Its interdisciplinary advisory board includes researchers from the Maynooth University (Ireland), Free University Berlin (Germany), Weißensee Academy of Art Berlin (Germany), Masaryk University (Czech Republic) and RMIT University Melbourne (Australia).

Über Krisen reden - Making sense of multiple crises

Wie ältere Menschen in Wien Pandemie, Ukraine-Krieg, Energiekrise und drohende Altersarmut narrativ verarbeiten

Hard Facts

project duration: 2023 - 2024

funding: MA7, Stadt Wien

project lead: Monika Palmberger

team: Barbara Götsch


An interdisciplinary approach for recording changes in snow in Greenland and Austria

Hard Facts

project duration: 2023-2025

funding: OEAD Sparkling Science

project leaders: Wolfgang Schöner (Universität Graz), Peter Schweitzer (at IKSA)

team (at IKSA): Theresa Gusenleitner, Sophie Elixhauser


Snow2School image picture

Photocredit © Schöner


  • project description

    Snow is a key variable of climate change, making it and its associated impacts clearly visible. The changes in snow cover over the last 150 years or so are well documented for the Alps from measurements. However, the situation in Greenland is completely different. Although snow also plays a central role for the population there, hardly any measurements are available for this huge island. 

    This research gap motivates the overall research goal of Snow2School, namely to be able to better quantify changes in snow conditions using the example of Uummannaq (Greenland), by means of a new reconstruction method based on photographs, which is being developed and tested for Eisenerz (Austria, Alps).  At the same time, Snow2School aims to generate a better understanding of the impact of snow changes (against the background of climate change) on the lives of people in Greenland and Austria. Snow2School thus pursues an interdisciplinary research approach with strong Citizen Science support.


Building Artic Futures: Transport Infrastructure and Sustainable Northern Communities

Hard Facts

project duration: January 2021 - December 2025

funding: ERC: European Research Council

project leader: Peter Schweitzer

team: Ria-Maria Adams, Philipp Budka, Alexandra Meyer, Olga Povoroznyuk, Alexis Sancho-Reinoso, Katrin Schmid, Elena Davydova, Cristobal Adam Barrios

student collaboration: Ilya Krylov

project administration: Susanna Heubusch


InfraNorth logo


  • project description

    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 (Russian Arctic, North American Arctic, European Arctic). 

    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.

Europe-Asia Research on Forced Migration

Hard Facts

project duration:

Phase I 2019-2021: "Annual Research and Orientation Programme in Migration and Forced Migration Studies with Particular Focus on South Asia and its European-Asian Dimension."

Phase II 2021-2023: "Justice, Protection and Government of the People. A Two-Year Research and Orientation Programme on Protection and Democracy in a Post-COVID World."

funding: Foundation of Open Society

project leaders: Ayse Caglar (IKSA und IWM), Ranabir Samaddar (Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group)

team: Ana Cukovic



  • project description

    The Europe-Asia Research on Forced Migration is a collaboration between the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (Institute for Human Sciences, IWM) and Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (MCRG). The first research project "Annual Research and Orientation Programme in Migration and Forced Migration Studies with Particular Focus on South Asia and its European-Asian Dimension" (2019 until 2021) focuses on establishing the collaboration and cooperation between European and Asian institutions and academics. It was established to foster working toward innovative knowledge production on forced migration and bordering regimes. Series of activities and workshops aim to enhance research capacities and facilitate the exchange of knowledge and policy expertise in forced migration studies in and between Europe and Asia. Bringing together scholars, policy makers and practitioners from different disciplines and regions, the platform aspires to decentering scholarship, debates, and policies on forced migration. The project continues through "Justice, Protection and Government of the People. A Two-Year Research and Orientation Programme on Protection and Democracy in a Post-COVID World" grant until Summer 2023.

    The Europe-Asia Research hosts Seminar Series on Forced Migration at the University of Vienna. The events bring speakers from a range of disciplines and scholarship interests to discuss multiple geographical and temporal dimensions of migration. Topics ranging from changing regimes and forms of governance of migrants/refugees; the solidarity networks and demands for social justice entangled with increasing inequalities, austerity politics, and racism; the institutional components regulating and managing different forms of displacement; incorporation and exclusion of refugees and migrants from labor markets and protection regimes along the lines of gender, race, religion, and work among others. The Seminar Series aims to expand current knowledge on the specificities of policies and debates on refugees and migrants in the context of forced migration and bordering regimes.

Ethnographische Datenarchivierung

Hard Facts

project duration: February 2017 - ongoing

project leaders: Wolfgang Kraus, Birgit Kramreither, Igor Eberhard


Ethnographic data archive image picture

© Wolfgang Kraus


  • project description

    Forschung in der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie findet meist im engen persönlichen Kontakt mit den Beforschten statt. Die eigene Person und die eigene Biografie sind immer Teil dieses Prozesses. Ethnographische Forschung stellt hohe Ansprüche an methodische Kenntnisse, aber auch an Reziprozität, Reflexivität und Ethik. Aus diesen Gründen bringen die Archivierung und Nachnutzung von ethnographischen Daten große Herausforderungen pragmatischer, ethischer und rechtlicher Art mit sich – Herausforderungen, denen sich das Pilotprojekt stellt, um eine an die Eigenarten ethnographischer Forschung angepassten Archivierungsstrategie zu entwickeln.