My name is Zdenka Sokolíčková. My educational background is not easy to translate into English. At the Faculty of Philosophy, Charles University Prague, Czech Republic, I studied a Master programme entitled Theory of Culture (Kulturologie in Czech). Neither cultural studies, nor cultural anthropology. It was a mixture of social sciences and humanities, and the interdisciplinary diversity of the programme was both its strength and weakness.
I soon found myself in environmental ethics and finished my PhD in 2010 with a thesis about the range of philosophical approaches available when it comes to the place of human beings in the world they inhabit. I prefer this formulation to “men’s place in nature.”
In the same year, I enrolled for a double-degree Master called Euroculture, which took me for one semester to Groningen in the Netherlands and for another one to Ōsaka, Japan. I graduated with a thesis about the supposedly green and sustainable environmental policy of the EU, criticising its philosophical foundations.
Since 2011, I have been employed at the Department of Studies in Culture and Religion, Faculty of Education, University of Hradec Králové, Czech Republic. I have done a lot of teaching since then within the Bachelor study programme of Transcultural Communication, and very little research. That is why I am in the Arctic now – to work on my own project that I am passionate about.
From February 2019 until February 2021, I am a research fellow of the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo, conducting fieldwork in Longyearbyen, Svalbard. My mentor, professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen, coined the term of overheating: our world is being overheated in terms of culture and identity, economy and environment. The project entitled boREALIFE: Overheating in the High Arctic focuses on local impacts of globalization, using the method of participant observation and semi-structured interviews with residents and short-term visitors.
The image of Longyearbyen as the northernmost community, a periphery at the edge of the world, sells well. Yet if we look at the global trends that are changing the local economic, social and environmental outlook, Longyearbyen is situated just in the centre of globalization. One example for all: Svalbard is pivotal when it comes to climate change impacts. Alongside with the climate, other features are changing in front of our eyes. Several layers of the place’s identity clash. Norwegian, or international? Mining industry, or tourism? Pristine wilderness to be conserved, or accessible disappearing destination?
The debate about the place’s present and near future is overheated, mines are closing down, tourists keep coming to consume the pure Arctic nature, while in the fjord, sea ice is dark (meaning wet) even though it is wintertime. Another potentially controversial issue to be investigated is the very existence of the so-called local community. Who qualifies for membership? Is there just one and united, or are there several? What does localiness consist of? And how is it affected by global trends in force?
I am living in Longyearbyen with my husband, a polar ecologist, and our three little sons. And one thing that I am certain about is that we won’t feel like leaving after the two years spent in this extraordinary place.
For more information about me, please visit: https://www.transkulturnikomunikace.cz/novinka/373/borealife-blog-cast-1
Samples of my publications include:
Sokolíčková, Zdenka. (2014) Challenges for Transcultural Communication. Lublin: ELPRESS.
Lapka, Miloslav, Jan Vávra, Zdenka Sokolíčková. (2012) “Cultural ecology: Contemporary understanding of relationship between human and environment.”Journal of Landscape Ecology. Brno: Czech Society for Landcape Ecology. http://mendelu.vedeckecasopisy.cz/publicFiles/00306.pdf.
Sokolíčková, Zdenka. (2011) What do we mean by a “Strong Europe”?: Cultural weakness of EU environmental policy. Saarbrücken: LAP-Lambert academic publishing. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Books-Zdenka-Sokol%C3%AD%C4%8Dkov%C3%A1/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=n%3A266239%2Cp_27%3AZdenka%20Sokol%C3%AD%C4%8Dkov%C3%A1.
Arctic Workshop, 3-5 April 2019, Stockholm, Sweden
AAA Annual Meeting, “Changing Climates: Struggle, Collaboration, and Justice”, 20-24 November 2019, Vancouver, Canada