23 October 2015

A different view on points of view

Options Magazine Winter 2015: YSSP 2015 participant Benedict Singleton examines multiple perspectives in his research on whaling in the Faroe Islands.

© Benedict Singleton

© Benedict Singleton

Every year in the Faroe Islands, around 1,000 long-finned pilot whales are slaughtered in whaling drives by local communities. International environmental groups campaign against the whale hunt, calling it a barbaric practice, but for many Faroese it is a tradition with long history that retains importance for consumption and culture.

What happens when cultures collide on questions of environment and sustainability? How can such conflicts be resolved? Benedict Singleton, a PhD student at Örebro University in Sweden, arrived at the IIASA Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP) in June 2015 with these questions in mind.

“My research examines the institution both externally (examining campaigns against it) and internally (how Faroese understand and debate the practice),” he says. “My intention is that this will feed into efforts to design social scientific and policy tools for constructively involving different perspectives in environmental debates.”

Singleton worked with researchers Michael Thompson and Wei Liu to apply two theoretical methods to his research: cultural theory analysis, which examines how culture influences people’s interpretation of the world, and Elinor Ostrom’s design principles, which explain how common goods can be managed in a community.

As an anthropologist, Singleton also found IIASA itself an interesting environment for observing interdisciplinary interactions of researchers. Singleton says he had both positive and negative experiences when trying to work across disciplines. “What this hammered home to me is that more than anything interdisciplinary work requires open minds along with imagination, and the bigger the disciplinary divide the greater the imagination required. It certainly made me reflect on the limits of my own outlook.”

Text by Katherine Leitzell

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Last edited: 22 August 2017


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YSSP Coordinator & Team Leader

Young Scientists Summer Program

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Crossing tribal lines: Interdisciplinary cooperation in IIASA’s YSSP

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