Gísli Pálsson

Gísli Pálsson
University of Iceland / Stefansson Arctic Institute

Ph.D., Manchester U, 1982

About

124
Publications
29,353
Reads
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3,083
Citations
Additional affiliations
August 2002 - May 2005
University of Oslo
Position
  • Professor II
June 2000 - November 2000
University of California, Berkeley
Position
  • Professor
June 1982 - December 2019
University of Iceland
Position
  • Professor

Publications

Publications (124)
Article
The last twenty years have seen the emergence of “genealogical machines” that promise to revolutionize family history research. This article examines the tracing practices involved in these technologies, and their impact on shaping current concepts of kinship, drawing on two case studies: one relates to the efforts of Icelandic descendants in North...
Article
Les vingt dernières années ont vu émerger des « machines généalogiques » qui promettent de révolutionner les recherches sur l’histoire familiale. Cet article examine les pratiques de traçage qui s’articulent autour de ces technologies, et leur impact sur le façonnement des concepts actuels de parenté, en s’appuyant sur deux études de cas. L’une se...
Article
This article revisits the work of the late anthropologist, Paul T.W. Baxter, re-reading his photographs and writing on pastoralism in northern Kenya through the prism of contemporary interest in anthropology in the ‘other-than-human’. It contextualises Baxter’s work within a wider school of anthropology of pastoralism, and his photography within wi...
Article
Full-text available
Recent calls for ‘other-than-human’ ethnographies draw attention to dimensions of life that have allegedly been overlooked or marginalised in anthropological writings. We take such critique as an opportunity to reconsider selected ethnographic accounts asking: What was the role of animals and plants in these accounts, and what ‘hidden stories’ may...
Article
Modern orthopaedic prosthetics imitate biological organs or their functions, interacting with the body of amputees, and are designed and manufactured corporately. Thus, prosthetics constitute a privileged vantage point to witness the intermingling of society and nature, as well as how biosocial relations and institutions are understood, negotiated,...
Article
Full-text available
In most contexts, personal names function as identifiers and as a locus for identity. Therefore, names can be used to trace patterns of kinship, ancestry, and belonging. The social power of naming, however, and its capacity to shape the life course of the person named, becomes most evident when it has the opposite intent: to sever connections and i...
Article
Full-text available
This article maps the con+uence of biosocial relations through the agential networks of water. In the language of the environmental humanities and social sciences, such relations and networks are biosocial and sacralised (Meloni, Williams, Martin 2016; Mangiameli 2013). The self-organisation of aquatic environments in these relations towards humans...
Research
Review of Gambling Debt* from American Ethnologist
Article
This is a review of *Mixed Messages: Cultural and Genetic Inheritance in the Constitution of Human Society.
Article
Full-text available
“Nature” and “social life” tended to be separated by Enlightenment thinkers, setting the stage for a long-standing tension between geology and social-cultural theory. Such a division suppressed the liveliness that humans have often attributed to material things. Several scholars and artists, many of whom would advocate new materialisms, have attemp...
Article
Biological and physical anthropologists have tended to see the study of human variation and the material body as the defining elements of their subdiscipline(s). Generally, sociologists and social anthropologists, in contrast, have shown little interest in such issues. For them, the body has often been taken for granted, absent-present, as a relati...
Article
Biological and physical anthropologists have tended to see the study of human variation and the material body as the defining elements of their subdiscipline(s). Generally, sociologists and social anthropologists, in contrast, have shown little interest in such issues. For them, the body has often been taken for granted, absent-present, as a relati...
Book
Full-text available
Life is currently one of the most active zones of politics and economic production, as biological material is increasingly the subject of engineering, banking, reproduction, and exchange. These developments represent some of the most challenging issues facing humanity in the twenty-first century and call for new forms of engagement - and new anthro...
Article
Emphasizing concerns with cultural identity, belonging, ancestry, and health, this article discusses the national roots of the science of human variation and differences, focusing on the significance of genomic studies for national projects and the significance of national concerns for genomics. This is illustrated through a discussion of national...
Research
Full-text available
In J. Kolen, J. Renes and R. Hermans (Eds.) Landscape Biographies. Geographical, Historical and Archaeological Perspectives on the Production and Transmission of Landscapes. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, pp. 47-67
Chapter
This article discusses the place of fishing activities and coastal economies in social scientific thought, some of the major issues developed in the relevant literature, and recent trends in maritime anthropology; the category of fishing; natural and social models of fishing activities and coastal communities; gender relations; ecological knowledge...
Article
Full-text available
A partir de Marx, este texto argumenta que la realidad de la biosocialidad, fusión entre lo biológico y lo social a través de la biotecnología moderna, disuelve el concepto dual de lo biosocial como complementariedad de las esferas de la biología y la sociedad. Igualmente sugiere que la noción relaciones biosociales de producción puede ser útil par...
Article
Full-text available
Comment on Kohn, Eduardo. 2013. How forests think: Toward an anthropology beyond the human. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Article
Because they are right under our nose, taken-for-granted, and essential to every person everywhere, personal names have often eluded the theoretical and analytical scrutiny they deserve. To what extent do naming practices exemplify or parallel the biopolitics of bodily inscriptions and markings such as tattoos, birthmarks, and presumed racial signa...
Article
All human life unfolds within a matrix of relations, which are at once social and biological. Yet the study of humanity has long been divided between often incompatible 'social' and 'biological' approaches. Reaching beyond the dualisms of nature and society and of biology and culture, this volume proposes a unique and integrated view of anthropolog...
Book
Gambling Debt is a game-changing contribution to the discussion of economic crises and neoliberal financial systems and strategies. Iceland’s 2008 financial collapse was the first case in a series of meltdowns, a warning of danger in the global order. This full-scale anthropology of financialization and the economic crisis broadly discusses this mo...
Chapter
Knowledge, including (and perhaps above all) biology, is one of the ways by which humanity seeks to take control of its destiny and to transform its being into a duty. For this project, man's knowledge about man is of fundamental importance. The primacy of anthropology is not a form of anthropomorphism, but a condition for anthropogenesis. Georges...
Article
Full-text available
There is growing recognition that humans are faced with a critical and narrowing window of opportunity to halt or reverse some of the key indicators involved in the environmental crisis. Given human activities’ scale and impact, as well as the overly narrow perspectives of environmental research's dominant natural sciences, a major effort is necess...
Chapter
For some time, scholars have stressed the centrality of colonialism and imperialism for European identity formations, in addition calling for increased destabilisation of the boundaries between colonised and colonisers, thus looking at colonialism in more nuanced ways. This chapter explores some of the complications and contradictions of Danish col...
Article
Full-text available
With the advancement of genomic research, the issue of human variation has been redefined. Genomic anthropology has played an important role, drawing on and expanding anthropological understanding of human genomes and their differences. Focusing on the deCODEme and 23andMe projects, which offer personal services to people who wish to assess genetic...
Chapter
Die Globalisierung hat die Welt grundlegend verändert. Die radikalen Folgen dieser Revolution betreffen nicht nur abstrakte Prozesse in Wirtschaft und Politik, sondern sind konkret in unserem Alltag erlebbar. Das Lexikon der Globalisierung bereitet in mehr als 140 Einträgen die Ergebnisse der kultur- und sozialwissenschaftlichen und insbesondere de...
Article
Emphasizing the shift from textual studies to physical and biological anthropology and the relevant contexts of academic production during the twentieth century, this article explores anthropological discussions of the history and characteristics of Icelanders, Homo islandicus. Our discussion is largely based on the works of several Icelandic schol...
Book
Full-text available
Responses to Environmental and Societal Challenges for our Unstable Earth (RESCUE), ESF Forward Look – ESF-COST ‘Frontier of Science’ joint initiative
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Full-text available
Emphasizing the context of what has often been referred to as “scarce natural resources”, in particular forests, meadows, and fishing stocks, Elinor Ostrom’s important work Governing the commons (1990) presents an institutional framework for discussing the development and use of collective action with respect to environmental problems. In this arti...
Article
Full-text available
We discuss the literature on decision making in fishing and describe several objective factors related to Icelandic fishing skippers' behavior regarding times and destinations of their fishing trips. We argue that the information available to them and the knowledge and theories they have developed often can lead them to several different conclusion...
Article
By showing that small-scale fishermen practice a number of forms of self-regulation, among them some that many have referred to as “property” at sea, anthropologists have challenged the assumptions of the “tragedy of the commons” model—that unregulated harvesting of a common-property resource is the cause of depletion of sea resources. Some have be...
Article
Full-text available
Nowadays, life itself is one of the most active zones of capitalist production. Not only has biology been upgraded to Big Science, biological material and information are increasingly the subject of engineering, banking, reproduction, and exchange. The description and broad implications of the refiguring of life itself and its intrusion into econom...
Article
Ever since humans ventured beyond their cradle in East Africa, they have advanced their exploration of the rest of Earth step by step, achieving quite most spectacular success in the course of the last centuries. Now that most of the habitat of the globe has been charted and conquered, humans are turning their attention to the “remotest corners” of...
Article
We argue that to understand fishing in modern Iceland, it must be contexualized in terms of a system which includes three subsystems: (1) production–catching and processing, (2) distribution–selling processed fish internationally, (3) policy–establishing fishing areas, gear, periods, prices, quotas, and attempts to influence policy. We briefly outl...
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Full-text available
By rendering obsolete the theoretical opposition of nature and culture, the study of the human genome has given rise to fresh networks among anthropologists and other scholars. These developments, in turn, invite a refashioning of anthropology. Because genomic studies are directly concerned with the constitution of personhood, they must engage with...
Chapter
Humanitarian MarketsContemporary Biopolitics in Estonia, Iceland, Sweden, and the U.K.Divergent ProblematizationsNotes
Article
Focusing on data relating to Iceland, we examine differences in the performance of fishing skippers both in and out of school and explore the development of dexterity and the connections among fishing practice, schooling, and fishing success.Our ethnographic and statistical analyses indicate that, contrary to the prevailing assumption of many educa...
Article
‘Racial’ or ‘ethnic’ drugs, a product of the new genetics and its mapping of genomes and populations, are now being developed and manufactured on a large scale. This article focuses on the conceptualization and identification of genetic signatures at the population level, many of which, I argue, evoke the ancient and quite common folk idiom of bodi...
Article
We examined 395 mtDNA control-region sequences from Greenlandic Inuit and Canadian Kitikmeot Inuit with the aim of shedding light on the migration history that underlies the present geographic patterns of genetic variation at this locus in the Arctic. In line with previous studies, we found that Inuit populations carry only sequences belonging to h...
Article
Unused to pushing the affective up against the political we leave sentiments to literature, dismiss references to them as the emotive fluff rather than the real stuff of official archives. ANN LAURA STOLER 200238. Stoler Ann Laura 2002 Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule Berkeley University of California Pre...
Article
The proprietor, the operator, the wage earner and the marginalized : The social consequences of fishing management through the rights-market system This article examines the social consequences of fishing management through individually transferable quota systems, hereby termed ITQ. The rise of the ITQ to the status of a privileged management tool,...
Article
Research carried out during recent decades has revealed our genome not only to be a unique mine of information about health, disease and the human condition, but also about the origin and dispersal history of the species. In this context, the genome is simply an additional source of information about human history, epistemologically no different fr...
Article
This article discusses the tracing of family histories and competing assumptions about identities and relatedness in the era of biotechnology and biopower. Although the fascination with genealogical trees and family histories is common throughout the West, in Iceland this attraction is extreme. A genealogical database for most of the Icelandic popu...
Article
Full-text available
In this article we situate the recent debates over the genetic, genealogical, and medical databases that are being constructed for the population of Iceland in their domestic context, focusing on the contribution of anthropology to the understanding of central issues at the intersection of biomedicine and society. Modern biotechnology and bioinform...
Article
This article discusses the place of fishing activities and coastal economies in social scientific thought, some of the major issues developed in the relevant literature, and recent trends in maritime anthropology; the category of fishing; natural and social models of fishing activities and coastal communities; gender relations; ecological knowledge...
Article
Three of the central issues in contemporary debates about the commodification of the human body are those of property, ownership, and access. This article uses the case of the central medical database on Icelanders to discuss contesting claims about the ownership of the human genome, with respect to the rapid development of biotechnology, human gen...
Article
Une société privée, deCode Genetics, va construire et exploiter une base de données rassemblant l'ADN, les renseignements médicaux personnels et les liens généalogiques de tous — ou presque — les Islandais. Mais qu'advient-il du B.A.BA du respect de la vie privée et du consentement des personnes?
Article
Full-text available
THE ICELANDIC SUPREME COURT RULING The research for this paper was triggered by a stunning judgement of the Icelandic Supreme Court in December 1998, which declared as unconstitutional existing fisheries laws on individual transferable quotas (ITQs), because they privileged those who derived their fishing rights from ownership of vessels during a s...
Article
"Recent developments in biotechnology have opened up an entirely new biological and social world in which a multitude of different kinds of bodily components, such as blood, genes, gametes, enzymes, tissues, and organs, can be isolated and used for medical and scientific purposes. As a result, newly identified bodily components are quickly absorbed...
Article
This article deals with the commoditization and pricing of environmental `goods', in particular the practice and social theory of individual transferable quotas (ITQs) in fisheries, emphasizing ethnographic material related to the management system introduced in Iceland in 1984. Icelandic fisheries discourse, I argue, is increasingly textual and he...
Article
A lively debate has taken place in anthropology in recent years on field‐work and its representation in ethnographic accounts. At the same time, historians and cultural critics have dissected the ideology and rhetoric of early explorations. Here I examine the writings of the anthropologist and explorer Vilhjalmur Stefans‐son (1879–1962) in the ligh...
Chapter
Focusing on Iceland, this chapter both compares the ecological knowledge of fishers and professional marine biologists and examines changes in their relative importance in public discourse and resource management in the course of recent history. My approach is informed by both the theory of practice, with its notions of situated action emphasizing...
Article
This article discusses cross-cultural parallels in moral debates about the expansion of market relations to new areas of social life, with particular reference to our ethnographic work on the commoditization of resource rights in Iceland. Expanding a theoretical approach introduced by other scholars, we propose that spatial metaphors can provide an...
Article
Iceland tends to present an image of a homogenous island population with a long and well-recorded history—an apparently ideal subject for anthropologists looking for neat boundaries, a self-contained culture, and a natural laboratory. Vigorously and refreshingly, the eleven essays in Images of Contemporary Iceland challenge this notion of th...
Article
This article discusses inequality in the Icelandic cod fishery, focusing on changes in the actual distribution of fishing quotas and the ways in which Icelanders currently talk about equity and ownership. The individual transferable quota (ITQ) system, introduced in 1984, divided access to an important resource among those who happened to be boat o...
Article
Twenty-eight cases of coeliac disease (CD) and seven of dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) have been verified in Iceland. Standard serological techniques were used for HLA typing. Twenty-five individuals with CD were typed, 21 (84%) of whom carried DR3,DQ2. Twelve of these 25 (48%) had DR3,DR7, DQ2, which makes them possibly homozygous for DQ2, and sugg...

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Projects (12)