Accepted Paper:

Constructing normality: deconstructing the "problematic" mobile workers in the Arctic petroleum industry  

Author:

Gertrude Saxinger (Austrian Polar Research Institute)

Paper short abstract:

Long-distance commute work and fly-in/fly-out operations are essential methods for provision of labour force for the extractive industries in the remote Sub-arctic. This ethnographic paper elaborates notions of “normality” of mobile and multilocal life-styles.

Paper long abstract:

Long-distance commute work and so called fly-in/fly-out (FIFO) operations are essential methods for the provision of labour force for the extractive industries in the remote arctic and sub-arctic. So far little research is available on this particular group of mobile work force. In public discourses as well as partly in the academia, FIFO workers are constructed as being problematic on the one hand in interaction with resource communities as well as in the context of their family life. Subsequently, the mobile lifestyle is connotated with leading to deviant behavior.

However, my research among FIFO workers in Fort McMurray in Canada as well in the West Siberian Basin has shown that this group consists of a variety of people in terms of social characteristics such as gender, age and professions as well as in terms of values and ideas. This research has shown that FIFO workers are not living in a social vacuum while at site and therefore, should be seen not only as sole human resources but as partners and stakeholders when it comes to negotiations with communities and the facilitation of FIFO operations in general. Seeing FIFO workers as mature stakeholders with specific needs and clear ideas about the way of life and interaction with receiving resource communities allows to address the benefits of such an interaction as well as to elaborate means of mitigating existing problems. This paper elaborates theoretical notions of "normality" of mobile and multilocal life-styles based on ethnographic research.

Panel P24
Exploring highly mobile life-worlds