Arne Kalland is dead

from Press News, posted 10/22/2012 - 16:31

Today we heard with great shock that Arne Kalland is dead after a long illness. He was only 67 years old. Incredibly, it is 18 years since Arne left NIAS to make significant contributions to the study of modern Asia back home in Norway. But those of us who worked with him back in the early 1990s remember him well and with great fondness.

Besides putting in much work behind the scenes supporting other people’s research, Arne was a well-known scholar in his own right. Japan and fishing were his big focal areas, while whaling (and the politics thereof) was a great passion. (Being from New Zealand, a nation vehemently opposed to especially Japanese whaling fleets in our waters, we had our debates.)

Arne’s earliest work published in 1981 via NIAS was Shingu: A Study of a Japanese Fishing Community (available from Routledge as an expensive hardback; NIAS still has a few copies of the original paperback if you are interested). Whaling came to the fore in 1992 with Japanese Whaling: End of an Era? which I hear Arne and co-author Brian Moeran wrote in a marathon session, two giants crammed inside a tiny Japanese hotel room. They then infuriated anti-whaling activists by promoting the book outside the meeting of the International Whaling Commission (in Edinburgh, I think).

In the same year, together with Ole Bruun, Arne edited a volume on Asian Perceptions of Nature, first published as a proceedings by NIAS. A reworked edition was then published by Curzon Press to international acclaim, the volume being recognised as a breakthrough study of human interaction with the environment. In next year or so, we were amused to see quite a number of copycat titles from other publishers.

By then, however, Arne was on his way back to Norway where eventually he would end his days as Professor of Social Anthropology at Oslo University. In the meantime, however, he finalised what arguably was his most accomplished work, Fishing Villages in Tokugawa Japan, published by Curzon Press and the University of Hawai‘i Press in 1995.

More significant for NIAS, however, was that at the same time he initiated and ably edited a new NIAS book series, Man & Nature. By the time that NIAS Press was launched in 2002, the series had lost much of its impetus; the dominant discourses on the environment had shifted from Arne’s anthropologically based emphasis on human responses to nature to more policy-driven studies that failed to spark his enthusiasm (or so it seemed).

With Arne gone, the series is effectively dead in terms of future titles. (Recently, we announced a new NIAS title that in many ways should have been placed in the series but for various reasons wasn’t; I regret that now.) In their own terms, however, the eight titles published in the series are classic studies that will continue to be appreciated – just as Arne will be remembered and loved long after the time last Friday when he left us.


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