Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Exploration versus Academia Part III

I think finally things are changing. 5 years ago I wrote an article about the problems between Exploration and Academia and basically I felt that the world of exploration invited academia to exchange ideas, but not the other way around. Associate professor Michael Robinson wrote an article in reply to my blog post, see here, and explained why he thought this was the case, but added basically that it would be good if we could cooperate. Suddenly, on a personal level, since my Yemen documentary started to roll around some parts of the world, and some see it as a film which might give some perspective on the situation at present in the Land Of Hud -it goes up often at film festivals with an academic undertone and the TIME honor, invitations are dropping in and some acceptance instigated. I have, for example, been invited to Oxford University and latest to London South Bank University to a sports conference about performance in extreme climates. And, if I combine my experiences from these more academic jobs and possibilities I have had, it has so far been very important to how I see the world. Mainly because there´s always somebody, either the organizer or somebody in the audience who give a new vital perspective.

I meet a lot of extremely intelligent and perspective minded people, like Nazli Aytekin, whilst enjoying the academic world
I meet a lot of extremely intelligent and perspective minded people, like Nazli Aytekin, whilst enjoying the academic world

The obstacles still there, or should I say, what I always face after either my film or lecture, is pretty much the same critique. Either I do anecdotes which I can´t prove with facts or figures (photos, film is not enough) or my films center too much on the white man exploring (ethnocentric). I buy both opinions, because they are right. However, this is what I most of the time get from the organizer after the audience (especially a younger one) have made an assessment:

Dear Mikael,

I hope you had a good stay in London and enjoyed our conference. It was great having you and after reading the conference assessment I can tell you our students were absolutely taken by your talk. I’m a little afraid some of them might take off and be explorers.

It was very nice meeting you, thank you for your availability and hopefully see you soon!

Kind regards,

Rita O.

Young people get inspired. Older people, my age, find as many faults as good things. So I have much hope for the future generations in this matter between academia and exploration!


In the world of film, nobody really asks me if I have an opinion. It is more they have an opinion and I defend.  I find it at these etnographical and anthropological film festivals, there´s a kind of up nosed behaviour if film isn´t within their thought of how an ethnographic film should be like. E.g no director in the film and then loosing out on private stories. But in the world of academia, they do ask deep and interesting questions leading to many good discussions. What do I think they even ask about them? Well, these last two times I have been invited to scientific panels and lectures where performance in extreme climates have been the topic. So I am there to give a n non-statistic performance. The interest is really high and I enjoy it. When I can, I stay and listen to the academics talking. Like in real life, some are good, some not. However, when they deal with things I know quite a bit about, like weather, extreme heat and cold, hard work at these environments, at times I find it amazing how forgotten old skills are. I remember before setting off on the big Kolyma Expedition back in 2004, we were offered to bring climate charts, we did, and we were promised updates on weather, but quickly realized when a typhoon arrived far too early, that all the locals already knew. All the animals were gone. A sign that bad things were coming. I believe in these areas of expertize, it might be wise to use the eyes and make an assessment.


I don´t want to poke fun on science, because most scientist I have met, are really knowledgeable and interesting people. And dedicated. But also very specialized, so I do believe there are ways we can cooperate. And we are beginning to. I just got a note of another interview in the morning from Lincoln University on the subject of extreme travel. All this interest have arrived after the TIME Magazine honor.


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