Located by the windswept coasts of the North Sea, Bergen is far away from the tropical islands of Oceania, but Pacific scholarship has a particular strength here in the West Country of Norway. The Bergen Pacific Studies (BPS) Research Group was established in 2005 at the University of Bergen’s Department of Social Anthropology, reflecting a growth since the 1990s of research on Oceania in the department and at the Bergen University Museum’s cultural history collections. Careers were started and recruitment expanded. The rise of Pacific Studies in the Department of Social Anthropology has attained the scope and scale of an internationally significant and productive Pacific-focused research centre within a department of global ethnographic coverage, reflecting also the University of Bergen’s overall strategic focus on development-related research and global education. In those respects the Pacific Studies field represents an interesting corrective to mainstream lessons about development issues learned from research in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Perspectives from the Pacific also add significantly to the scope of global comparison, as exemplified by the participation by BPS scholars Knut Rio and Edvard Hviding in the comparative project In the Wake of Colonialism.
In recent years the BPS group has attained global prominence in Pacific Studies through its broad international relationships: its director Edvard Hviding and its co-director Knut Rio were the elected chairs of, respectively, the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, ASAO (2012-13) and the European Society for Oceanists, ESfO (2010-12). In line with this, the BPS group organized and hosted the twentieth anniversary international conference of ESfO in Bergen in December 2012. From then on, the BPS group’s role in international research leadership has involved the coordination of Pacific Studies on the European scale and in close cooperation with major Pacific centres of research and higher education. BPS director Edvard Hviding is Scientific Coordinator of the European Consortium for Pacific Studies (ECOPAS), which is funded by the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for the period 2012-2015. The ECOPAS Consortium brings the four major European centres for Pacific research (Bergen, St Andrews, Marseille, Nijmegen) together with the 12-nation University of the South Pacific and with the National Research Centre of Papua New Guinea, provides research-based advice to the European Commission, and develops an ambitious research strategy of its own. Meanwhile each member of Bergen Pacific Studies continues to pursue his or her own personal, long-term research agendas, contributing to the development of a collective effort of comparative Pacific anthropology covering a refreshingly broad, ethnographically grounded range of research themes.