Lena Gross

Image of Lena Gross
Norwegian version of this page
Room 718
Visiting address Eilert Sundts Hus Moltke Moes vei 31 0851 Oslo
Postal address Postboks 1091 0317 Oslo

Academic Interests

Thematic: extractive industries, resource and nature management, power relations, gender, Indigeneity, settler colonialism, queer theory, political ecology, psychiatry and drug dependency, inequality, critical race theory

Regional: Arctic and Subarctic, especially Canada, Greenland and Norway


  • Sosant 1300: Economic Anthropology
  • "Introduction to Greenland - Society, Culture, and History". Lecture for Bachelor students at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design


In my PhD-project, Magnifying Inequalities. Tales of land, labour, and belonging in the context of the oil sands industry in Northern Alberta, Canada, I show, how inequality does not disappear but persists and increases in resource rich Northern Alberta. 

I argue that the cause of this rising inequality is not individual failure, but rather an intersectional combination of age, family situation, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background, race, etc. and the conditions of living in a settler colonial state. The oil/tar sands industry has changed the area materially, culturally, and socially. These changes have impacted local people to very different amounts, high-lightening and magnifying challenges Canada has with its settler colonial present, unequal wealth distribution, and scarce infrastructure in its northern areas.

I further investigate the seemingly contradictory notions of Northern Alberta as a homeland and Northern Alberta as a wasteland, a resource frontier, and a Terra Nullius. I focus on the rapid changes the region has experienced through the oil sands boom that brought infrastructure, workers, and employment to the area, but also environmental destruction, pollution, high costs of living, and growing rates of (gendered) violence among others. The Indigenous and non-Indigenous local population experiences these changes differently as there prevails an unequal distribution of chances and negative impacts.

Power imbalances between state, industry and Indigenous population prevent equal participation in the economic upswing the region has seen since the 1990s and lead in many cases to violations of Indigenous rights. The rapid extension of extractive activities in the region has, however, also created new forms of political protests, reinforced Indigenous sovereignty claims, and intensified land right struggles. Being at home in a region defined as a resource frontier has increasingly become an act of active resistance.

With the metaphor of a magnifier, I explain how conditions of inequality, disadvantage, and uncertainty have pre- existed to the arrival of the oil sands industry and have to be seen in the context of settler colonialism. The main argument of this thesis is therefore that inequality arises from structural discriminatory features inherent to the Canadian state, neoliberal practices, and colonial thinking.

My PhD research is part of Professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen’s ERC-funded research project “Overheating: The Three Crises of Globalisation” and affiliated with the research project “ENERGETHICS: Norwegian energy companies abroad - Expanding the anthropological understanding of corporate social responsibility” led by Professor Ståle Knudsen and funded by The Research Council of Norway – FRIPRO.


  • Norwegian Energy Companies Abroad: Expanding the Anthropological Understanding of Corporate Social Responsibility (2015 - 2019)

    Project leader: Professor Ståle Knudsen. Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen.
Tags: Environment, Power, Resource management, Indigeneity, Queer theory, Mental health and drug dependency, Colonialism, Gender, Critical race theory


  • Gross, Lena (2019). Wastelanding the Bodies, Wastelanding the Land: Accidents as Evidence in the Albertan Oil Sands, In Clinton Westman; Tara Joly & Lena Gross (ed.),  Extracting Home in the Oil Sands: Settler Colonialism and Environmental Change in Subarctic Canada.  Routledge.  ISBN 9780815356653.  4.
  • Westman, Clinton; Joly, Tara & Gross, Lena (2019). Introduction: At Home in the Oil Sands, In Clinton Westman; Tara Joly & Lena Gross (ed.),  Extracting Home in the Oil Sands: Settler Colonialism and Environmental Change in Subarctic Canada.  Routledge.  ISBN 9780815356653.  Introduction.

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  • Westman, Clinton; Joly, Tara & Gross, Lena (ed.) (2019). Extracting Home in the Oil Sands: Settler Colonialism and Environmental Change in Subarctic Canada. Routledge.  ISBN 9780815356653.

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  • Langford, Malcolm; Aguilar-Støen, Mariel; Carlson, Andreas; Gross, Lena & D'Amico, Giuliano (2019). Fra Internasjonalisering til Mangfold. Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift.  ISSN 0800-336X.  s 85- 93 . doi: 10.18261
  • Gross, Lena (2018). Careless workers, wastelanded bodies, and colonial masculinity.
  • Gross, Lena (2018). Crisscrossing life. (In)visble lines of oil, power, and belonging in Northern Alberta, Canada.
  • Gross, Lena (2017). Extracting the Oil Sands – Magnifying Inequalities. Marginality and Belonging in Northern Alberta, Canada.
  • Gross, Lena (2016). (Uncomfortable) Solidarities Doubtable Belongings and Human and Non-human Relations in Alberta’s Tar/Oil Sands Region.
  • Gross, Lena (2016). Accidents As Evidence in the Albertan Oil/Tar Sands.
  • Gross, Lena (2016). Black dependency - How the petroleum industry has changed Canada.
  • Gross, Lena (2016). Walking the Line. Balancing research -, community- and personal interests in Canada’s tar sands.
  • Gross, Lena (2015). Spaces of restraints, spaces of freedom. The northern work camps as landscape in the tar/oil sands industry of Alberta.
  • Gross, Lena (2015). Uncomfortable Knowledge. Competing knowledge regimes in a changing environment in Northern Alberta, Canada.
  • Gross, Lena (2015). Working the Sands: Seasonal Time and Changing Expectations in the Albertan Oil/Tar Sands.
  • Gross, Katharina Lena (2012). Opening up the Arctic – literally speakingAn icebreaker between science and activism. Tvergastein : interdisciplinary journal of the environment.  2, s 7- 11

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Published Oct. 22, 2012 12:30 PM - Last modified Oct. 27, 2018 6:00 PM


No ongoing projects