Collapse and new beginnings

The recently established Centre for Cultural Studies in Sustainability (CCSS) at the University of Copenhagen is a platform for interdisciplinary encounters. The aim of the centre is to explore the field of research in the relationship between humans and environment – in the light of climate changes – within the humanities. Leader of the centre is historian Bo Fritzbøger who is assisted by an interdisciplinary board of four researchers.

At the CCSS seminar on 23 October focus was on growth and collapse. Bo Fritzbøger gave a paper on the history of the ideal of economic growth and Peter Nielsen who has published widely about the problems of economic growth gave a paper on the crisis as the end of the economic system as we know it.

My current research on Icelandic artistic and scholarly reactions to the crisis shows that the ideas about the roads into and out of the present situation are many. In a new and structurally fragile nation state such as the Icelandic the crisis is linked to deep issues of fundamental problems such as nepotism, an unwavering power elite and growing gap between political conservatives and reformists. It is becoming more and more evident that unresolved issues of past relations with other nations influence domestic and foreign politics. The question of whether natural resources such as fish should be national or a private property is a hot topic that is also included in the current processing of the Icelandic constitution and contributes to the division of the population. It is a questions with deep historical roots and the discussion challenges a power structure inherited from the time of Danish administration where a few take advantage of the rest. Thus, at the moment the attitude toward natural resources based in 20th century ideas of exploitation and efficiency improvement is being challenged – and the hardest critics seem to be artists and  academics.

I am looking forward to presenting a paper on this at a RUC conference 1-2 November.

In the research network ”Denmark and the New North Atlantic” we are investigating the changes in North Atlantic cultures, where the ties between humans and natural resources are strong and loaded with cultural significance. The network has a stream at SASS in San Francisco 2013 and I will keep you posted on new activities and publications.

The network is based at UCPH (KU) and consists of:

Associate professor Kirsten Thisted, postdoc Bergur Rønne Moberg, PhD Jørgen Trondhjem, PhD student Ebbe Volqvardsen, anthropologist Anne Mette Jørgensen and myself.


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