The Crypto-Colonial and the Arctic on the agenda in Reykjavík

Skærmbillede 2013-10-07 kl. 22.34.37On the 4th the international symposium Claiming the North: (Re-)territorializing the “Westnordic Arctic” at the University of Iceland arranged by Katla Kjartansdóttir, Kristinn Schram and myself issues of theoretical approaches to national and regional narratives in the (sub) Arctic area were discussed by cross-disciplinary panels.



With Professor Michael Herzfeld (Harvard) as one of the keynotes it was possible to follow the first meeting between the founder of crypto-colonial theory and leading scholars in Icelandic cultural studies. The discussion continued on a closed meeting on the 5th where issues concerning ambiguities, powerlessness and geo-political aspirations in the region in the making were discussed.


The crypto-colonial perspective is catching on among scholars and there has been an increasing interest in looking into what I have proposed to be crypto-colonial features in past and present Icelandic political discourse as well as in the arts. I am following this development enthusiastically and will be publishing more on related subjects in the near future.

Our joint project Denmark and the New North Atlantic was represented with papers on Danish exceptionalism, Icelandic phantasies of colonizing Greenland in the 20th century, and how narratives about the intertwined past with Denmark stands in the way for  discussions about certain political issues in Greenland.

My talk was based on a forthcoming article about the influence of old narratives on current Icelandic environmental policy and branding:

Since the heated debates of the independece movement the Danish-Icelandic relation has not been high on the agendas of either country. The Icelandic crisis of the recent years has caused increasing interest in reinvestigations of longterm implications of the past as Danish dependency on official and artistic attempts to position Iceland in an international context within shifting frameworks of the last centuries. Versions of the national history have been shaped and functionalized in order to influence present self-understanding and even the nation brand. In these processes ancient myths about the North are being evoked that contribute to Iceland’s complex position as center and periphery. This position as an international heterotopia and wilderness par excellence has crypto-colonial traits and causes there to be a large gap between the country’s official image and the views expressed e.g. in critical contemporary art showing dirty sides of Iceland’s pristine nature and image as provider of pure energy.

The symposium was supported by CAPS (Háskóli Íslands), Edda center of Excellence and Denmark and the New North Atlantic.



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