Denmark and the New North Atlantic Region

I am currently working as a postdoctoral researcher on the joint research project Denmark and the New North Atlantic.

Denmark and the new North Atlantic: Identity Positions, Natural Resources and Cultural Heritage” is the title of a cross-Nordic and interdisciplinary research project. The project examines the renegotiations of identities that are taking place in all parts of the North Atlantic in these years, as a result of independence processes, climate change and globalization.

Skærmbillede 2013-10-07 kl. 22.34.37

With funding from the Carlsberg Foundation the joint research project commenced February 1st 2013. Head of research is Associate Professor Kirsten Thisted, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen and the project has partners in Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Norway and Germany. See the link with affiliated researchers.

The project is based at the University of Copenhagen and unites researchers that revisit the joint history of Denmark and Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands, but another main focus of the project will be on cultural reactions to current geo-political changes.



My contribution to the collaboration is the postdoctoral project: “Geographies of Crisis. Post-industrial landscapes in the North Atlantic” 

The aftermath of the economic crisis, that has proven also to be a cultural crisis, is influencing many levels of Icelandic society. Academic texts and art works have been dealing with nature as purity and industrial resource. This discussion of nature’s past, current and future role is intertwined with interpretations of the economic, cultural, and environmental crisis.

The increasing critique of environmental policies is one aspect of the post-industrial condition that has succeeded centuries with increased exploitation of natural resources as well as growing urbanisation and industrialisation in the whole region. In the years leading up to the economic collapse in 2008 Iceland, and in the years that have followed, there have been various examples of scrutinizing scholarly self-examination, artistic critique, and political debate concerning environmental policy.

In the North Atlantic region there is widespread criticism of the consequences of industrialization in many of the artistic representations of local places. In these works the local, regional and global geographical levels – and related political themes – overlap. Thus, the articles and artworks thematize various geographical levels of the landscape: the immediate environment, the national level (e.g. relations between rural and urban landscapes), the planetary level (focus on climate), the spiritual level (neo-shamanistic and neo-romantic depictions), and the global level (focus on globalization and marked economy). I am interpreting the supra-material critique of past and current developments – including shamanistic, anti-materialistic, and neo-romantic attitudes – that very often also pose suggestions for future directions.





New website for Denmark and the New North Atlantic


Our joint research project Denmark and the New North Atlantic has a new website as of this summer:

On this site you will find information on the project and participants as well as a number of images and a portfolio with articles published by affiliated researchers for download. Furthermore there are small sample texts that outline some of the individual projects.


Currently we are working on our book on the new North Atlantic region and are excited to be writing it together – a method not often used within the Humanities. The result will be a multi-authored work rather than an anthology of articles. This gives us the opportunity to explore questions together and gain as much as possible from the interdisciplinary approach.



The future of a region



(Drawing of the Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs by cartoonist Halldór 26.02.14 in Vísir)

In the entire region there is a renegotiation of the future role of the natural resources (oil, fish, hydropower) that are at the basis of ideas about national identity. These young nations are in the process of negotiating fundamental values in a global framework. As a part of the joint project I will place the Icelandic attitudes and development in this regional context.



Conference in Reykjavík, May 9-10: A Place in the World. Iceland in the Imperial World Order and the making of a North Atlantic Region

poster small place in the world


“Denmark and the New North Atlantic” brought together an interdisciplinary group of scholars for exploring the cultural and historical relations that have influenced Icelandic national narratives in a regional context. The symposium addressed this mental and historical landscape in an interdisciplinary forum, with special focus on the position of Iceland in the imperial world order and the Danish realm as well as the development of an understanding of the North Atlantic as a culturally and politically constructed region form the nineteenth century and till the present.

Focus was on Iceland’s shifting status and relations within the region with reference to post-, crypto-, and neo-colonial insights and outlooks as well as referring to the role of nationalism in shaping historical understandings and changing perceptions of the region’s interrelations and Iceland’s place in the world.


Friday May 9, National Museum of Iceland

Uffe Østergaard (Copenhagen Business School), keynote speaker:
Legacies of Empire in the present Danish nation state

Guðmundur Hálfdanarson (University of Iceland), keynote speaker:
Iceland: A Province, Colony or Dependency?


Saturday May 10, National Museum of Iceland

Sverrir Jakobsson:
The Medieval Nordic Commonwealth and the „Danish Tongue“

Jón Yngvi Jóhannsson:
Representing Iceland. National identity and Pan Scandinavianism in Gunnar Gunnarsson‘s political writings

Sumarliði Ísleifsson:
The ambivalence of Iceland

Ann-Sofie N. Gremaud:
Fabulous Iceland – a place next to Neverland?


Íris Ellenberger:
Danish immigrants in the republic of Iceland. Colonial history, cultural heritage and assimilation.

Ólafur Rastrick:

Placing Iceland on the Anthropometric Map: National Character, Physical Features and the Allure of Numbers

Kristín Loftsdóttir:
“Innocent babble”: Affective Identities and Racialization in Iceland


Kristinn Schram:
Northwest-bound: making and mobilising a ‘West-Nordic Arctic’

Valur Ingimundarson:
Narrating a “New Frontier”: Arctic Identities and Icelandic Foreign Policy in the 21st Century

Kirsten Thisted (University of Copenhagen), keynote speaker:
Building a “home” for the region. The role of Nordatlantens Brygge (The North Atlantic House in Copenhagen) in the construction of the New Nordic North-Atlantic.



The New North Atlantic at Berkeley this spring

At the multi-disciplinary SASS conference at Berkeley (San Francisco) May 2-4 “Denmark and the New North Atlantic” was presented at a stream on the first two days of the conference:



At the stream “Focus on Nordatlanten” most of the involved researchers from Norway, Denmark, Greenland, Iceland, Germany and the Faeroe Islands presented their contributions to the joint project.

The organizers of the stream Kirsten Thisted, Malan Marnersdottir and Elisabeth Oxfeldt raised questions about the North Atlantic as a region that was at the core of the discussion:

 It is generally believed that shared characteristics, common challenges, and historical, institutional and cultural links bind the region together. However, one might argue that in reality the conditions are so different that the idea of a particular region might seem a mere construction. Does “Nordatlanten” exist outside the Nordic Council of Ministers’ initiatives and as more than a symbolic location like Nordatlantens Brygge (the North Atlantic House) in Copenhagen”

Iceland positioning itself in the Arctic Region

With the new Centre for Arctic Policy Studies at Háskóli Íslands and the upcoming conference Trans Arctic Agenda on March 18 and 19 in Reykjavík, Iceland is moving ever more quickly on to the scene of Arctic politics.


On the conference’s facbook page it says:

“The Trans-Arctic conference will bring together experts and policy-formers from all the large and small nations most interested in Arctic developments. It will not look for national differences but for common agendas. It will ask if current governance methods are coping with the growing agenda or if not, what more could be done to ease cooperation at the state, business, and popular levels. It will end with special emphasis on the roles of the small Nordic states, and of Iceland itself – the only sovereign nation to lie entirely within the Arctic.”

This positioning as a key player on the scene of responsible policy making in the field of energy and tourism as well as a clear geographical identification with the arctic region are interesting tendencies, which mark the opportunity of Iceland becoming a centre for innovation in a rapidly changing region facing colossal challenges.


1 thought on “Denmark and the New North Atlantic Region

  1. Pingback: The North Atlantic region discussed at SASS, Yale 2014 | Ann-Sofie Gremaud

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