About the workshop

This is the website for Northern Nations, Northern Natures, a three-day workshop at KTH (the Royal Institute for Technology) in Stockholm, Sweden that ran from November 9-11, 2013. The workshop brought together junior and senior Canadian and Scandinavian scholars to discuss environmental histories of the transnational northern and circumpolar world. Please read on to learn more about the rationale for the workshop.

As the reality of anthropogenic climate change becomes increasingly clear, the Arctic has become central to global consciousness and vital to the world’s wellbeing like never before. Public discussions about the top of the world frequently draw upon historical events and conceptions that still resonate today, from the lure and lucre of the Northwest Passage to the idea of northern frontiers passively awaiting development by Europeans and Euro-Americans.

Yet traditional modes of historical writing about the region, which yoke northern hinterlands to narratives of national pride and economic progress, are of little use in comprehending the Arctic as a site linked to places around the world through flows of people, goods, ideas, and environmental currents. The human history of the region likewise overflows the boundaries of nation-states. The Inuit in North America and the Sami in northern Europe comprise nations that transcend borders, and that complicate attempts at political and historiographical containment.

In recent years, indigenous and non-indigenous politicians alike have developed multilateral approaches to Arctic governance and stewardship, as organizations such as the Inuit Circumpolar Council and the Arctic Council attest. In like manner, environmental historians, accustomed to conceiving of and working within transborder bioregions, are well posed to begin divesting Arctic historiographies of their “national straitjackets” (Sörlin and Bravo 2002), and to explore the value of comparative and transnational approaches to arctic environments and their human and nonhuman inhabitants.

The primary goal of this workshop, therefore, is to explore transnational and comparative approaches to northern environmental history, including the history of boreal, subarctic, arctic, and polar regions. By bringing together graduate and early-career scholars from Canada and Scandinavia, we aim to encourage the building of trans-Atlantic relationships which may lead to future exchanges or collaborations.