By Leslie Martin
Christina Adcock, an assistant professor of History and Canadian Studies at the University of Maine recently co-organized “Northern Nations, Northern Natures,” held in Stockholm, Sweden.
The workshop took place Nov. 9-11, 2013 at Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (KTH) Royal Institute of Technology. Dr. Adcock conceived of the conference idea in response to an annual call for projects from the Network in Canadian History & Environment (NiCHE). As an active member of NiCHE since 2011, she saw the call for project funding as an opportunity to bring together transatlantic researchers.
Dr. Adcock and co-organizer Peder Roberts (KTH) invited scholars to attend the workshop who share an interest in the history of human-environment interactions in the circumpolar North.
According to Dr. Adcock, in the twenty-first century, the circumpolar North has become central to global consciousness and vital to global environmental well-being. Now is an essential time for environmental historians to begin studying northern people and places.
The main goal for “Northern Nations, Northern Natures” was to have participants discuss similarities and differences between different national traditions of writing about the history of northern and arctic places, as well as the people who live there. The workshop also aimed to build and strengthen transatlantic scholarly networks around a shared interest in northern environmental histories.
Eighteen scholars from Canada, the United States, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway took part in the workshop. Seven graduate students presented short individual papers and projects with transnational or international dimensions. Senior scholars complemented these projects with presentations.
The participants approached their interest in the history of northern people and environments from a number of different disciplinary perspectives, including history, geography, anthropology and literary criticism. Among the many topics discussed were politics of fisheries management in the Barents Sea, the transplantation of muskoxen to Scandinavia and the commodification of iceberg water as a luxury product.
Graduate students were asked to write about the workshop in blog posts.
“I leave Stockholm relieved, enlightened with the knowledge that more research is connected to the far North than I had previously imagined” historian of climate change, Dagomar Degroot wrote.
“A broad range of themes and issues emerged over the course of the workshop. But despite the diversity of methodological approaches represented at the table, the conversations were coherent, insightful, and challenging” noted participant Jonathan Luedee. “The workshop forced me to think creatively and critically about my own doctoral work.”
Further exchanges and collaborations have developed as a result of “Northern Nations, Northern Natures.” Four of the workshop participants contributed papers for a special forum Dr. Adcock and co-organizer Peder Roberts are editing. The forum, which will be published in Journal of Northern Studies in 2015, discusses new approaches to northern environmental history.
Dr. Adcock hopes to host another workshop in the future for the many people on campus who are interested in environmental issues.