About Arctic Encounters

Arctic Encounters is an international collaborative research project, funded by a HERA Joint Research Programme II Grant (2013 – 2016), that looks at the increasingly important role of cultural tourism in fashioning twenty-first century understandings of the European Arctic. The project’s general objective is to account for the social and environmental complexities of the High North – an area which incorporates some of Europe’s most geographically extreme regions – as these are inflected in the mutual relationship between a wide range of recent travel practices and equally diverse representations of those practices framed in both verbal and visual terms (e.g. travel writing and documentary film).

Headquartered at the University of Leeds and involving academic partners from Denmark, Iceland and Norway as well as a number of associated non-academic stakeholders, the project enquires into the Arctic as (1) an internally differentiated space of cross-cultural entanglement and encounter, and (2) a postcolonial space in which locally articulated desires to decolonise the region are seen in cultural-political and environmental terms. More specifically, its interlinked case studies make the case for a European Arctic that gauges the imaginative as well as geopolitical boundaries of Europe. These case studies also add to continuing debates on EU Arctic cultural policy; provide advanced understandings for European Arctic travel industries; and contribute to the de-peripheralisation of the Arctic in an expanding European cultural and economic zone. Particular attention is given to the recent consolidation of environmentally oriented forms of travel (ecotourism, ‘green’ travel writing) in a region whose improved infrastructure and transportation networks, as well as the local effects of climate change, have resulted in a flourishing of tourism (especially nature tourism and aboriginal tourism) across the region.

Arctic Encounters is divided into five separate research projects, each corresponding to a particular geographic and topical focus.


Research Map

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Individual Research Projects

Research Project 1
Green Ice: Contemporary Travel/Writing, Environmentalism and the Arctic

This project considers how contemporary Arctic travel writing intersects with new travel practices (especially ecotourism) in the European Arctic in order to both critically assess the representation of cultural encounters in European Arctic travel/writing and situate these changing representations in the context of the language and identity politics of the region.

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Research Project 2
The Postcolonial Arctic

This project establishes the case for a ‘postcolonial Arctic’ in terms of both the colonial past and colonial present of the region, and asks whether such colonialism can be seen in ecological terms as well as whether indigenous perspectives can effect imaginative reclamations of the region to support cultural and political autonomy and/or look forward to a more ‘planetary’ vision of the Arctic in times to come.

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Research Project 3
‘Greening’ Greenland: Contemporary Travel/Writing and Environmentalism

This project considers how recent travel writing on Greenland intersects with other forms of cultural encounter and travel practice (especially ecotourism), in the Arctic, considering the environmentalist implications of such phenomena, particularly as these are inflected by current global discourses of climate change

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Research Project 4
Between ‘Europe’ and the ‘Arctic’: Iceland as a gateway destination

This project explores the socio-cultural, geopolitical and environmental implications of a burgeoning interest in Iceland as a wilderness tourist destination, while examining how Iceland has been historically imagined and embodied as a gateway destination situated between ‘Europe’ and the ‘Arctic’.

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Research Project 5
Visualizing autonomy in sub-Arctic coastal tourism: A case study from northern Norway

This project examines how practices of coastal tourism are envisioned and enacted – especially through video and photography representations – in the Lofoten archipelago of Northern Norway, serving local economic and political needs

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Europa Flag

Arctic Encounters has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 291827. The project is financially supported by the HERA Joint Research Programme (http://www.heranet.info) which is co-funded by AHRC, AKA, BMBF via PT-DLR, DASTI, ETAG, FCT, FNR, FNRS, FWF, FWO, HAZU, IRC, LMT, MHEST, NWO, NCN, RANNÍS, RCN, VR and The European Community FP7 2007-2013, under the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities programme.

RP1 | Green Ice

RP2 | The Postcolonial Arctic

RP3 | ‘Greening’ Greenland: Contemporary Travel/Writing and Environmentalism

RP4 | Between ‘Europe’ and the ‘Arctic’: Iceland as a gateway destination

RP5 | Visualizing autonomy in sub-Arctic coastal tourism: a case study from northern Norway

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