Northern Nations, Northern Natures

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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.

We invite applications from graduate students attending Canadian universities to participate in the workshop “Northern Nations, Northern Natures,” which will be held at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden between November 8-11, 2013. The primary goal of the workshop 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.

Graduate participants will present short individual papers, which will be complemented by presentations from senior scholars from Canada and Scandinavia and opportunities for formal and informal discussion and networking. They will also have the opportunity to write a short blog post on a subject relevant to their research which links historical and contemporary events in the North. Outcomes of the workshop will include a special edition of a peer-reviewed journal. We encourage applications from students currently working on topics that pertain to the environmental history (broadly construed) or historical geography of the Canadian North in any time period.

Thanks to funding from the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE), four stipends of C$500 each are available to successful applicants to defray the cost of travel. Accommodation and other expenses in Stockholm will be covered by the organizers. To apply, please send a write-up of no more than 500 words outlining how your current research relates to the workshop theme and how you would benefit from participation to Peder Roberts (, Tina Adcock (, and Sverker Sörlin ( Please include the name and contact information of one academic reference, along with a one-page CV. Applications must be received by June 7, and successful applicants will be notified by June 21.

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I am an Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of Prince Edward Island where I teach in the Applied Communication, Leadership & Culture Program in the Faculty of Arts. My research focuses on the history of biomass energy and agriculture. From 2012-2014 I was the NiCHE project coordinator, and I served on the NiCHE editorial board until 2018.
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