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Annika Lindskog, University College London


– Scandinavia in the eye of the beholder

  • Name: Annika Lindskog
  • Academic credentials: Lecturer in Swedish, Department of Scandinavian Studies, University College London. Research/teaching: Cultural history, cultural studies, Swedish language

Abstract: “What is North?” asks Peter Davidson in The Idea of North. The answer vacillates between obliqueness and specificity, between abstract notions and concrete matter: “north” is an imagination, an abstraction, yet conditioned by physicalities, by geography, climate, activities, spatiality, mood and temporality. It is also something which is perpetually elsewhere, something outside ourselves, somewhere ‘further away’. When we are in the north, these conditions become existence, and the urgency to define lessens – the need to term and to qualify can be observed to increase with distance. 

In landscape study, such tension between proximity and distance has to be continuously negotiated. The ‘very idea’ of landscape might be said to imply separation: lifting it out and framing it a necessity for analysing its shape and character, for critical examination and dissection. Yet landscape is simultaneously a living environment, an evolving matter and a continuous interaction. In considering landscape, the dichotomy between “observation” and “inhabitation” plays out at times as a continuum, at times as cyclical, but also as a duality, as interdependent aspects of same matter. The juxtaposed perspectives highlight how different approaches conditions our view: how we look affects what we see. 

This paper hopes to examine this tension between observation/inhabitation as a way to understand how different approaches to Scandinavia are constructed. It will use ideas around “Nordic Landscapes” and their ability to function both as ‘natural’ contingencies and constructed values in a historical perspective to consider not only the relationship between object and ‘objectifier’, but also between narrative and perspective. Drawing on examples from undergraduate teaching at UCL it will further consider how these dichotomies bear out on studying Scandinavia from an outside perspective, and attempt to high-light the intersection between what we consider Scandinavia to be with how we ‘look’ at it, to reveal a deep contingency between the two aspects, and problematise the potential to condition that either exerts on the other.

Theme: Scandinavia in the Eyes of the World