Posted on October 4, 2010 by Tia Lalani

Professor Ingrid Urberg explores the concept of nordicity.

Some of us may grumble about Alberta’s six-month winters and look forward to the long days of summer, but how often do we seriously grapple with what it means to reside in one of the northernmost countries in the world? We may not often think about it, but physical geography and location are closely linked to our economy, language, art, and many other elements of culture.

Members of the Camrose and Augustana communities will have an opportunity to reflect (more deeply) on this during Nordicity in Thought and Practice, a mini-conference to be held on the Augustana Campus on October 12 and 13. Joining us will be a delegation from Telemark University College, Augustana’s Norwegian partner institution since 2004, as well as award-winning Canadian author Rudy Wiebe and Norwegian Ambassador Else Berit Eikeland.

The term nordicity was first coined by geographer Louis-Edmond Hamelin, to describe the degrees of northernness of high-latitude places, which includes a number of natural and human components. Some may find it interesting that Hamelin was a Canadian since so many of us associate this term with the Nordic Region (Norden), commonly called Scandinavia. Nordic countries, including Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, are all places of high-latitude with which Canada has many historical and contemporary links. Thus, thinking about nordicity not only has the potential of deepening our understanding of Canadian culture, but also of placing our experiences in a broader global context.

When I teach Norwegian language and Scandinavian culture and literature courses, many students comment on the insights they gain and the progress they make in placing their life in Canada within this type of broader context. As we discuss environmental issues, energy policies, sociopolitical practices and resource economies, connections are frequently made. Comparing the environmental and economic challenges and consequences of oil production in the Norwegian North Sea and in Alberta’s oil sands, is but one example. In this age of globalization, increased mobility and climate change, it is of potential benefit to all of us to look at how northern links can be deepened and common interests pursued in cooperative ways. This may involve cooperating on polar research, exploring issues related to multiculturalism and indigenous self-government, or supporting the creation and dissemination of visual and musical representations of the north.

You are welcome to join us at Augustana as we discuss and explore this theme of nordicity.

The opening of the mini-conference will be on Tuesday, October 12 at 9:00 am, followed by Rudy Wiebe’s keynote address, “North is from Wherever You are Looking”, and a book signing. Ambassador Else Berit Eikeland–the Norwegian Ambassador to Canada–will be speaking on ties between Norway and Canada on Wednesday, October 13 at 9:00 am. In addition, members of the Augustana Fine Arts Department will be showcasing some northern related musical, dramatic and visual arts pieces at 8:00 pm on Tuesday, October 12. All three events will be held in the chapel. For a full schedule of events and presentations by Augustana and Telemark faculty members and students, please visit the Augustana Campus website.

Ingrid Urberg, Scandinavian Studies, Augustana Campus, University of Alberta.

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