Personal narratives from the North

The power of definition over Northern Norway no longer belongs to the south. Colonial viewpoints and narratives about natural resources and exotic scenery have been replaced by local ones that emphasise the Northern Norwegian, Sami and Arctic identities. Research, science and education are important to the region. Culture, literature and the media all tell their own stories.

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Wibecke Årst

There are many different portrayals of Northern Norway and northern culture. In literature, art, fairy-tales, legends, travel writing and the media the region is presented through a romanticising lens and idyllic-sounding metaphors. That is beginning to change. Wærp (2015) finds that poetry from Northern Norway is moving away from a northern identity defined by or in relation to the south, preferring instead a northern and Arctic identity that exists within the context of the High North and the world.

Contemporary narratives portray a land of opportunity, which reflects life in Northern Norway. The region is a trailblazer in technological development and advanced resource extraction, building cross-border relationships, multiculturalism and relationships with indigenous peoples, and it has a unique, spectacular brand in the global tourism industry (Guneriussen, 2008).

Northern Norway has gone from being on the periphery to being a centre of power (Wærp, 2015).

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Using narratives in research and communication

Narratives (stories) are being used as a tool for research and communication in a growing number of specialist disciplines and fields. Narratives are a source of knowledge. There is general agreement that all individuals, families, organisations and cultures have their own narratives, and that those narratives help to create their identities (Loseke, 2007; Spector-Mersel, 2010).

From a sociological perspective, you can say that narratives reflect both inner life and social relations, and that societies shape, reshape and influence them (Blix, 2017).

Narratives communicate with, influence and engage audiences. You can study their content, protagonists, relationships, power dynamics and structures and they can be used to gather information, promote insight and understanding and present research results in ways that complement statistics and quantitative analysis (Moezzi, Janda og Rotmann, 2017).

The region is a trailblazer in technological development and advanced resource extraction, building cross-border relationships, multiculturalism and relationships with indigenous peoples

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Narratives are not created in a vacuum, but rather depend upon the contexts in which they arise and develop (Sørly, 2017). Those contexts are in turn affected by the narratives that are created, maintained, rejected or transformed into new narratives. The context may also be an economic context.

Narratives are, for example, increasingly used as a tool in environmental and climate research, inspired by disciplines in sociology and born out of a dissatisfaction with the predominance of physical, technical and financial data, statistics and forecasts.

According to environmental and climate scientists, stories and narratives can play an important role in helping people from different disciplines and professions to better understand the world and each other when working on applied environmental problems (Moezzi, Janda and Rotmann, 2017). Using narratives to view Northern Norway through a local lens can do the same: help us to understand today’s challenges in new ways.

In the case of Northern Norway, there are a number of dominant narratives. Dominant narratives are habits and customs that have progressively become accepted as knowledge. This knowledge is gradually institutionalised by society to such an extent that future generations consider it to be “objective” (Andrews, 2012).

Many narratives about Northern Norway portray it as a region of small, abandoned villages full of closed down fish factories and abandoned farmland. Labour shortages and children who drop out of school. Everyone moving south. Wherever there are dominant narratives, there are also narratives of resistance. On kbnn: we wish to present some of those narratives of resistance. Life stories that give a different impression of the region. We want to transmit a sense of optimism for the region, along with a belief in creativity and in the future of Northern Norway.

We want to transmit a sense of optimism for the region, along with a belief in creativity and in the future of Northern Norway.

Foto av Susanne Hætta for kbnn:

References

Andrews, T. (2012). What is social constructionism? Grounded Theory Review: An International Journal, 11 (1). Blix, B.H. (2017). Narrativ: Store og små, og på ulike nivå. I Rita Sørly og Bodil H. Blix (2017). Fortelling og forskning. Narrativ teori og metode i tverrfaglig perspektiv. Orkana Akademisk Forlag, s.47 – 60

Loseke, D.R. (2007) The Study of Identity As Cultural, Institutional, Organizational, and Personal Narratives: Theoretical and Empirical Integrations, The Sociological Quarterly, 48:4, 661-688, DOI: 10.1111/j.1533-8525.2007.00096.x Moezzi, M., Janda, K. B., & Rotmann, S. (2017). Using stories, narratives, and storytelling in energy and climate change research. Energy Research & Social Science, 31, 1-10.

Rita Sørly og Bodil H. Blix (2017). Fortelling og forskning. Narrativ teori og metode i tverrfaglig perspektiv. Orkana Akademisk Forlag. Spector-Mersel, G. (2010). Narrative research: Time for a paradigm. Narrative inquiry, 20(1), 204-224.

Sørly, R. (2017). Narrativ etikk og refleksivitet. I Rita Sørly og Bodil H. Blix (2017). Fortelling og forskning. Narrativ teori og metode i tverrfaglig perspektiv. Orkana Akademisk Forlag, s.33 - 44. Wærp, H. H. (2015). “... langt der oppe mot nord.” Bilder av nord i nordnorsk lyrikk–fra Elias Blix til Morten Wintervold. Nordlit, (35), 79-101.

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