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Published: 02 Nov, 2021

Umeå researcher discuss Arctification during visit in Iceland

NEWS For three weeks in September and October, Arcum associated Robert O. Nilsson, PhD student at the Department of Geography at Umeå University, visited several universities in Iceland to discuss the effects of the ongoing Arctification of Northern regions in the tourism industry.

Robert O. Nilsson is a PhD student at the Department of Geography and a member of Arcum's steering group. He recently made a research trip to Iceland with funds from Arcums strategic resourses

What is the project about?

"We are nine researchers in our project at Umeå University studying the process of Arctification from different perspectives, where I am specifically looking at tourism entrepreneurs in Northern areas. What we want to understand is how this type of Arctic profiling affects the image of our northern regions and what effects this has on society."

Can you give an example of 'Arctification'?

Absolutely! If we take Iceland as an example then. In their souvenir shops, of which there are plenty, these were filled with polar bears everywhere - mugs, soft toys, pictures, t-shirts etc. even though polar bears do not exist in Iceland. There were also plenty of products, experiences and advertisements for the Northern Lights, Santa's House, Christmas decorations, glaciers, ice, snow and other items that allude to various northern attributes, alluding to both the nature and culture of the north. 

What did you do in Iceland?

"I visited 'colleagues' we work with in Iceland on similar issues about the challenges of tourism in northern regions. Once there, I presented my research at three universities: the University of Iceland, the University of Akureyri and the University of Hólar. The presentations resulted in very fruitful discussions and feedback on our project, as well as new contacts that will benefit our future research."

Why is this important to study?

"Our image of places is not just about how we imagine them. They also have an impact on tourism, migration, business activities, economic and political decisions, etc. In other words, it affects how places develop. As an example, Sweden's new Arctic Strategy refers to the regions of Norrbotten and Västerbotten as Sweden's part of the Arctic. This, in turn, obviously has an impact on society. What is interesting for us is the role that tourism entrepreneurs play in this, for example through the products/services they sell and the images that entrepreneurs project of the northern regions."

Robert O. Nilsson

Robert's doctoral dissertation focuses on the development of 'Arctic' tourism entrepreneurs in northern Sweden. In this context, words related to the Arctic are increasingly [...]

 

Robert O. Nilsson is a doctoral student at the Department of Geography at Umeå University, and is also a doctoral student representative on Arcum's board.

Robert participates in the research project 'Climate Change and the Double Amplification of Arctic Tourism: Challenges and Potential Solutions for Tourism and Sustainable Development in an Arctic Context'.

Robert's doctoral dissertation focuses on the development of 'Arctic' tourism entrepreneurs in northern Sweden. In this context, words related to the Arctic are increasingly used by tourism entrepreneurs to name and describe their companies, products and services. Robert's research questions are about how this 'Arctification' process and our language use change our perceptions and images about the Arctic's borders and its content, as well as how language use affect our societal structures. Especially in the Arctic context where global discourses on globalization and climate change collide with local practices, traditions and narratives.