Accepted paper:

Exploring and experiencing the Northern Lights


Stein R. Mathisen (UiT The Arctic University of Norway)

Paper short abstract:

The Northern Lights are an important element of visits to the Arctic areas. By investigating how the lights have been narrated in different historical contexts, the paper will point to how these narratives establish boundaries between visitors and indigenous populations.

Paper long abstract:

Visitors, researchers, travelers, and tourists to the Arctic areas often have reported great and profound experiences of the Northern Lights during their stays. From their reports we can find how they have listened to various narratives of this phenomenon from their local guides, or at least we can read how these narratives have been understood, transformed and transmitted by the visitors. If we understand these narratives in a colonializing perspective, we can understand them as a continuous borealisation of the Arctic peoples and their cultures. While the visitors generally understand the Northern Lights according to the latest findings of nature science, the description of the phenomenon usually uses local narratives and alleged indigenous myths to give the right color to the extraordinary experience. However, if these poetical descriptions and narratives are contextualized historically, even the performances of contemporary Northern Lights tourism reinforce the old boundaries between 'us' and 'them' in the Arctic area.

panel P011
Practicing the Arctic: home and heterotopia