Science, Diplomacy and the Formation of a Post-War European North

Swedish-Norwegian research programme successfully reviewed and started

The Barents Institute, together with social scientists at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Oslo University and Gothenburg University, join as partners in a large Scandinavian-Baltic research consortium "Nordic Spaces: Formation of States, Societies and Regions, Cultural Encounters, and Idea and Identity Production in Northern Europe"
The aim of the research consortium Nordic Spaces is to generate new research on Northern Europe and further research collaboration within the region. One Nordic and seven national funding organisations from three states contribute to the funding of the programme: Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (The Bank of Sweden Tercentennial Foundation), which initiated the program­, The Founda­tion for Baltic and East European Studies, The Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, The Estonian Science Foundation, The Finnish Cultural Foundation, The Society of Swedish Literature in Finland, The Foundation for Swedish Culture in Finland and Nordforsk. The total budget of the programme is approximately 3 M. Euro. The Centre for Baltic and East European Studies CBEES at Södertörn University College, is responsible for the scientific and administrative management of the programme. This international and multidisciplinary research consortium includes nine research programmes, chosen after extensive review and in sharp competition out of a total of 158 programme proposals. The Barents Institute is partner in the programme  "Arctic Norden: Science, Diplomacy and the Formation of a Post-War European North," it is led by Prof. Sverker Sörlin at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm. It will run in 2008-2011.

The empirical starting-point of this programme is the study of Scandinavian-Russian science relations in the fields of meteorology and glaciology in their international contexts and in their contributions to policy, diplomacy and the post-war conceptions of Norden. It is an important point of departure, and a result of previous research by the scholars in the programme, that Norden should be regarded as an extended or “distributed” region. Historically Norden has had three major powers, Denmark, Sweden, and Russia, but even after major shifts in military geopolitical status “extra territorial” areas to the North have become features of national self imagery in all of Scandinavia and in Russia and come to play an increasing political and economic role. This is today interestingly re-charged by extensive economic and regional optimism and developments in northernmost Scandinavia and NW Russia. Barents Sea fisheries, mineral extraction on the Scandinavian and Kola Peninsulas are producing major values in the global economy and to this are to be added even more astonishing growth numbers in the forecasts on off-shore hydrocarbon extraction on the Euroarctic continental shelf.

The method envisaged for the overall research project is to undertake a series of interrelated and critical studies of the rhetoric of “pure” science and “true international cooperation” as expressed in the dominating historiographies of the scientific undertakings within Nordic and “polar” countries. The “purity” is questioned and the “international cooperation” is shown to be more “international” both in quantity and quality than usually stated. What were the limits to the statements referring to “science without boundaries in time and space”? At what points, in space and time, did interests diverge? What effects were seen in the actual (growth of) knowledge production as national and internationalist strivings actually proved incompatible for reasons of security and foreign policy implications? Science, politics, economics and society are historically dynamic and constitutive processes of a larger narrative about nation state-building and its interdependence on the construction of the Westphalian political system. These interconnected processes have continuously defined and redefined state, regional, and international identities, but moreover, have structured and been structured by changing intellectual modes of thought concerning changing definitions of progress and development. Within this tradition scientific exploration has been one the hallmarks which served as a means for securing and expanding sovereign authority over territory. One general proposition of this programme is, therefore, that northern knowledge production – in the field and in the laboratory – should be considered as a “political performance.”

Nikita Khrushchev shaking hands with Norwegian construction workers at the Boris Gleb hydropower plant on the Norwegian-Russian-Finnish border river (Pasvik River) in 1962. The successful Soviet-Scandinavian sub-arctic collaboration on the development of the hydroelectric resources of this river was a unique Cold War cross-border undertaking. Photo by courtesy of the Murmansk Museum of Regional Studies.

  • PrinterPrint this
  • TipsE-mail this