Workshop on the Images of the Urban North

Workshop "Images of the Urban North: 'Grey heritage' in travel narratives", 17 - 18 December 2019, Oslo University.

“Green” and “blue” humanities are rapidly-growing research approaches: Both break with the traditional divide of nature versus culture and focus instead on the relations between land and maritime environments and humans. Blue humanities try to move away from an emphasis on land territory and seek to understand the world from an oceanic perspective. Both have in common the desire to find new ways of understanding changes from a more-than-human perspective. Nordic researchers are increasingly using these approaches to understand images of and identity processes in Norden. After all, natural heritage has for long been considered one of Norden’s decisive identification markers. We suggest that these images have to be seen in direct interplay with the human-built urban environment. Taking as our starting point the towns and cities of Norden, we will ask how they affected and shaped ideas of Norden – and with Norden we mean both a topographical and cultural unit and a heterogeneous mixture consisting of different Nordic countries, regions, cultures and topographies. We propose that these grey aspects of Norden are a necessary backdrop to understanding the power of nature in narratives of the North.

We wish to inquire into the relations between blue, green and what we term “grey” heritage. How does climate affect our perception of the towns? We can ask similar questions about the ocean, rivers (and flooding or regulation), about beaches and their uses and so on. We wish particularly to enquire into the uses, images and imaginings (cf. Bernard Smith) of urban environment, its relevance, relationship to and interaction with uses, images and imaginings of nature. Our path into this field of research will be through travel narratives from the 19th and early 20th centuries. We will start in the 19th century, when travelling started to become a major pastime across Europe and nation-building processes accelerated.

The workshop is hosted by the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo, funded by the research hub ReNEW (Reimagining Norden in an Evolving World) and organized by Ulrike Spring and Ruth Hemstad, in collaboration with the UiO:Nordic project The Public Sphere and Freedom of Expression in the Nordic Countries, 1815-1900.

For more information and programme visit UiO:Nordic website Images of the Urban North: “Grey heritage” in travel narratives in the 19th century