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Chapter 5: Norway's Environment

What do I mean by "environment"?

This category of national identity markers is quite straightforward - I collected and explored those identity markers associated with Norway's environment. They encompass many different forms of interaction with the environment, from physical spaces in the environment to outdoor activities and recreation to industry to the qualities of the environment itself. One very interesting aspect of this category of national identity markers involves the scope of how Norwegians view their environment. It is not simply something that one only gains enjoyment from whilst skiing or camping in the frosty wilderness. It embodies much more of the ideologies and mindsets of the people of Norway, as well the spirituality of their interactions with their sometimes inhospitable, yet uniquely picturesque Norwegian environment.

  • To view the markers individually or see them in comparison to each other, click on the lines next to the marker name in the key to toggle it on or off on the chart. Hover over the bubbles to see the counts of the marker for that year. Check out the Glossary to get more information on the translations/meanings of each marker!

Markers of Environment explored in the literature:

  • camping
  • hytta/hytte
  • gå tur
  • fotturer
  • stå på ski
  • gå på ski
  • badstu
  • sauna
  • kaldhet
  • kulde
  • kaldt
  • kald
  • isolasjon
  • fjord
  • tøft miljø
  • oljeindustri
  • landlig/landleg
  • på landet
  • friluftsliv

What interesting things do I see from this chart?

The distribution of these markers of identity seems to contain many more markers that feature prominently across the group as compared to the other categories investigated. We can see early on, starting in the late 1870s, of the use of "kald/kaldt" or cold in the literature - though whether or not this specifically refers to the environment of Norway remains to be seen. But we can see that as we move through time, this particularly marker does not lose its footing, as it continues to feature in the literature and continue to rise in count well into the 20th and 21st centuries. We can also see that nostalgia for the rural begin to express itself through the use of "på landet" or countryside, and "hytta", or cabins, which starts to rise more in the 1940s-50s. Interestingly enough, this is just after the occupation of Norway by Germans during WWII, a time in which the Norwegian environment became a large part of both Germany's focus for resources and Norway's space for resistance. As we move into the 1980s and closer to modern day, we can see a bigger rise in the use of "kald/kaldt" and "hytta", as well as "isolasjon" or the isolation of Norway's rugged terrain, "fjord", and the concept of "friluftsliv" or spending one's free time out in the Norwegian landscape. This last marker I am particularly interested in, as this one reflects that combined appreciation of the Norwegian landscape through both the use of its resources and the enjoyment of its tranquility.

Why is this group of markers important to national identity?

Hiking and engaging in activities in the wilderness is a reflection of Norwegian ideology and identity with nature, and provides a unique view into manifestations of Norwegian nationalism. The expression of Norwegian nationalism through hiking and trekking in the wilderness landscapes of Norway is provided through Den Norske Turistforening (DNT), or The Norwegian Trekking Association (Ween and Abram 2012). The DNT remains popular as an expression of Norwegian nationalism through the use of “mythical narratives of Norwegian nationalism into DNT’s production of a Norwegian nature; and the implementation of an infrastructure of technologies and pedagogies of movement that allow for comprehensive accessibility of a national landscape” (Ween and Abram 2012). The history of the association and the development of DNT’s framework connect the nation-state and nature through nature-nationalism. Early motivations for promoting touring within Norway and exposure to its landscape encouraged the DNT’s early work, particularly through connections between the landscape, cultural history, and folk traditions of Norway. Issues of environmentalism arose as later motivations for this organization, with regards to making nature available while still preserving aesthetics and safety. Ween and Abram (2012) also make connections between Norwegian egalitarianism and the “sameness” of trekking, or the availability of nature to everyone to fulfill their leisure time. Their aim is to present nature and trekking as categories through which Norwegian ideologies nationalism is expressed and manifested.

In a sense, the Norwegian environment is not just a space for enjoying outdoor activities; its importance goes beyond just that. The Norwegian environment as a space that embodies different ideologies also features in Howard Beach’s chapter in A Companion to the Anthropology of Europe (2012). The research considered for this chapter focuses upon the environment of the Nordic countries as “encultured space” and as a landscape of resources, commoditization of land and its despiritualization, and the relationships with the land between the indigenous populations and the white majority.

His chapter also includes the effects of natural science research upon the indigenous peoples of the Nordic regions, and their social consequences regarding acculturation, their cosmologies, and their identity. He cites three major developments in the area of Northern social science research: globalization and growing collaboration between indigenous people of the North; the increased of accessibility for Western researchers due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union; and climate change has motivated governments and scientists to consider the importance of Northern landscapes, their resources, and their people.

Beach follows a historical perspective to the evolution of Nordic social research, examining colonialism in the North from the first reindeer herding policies to the present day, and their impact upon identity and ethnicity with regards to rightful possession of land and resources rights. Beach presents an interesting discussion of the political ecology of the North, with regards to the struggles over material and cultural resources connected through conflict to power distributions and indigenous rights. It is within the context of the Norwegian environment that discourses surrounding the impact of technological change, growth in population, climate change, disasters (both manmade and natural), and continued power differentials need to be addressed to preserve this special aspect of Norwegian national identity.

Where can you read about environment in Norway?

  • Beach, Hugh 2012 Nordic reflections on northern social research. In A Companion to the Anthropology of Europe, Ullrich Kockel, Mairead Nic Craith, and Jonas Frykman, eds. Pp 32–49. Malden, MA: WileyBlackwell.
  • Eriksen, Thomas Hylland 1993 Being Norwegian in a Shrinking World: Reflections on Norwegian Identity. In Continuity and Change: Aspects of Contemporary Norway, Anne Cohen Kiel eds. Pp.11-37. Oslo: Scandinavian University Press.
  • Nedrelid, Tove 1991 Use of Nature as a Norwegian Characteristic: Myths and Reality. Ethnologia Scandinavica 21: 19-33.
  • Nynäs, Helena 2004 Water as a symbol of national identity in Norway. The Basis of Civilization – Water Science? (Proceedings of the UNESCO/IAHS/IWHA symposium held in Rome, December 2003). IAHS Publ. 286 315-321.
  • Turi, Johan 2011. An Account of the Sami. Thomas A. DuBois, trans. Chicago: Nordic Studies. 186 pp. [1910].
  • Ween, Gro, and Simone Abram 2012. The Norwegian Trekking Association: Trekking as Constituting the Nation. Landscape Research 37(2): 155–171.