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Nation building and state formation in the Arctic and Greenland (summer school)


The Artic is undergoing huge changes both as experienced internally by citizens and authorities and as viewed from the outside from geopolitcal, economic and physical perspectives. From being known as a ‘frozen desert’ for centuries, during recent decades the Arctic is becoming a new ocean as climate changes continue and is attracting interests from actors in the states around the Arctic Ocean, in Europe, in Asia and beyond.

The seminar will discuss concepts and theories of nation building and state formation from a critical perspectives focusing on concepts as colonialism, autonomy, sovereignty, security, governance, independence etc. and establish the relevance of nation building and state formation theories in communities around the Arctic with a focus on Greenland.

These concepts and theories will be applied to developments in contemporary Greenland where processes of nation building and state formation are urging issues in the national as well as international discourses on the Arctic and Greenland.

Analyses and debates concern both conceptual contestations and theoretical explanations as well as disagreement about empirical developments. Greenland is a self-governing territory within the realm of Denmark. It was a Danish colony from 1721 to 1953. After the formal decolonization process in the wake of World War II, Greenland experienced some degree of devolution of powers from Denmark but also, and somewhat paradoxically, a growing Danish presence in Greenland and a Danification of private businesses and public services. This generated protests and gave birth to a national independence movement that resulted in the introduction of Home Rule in 1979. This process of Greenlandification developed further, and in 2009 an Act on Self-Government was adopted. In the present situation, Greenland as a self-governing territory within the realm of Denmark enjoys a relatively large degree  of autonomy in domestic matters, but does not retain decision-making power on questions pertaining to citizenship, monetary, foreign, defense and security policy.

This intricate development makes it a hard case to apply nation building and state formation theories to the case of Greenland. The seminar will try to do this by including the size of territory and population, the double status of the population as an indigenous people and a nation, language and ethnicity, the economic situation and foreign direct investment and, not least, the Greenland-Denmark relations.

Course start date
Course end date
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University of Copenhagen
Field of study
Social science
Course Level
Course topic
Governance & political science
Teaching language
Teaching place
Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen
Teaching country