Lizette Gradén

Nordic Spaces in the North and North America: Heritage Preservation in Real and Imagined Nordic Places

Inom projektet studeras temat Nor­dis­ka rum i fem delprojekt via gemensamma nyckelbegrepp som kulturarv, performans, etnicitet, representation och nationalitet. Som helhet undersöker projektet hur Nordiska rum skapas och uttrycks performativt i de nordiska länderna och i Nordamerika. Hur bidrar sådana rum till att forma populärt och institutionaliserat kulturarv och till att upprätta gränser via olika inklusions- och exklusionsprocesser? Ända sedan 1800-talets stora emigrationsvågor från Norden till Nordamerika har ritualer, berättelser, arkitektur, museer och teater definierat vad som är Nordiskt - såväl i Nordamerika som i de Nordiska länderna. Projektets medlemmar studerar i sina delprojekt hur dessa uttryck formats på båda sidor av Atlanten. I kölvattnet av ett ökat europeiskt samarbete under sent 1900-tal och början av 2000-talet finns en tendens att producera ett Norden där turism och kulturarvskapande är starkt sammankopplade. Som en direkt konsekvens har en mångfald av nordiska rum uppstått där kulturarv, kulturella olikheter och identiteter överlappar och bryts mot vararandra. Hur görs ett sådant Norden performativt? Hurdana rum skapas? Vilken roll har nationer och regioner i dessa sammanhang? Klart är att dagens Nordiska rum på ett samtidigt både konkret och diskursivt sätt bidrar till att strukturera sociala grupper och organisera olika typer av samverkan.

Final Report: Nordic Spaces in the North and in North America. Heritage Preservation in Real and Imagined Nordic Places.

1) Which was the aim of the project and has it been fulfilled? Has the project plan been adjusted?

The original project plan stated that the aim of our project was to identify and explore the role of performance in the reshaping of Nordic life. Through fieldwork, literature and archival studies, theory criticism and theatre projects we aimed to explore how Nordic Spaces are created in the Nordic countries and in North America. We proposed to examine how these places gain importance as cultural heritage sites and how they become invested with meaning. Central to the project were our analytical efforts to discover which emotional and spatial means people make use of when considering space and place making. Through our research interests, we also strove to form an understanding of the role of folklore in the light of cultural politics in the 21st century.
Looking at the results of our project we can safely say that the aims of our project plan has been fulfilled. To a large extent the original project plan has been followed, with the exception of some minor adjustments as stated in our Midway report 2009. The divergences from the original research plan have to the most part concerned details on the level of the individual research projects and have not negatively influenced the overall scope or aim of the project. In fact, in several respects we have exceeded our initial ambitions, especially what concerns the prolificacy of our joint work.
At the time of our Midway report the most important adjustment concerned an increased awareness of the need for outlining sharper definitions of key concepts such as "Nordic", "space", "place", and "performance". By sharpening these definitions over the last two years, we have advanced our understanding of them. Since our individual case studies have been based on fieldwork material there have been expected and necessary research adjustments to correspond with the collected material. These minor changes include sites for fieldwork and the decision to prioritize joint panels at major international conferences within our field, ahead of individual participation. As a logical next step to follow up on our well-received joint conference panels, we have prioritized publication in academic journals - jointly in special issues and separately - over working on individual monographs.
Despite the fact that certain research themes have gained more prominence than expected and others have proved not to be as fruitful as anticipated, the framework and core ideas of our initial proposition has remained valid and the project as a whole carried out as proposed.

2) What are the three most important results of the project?

The most important results are summarized in the following headlines:

Methodological expansion: Throughout the course of the project we have explored the intersection of academic and artistic boundaries through the concept of performance. In this process we have benefited from having a member of our group being both a practitioner and educator in the field of communication and theatre studies. Moreover we have benefited from another member's expertise in curatorial displays. By combining so called practiced based and academic research we have gained methodological and theoretical insights. In addition we have been able to communicate our findings to audiences beyond the academic sphere.

Concepts: The concepts we have found most fruitful in our work to explore real and imagined Nordic Spaces are performance, performativity, and embodiment.
Our work has typically progressed through three stages: 1) Initial workshops where we conceived the research questions in relation to our material. 2) We have organized conference panels to invite feedback and collaboration 3) Building on the insights gained from the conference panels we have developed our papers into special journal issues and/or articles. When creating special issues we have invited submissions from scholars within the extended NS group and among our networks in Europe and the Unites States. In this way we have been able to produce highly relevant publications dealing with the concepts of "performance" and "embodiment" in a Nordic Spaces perspective.

Output: Through the course of this project we have produced a wide range of scholarly activities. These include articles, thematic journals, conference panels, teaching (including creating new courses at all three levels of university education) and fieldwork, but also less traditional activities such as joint fieldwork, exhibitions, public events, a theatre festival, co-hosting a Scandinavian conference in the U.S. (SASS), inauguration of a new theatre company (Akvavit), and a collaborative exercise of staging Nordic spaces symbolically. Louise LeBourgeois, professional visual artist documented this process. Her images were later used to communicate our process and project in forums such as the RJ yearbook, as a front cover of Ethnologia Europaea 2010 40:2 and in several conference presentations.

3) What results have been achieved in terms of publications (including open access publications): monographs, peer review articles, book chapters, conference papers, and others?
See Appendix A

4) What academic activities such as seminars, workshops, conference panels and similar have been conducted?
See Appendix B

5) What results have been achieved in terms of outreach activities such as newspaper articles, interviews, seminars, lectures, web pages and others?
See Appendix C

6) Has the project generated any new research problems?

Two major research issues have emerged as a result of our work. It is clear that the Nordic emigration to North America after World War II needs further attention. Compared with the mass-migration from the Nordic countries in the late 19th and early 20th century, migration in recent years has been less extensive but also more haphazard in nature. Naturally, the type of Nordic spaces and places produced in a North American context tend to be different when the home-country is only a plane-ride away. The impact of technology in shaping traditions and everyday life is prevalent as well. Nevertheless, the experience of migration appears timeless. Nordic spaces should be understood as performative including both human and non-human actors. The more these spaces are performed the more established they become. They are also malleable over time. The creativity and flexibility in the acts of re-creating Nordic spaces are evident when we study Nordic, Scandinavian and national performances in the American context. These spaces emerge out of creative, voluntary acts and are nurtured as such by generation after generation - when language and traditions vanish in the homes of immigrants and their descendants, symbols and organizations provide connectivity. Transatlantic gift-exchange between individuals, groups and institutions provide yet another example on how a relationship between the Nordic countries and places shaped by Nordic immigrants prevail. The Nordic identity in the American context is flexible and inclusive yet diversified. The most evident difference appears to be between expats and descendants, where expats tend to be more oriented towards their national identity and less inclined to perform a Nordic identity. Nordicness to them is more often associated with performance of the past - such as Viking re-enactments, festivals, museum exhibitions and monuments.
Another example of this type of performances is the Nordic Spaces program in itself. Through our research we have created a sense of space - a Nordic space, populated by Nordic members. The boundaries of this Nordic space emerge into clear view when confronted with other types of Nordic spaces such as territorial and administrative ones. Pooling our individual studies on walking practices, gift-giving, museum practice, dress, theatre, heritage policy and visual culture - the project shows that also imaginary Nordic spaces are multifaceted, malleable and above all creative acts. While both the concepts of Nordic Space and Performance were central to our initial project description, we have through our research discovered that more in depth and clarifying definitions were needed for both terms. Therefore, it was essential to further frame these concepts in order to utilize them in our respective individual projects, collaborative projects, and publications such as Performing Nordic Heritage: Everyday Life and Institutional Practices (see appendix)

a. Nordic Spaces
As many of the project teams within the Nordic Spaces Program, our group has been challenged by the notion of Nordic Spaces. Where does a Nordic Space start? Where does it end? How do we work around it? In the preface for the special issue of the journal ARV (Nordic Yearbook of Folklore, 2009) Gradén and Larsen made use of a recent work edited by cultural geographers Michael Jones and Kenneth R. Olwig (2008) Nordic Landscapes: Regions and Belonging on the Northern Edge of Europe. As for the notion of space we have drawn on seminal work by Yi-Fu Tuan (1977): Space and Place. The Perspective of Experience. Moreover, Olwig's (2008:81-91) work on performing the land has proven helpful in incorporating both performance and landscape. To further this exploration on performances of Nordic Landscape we collaborated with a fellow Nordic Spaces project. Gradén and Aronsson arranged a joint seminar entitled Var och hur finns Norden? Rummens och platsernas betydelse för framställningar av Norden. Kenneth Olwig, professor in landscape planning and Thomas Lundén, professor in Geography were invited as discussants. Both Lundén and Olwig are well acquainted with Nordic circumstances.
The group has included members from the Baltic Countries in collaborative work, with the aim of achieving a more multifaceted and problematized image of the concept of Norden. Ergo-Hart Västrik (EE) and Kristin Kuutma (EE) both presented papers at the Annual Meeting of the American Folklore Society (2009) in the panel arranged by group member Valdimar Hafstein. Ergo-Hart Västrik and Ester Võsu (EE) have both contributed to a special issue of the journal Ethnologia Europaea (see question 2 and below). Kristin Kuutma (EE) has committed to our forthcoming special issue "Embodying the Nordic" (Journal of Folklore Research).

b. Performance
In our application for the Nordic Spaces program we boldly stated that: "This trans-national and interdisciplinary project seeks to identify and explore the role of performance in the reshaping of Nordic life". Asked to clarify our use of the term "performance" we arranged an advanced seminar on performance in Reykjavik 2008 and have continued to critically employ the concept of performance in the context of our research. Thus performance has been combined with materialization, migration, and embodiment. These approaches are included in our special issues of ARV, Ethnologia Europaea, American Studies in Scandinavia, the yearbook of Riksbankens jubileumsfond, the volume of the Nordic Experience book series and a forthcoming special issue of Journal of Folklore Research.
In these publications we continue to foreground the performative aspect of Nordic Spaces, while simultaneously highlighting the central importance of the embodied experience. We explore the sensory spectrum of heritage practices by analyzing multisensory refractions of the past in the present. The case studies range from the geographies of public performance, museums, restaurants, and festivals, to studies that focus on walking practices in the tourist experience, the performativity of place, and the re-inscription of space as a performed environment using archival material. The publications feature a diversity of theoretical engagements, however Richard Schechner's seminal work on performance has provided a framework for our analyses on the performing of Nordic Spaces.

Lastly, we would like to underline that since our research to a large extent build on original fieldwork material we have produced a significant new corpus of material during the course of working within the Nordic Spaces programme. Conducting fieldwork invariably entails unpredictability and new research problems - as the material always can be problematized and viewed from new perspectives. Therefore, the fieldwork material accumulated within our Nordic Spaces project can serve as an important resource not just for our own continued work but also for other research projects.
In fact, our project has generated an overflow of material that needs further attention and time for analysis. For example, the nature of the material generated by our fieldwork at the Nordic Play Festival in Chicago (Akvavit Theatre) required developing additional and more specific tools for analysis. The collaboration with practitioners resulted in an unforeseen body of material, which we hope to continue to use in further research and publications.

7) Has the project generated any spin-off effects (for example, new research collaboration, new research ideas and applications)?

As stated in our initial project description, one of our major goals has been to cooperate with other researchers working on similar themes, and to invite post-doc colleagues and senior discussants to our group meetings. During the first year of our project we consequently put together an application (to Nordforsk) for an expanded ethnological/folkloristic network for cooperation and discussion around the theme of Nordic Spaces involving almost twenty, both younger and more established, scholars from all five Nordic countries, Estonia and North America. Although the application was not successful we have through the application process established valuable contacts with researchers outside our group. We have since had cooperation with several scholars from the network application (see question 6) and involved them in panels and publications. We intend to develop these contacts within various future projects.
Moreover, individual group members have initiated or contributed to new projects based on work undertaken within the Nordic Spaces project. Among these is the founding of Akvavit Theatre Production Company by Chad Eric Bergman. This theatre production company will serve as an important arena and vehicle for performances of Nordic playwriting in the United States. The first two full productions (Astrid Saalbach's Red and Green and Leea Klemola's Kokkola) engaged Nordic Space in North America in a tangible way. Critics in major Chicago news media (Chicago Tribune, Time Out Chicago, Chicago Reader, NewCity) praised the productions and were engaged in our mission to investigate and encourage discussion about what "Nordic" means and how it is perceived through translated theatre performance.
Lizette Gradén, Hanne Pico Larsen and Susanne Österlund-Pötzsch applied for seed money (Letterstedska) in order to develop the research project "Sensuous Places - How Nordic Nature is Created, Re-created and Presented in and outside the Nordic Countries" (Sinnernas platser - hur nordisk natur skapas, omskapas och presenteras i och utanför Norden). This project was not funded but Gradén and Österlund-Pötzsch received a small grant to further develop the idea by arranging a workshop in 2010.
Akvavit Theatre Production Company arranged the Nordic Play Festival in Chicago in October 2010. The research group conducted joint fieldwork at the festival. The material consists of taped talkbacks on Nordicness with the actors and audience among other things. The material we received is rich to the point that we have not yet been able to deal with it fully, due to a lack of human resources. Along with the project Sensuous places, we would very much like to pursue this project if there would be a Nordic Spaces, phase II.


8) How has co-operation within the project team, with other Nordic Spaces projects and with other researchers or research teams functioned?

Although four years seems like a long time, it is a relatively short period when dealing with fieldwork-based research in complex teams. We were fortunate to know each other beforehand although we had not previously worked closely together. Our project grew out of our research interests and the point at which we had arrived in our respective careers. Taken together, these four years have provided our team with fantastic opportunities to propel as professionals, take responsibility for a field of study within the humanities (folklore, ethnology, communications), position the area of Nordic studies within a European and American context, build collaborations and execute leadership. In hindsight we have probably worked more as a team than most of the NS-projects. The four-year period has also provided us with challenges due to space and time. Conducting a project with five members living in four countries located in different time-zones has probed planning. In addition to internal synchronization, collaboration with Peter Aronsson's project added a second level of planning. The planning and execution of the Midway conference and the book project required a third level of planning and coordination. As three out of five members of Nordic Spaces in the North and North America have been funded part-time up to 50%, these members have had to balance project work with other commitments. Considering the challenges provided by the space and time issue, we consider this project very successful. The benefit of working with another Nordic spaces team as well as with a wider network of researchers cannot be overstated. It has provided perspective on the work carried out within the group, enabled us to critically assess our own assumptions and results. These collaborations have also demonstrated how studies based on thorough fieldwork can provide depth of field. We have no doubt that the network built within our own group and beyond will be useful in the future and that many of us will collaborate on future projects. In addition to original research, resourceful networks, the project has enabled all of us to move forward with our careers. The two members who were salaried through their tenured positions have received full professorship during the project. Two members of have been approved as associate professors and recruited to new full-time positions where expertise on Nordic issues are at the core. Several members have embarked on new projects, some of them with connections made during or through Nordic Spaces.

9) Has the project received complementary funding from sources outside the Nordic Spaces framework?

The idea of taking the notion of Nordic Spaces quite literally and define it as actual landscape sprouted the idea of a follow-up project on Nordic Spaces. Lizette Gradén, Hanne Pico Larsen and Susanne Österlund-Pötzsch submitted an application to Letterstedska Föreningen for funding to develop the research project "Sensuous Places - How Nordic Nature is Created, Re-created and Presented in and outside the Nordic Countries" (Sinnernas platser - hur nordisk natur skapas, omskapas och presenteras i och utanför Norden). Even if the project did not receive funding, Gradén and Österlund-Pötzsch were granted funding to arrange an initial workshop for the project group that would enable further planning. This workshop was held in Humlebaek, Denmark in 2010.


10) Financial accounts. Are there any major divergences from the original plan? In that case, which ones and why?

We applied for a relocation of funding during the last year. Lizette Gradén and Susanne Österlund-Pötzsch both were hired for new positions beginning early 2012, both which are directly related to the work done within Nordic spaces. Funding was relocated to Valdimar Tr. Haftstein for work on an anthology and to the final conference held at Ösel.

11) Other comments.

On behalf of all of our group we would like to extend a sincere thank you to the Research programme Nordic Spaces: Formation of States, Societies and Regions, Cultural Encounters, and Idea and Identity Production in Northern Europe after 1800, and especially to Riksbankens jubileumsfond, for providing a productive setting and giving us the opportunity of working together, as a group and with other scholars, in a complex, dynamic and highly relevant field of research.