Article ID: CBB001420410

Circumpolar Science: Scandinavian Approaches to the Arctic and the North Atlantic, ca. 1920 to 1960 (2014)


Sörlin, Sverker (Author)

Science in Context
Volume: 27, no. 2
Issue: 2
Pages: 275-305

Publication Date: 2014
Edition Details: Article in a special issue, “Science, Technology, Medicine -- and the State: The Science-State Nexus in Scandinavia, 1850--1980”
Language: English

The Scandinavian countries share a solid reputation as longstanding contributors to top level Arctic research. This received view, however, veils some deep-seated contrasts in the ways that Sweden, Norway, and Denmark have conducted research in the Arctic and the North Atlantic. In this paper it is argued that instead of focusing on the geographical determinism of science -- the fact that the Arctic is close to, indeed part of, Scandinavian territories -- we should look more closely at the geopolitics of science to understand the differences and similarities between these three Nordic countries. Through case studies of, mainly, Swedish Arctic and North Atlantic glaciology in the 1920s through to the 1940s, and of Norwegian preparations in the 1950s for the International Geophysical Year 1957/58, the paper demonstrates how different styles of research -- research agendas, methodological choices, collaborative patterns, international networks, availability of infrastructure, relations to politics and power -- are conditioned on economic interests and strategic and geopolitical trajectories, either these are explicitly put in the forefront of scientific priorities as in the case of Norway in the 1950s, or when they are manifestly disregarded in the name of scientific internationalism, as in the case of Swedish glaciology. The case of Danish colonial science in Greenland is only cursorily drawn into this analysis but corroborates the overall thesis. The analysis of this wider science politics of Scandinavian circumpolar science is exercised against a brief introductory backdrop of Arctic science historiography. Its chief message is that the analysis of polar science applying modern theory and method of the social studies of science is comparatively recent and that the full potential of merging the literature of Arctic science and exploration with those of security, geopolitics, indigenous voices, and the politics of nationalism is yet to be realized.

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Article Asdal, Kristin; Gradmann, Christoph (2014) Introduction: Science, Technology, Medicine---and the State: The Science-State Nexus in Scandinavia, 1850--1980. Science in Context (pp. 177-186). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Johansson, Magnus
Myllyntaus, Timo
Sørensen, Henrik Kragh
Siegmund-Schultze, Reinhard
Suchenko, Ihor
Gradmann, Christoph
Science in Context
IEEE Annals of the History of Computing
Research in the History of Technology
Journal of Historical Geography
Public Understanding of Science
Icon: Journal of the International Committee for the History of Technology
Novus Forlag
Ashgate Publishing
Harvard University Press
Lunds Universitet (Sweden)
Travel; exploration
Science and politics
Indigenous peoples; indigeneity
Cross-national interaction
Universities and colleges
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
20th century, early
21st century
17th century
20th century, late
Scandinavia; Nordic countries
Arctic regions
International Business Machines Corporation

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