Futureproofing the Past: Rural Heritage Tourism in Central Norway
Honestly, I had a plan, then COVID-19 blasted it to smithereens. I’m working on a new one. Here’s what I’ve got:
In a climate of rapid urbanization across the globe, what motivates people living in rural areas to remain? The ethnographic field site in which I want to explore the ramifications of this question is the 600-person village of Snåsa in central Norway. On the one hand is a sophisticated and ambitious Saami museum and visitor centre, currently under construction; on the other is a loosely organised collective of Norwegian farmers offering nostalgic farmstays. In unpicking how concepts such as Indigeneity, heritage, place and the rural play out in Snåsa, and in focusing my research on activities undertaken within the remit of ‘tourism’ – activities which inherently involve theorising about and presenting a certain vision of place – I want to unsettle staid equations such as “Indigenous = local = rural” or “tourism = inauthentic = exploitative”. This, ultimately, will contribute to anthropological understanding of what makes people stay in rural areas despite significant incentives, even pressures, to leave.
I am a German/Scottish doctoral researcher in Social Anthropology with a background in Linguistics. All my education and academic training has taken place in the UK (Oxford, Edinburgh, Manchester), while my professional (non-academic) work has taken place in Germany.
My research originally concerned senses of place in western Mongolia within the context of Kazakh eco- and ethno-tourism. Both my first and second masters theses were written on this topic: ‘“Another True Kazakh Place”: The Making and Unmaking of Homelands in Western Mongolia’ (2017) and ‘Kazakh Placemaking in the Altai: Nomadism and Tourism in a Mongolian National Park’ (2020).
Since November 2020, I have been exploring similar themes in Saepmie (Saami regions) in Norway. This shift came about both in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which prohibited fieldwork in Mongolia, and as a result of a research visit at CARMAH (Centre for Anthropological Research into Museums and Heritage, Humboldt University in Berlin) where I became interested in decolonial action in heritage sites.
I am now preparing to begin fieldwork in Norway in January 2021.
When, Where, Who
Fields & Fieldwork
Fieldwork will take place in Norway over the course of 15 months : three months of Norwegian language training and twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork.
As for academic fields, although this project broadly sits in Social Anthropology, my work is more accurately situated in the anthropologies of:
- Tourism & National Parks
- Museums & Cultural Heritage
- Indigenous Land Rights
- Place & Landscape
The project is being funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of its doctoral training scheme. I’m a recipient of the 1+3 studentship, which means I have done a 1-year research masters and am now doing a 3-year PhD. For more information on this funding, check out this guide.