Research Project 4

Between ‘Europe’ and the ‘Arctic’: Iceland as a gateway destination


  1. To explore the socio-cultural, geopolitical and environmental implications of a burgeoning interest in Iceland as a wilderness tourist destination
  2. To examine how Iceland has been historically imagined and embodied as a gateway destination situated between ‘Europe’ and the ‘Arctic’
  3. To analyse how recent travel writing on Iceland intersects with, but also differs from, other contemporary travel narratives marketed as being on the ‘European Arctic’

Tourism has grown exponentially in Iceland since the economic crisis of 2008. Some see tourism––particularly nature tourism––as a solution to the crisis, but concerns remain about sustainability. This project, based at the University of Iceland, will focus on Iceland as a gateway destination situated between ‘Europe’ and the ‘Arctic’, with each of these destinations being seen in an imaginary and ideological as well as a physical sense. It will analyse what is unique to the Icelandic case, but also draw similarities with other marketed ‘European Arctic’ destinations. As such, it will question the current positionality of Iceland as belonging simultaneously to ‘Europe’ and the ‘Arctic’ while also critically examining the historical role Icelandic travel/writing has played in contributing to the national cause. Particular attention will be given to the ways in which contemporary Icelandic travel/writing frames cultural encounters in which nature and society mirror one another within national and transnational contexts. The project’s theoretical basis is interdisciplinary, combining anthropology, history, political science, literary/cultural studies and tourism studies. Methods will include ethnographic fieldwork (especially in relation to wilderness tourism in northern Iceland), the analysis of travel narratives and historical documents, and interviews with selected individuals and focus groups (government officials, travel writers, tourists).

Research Team Members
Katrín Anna Lund
Kristín Loftsdóttir
Michael Leonard

RP1 | Green Ice

RP2 | The Postcolonial Arctic

RP3 | ‘Greening’ Greenland: Contemporary Travel/Writing and Environmentalism

RP4 | Between ‘Europe’ and the ‘Arctic’: Iceland as a gateway destination

RP5 | Visualizing autonomy in sub-Arctic coastal tourism: a case study from northern Norway

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