Images of the Urban North: “Grey heritage” in travel narratives in the 19th century

“Green” and “blue” humanities are rapidly-growing research approaches: Both break with the traditional divide of nature versus culture and focus instead on the relations between land and maritime environments and humans. Blue humanities try to move away from an emphasis on land territory and seek to understand the world from an oceanic perspective. Both have in common the desire to find new ways of understanding changes from a more-than-human perspective. Nordic researchers are increasingly using these approaches to understand images of and identity processes in Norden. After all, natural heritage has for long been considered one of Norden’s decisive identification markers. We suggest that these images have to be seen in direct interplay with the human-built urban environment. Taking as our starting point the towns and cities of Norden, we will ask how they affected and shaped ideas of Norden – and with Norden we mean both a topographical and cultural unit and a heterogeneous mixture consisting of different Nordic countries, regions, cultures and topographies. We propose that these grey aspects of Norden are a necessary backdrop to understanding the power of nature in narratives of the North.


We wish to inquire into the relations between blue, green and what we term “grey” heritage. How does climate affect our perception of the towns? We can ask similar questions about the ocean, rivers (and flooding or regulation), about beaches and their uses and so on. We wish particularly to enquire into the uses, images and imaginings (cf. Bernard Smith) of urban environment, its relevance, relationship to and interaction with uses, images and imaginings of nature. Our path into this field of research will be through travel narratives from the 19th and early 20th centuries. We will start in the 19th century, when travelling started to become a major pastime across Europe and nation-building processes accelerated.


17 December 2018

13:00-13:30 Introduction

Ulrike Spring (University of Oslo / Western Norway University of Applied Sciences)

Grey, Blue and Green in a Nordic Perspective

13:30-14:30 Architecture and Nordic Urban Space

Iver Tangen Stensrud (Oslo School of Architecture and Design)

“Europe is becoming dreadfully ‘used up.’” British travellers in Christiania around 1850

Even Smith Wergeland (Oslo School of Architecture and Design)

‘Riddled with smog, trash and dirt’. The grey heritage of Oslo’s East End

14:30-15:00 Coffee break

15:00-16:00 Green Spaces and Nordic Urban Space

Elettra Carbone (University College London)

Mapping Norway: Edward Price’s Norway Views of Wild Scenery (1834) and its illustrations

Anna Bohlin (Stockholm University / University of Bergen)

Circulation: Organisms and politics in Fredrika Bremer’s travel narrative of Copenhagen

16:00-16:15 Coffee break

16:15-17:15 Green Spaces and Nordic Urban Space (cont.)

Ruth Hemstad (National Library of Norway / University of Oslo)

Images of the mundane North. Samuel Laing's political travel accounts on Norway and Sweden in a transnational perspective

Kristina Skåden (Oslo)

Catharine Hermine Kølle’s days in Sweden


18 December 2018

09:30-10:30 Water and Nordic Urban Space

Kim Simonsen (University of Bergen / University of Amsterdam)

Fields of Knowledge - Travelling Back in Time Towards a new Future

- Visual, Ecological and Material Aspects of Travel Writing: Urbanscapes, Socioscapes and  Ecological in Northbound Travelling European Men of Letters and in Design, William Morris’ travels in the North in 1871

Alexandre Simon-Ekeland (University of Oslo)

Connecting exploration, polar nature and urbanity. About a commemorative plaque for Amundsen and Guilbaud in Tromsø in the 1930s

10:30-11:00 Coffee break

11:00-12:30 Summing up and plans for the future

Ruth Hemstad & Ulrike Spring

Grey, Blue and Green in a Nordic Perspective: Summing up


Grey, Blue and Green in a Nordic Perspective: Plans for the future

12:30-13:30 Lunch


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Published Dec. 10, 2018 12:50 PM - Last modified Dec. 10, 2018 12:50 PM