The geopolitics of northern travels: enactments of adventure and exploration in the Norwegian-Russian borderland


  • Urban Wråkberg UiT Norges arktiske universitet



subarctic, borderland, simulacrum, adventure tourism, road movie



Critical geopolitics is used in analysing discourses on a micro-social level in the performances and enactments taking place during fact-finding tours and leisure journeys in northernmost Europe. The cases of journeys focussed are those of Scandinavians travelling along, and sometimes departing from, the highway between the Norwegian village of Kirkenes and the Russian city of Murmansk. In travels undertaken for professional or leisure purposes alike a hyperreal meta-script is enacted mediated on the cosmopolitan cultural experiences held collectively by the travellers; simulacra provide the context for the enactments of fact-finding and drama taking place during border-passage. It is argued that the characteristic montage-like sequence of events of border-crossings are interwoven with a geopolitical discourse, and that it should be understood as encompassing both language and practice in order to appreciate the geopolitics at work. Three ways in which geopolitics enters travels in the northern borderland between Scandinavia and Russia are identified: scenarios of future regional scenarios of future regional developments, popularisations of research obsessed with the problems of borders, and what has been termed here the geopolitical anecdote. In considering the aesthetics of the simulations taking place in cross-border travels this study suggests focussing the meta-script of the American and the European road movie film genres. The essay argues that the cosmopolitan mind of any traveller, and its collective mediated content of cultural and political discourses, has been underestimated so far in the socio-political research regarding the borderlands of the European north.

Author Biography

Urban Wråkberg, UiT Norges arktiske universitet

Urban Wråkberg’s expertise is multidisciplinary and based on his training in both social sciences and technology. His research interests include northern geo-economics, STS, cross-border issues, and applied research on regional development and northern industry. He has published continuously for more than two decades, in English, Swedish, Norwegian and Russian on the high north, the Arctic and on Antarctica.




How to Cite

Wråkberg, Urban. 2014. “The geopolitics of northern travels: enactments of adventure and exploration in the Norwegian-Russian borderland”. Nordlit, no. 31 (July):71-89.