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Assembling Community in East Greenland: Making Sense of Arctic Relocations

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Gunnarsson, Gunnar Már 


It is the principal purpose of this study to ‘read into’ the socio-historical context of the establishment of Danish-Greenlandic colonies in Scoresby Sound, and analyse the political and moral relationship between the State; its agents; and the people relocated to Scoresby Sound. The three chapters draw inspiration from assemblage theory,adapted from the work of Deleuze and expanded by Manuel De Landa.21 Gaining attention to place-specific relations of power and agency is a fundamental element of assemblage thinking. A community may be seen as a complex socio-material assemblage composed of happenings and events; and of actors, objects, and ideas. Each assemblage has its particular historical trajectory where heterogeneous entities enter in relations with one another, and where agencies emerge.22 Assemblage thinking moves away from essential properties and refrains from describing space, practices and political struggles in terms of pre-determined hierarchies or a single organising principle.23 Along these lines, McFarlane argues that ‘actors, forms or processes are defined less by a pre-given property and more by the assemblages they enter and reconstitute.’ 24 Assemblage, according to McFarlane and Anderson, suggests a ‘certain ethos of engagement with the world’.25 They continue: [Assemblage thinking] experiments with methodological and presentational practices in order to attend to a lively world of differences …. Montage, performative methods, thick description, stories – all have been used by geographers and others in an attempt to be alert to processes of [assemblage].26 Assemblages are productive; they produce new possibilities and realities. We can examine these fragments of reality, by gathering available sources and evidence, but we cannot recreate the reality of past times – or, closer to the point: such like pursuit will not inform the methodological perspective assumed in this study. The first chapter presents the historical background necessary to understand Danish colonial policies and the country’s early quest for re-colonisation with overseas expansion in the North. Attention is devoted to the development of a government policy that sought to maintain scattered settlement in East Greenland. The second chapter naturally follows; it traces the advent and development of how an international territorial conflict influenced the making of the Danish policy on Greenland and eventually led to the establishment of Danish-Greenlandic colonies in Scoresby Sound. Finally, the third and last chapter analyses how cultural difference was constructed in East Greenland through scientific romanticising of traditional hunter society. The chapter investigates the sentiments and motives of the authoring subjects, who arrived as strangers to East Greenland and stood as an organised entity against the indigenous population. A dialectical situation of inclusion and exclusion, coupled with cultural discrimination, characterised complex hierarchy of race and class. However, as will become apparent, these oppositions were arbitrary and inherently unstable. Inequalities were produced through different periods of cultural practices and policies. Each could at any given point in time be assembled differently.




Bravo, Michael



Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge