From the CIAO Atlas Map of Europe 

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Representations of Northernness — Spatial Politics and Political Spaces in a Nordic Journal 1

Pirjo Jukarainen 2

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute

April 1998

Table of Contents

  1. Setting the Scene — ‘Northernness’ in ‘Real’ and as a Social Construct
  2. Contexts of Analysis and Contexts Analyzed
  3. Discourse Analysis of — What Discourses?
  4. Winds of Change — Where Do They Come From?
  5. Postmodern Spatial Conditions — of What Kind and to Whom?
  6. Nord Revy: Northern Review or Northerners’ Revue?
  7. Representations of Northern Space


Spatial politics is ‘alive and kicking’. Human aspiration to define, represent and master spaces has not ended. Claim about ‘the end of the geography’, due to the decreasing importance of spatial distance or location, is thus misleading. Albeit the mode of spatial politics is obviously changing, it does not mean that it would completely loose its significance.

Northern hemisphere makes no exception in this respect. An analysis of the Nordic journal, ‘Nord Revy’ (later called ‘North’) shows that spaces are actively constructed and spatial development strategies are extensively formulated also in the name of ‘northernness’. ‘Northernness’ gets multiple meanings and becomes ‘real’ within various spatial representations. This analysis covers about seven years of spatial development starting from the year 1990, thus somewhat revealing the overall spatial politics of the 90’s.

Remarkable chances have happened. First of all ‘northernness’ seems to lean towards north-east. Second, there is an intense tendency of Europeanization going on at the same time. On the other hand, there is a tremendous variety of different kinds of spaces, or rather spatial representations (states, interstate regions, transborder regions, city-districts, city-networks etc.) covering this northern sphere. The north-eastern, European ‘northernness’ resembles hence more a complex spatial network than a clearly delimited, homogeneous territory. On the grounds of these developments and much more it can be claimed that the northern spatial politics is gaining postmodern features, thus releasing itself from the modern modes of spatiality (territorially demarcated sovereignty and hierarchical ordering between spaces). To what kind of spatial order and re-organization this postmodernization finally leads us, remains to be seen.


Although there is no such thing as neutral geography 3 and, thus, every definition and presentation of space is political this paper, nevertheless, starts from as rough spatial point of departure as possible, loosely called as ‘northernness’ 4 . This is done in order to do justice for the actual spatial politics studied, that is the spatial politics practiced by the scholars interested in northern issues during the 90's. As a source of material serves the Nord Revy (later named North), a journal published by the NordREFO 5 , an institute of regional policy entrusted by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The ‘northernness’, is here analyzed contextually; it is sketched out as it is defined and represented in particular contexts. There is thus, not one ‘northernness’ but many spatio-political representations about it, albeit some of these representations have gained more 'legitimacy' than the others. Some representations are considered as more ‘true’ than the others within particular contexts.

For at least three decades, the dominant spatial representation of ‘northernness’ was ‘Norden’, a co-operative region consisting of the Nordic Countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden) and their more or less autonomous sub-regions (Greenland, Faroe-Islands and Aaland archipelago). An analysis of the contemporary politics from the 90’s onwards, however, reveals a somewhat different spatial framework, which is much more multiple, complex and ambivalent in nature. Within the politics of ‘northernness’ of the 90’s the so called ‘Norden’ (cooperation space of the Nordic countries) constitutes just one spatial representation among many others. In general, it seems that the representational spaces have now multiplied in quantity and have become increasingly ambivalent in quality. The hegemony of the Nordic space has been broadly challenged.

In brief, all this points to modernism undergoing change. This conclusion may be drawn by following the contemporary critics of the modern 6 ; according to them the modern spatial practices of territoriality are now challenged and new alternative modes of spatiality are ‘allowed’ to proceed. It is important to note, however, that although in political rhetoric — including research as political practice — spaces are claimed to be suddenly 'invented' and 'forgotten' by human agents, they are fundamentally instead only transforming and reconstructing all the time. By drawing upon the sphere of physics, one could argue that spatial processes have turned chaotic; they follow a certain dynamic, which is neither linear nor determined. As a whole, spatial processes are then beyond the control of human agents; they are affected by them, but are not predictable or rationally directable by their political intentions.

Therefore, even though the previous discursively state-centric ‘Nordic’ space might now, at least according to this rather limited study, immerse itself into a more multiple and 'polyphonic' spatial 'reality', the Nordic space (i.e. ‘Norden’) still remains there as a process underneath and interlocked with other processes going on. Those relatively modern social practices (both material and discursive) constructing the co-operative space of ‘Norden’ or 'Nordic countries' may thus continue, but they will also be affected by new and different kinds of practices.

Nevertheless, albeit life is nothing but fluidity, chaos and constant change, human ambition and strive for controlling and mastering the space seems to be never ending. Behind all this, of course, lies an anthropocentric conception about human ability to control, organize and order everything around him/herself. Politics is equated with power and power is equated with force, command and controllability. Likewise, the thinking of future (i.e. strategic thinking) is understood as making an explicit, formal plan, which is then implemented. Modern society was/is all this in its full potency and therefore the territory, in terms of controlled and delineated space, was the dominant mode of spatiality.

However, spatial politics and strategic thinking can also be understood differently; more in a ‘post-’ or 'trans-modern' 7 way. They are then conceptualized not as means for bringing about intended results or solving problems, but as practices that inevitably will cause some changes and 'make a difference', but not always — if ever — of an intended kind. Spatial politics (also called 'geopolitics') as such, nevertheless, will probably never end. The claims of 'the end of geography' 8 — although, being very impressive slogans — are completely misleading. It is the mode of (modern) geographical thinking and practices that is obviously changing, but the will to practice spatial politics is not vanishing in toto. As long as our human life is situational (i.e. bound with social context), the spatiality and further, geography (as a particular spatial thinking and an academic practice) matters. As Gearoid Ó Tuathail puts it: 'struggle to envision and enframe global space in imperial constellations of geography/power/knowledge continues' and furthermore: 'so also do struggles of resistance'. 9

Northern spatial politics does not stand out as an exception in this respect. Indeed the continued functioning of the institute publishing Nord Revy/North, namely the NordREFO 10 (- albeit now in an extended form (of Nordregio) - is an indication of the importance of specifically ‘northern’ spatial politics. It must be noted, however, that the spectrum of spatial political agents has broadened and also continues to do so. Nordregio — like any spatio-politically active organization — is therefore facing a ever more complex political field and a growing multiplicity of political spaces. The spatial restructuring that northern ‘hemisphere’ now goes through, not only includes change in relation to social spaces as such but most of all, change in regard to the social and power relations affecting the construction of these spaces.

1. Setting the Scene — ‘Northernness’ in ‘Real’ and as a Social Construct

Across different disciplines of social science, there has been a boom of self-reflective criticism for several decades. These critiques and their critics have been labeled (among others) as postmodernists, poststructuralists, (social)constructivists/or constructionists, critical theorists and feminists just to name a few. Despite their multiple differences, all of them basically share a same opponent - from which they have more or less distanced themselves - namely: positivist science and the modern Enlightenment model of social knowledge it is based on. Fundamentally, it is a matter of rejecting following conceptions:

In this paper, the critique of modern is basically spun around the theoretical standpoint of constructivism. According to the constructivist thinking, even though, there is an organic-material world in which we live, there is at the same also what might be called a discursive world, which is socially constructed by humans themselves. In Adler's words: 'Constructivism is the view that the manner in which material world shapes and is shaped by human action and interaction depends on dynamic normative and epistemic interpretations of the material world.' 12 The passage: 'depends on ...interpretations', is central in that previous statement, as it puts forth that the organic-material world affects and is affected by the discursive, socially constructed world and the other way round, so that together they construct what we understand as 'reality'. Consequently, none of them - neither material nor discursive - is more 'real' than the other, because they do not exist independently; neither aspect can be 'purified' from the influence of the other.

These two 'worlds' or rather aspects: material and discursive, however, while being analytically different, are actually so intertwined, that there is not one without the other. According to this (social)constructivist conception, indeed all spaces (regions, states, localities, networks etc.) are both discursive and material constructions. They are as much 'realitized' by construction of buildings, logistical functioning, financial activities or even delivering babies (to become the inhabitants of the space) as by agreements, identity building or intellectual innovations. By following the theorization of Henri Lefevbre, we can say that spatial development processes happen within a framework of three dimensions: namely (a) spatial practices, (b) representations of space and (c) representational spaces. First, there are the spatial practices, all the material and physical interactions and flows that construct the ‘perceived space’. Then there are representations of space (or spatial representations), which are the meaning givings, namings and conceptualizations producing what Lefevbre calls ‘conceived spaces’. The third dimension, representational spaces, refers to the ‘lived’ spaces, culturally ‘consumed’ or ‘used’ spaces having a long history. 13 We could say, that the latter ‘consumer’ dimension, needs to wrap around the former two ‘production’ dimensions (material and discursive practices) in order to allow spatial politics.

However, as these spaces are analytically, in theory always socially constructed and thus constantly 'in motion', evolving and transforming, they are at the same time, in practical everyday life very 'real' for the people who are living them, giving meaning to them and being conscious of them. Reality, therefore, is most of all an pragmatic issue; we need to make some 'sense' of the world, in order to live in it, orientate and act within it. But how has this - so real - spatial 'reality', whose absolute realness only (non-positivist) academics dare to challenge, developed in the first place?

We can try to 'unwrap' this process by using the conception of 'feeling to be at home' as an analytical tool. 'Home' can, first of all, be both physical and mental experience for human persons. We may be at home physically (have warmth and shelter), but still not feel 'home' mentally (be 'homesick'), and other way round. A phenomenon called Diaspora 14 is an example of this kind of situation, where these two aspects do not overlap. But what this 'being home' fundamentally means, is actually not only an individual experience, but equally a social conception/construction. As social beings we have been taken part in the process of meaning construction, where this 'home' has got its substance. We have learned - in interaction with other people - to combine this linguistic term: 'home' with certain connotations. Therefore, we know that when we - as persons - experience certain kind of expressions (e.g. feeling comfortable, familiar with, relaxed or secure!) that it is 'home', or alternatively something else. Moreover, as this collectively shared knowledge is usually very strong, it can even cause inconsistency if the socially learned meaning conflicts with personal physical/mental experience - like in the case where the experienced 'home' is violent and abusive or located 'on the street', and therefore stands in conflict with the dominant cultural conception of 'home'.

In sum, according to the holistic conception of humanity in the background of this study, human beings relate both bodily and mentally to their living environments. In other words, they construct their 'world views' through bodily senses and mental reasoning. Both of these happen between two layers, namely the organic-material environment and the discursive-social environment. And it is in the context of the latter layer, where the fundamental principles of constructivist thinking come out. As we as human beings are 'social creatures', our personal experiences and thoughts are never fully 'personal' but affected by intersubjectively constructed social knowledge.

It is, however, very difficult to say, where the individual creativity starts and socially constructed knowledge ends. As political ‘beings’ — or as Giddens would say: agents — we are simultaneously both social subjects and particular, individual personalities. When doing (spatial) politics we are always restricted by the resources we have, both discursive and material ones. Political agency is thus always situated and contextual. We can not take actors as fully formed, eager inter-actors or processors; instead their dispositions are inseparably connected to the cultural context, which either enables or limits specific political action. Actors are both products and producers of their culture 15 , but furthermore, one person's agency can be another person's structure. Attributing agency is, thus, simultaneously attributing power. 16 Wherever there are politics, there are relations of power as well. Not every agent is similarly capable of acting; some people in some particular contexts are more restricted to act politically than others. Neither the material nor the discursive (linguistic) resources for constructing spaces are evenly distributed. Therefore, indeed the contributors to Nord Revy /North are social agents who construct spaces (or rather ‘legitimate’ spatial representations) by taking part in wider social and political discourses. Furthermore, they are agents being part of a complex web of power relations, amidst their positions as producers of legitimate spatial knowledge are determined.

2. Contexts of Analysis and Contexts Analyzed

Even though we are aware of the intersubjectively constructed and abstract nature of any spatial formation (like ‘northernness’) we can, nevertheless, speak of particular spatial realities evolving from particular social contexts. This means, that although we cannot fix the essence of ‘northernness’ in full, we can try to open up what it is made to look like, within specific social contexts. Socially constructed ‘northernness’ is then like a constantly running videotape, out of which individual 'still-pictures', that is specific contextual representations, can be taken and 'freezed' for more thorough analysis. These 'still-pictures' or 'takes' of ‘northernness’, even if ordered sequentially, can not, of course, ever describe the whole 'movie', but they can work as handy catchpoints for deeper study of the basis and origins of them all. This examination of the common 'grounds' is possible, because these 'takes' of ‘northernness’ all originate from a complex network of discourses 17 . To put it differently, all the contextually specific 'takes' of ‘northernness’ are like nodalpoints 18 or combinations of different discourses: spatial and of other kind.

Therefore, the examination of ‘northernness’ in general, that is as an abstract orientation, is best set into motion by asking, 'whose' reality within a given context is in question; from what kind of positions is the ‘northernness’ 'gazed' and described. And what is important, all this questioning aims not at tracing single actors arguing this or that, but focuses instead for revealing broader collective ways of spatial expression, meaning giving and understanding (i.e. spatial discourses) ‘behind’ the particular representations of ‘northernness’. The concrete materializations of these representations consist of the 'blueprints' in Nord Revy/North, the written contributions and pictorial presentations. Thus, in this case, the printed papers (and the printing technology in general) form the material aspect and comparably, the thoughts and intellectual contributions expressed in the journal form the discursive aspect; together these make it possible to construct particular representations of what is 'real', what is social and spatial 'reality'.

Picture 1. Multiform 'Northernness'

In sum, the essence of ‘northernness’ in general is here approached as it manifests (or rather socially constructed to manifest) itself in particular contexts. Yet, it must be noted that, this - like any - contextual examination is also influenced by the contextual position of the researcher him/herself. Due to this, the analysis carried out actually constructs a dialogue between the two contexts: context of the 'writer' and context of the 'reader' or 'interpreter'. This is to say that also this analysis constitutes an interpretation of Northern history from contemporary cultural and social context; through contemporary ‘lenses’ in hindsight.

Picture 2. Contextual Dialogue

3 Discourse Analysis of — What Discourses?

But what are these discourses we are here tracking down? Discursivity in general refers to the meaning giving procedure of ‘northernness’ in language. It is important to note, however, that the language is not simply a 'neutral' instrument or medium used for expression and changing information, but the very resource-base, which constitutes what can be said and how. Discourse analysis is then, to use Vivienne Jabri's words: 'research on regularities in the construction and function of linguistic resources'. 19 The word 'regularities' is central in former argument, as it emphasizes how discourses are not occasional utterances or statements, but rather structuralized systems of meaning-giving.

Northern space is therefore constructed through different discourses (that is collectively shared ways of thinking and action). Discursive 'texts' (speeches, writings, maps, pictures and other types of representations) where ‘northernness’ is taken up, do not passively describe or reflect what Northern space 'really' is out of these 'texts', but instead actively construct and make a particular kind of ‘northernness’. And this process of construction is both social and political. With the notion of social is meant, that the construction of space takes place intersubjectively, that is collectively among various actors or so-called social agents. Or perhaps we could even say that this process is trans-subjective, as it eventually 'hides' the contribution of an individual actor/human being, although such contribution is always there.

On the other hand, discourses are political, because they compete with each other about dominant positions. It is therefore, important to analyze the power relations between these different discourses. By examining the complex relations - especially of power - between these particular catchpoints, we can highlight the dominant discourses, that tend to supplant other ways of understanding this space in question. And how is this dominance achieved (or tried to achieve)? Giddens states three following means:

  1. universalization and unification,

  2. denial of contradictions

  3. naturalization. 20

Are the legitimation and dominance-gaining tendencies of discourses then linear processes that start from a minimum and end up with a maximum power containment? No, this is not the case. Recent discovery in physics, that all natural phenomena are fundamentally chaotic processes could also be applied to linguistic social processes. Discourses organize themselves somehow, but not in a fully predictable manner. Instead of following linear, straight-forward and deterministic paths of development, different discourses rather form together a complex network with multiple development dimensions. This discursive network is, in addition, never symmetrical or balanced from one corner to the other. Within the network there are occasional ‘condensations’ of dominance or stronger ‘nodalpoints’ as Thomas Diez 21 calls them. These nodal points are meeting places for several discourses to be linked together or rather to be fused with each other. Although not being eternally fixed, these discursive ‘condensations’ are relatively hard to change because of their ‘legitimate’ position.

4 Winds of Change — Where Do They Come From?

If we accept the formerly presented claim of spaces being discursively constructed by the dynamics of legitimatization, simplification and naturalization, how is it then possible for any change to emerge? From where do those side- or counter-discourses appear, that challenge the victorious development of dominant discursive ‘condensations’? How was it possible for instance to adopt an different attitude towards Nordic co-operation and redefine Nordicity? Was it just one collective agent, one country that broke up ‘Norden’, with its changed politics? Was it for instance Sweden — or to be precise the representatives of the Swedish state — making differentiated foreign policy that is to be blamed of the discursive shift from Norden as a co-operative area to Norden as a group of ‘quarrelsome’ states as F. B. Hansen 22 suggests? Or is it rather a matter of wider and broader development, where the ‘starting’ agents form a much more numerous and complex group? I would definitely suggest the latter. It is perhaps acceptable to say that, yes, Swedish foreign policy practitioners joined and strengthened the Nordic anti-cohesion discourse, thus reproducing it. It is not that self evident, however, whether they were the original 'fabricators' of that discourse. Presumably, they were just co-actors in a much more complex process of spatial restructuring.

As to the discursive world of human beings, it is impossible to draw any clear dividing-line between individual creativity and social reproduction. It is, hence, not easy to say, when the individual starts thinking uniquely differently, and when s/he merely reproduces the social knowledge. It must, however, be admitted that human life consists of both of these aspects. Otherwise, of course, no fundamental changes would ever happen. But it is another thing to say, that individual creativity exists, than show exactly where and when it plays out. As inventors and innovators of something new, we are simultaneously carriers of what we have already socially learned and internalized, whether we like it or not. And consequently, this causes a problem if trying to define the possible source of social change. This, of course, is not only a matter of discursive change, but the same goes with material ones.

On the other hand, individual discoveries, however remarkable, become 'real' only through the process of social construction. Discoveries (both discursive and material) will become world changing innovations only if introduced to and reproduced in the social sphere. Therefore, this analysis leaves the question of 'ultimate origin' of change totally aside, and instead focuses on the substance of the processes of social and spatial change. Then, for instance, more important, than who exactly is to be blamed of breaking ‘Norden’, are questions like: what kind of space ‘Norden’ is/was, how was it possible to construct it and why it is no less legitimate mode of spatiality.

5 Postmodern Spatial Conditions — of What Kind and to Whom?

This study reveals a modernity (especially modern spatial system) in change. About the nature of the reconstructed and changed modernism, there are, however, diverse theorizations. Indeed the new era is given various names: late-, post-, re- and trans-modernism, just to name a few popular ones. Here, in this study the term postmodernism is used despite its contested essence as a referent of contemporary times. Postmodernism is here related to the growing self-criticism and self-reflectivism of the 90’s. Nicholson and Seidman argue: 'postmodern thinking is a key resource for rethinking a democratic social theory and politics', 23 but, an important addition comes as they continue: 'in at least some Western countries'. Thus, postmodernism is fundamentally, self-reflective critique of Western ideas and practices and Westernity in general. It therefore should not be treated as a superior dogma of global, universal validity, but rather something that sets Westernity itself into a new - more equal - place among other cultures and social formations. And this equality comes — not from 'downgrading' Westernity — but from fundamental rethinking of the very nature of what is Western. It is a matter of de-naturalizing the essence of western culture, by understanding its particularity to be a social construct, that is a result of spatio-historically particular discursive and material practices. Westernity, including ‘northernness’, does not generate from some historical or biological determinants but from social and cultural choices and practices made in specific context with uncontrollable and unpredictable consequences. Westernity — with all its merits and drawbacks — has thus, developed by chance; it is a construction of contingency with the help of 'human touch'.

There is, furthermore, only a small step from postmodern thinking to postmodern politics. But what kind of politics does this step represent? Like postmodern thinking, postmodern politics is basically against all kind of essentialism and/or 'naturalism' and instead promotes difference, complexity, ambivalence and hybridity. For instance, postmodern politics contrary to modern politics does not require unity or homogeneity from the collective political agents. Thus, whether it is a question of national, racial, sexual, ethnic, class-, age- or space-based group, it does not have to have a coherent, collectively shared identity, grounded on some essential and pre-given core elements, in order to pursue its specific aims and interests as a collectivity. 24 Postmodernism declares the so far assumed coherency of any collective identity to be an illusion; behind it lies a modern conception and desire of absolute controllability, predictability and clear categorizability. As individuals can have a multiple bunch of social identifications and even switch them, consequently, all the collectively shared identities are heterogeneous, intersecting and contingent instead of fixed or coherent. Further, postmodern politics celebrates plurality and variety of particularities. As Steven Best and Douglas Kellner state: ‘...postmodern politics (is) associated with locally based micropolitics that challenge a broad array of discourses and institutionalized forms of power.’ 25 Nevertheless, practices of domination and totalizing centralization still continue, and thus, contemporary socialites are not (yet) witnessing the victory of postmodern relativism and pluralism.

Academic people (researchers, educators) among others are, thus, active 'politicians' when speaking in the name of postmodernism. The difference is, however, that this postmodern politics practiced by the academics is more relativist and self-reflective; it does not hide behind the modernist curtains of objectivism and/or positivism. Wver aptly — and indeed self-reflectively — notes how Scandinavian/Nordic scholars and especially peace-researchers that have dealt with the Nordic theme have been active postmodernists. 26 Although it is impossible to define ‘Nordic scholars’ in a strict sense, we could argue that the study in hand about the political discourses constructing ‘northernness’ on the pages of the Nord Revy/North eventually supports the Wver’s claim about Nordic academic ‘politicians’. The tendency within northern spatial politics towards postmodern thinking and action is quite explicit in the contributions to Nord Revy/North journal. Fundamental practices and principles of modernism — territoriality, sovereignty, homogeneous equality and even state-centric representational democracy — are extensively challenged by the ‘politicians’ engaged in northern spatial politics.

The central contribution of postmodern thinking is, undoubtedly, its acknowledgment and most of all, acceptance of relativity and contingency. Basically, it is a matter of operating with relatively novel 27 discoveries in mathematics and physics — although this is hardly ever explicitly stated — namely: chaos theory and fuzzy logic. According to the chaos theory, even minor change in initial conditions at a ‘right’ time, in a ‘right’ place might cause tremendous, irregular and exponentially expanding changes in a broader system; even a minor variable might make the whole system chaotic (i.e. bring about a state of re-organization). Consequently, a long-term future predictability is impossible.

Fuzzy logic, instead, is a challenge of Aristotelian binary logic, which reduces everything to either/or alternatives. It recognizes also the relative qualities in between the extreme opposites as equally valid and ‘true’. In social sciences, this ‘fuzzification’ forces us to restructure our previous binary, dichotomous conceptions of opposing categories like inside/outside, self/other, center/periphery, subject/object. A logic of both/and has to be applied instead of either/or. Although sounding simple, this is, in fact, a very profound transformation in our thinking. Especially with our contemporary dualistic conceptions of spatiality, politics, identity and security this change would be remarkable.

These fresh ways of conceptualization and understanding are evident in a number of ways in the contributions of ‘northern politicians’. First of all, there is an aspiration 28 towards trans-disciplinarity when analyzing spatial processes: the modern differentiated disciplines that produce a very sectored and biased views of the world are emphasized less and less. For instance, a self-reflective and self-assessing article of NordREFO’s research-work in particular and regional studies in general, argues for trans-disciplinarity. 29 There might even be some organizational pride ‘in the air’ in this respect; NordREFO’s organizational structure, when being an internationalized network, is expected to provide a fruitful base for trans-disciplinary approaches.

Second, the legitimacy of the principal modern spatial practice, territoriality, is questioned. Not only alternative spatial formations and modes are represented as equally — if not even more — valid than regional or state-territories; also the practice of territoriality itself is critically re-examined and in many cases, even ‘judged’ as outdated. Territoriality challenging spatial practices of trans-border activity, networking, twinning and connecting are treated as interesting and innovative. Third, much emphasis is placed on local particularity, specificity and self-sustainability. Therefore, the principle of full equality between and within spaces through subsidies is gaining less and less support and instead, a ‘healthy’ competition between different spaces is encouraged.

6. Nord Revy: Northern Review or Northerners’ Revue?

Is Nord Revy/North a political forum? One aspect that might support its political nature is the fundamental essence and function of its owner organizations, first NordREFO and then Nordregio. As the following information given at NordREFO's latest, 1993-1997 research program shows, NordREFO was an organization especially designed for political advising or consultation.

'NordREFO ger sitt bidrag till utvecklingen av de nordiska ländernas regionalpolitik genom att medverka till produktion av för utformningen av denna politik relevant kunskap.’ (‘NordREFO participates in the development of regional politics, by influencing the production of policy-relevant knowledge’. Transl. PJ)

There is, of course, no guarantee that politicians or officials have always listened to NordREFO's statements or read their publications, but the core idea of this organization was in any case to be active and influential in the sphere of regional development policy. Furthermore, research is always political activity if a broad notion of ‘politics’ is adopted; that is politics as not restricted to formal (representative) political authorities and institutions only, but politics as any action or activity aiming to produce change. 30

Nord Revy/North is, however, not just a political forum for academic scholars 31 acting in the name of NordREFO as there has been a wide spectrum of contributors including journalists, politicians, officials, business and corporate managers plus researchers and directors of other research institutes than NordREFO. In general it can be claimed that the ‘producers’ of northern spatial representations have been principally — although not exclusively — holders of an academic degree with a relatively high position; therefore, by modern criteria they could be classified as being part of the intellectual ‘elite’ who at least in the modern times held the power of knowledge. Indeed the male-centrality of the contributors is suggestive to the typical composition of the modern intellectual elite; only some 20% of those contributing have been women. 32

However, whether the contributors to Nord Revy/North can be considered as modern intellectual elite or not, the position of the elite as an ultimate source of knowledge can no longer be taken for granted. The production of knowledge — including the spatial one — has turned more and more de-centered. According to Zygmunt Bauman, now it is the media-value of intellectuals that matters; knowledge is knowledge only if it ‘sells’ and tempts the media. 33 Yet, the strive and will to construct spaces, and spatial representations (i.e. define ‘the’ significant regions, locales, areas etc.) has not dried out and it is indeed very intense on the pages of Nord Revy/North. The journal of Nord Revy, like its successor North serve therefore as significant forums for northern geopolitics, that is for mastering northern space, disregarded of whether it has remained elite-centered or not.

But whose politics do the Nord Revy/North contributions actually represent, contributors’, editors’ or of somebody else? Although the Nord Revy editorial officially claims to take no responsibility of the opinions or statements posed in the articles, it unavoidably runs the overall policy what is ‘acceptable’ for publication and what is not. This editors’ action of choosing is, however, very much based on the broader modes of thinking, understanding and action at a particular socio-spatio-temporal context. Further, the same contextual frames are also ‘inscribed’ in the very texts that are chosen to be published. It is therefore a matter of ‘hair-splitting’ regarding whose politics is fundamentally in question; the politics of the editors or of individual contributors. Both groups share a somewhat common discursive base within which to make decisions or produce their contributions. In order to make themselves understood, and most of all, in order to self make some sense about this world, they have to start from the language available for them. In general, both the editors and the contributors pursue commonly shared spatial discourses; both groups are participating intersubjectively in the intellectual process of producing northern spatial representations. It is another thing then to put his/hers personal creativity into play, and possibly change the discourses (i.e. modes of thinking) s/he has been participating with. These aspects of individual creativity are inevitably present in the Nord Revy/North contributions, albeit it is practically impossible to ‘locate’ them.

7. Representations of Northern Space

The already mentioned Henri Lefevbre’s divide of spatial processes into three realms: spatial practices, representations of space and representational spaces is a starting point of this analysis. 34 Lefevbre makes a difference between (a) spatial practices, material and social interactions and flows (constructing the ‘perceived space’), (b) abstract representations of space, the meaning givings, namings and abstract conceptualizations (producing ‘conceived space’) and finally, (c) representational spaces (referring to the ‘lived’ space or culturally ‘consumed’ or ‘reproduced’ space). In this essay the focus is above all on the second aspect, namely the representations of space (or spatial representations). However, the analytical interpretation of these representations, actually brings up, is not, do not merely bring forward spatial images or symbolic spaces as such, but highlight broader ‘pictures’ of cultural life and societal relations in general.

Postmodernism Emerging 1 — Complexity Grows

The analyzed texts reveal a growing complexity, not only in respect to journal in general but also within the individual contributions (articles and essays). At the level of the journal as a whole, different competing an/or complementary spatial discourses produce multiple spatial representations (cities, states, regions, border-areas, interstate cooperative areas etc.). Table 1. Below pinpoints those ones that appear most often.

Table 1 Dominant Spatial Representations
  Interstate area Region of regions (Trans)Border Region Cities
Baltic Sea (BS) Framework

BS States

League of the
BS Regions

Baltic Wavelength
New Hanse
Mare Balticum

Schleswig-Holstein/ Sönderjylland (Sydslesvig)
District of Copenhagen & Ørestad-plan
Northernness in General

Nordic Countries

Northern Cape

Barents (Sea) Region

Examples of
(like Melbu)

qresund - Region

European Union

Europe of Regions

Eu(ro)regions; MHAL-project

Europe of cities; European Innovation Islands

Yet, the abundance of spatial representations is added with clear selectivity as the table 1, indicates. There are particular spaces (regions and areas) that constantly serve the function of being primary examples of contemporary tendencies (like strengthening centrality of cities, increasing cross-border activity, emerging neo-regionalism etc.). Locationally speaking the strongest emphasis is laid on what is marked as the ‘Baltic Sea region’ (also called ‘New Hanse’, ‘Baltic Wavelength’ or ‘Mare Balticum’), and especially the south-western part of it, ‘Öresund’ Copenhagen—Malmö city-link) and its surroundings. 35 This location-discourse that could be called a ‘south-western’ one runs parallel to a somewhat less dominant ‘north-eastern’ discourse, that of the ‘Barents Sea region’. These two discourses seem contradictory if considered from purely locational point of view. Qualitatively they are not so far from each other, however. The politics of creating integrating connections unites them although they differ regarding towards what directions this happens. The ‘Öresund’-centered south-western spatial discourse is fundamentally about connecting southern ‘Norden’ (that is southern parts of the Nordic countries) to the ‘growth center’ of Europe (interpreted principally as the European Union). The north-eastern discourse, instead, creates an orientation eastwards, and aims at linking Russia, the Baltic states and former East-Europe to Europe as a whole.

In sum, Baltic Sea region and Barents (Sea) region are the most central spatial representations within these two spatio-political orientations; together these spaces serve as political instruments of linking ‘east’ to the ‘rest of Europe’, and ‘Norden’ to ‘central Europe’. Basically these two political discourses work in terms of producing linkages, and taken together they form a spatial axis running from south-west to north-east along the sphere of ‘northernness’. Fundamentally it is a matter of creating a spatial representation of locationally selective ‘growth corridor’, one with its main ‘entrance’ in the Danish peninsula reaching to farthest corner in the Western Russia (Kola-peninsula and Karelia). Everything beyond this axis gets less attention.

From these connection-building politics a conclusion can be drawn that the ‘northernness’ seems to expand — or perhaps rather transform — firstly, into ‘Europeanized northernness’ and secondly, into ‘easterned northernness’. Indication of the latter is for instance the relative unpopularity of the question of the ‘Northern Cape’ (Nordkalott) region, regardless of its similar location with the ‘Barents (Sea) region’, excluding the Russian areas. Interest in ‘Pro Northern Cape’ politics can be associated merely with one or two persons. 36 One possible reason for Northern Cape getting far less attention than the Barents Region, might be that Northern Cape reflects the former, modern, Cold War -time ‘Nordicity’ and its mode of regional cooperation. Barents (Sea) and Baltic Sea regions are more fashionable as they reflect the tendency of orientating towards east and breaking the former cultural and political east-west divide. Perhaps it is appropriate to say that ‘northernness’ is ‘northeasterned’ by the discourses present in Nord Revy/North Journal.

An another underlying, but quite different and far less dominant politico-spatial axis is formed by the political discourses concerning the issues of northern self-identity and southern ‘otherness’. These two closely related discourses are not about creating connections but instead they deal with the internal integration and cohesion of the ‘North’ itself. In both cases — even in the case of ‘South-discourse’ — the question is fundamentally about ‘Northern identity’, its substance and future within an European space. A relatively weak and quiet ‘southern’ discourse is spun around the problematics of Southern (primarily Islamic) culture, most of all its impact on and adaptation into the Nordic (welfare) societies. One particular issue (2/91) with a theme of foreign people (fremmende befolkninger) highlights this discourse. It literally deals with the ‘Norden’ as an area of cultural conflict (Norden som en kulturell kampplads).

Fundamentally, what brings about the need to re-examine northern self-identity is the tendency of ‘Europeanisation’. Nordic co-operation becomes European, says one Danish delegate at a meeting of the Nordic Council. 37 ‘Europe’ seems to be ‘the’ most significant spatial context, which has to be taken into consideration, no matter what ‘northern’ issue is in question, whether it be economic, cultural, environmental or something else. Thus, ‘Europe’ is the anchoring spatial representation with which other spaces are related and compared to ‘northernness’ (or ‘Norden’ as it is called) is, however, not given any subordinate position. Actually there is an extensive amount of Nordic pride in the air; the new Europeanised ‘Norden’ is treated for instance as ‘the teacher of the rest of the Europe’, as ‘future orientation of the European Union’ or as ‘EU’s rich periphery’. ‘Norden’ is claimed to have something to teach Europe for example in the fields of minority rights, gender equality, environmental policies, consumer policy, cultural policy, local administration and the home rule on the principles in relation to the autonomic regions. The list of ‘Nordic’ merits is long. 38 The new ‘Norden’ vis-à-vis Europe is provided with a very positive and strong identity, by referring not only to the long-standing interstate co-operation, but also to a common cultural and political history 39 , peacefulness and not security-geared essence, and even linguistic affinities are brought up (thereby disregarding e.g. the Finnish, Sami and Icelandic languages in the Nordic countries). ‘Norden is not dead’ argues a secretary general of the Nordic Council of Ministers. It may turn into regional office for EU, he claims. 40

While it is recognized that the new European(ised) ‘Norden’ is becoming more and more ambivalent, thus loosing its relatively clear territorially demarcated base (of interstate territory), there emerges a serious fear in some contributions of the ‘Nordic’ territory being divided into eastern and western parts, ‘East Norden’ and ‘West Norden’. The pro-EU and anti-EU sentiments that clash in each of the Nordic countries are blamed of causing the threat of ‘Norden’s break-up; especially the countries and autonomous areas dependent on fishing industry (Faroe-Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Norway) are anticipated to separate themselves from the rest of the ‘Norden’. There exists, thus, a somewhat modernist counter-discourse to all those neo-regionalist discourses that challenge the coherent territorial unity of a region. This counter-discourse of a ‘United Norden’ supports the traditional (read modern) idea of ‘Norden’ as a clear interstate construction, consisting of all the Nordic Countries and their autonomous areas.

Interestingly enough this ‘United Norden’ counter-discourse, nevertheless, simultaneously favors Europeanization, or the strengthening of European Union to be precise, albeit the European integration has been one of the central challengers of traditional (read modern) meaning of ‘Nordicity’. This peculiar intertwinedness of relatively late-modern Europeanization (pro-EU) discourse and modern ‘United Norden’ discourse is perhaps best explained by the contemporary multi-level governance and essence of EU; the contemporary political structure of the EU allows both transregionality-enthusiasts and intergovernmentalists or governmentalists to maneuver. Europe and Europeanism can, hence, be simultaneously as much of intergovernmental rule of territorial states as it can be of borders challenging, overlapping and networking regions.

Postmodernism Emerging 2 — Ambivalence and Contingency Tolerated

Not only its textual contents but also the journal of Nord Revy/North as a whole provides an interesting ‘laboratory’ of change in spatial political discourses. Nord Revy was published from 1990 till the end of 1996 by NordREFO, a research institute funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers. Round about the year 1997 the journal faced a profound ‘Europeanization’. A previous use of Scandinavian languages gave way to British English, and the name of the journal was changed to ‘North’. Also the front cover changed significantly; the cartographic pictorial motifs of Scandinavian and Danish peninsulas, plus the islands of Greenland and Iceland on a globe vanished and just the pure projection of globe with its meridians and parallels remained. ‘Northernness’ (as ‘North’) was thus given a much more ambivalent substance as its limits were no longer strictly marked by the territories of Nordic Countries.

Within the individual pieces of texts, the increasing ambivalence of previously ‘clear’ spatial and other kinds of concepts is welcomed with anxiety. Most of all this is evident within the Europeanization discourse. Especially the concept of region is problematized in relation to the of spatial representation of ‘Europe of Regions’, which seems to be the dominant interpretation about the future spatial structure of the EU amidst the contributors to Nord Revy/North. They recognize that the question of what the ‘real regions’ in a regionalized Europe are, remains unsolved and the ‘region’ concept is interpreted in multiple ways. The ‘Europe of Regions’ conceptualisation even serves as a handy tool for both the ‘governmentalists’ and the ‘regionalists’ when describing the spatial future of EU; Europe of regions may be as much of a neo-nationalistic region-states as it may be of flexible and overlapping (trans)border-regions. Nilsson (in Nord Revy 2/95) aptly claims, that it is exactly the tremendous vagueness of the region-concept — and the conceptualization of the ‘Europe of regions’ for that matter — which makes it so popular. This conceptual ambivalence causes anxiety among many of the contributors. For instance, the editorial of the number 3-4/97 is titled: ‘The ‘Region’ Headache’ as it deals with the problem of ‘region’ lacking almost any clear definition; regions may even be statist (constitutional) in nature.

But why is this ambivalence so intolerable? According to one author, Europe needs politically and judicially defined entities, ‘regions’ in order to regulate otherwise so free-floating market economy. In accordance with the EU’s subsidiarity principle, there should be defined appropriate spatial entities that would take this responsibility of regulation. These ‘regions’ might even be former states if necessary. It would just be a matter of subdividing and delegating power according to the principle of subsidiarity to the best possible spatial entities. 41 Some contributors have clear answers to the missing meaning of the ‘region’ in ‘northern’, ‘Nordic’ context. Åsling in Nord Revy 5/93 warns about a wild run, uncontrolled regionalization (referring to the complexity of overlapping regional organizations) and offers the provinces (‘läns’) based on representative democracy as resolutions to the ambivalence of regionality. Nilsson in Nord Revy 2/95, on the other hand, sees the flexible, economy based Italian-type of regionality as a proper model for Norden; the ethno-cultural regionality typical of Spain or Belgium should instead be avoided as the nations have already been constructed within Norden.

This spatial (or regional) ambivalence, however, emerges not only at the conceptual level; it is evident also in respect to spatial politics and political agency. In other words, it is not only unclear what is the ‘object’ of reference (i.e. the ‘space’ or ‘region’) but also what is the politically acting subject may vary (i.e. whose ‘space’ or ‘region’ happens to be in question). An example from the field of environmental politics is illustrating. In one contribution, the problem of environmental contamination and deterioration on the Kola-peninsula, becomes treated as a threat to the future development of the transborder region of the Northern Cape (Nordkalott). 42 Little bit later there is an article about ex-soviet environmental threat specifically to Nordic natural environment. ‘Our’ Nordic countries are urged to act in this matter in order to create an ecologically sound zone. On the other hand, later in Nord Revy 2-3/94 these environmental problems of the northernmost area are examined by using a broader, more equal ‘regional’ perspective; environment is noted to be ‘horrible’ both east and west, whole area of the Barents Sea region is deteriorated. Further, in another contribution the same environmental problems are dealt with as a national concern, seen from the perspective of Norwegian state, and the ‘guilty’, blamed opponent is now more clearly the bordering neighbor, Russia. 43 In sum, we could say that the case of the Kola-peninsula has become a battlefield of several agents and it is a matter of context into which ‘space’ it belongs, whether the interstate Norden, Barents Sea region, Northern Cape or Norwegian sphere of influence. Multiplicity of different spaces leads thus not only to a conceptual ambivalence but variation in relation to spatial agency as well.

Postmodernism Emerging 3 — Breaking the Spatial Scales

As the modern state-centric spatial systems transform, not only the essence of ‘space’ will change but also the relations between different spaces will alter. Modern relations of spaces have been very much hierarchical in nature, with the (nation)state as the ultimate center of this hierarchy. Following this hierarchical logic different kinds of vertical, spatial scales have been constructed, like global (read international) — national — local and until recently these scales have been taken very much for granted. However, the Nord Revy/North contributions, as a whole, produce a somewhat different picture. Different spatial formations exist side by side and overlap horizontally rather than form together vertically according to a hierarchical order. Levels, or rather spheres of local (municipalities, cities), national (states, autonomic areas) and regional configurations (trans-border regions, city-networks, interstate regions etc.) intermingle into a complex of different ‘regions’. Thus, we could say that the Nord Revy contributions create a spatial, ‘regional’ complex (or network), with at least four types of ‘region-formations’:

  1. self-sustainability seeking local districts (cities, municipalities), like the town of Melbu in northern Norway,

  2. (trans)border-regions of neighboring provinces or municipalities, like Öresund-region,

  3. interstate cooperative forums, like the Council of Baltic Sea States or ‘Norden’ as Nordic Countries, or European Union,

  4. and multidimensional ‘regions of regions’ like ‘North’, ‘League of Baltic Sea Regions’ or ‘Europe of Regions’.

On the other hand, not only the multilevel spatial scales are broken down, but also different kinds of dichotomous dualities like center-periphery, urban-rural are critically re-examined. Fundamentally, in both cases, but especially in the former, it is a question of re-thinking the conception of border, reconstructing its meaning and significance. The former imagined and ‘real’ dividing lines are expected to fade out and borders are assumed to turn permeable and more fuzzy in nature. 44 Still, EU’s policy in this matter, first of all in the form of Interreg II Initiative, is criticized in many contributions. Interreg-program is for instance said to encourage merely competition rather than cooperation and benefit mostly the official (public) sector and those big corporations having close contacts with the public officials. 45 On the other hand, the inequality in respect to national (sic!) shares in respect to Interreg-funding is emphasised; according to one author there are ‘lucky winners’ (national regions that border the formerly communist countries) and ‘losers’ (regions without the ex-communist neighbour). EU, thus, seems to be less interested in linking ‘Norden’ southwards through the Danish—German border-cooperation programs. 46 One Finnish state official, taken part as a coordinator in the process of getting Interreg-funding, states impressively how the real cross-border activity is a hard and demanding task. Theoretically speaking, nevertheless, at least three Danish scholars predict that the Interreg Initiative will inevitably ‘side-track the sovereignty of national planning agencies’ and in the long run this may also lead to a consolidation of new regional and transnational political entities. 47

On the other hand, the dichotomies of center-periphery and urban-rural are questioned by emphasizing the significance of new type of growth centers (cities, localities, ‘regions’, ‘innovation islands’) that relate closely to each others and their outer environments. The keywords are, thus, networking and openness. Introvert parochialism is not encouraged at all. 48 This is the dominant attitude towards the position of Nordic autonomous areas (Greenland, Aaland and Faroe Islands, as well. Their total independence is not seen as neither conceivable nor necessary. A certain amount of interdependence, albeit maximally reciprocal one, is understood to be inevitable within the future European spatial system. 49

Indeed the border regions are expected to be extrovert and directed to networking. An illustrating case is the treatment of the area of Sydslesvig, a place of residence for a Danish speaking minority close to the German-Danish border; it is expected to be a border-area (Euroregion Schleswig) oriented towards cross-border connection building, networking and hybridization. The reluctance of some Sydslevigians to cooperate transborderly (and hence, rejection to get EU money for the regional development programs) is considered as foolishness, at least from the economic perspective. 50

Postmodernism Emerging 4 — Abundance of Discourses

Spatial discourses emerging from the journal form together a miscellaneous and partially even contradictory discursive network. First of all, there are two seemingly opposing discourses, one that promotes stronger, more self-sustained and competitive ‘regions’ and other that considers the need of state-subsidized, ‘equal’ ‘regions’. There is to be found differentiation in respect to agency between these two discourses, however. Academics, journalists and local (regional, provincial, municipal) officials are the representatives of the former ‘regional self-sufficiency’ discourse whereas they are mostly governmental officials who support the latter kind of, state-led ‘regionalization’ and regional policy. 51 Interestingly, these two discourses something in common as they both relate closely to the discourse of ‘pro European integration’. Especially the ‘pro-European integration’ discourse goes hand in hand with the discourse of genuinely ‘regional’ regional politics. This is highlighted by, a catchy phrase, expressed in the Nord Revy 4/91 on ‘Europeanizing’ regional politics: ‘Regionalpolitiken är död — länge leve en regional politik’ (regional policy is dead — long live the regional politics). Anti-Europe utterances in general, are present only minimally in Nord Revy, and principally related to the case of Norway, dealing with the reasons for Norway not to join the EU. 52 There was, nevertheless, a brief phase of Euro-scepticism at hand on the pages of Nord Revy around the time when the people of Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden pondered their joining the EU. 53

The ‘pro-regions’ discourse is also closely linked with the discourse that might be called ‘environmental awakening’. The principles of environmental soundness and sustainable development are used to justify the need for local self-sufficiency and self-rule. Environmental questions in general had their heyday during the early years of the journal 54 ; later on the ‘environmental awareness’ became implanted in to the spatial politics in a more indirect way. Third central discourse, also somewhat linked to the firstly mentioned ‘pro-regions’ discourse, is the one emphasizing the ever more growing significance of cities as ‘motors of spatial development’. Around the theme of cities there are even several special issues; for instance numbers 6/92, 6/93, 3/95 concentrate on city-related questions. Several conceptualizations are used with reference to city-districts, i.e. cities and their surroundings. They are e.g. dealt with in terms of ‘(functional) regions’, ‘functional nodalpoints’, ‘innovative islands’, ‘(European) dynamos’, ‘locomotives of development’ and ‘meeting places’, just to name a few.

Not surprisingly, questions of Europeanity and Europeanization are taken up with this discourse as well. It is often pointed out how the EU redirects its spatial development programs to help cities, which are besides development ‘dynamos’ within the EU, also overpopulated, congested and polluted, problematic spaces. One Swedish professor even suggests that the term ‘Europe of regions’ should be replaced with the term ’Europe of Cities’, as cities have a longer history of being the centers of spatial development. One representative of EU’s commission, indeed supports the former statement by calling the network of pivotal European cities an ‘Innovative archipelago of Europe’. City-to-city cooperative programs (MHAL-project, Fyrstad, Öresund) are presented as encouraging examples of up-to-date ‘regional’ activity and development. Networking seems to be ‘the keyword’ for the prosperity of urbanized regions. ‘Genuinely regional’ politics is expected to be extrovert in orientation. However, according to the dominating conceptions the connections are supposed to be made most of all with the ‘rest of the Europe’. There are few who criticize this ‘exuberant Europeanization’, however. The fact that inter-Nordic networking and construction of connections has become far less interesting, is dealt with complaints.

Development programs of individual cities or towns (like Aarhus, Copenhagen, Lahti, Melbu, Lillehammer) are analyzed from the viewpoint of how well these spaces have made their own future, specialized in the competitive environment and positioned themselves. There are conflicting attitudes towards the hardening competition between cities and city-regions, however. Some authors emphasize the growth of regional discrepancies and inequalities and thus an urgent need for more stabilizing regional policy run by the national governments (or the EU). According to one Norwegian lecturer, ‘Europe of region’ is far from equal but on the contrary benefits big cities with agglomeration potential. 55 Others instead are in favor of more ‘liberal’ development policy, which supports a development with a maximum of self-sustainability and autonomy.

In sum at least 5 dominant discourses can be identified from the Nord Revy/North textual material.

  1. ‘Pro Europeanization’ (i.e. increasing inter-European interaction and European integration)

  2. ‘Pro regional and local self-sufficiency and stronger autonomy’

  3. ‘Environmental awakening’ (i.e. taking of environmental questions in to consideration)

  4. ‘Pro cities as future locomotives of development’

  5. ‘Pro orientation eastwards’, towards north-western Russia, Baltic states and former east-European areas.

Deriving from these main discourses, the spatial policy of Nord Revy/North contributors aims at creating an environmentally sound, north-eastern and European ‘northernness’, which is based on wealthy regions, city-districts and localities.

Final Remarks

If we use again the metaphor of a videotape, when imagining the abstract processual essence of ‘northernness’, we may say that not only the ‘video’ on play now consists of new kinds of still-pictures (that is spatial representations), it even seems to be needing for a completely new name. The former ‘video’ of ‘nothernness’ perhaps would have been called: ‘Norden — interstate co-operation of Nordic states within the Nordic Council’. Now, according to the Nord Revy/North analysis, the name: ‘North-eastern, European Nordicity — co-operation, conflict and competition within and beyond (!) states, regions, cities, and localities’ seems to be more applicable to reflect the contemporary ‘northernness’. Not that the diversification of material development would be all that sudden; of course, even within the 'Nordic times' there has been much more going on besides interstate cooperation. For instance transnationally (note: not internationally) oriented firms have had their cooperative links and networks transcending state boundaries long before the 'end' of the ideological juxtaposition. 56 Indeed amidst the ‘northern’ peoples there has been cooperation and sense of community past the governmental channels. But it is only recently that also the formal, official political discourses have widened and multiplied dramatically. It is, only after the cold war period, that formal politics has been adapting post- or late-modern conceptualizations. Also other forms and modes of spatial politics than the ones of an interstate kind, have been (even literally) given more ‘space’.

Postmodernism is evident in the field of discursive ‘northernness’ in many ways. First of all there is a tremendous variation in respect to spatial representations. Roughly classified into four categories, there are (1) interstate spaces, (2) ‘regions of regions’, (3) complex transborder regions and (4) localities (most of all wealthy and dynamic city-spaces) present in Nord Revy/North contributions. The simultaneousity of all of these spatial constructions of course inevitably causes ambivalence in relation to the conceptualization of spaces and spatial agency. There will constantly arise questions like, what is a ‘proper region or whose space it is in question, i.e. who is acting on behalf of a particular space?

Picture 3. Postmodern 'Nordicity'

Referring to the above, we no longer can not (and should not) force spatial constructions to fit in the traditional (i.e. modern) classifications conceptualizations of spaces. It seems like, that the contemporary ‘northernness’ is consisting of numerous dynamic 'meeting places' 57 (or to use the term used by Ilari Karppi: 'spaces of action' 58 ), that is ‘nodes’ or 'junctions' within a complex network of flows, rather than of isolated, fixed entities we used to call territorial spaces. Moreover, these meeting places — varying in form and duration — also tend to overlap. There is no longer possible to represent ‘northernness’ by applying a single coherent map. Neither is there a single, dominant authority, legitimized to do the 'drawing' of that map. Instead there is to be found a miscellaneous polyphony in respect to spatial politics in the ‘northern sphere’. The production of spatial 'reality' called ‘northernness’ is no longer centrally controlled, but instead the spatial power has been dispersed. This dispersion of spatial power does not mean however, that the total sum of power would have declined. It is the power system as a whole that is transforming and reconstructing. Within a continuum of hierarchical and networked power systems, the tendency seem to be towards the latter. Interesting is to wait and see, whether there emerges new hegemonic concentrations of power in this spatial network, or whether the spatio-political polyphony keeps expanding.



Note 1: This preliminary analysis was carried through while visiting COPRI, winter 1998. The analysis will later function as an empirical framework for more thorough theoretical examination about the development of Nordic spatial politics in the 90's. All comments welcome. Back.

Note 2: Research fellow, Tampere Peace research Institute, Tampere, Finland. Back.

Note 3: E.g. Ó Tuathail starts his book impressively by stating that: 'Geography is about power. Although often assumed to be innocent, the geography of the world is not a product of nature but a product of histories of struggle between competing authorities over the power to organize, occupy, and administer space.' Ó Tuathail 1996,1 Back.

Note 4: Quotation marks are used because of the constructive nature and multiplicity of meanings of the northern spatiality. Using them does not, however, refer to northern space as fictional, but rather to the dual nature of `northernness' as simultaneously both real and imagined. The dividing line between real and imagined thus becomes impossible to draw. Back.

Note 5: Till the 1997 the institute responsible of publishing Nord Revy/North was NordREFO, after that it was Nordregio (Nordic Center for Spatial Development), an `agglomeration' of three former Nordic institutes: NordREFO, Nordplan and NOGRAN. Back.

Note 6: For example Edward Soja, Doreen Massey and Steve Pile are (political)geographically oriented critics of modern. Back.

Note 7: Albeit postmodernism is now more and more popular and thus increasingly flexible term, it still often carries connotations of anti-modernism or non-modernism, which it actually can never be. The prefix -post is a somewhat misleading, and therefore the term trans-modern is here used as a further clarification of the use of the term postmodernism. Back.

Note 8: See e.g. Richard O'Brien, 1992 Back.

Note 9: Gearoid Ó Tuathail, 1997, 51 Back.

Note 10: Both in respect to 'image' and formal practice it makes a tremendous difference, whether an institute is literally closed down or merely merged into a larger establishment. Back.

Note 11: This crystallisation of Enlightenment tenets is by Gregor MacLennan, 1992,330. Back.

Note 12: Emanuel Adler, 1997,322 Back.

Note 13: See Henri Lefevbre 1991 Back.

Note 14: Diaspora, although easily related to Jewish experience, is now widely used as reference to 'collective memory' of any collectivity settled (either voluntarily or as forced) outside its natal (or imagined natal) territories (i.e. their 'homelands'). As such diaspora is not merely negative, but also productive and enriching force as it is kind of flexible 'traveling' between two 'homes'. In fact, return to natal homes, especially in the form of re-territorialization and nationalization of diasporic identity, rather than reduces diasporas, easily causes more others (as in the case of Israel). See e.g. Cohen Robin (1997). Back.

Note 15: Chakrabarti Pasic Sujata (1996, 86). Back.

Note 16: Colin Hay, 1995. Back.

Note 17: Discourse analysts often speak of interdiscursivity in this respect Back.

Note 18: Concept `borrowed' from Thomas Diez, 1997. Back.

Note 19: Jabri, 1996, 94 Back.

Note 20: Giddens, 1979 Back.

Note 21: Diez, 1997; see also Laclau and Mouffe, 1985 Back.

Note 22: See Hansen, 1996 Back.

Note 23: Nicholson & Seidman, 1995,7 Back.

Note 24: About anti-essentialism in relation to gender identity: Mouffe, 1995, and racial identity: Appiah, 1995. Back.

Note 25: Best & Kellner, 1991, 5 Back.

Note 26: Wver, 1997 Back.

Note 27: Roughly from 1960's. Back.

Note 28: According to some critics Peace Research has barely, if at all redeemed these promises; eg. Jahn, 1991 Back.

Note 29: Nord Revy 3-4/95, 22-26 Back.

Note 30: This conception of politics and political is from Kari Palonen, 1987. Back.

Note 31: NordREFO's research organisation consisted of an inter-disciplinary network of researchers in all five Nordic countries. Back.

Note 32: Interestingly, the editorial of the journal (both in the case of Nord Revy and North) has followed the traditional gender-based division of labour. A group of men, the contemporary director of the NordREFO or Nordregio, former directors of NordREFO (all have been men) and a chief editor have been the proper editors, and a female worker has been holding the secretarial position Back.

Note 33: Bauman, 1996, 147-155 Back.

Note 34: See Lefevbre 1991, 38-46 Back.

Note 35: Minister of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein is perhaps the most active promoter of Baltic Sea Region, specifically as a `region of regions', not merely as an interstate area. See eg. Nord Revy 1/90, 2/92. Back.

Note 36: Noralv Veggeland is a central figure regarding the politics on behalf of Northern Cape; he even visions its future as an economic free-zone. He uses the term Lille Nordkalott (`small NorthernCape') referring to the northern parts of Finland, Norway and Sweden and alternatively the term Store Nordkalott (`grand Northern Cape') about the former area added with the Kola-peninsula and north-eastern parts of the Soviet Union/Russia. See: Veggeland, Nord Revy 1/90 and 3/91. In number 3/90 Gerner mentions Northeren Cape as one of the meso-regions in the `Europe of regions'. Number 2/95 has an article by Aalbu, where he states Nothern Cape having a new chance. Back.

Note 37: Nord Revy 6/94 Back.

Note 38: To what extent these `merits' are more taken for granted conceptions, traditional myths than contemporary politics is problematized very little in Nord Revy/North contributions. Back.

Note 39: Swedish political scientist even sees Nordic states as belonging to a same nation! See: Nord Revy 2/93. Back.

Note 40: Nord Revy 5/94 Back.

Note 41: Jorgensen, Nord revy 3-4/96 Back.

Note 42: Nord Revy 3/91. Back.

Note 43: Nord Revy 5-6/96 Back.

Note 44: For instance Lindström (in Nord Revy 3/96) prognosticates the tendency towards overlapping sovereignty instead of territorially bound one. Similarly Jönsson (Nord Revy 1-2/96) deals with the decreasing sovereignty and growing interdependence amidst nation-states. Back.

Note 45: Hansen, Nord Revy 1-2/96 Back.

Note 46: Hedegaard, Nord Revy 1-2/96 Back.

Note 47: Nord Revy 5-6/96. Back.

Note 48: For instance Nord Revy number 3/91 has an article of the town of Harstad as a `warning example' of degenerating parochialism. Back.

Note 49: See especially Nord Revy number 4-5/92 Back.

Note 50: See the editorial of the Nord Revy 1/97; Östergård, Nord Revy 2/97. Back.

Note 51: This, like any principle, contains minor exceptions, however. For instance in Nord Revy 1/92 representatives of Finnish Ministry of Interior argue for regionally driven development politics, which is not merely an centrally governed activity of balancing regional discrepancies. Back.

Note 52: E.g. about Norway as a future net donor to EC, and possible suffering of Norwegian agriculture after EC membership Nord Revy 1/92; about Scotland as a warning example for Norway what might happen to peripheral areas if joined the EC, Nord Revy 2-3/94. Back.

Note 53: See especially Nord Revy number 3/90. Back.

Note 54: There were even 4 special issues on environmental questions 2/90; 3/92; 3-4/93 and 27/5. Back.

Note 55: Nord Revy 6792. Back.

Note 56: Yet, in the case of Finnish firms, this internationality dominantly ment mutual, reciprocal trade with the Soviet Union, and consequently, as it ended it was very fatal to finnish firms. As no alternative ways of survival were prepared - R and D was underdeveloped, contacts and relations were unilateral - many firms had to start over from the very beginning. Back.

Note 57: The term used by e.g. Massey Doreen (1993a). Back.

Note 58: This concept of Karppi, refers to co-operative action taking place among actors, (private and public sector) that have different roles in processing and managing resources available within a specific spatial setting. J. Ilari Karppi (1996). Back.