ASTK15749U SUMMER18: Nation-building and state formation in the Arctic and Greenland

Volume 2017/2018

Bachelorlevel: 10 ECTS

Masterlevel: 7,5 ECTS


The Artic is undergoing huge changes both as experienced internally by citizens and authorities and as viewed from the outside from geopolitcal, economic and physical perspectives. From being known as a ‘frozen desert’ for centuries, during the lastest decades the Arctic is becoming a new ocean as climate changes continue and is attracting interests from actors in the states around the Arctic Ocean, in Europe, in Asia and beyond.

The seminar will discuss concepts and theories of nation building and state formation from a critical perspectives focusing on concepts as colonialism, autonomy, sovereignty, security, governance, independence etc. and establish the relevance of nation building and state formation theories in communities around the Arctic with a focus on Greenland.

These concepts and theories will be applied to developments in contemporary Greenland where processes of nation building and state formation are urging issues in the national as well as international discourses on the Arctic and Greenland.

Analyses and debates are on both conceptual contestations and theoretical explanations as well as disagreement about empirical developments. Greenland is a self-governing territory within the realm of Denmark. It was a Danish colony from 1721 to 1953. After the formal decolonization process in the wake of World War II, Greenland experienced some degree of devolution of powers from Denmark but also, and somewhat paradoxically, a growing Danish presence in Greenland and a Danification of private businesses and public services. This generated protests and gave birth to a national independence movement that resulted in the introduction of Home Rule in 1979. This process of Greenlandification developed further, and in 2009 an Act on Self-Government was adopted. In the present situation, Greenland as a self-governing territory within the realm of Denmark enjoys to a large degree  of autonomy in domestic matters, but does not retain decision-making power on questions pertaining to citizenship, monetary, foreign, defense and security policy.

This intricate development makes it a hard case to apply nation building and state formation theories to the case of Greenland. The seminar will try to do this by including the size of territory and population, the double status of the population as an indigenous people and a nation, language and ethnicity, the economic situation and foreign direct investment, and not least, the Greenland-Denmark relations.

Learning Outcome

Knowledge: The course objective is to enable students to demonstrate knowledge of the main strands of the scientific literature, reports and white papers within political theory, comparative politics and international relations

Skills: The course objective is to enable students to apply theories and analyse one or more cases comparing single aspect or/and asses the interactions of several aspects, and be able to make informed, analytical evaluations of the developments, present situation or/and future perspectives.

Competences: The course objective is to enable students to fulfil academic functions in public and private enterprises, and adequately handle these in national and international contexts, and successfully to continue their education at the postgraduate level.

Main texts:


John Coakley (2012). Nationalism, Ethnicity and the State: Making and Breaking Nations. London: SAGE.


Gail Fondahl and Joan Nymand Larsen (eds.) (2015). Arctic Human Development Report. Regional Processes and Global Linkages. Copenhagen: Nordic Council of Ministers  (Available online at: http:/​/​​10.6027/​TN2014-567.)


A more elaborated reading list will be available around 1 February.

A combination of lectures, seminar discussion, group discussions student presentations.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner