The Dynamics of Darkness in the North | Reykjavík, February 26-28, 2015
Les membres du Collectif RENOIR seront présents au colloque international The Dynamics of Darkness in the North, à Reykjavík, les 26, 27 et 28 février 2015. Ils présenteront une communication intitulée The Role of the Night & the Northern Lights in the Production of a New Touristic Imaginary of the North (résumé ci-dessous).
This event is co-organized by the Department of Geography and Tourism at the University of Iceland, the International Laboratory for the Multidisciplinary Study of Representations of the North at the Université du Québec à Montreal, and the Iceland Academy of the Arts, in cooperation with the Nordic House in Reykjavík, the Embassy of Canada in Iceland and the Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la littérature et la culture québécoises.
Daniel Chartier, Université du Québec à Montréal; Gunnar Thór Jóhannesson, University of Iceland; Katrín Anna Lund, University of Iceland; Ólöf Gerður Sigfúsdóttir, Iceland Academy of the Arts; Sigurjón Baldur Hafsteinsson, University of Iceland; Karen Möller Sívertsen, University of Iceland, Hildigunnur Sverrisdóttir, Iceland Academy of the Arts; Þuríður Helga Kristjánsdóttir, the Nordic House, Reykjavík and Stewart Wheeler, the Embassy of Canada in Iceland.
The Role of the Night & the
Northern Lights in the Production of a
New Touristic Imaginary of the North
“Aurora is an unpredictable lady, and you never know when she will decide to turn up. This diva keeps you waiting, so whenever you go hunting for the northern lights above the Arctic Circle, make sure you set aside the whole evening. […] If the northern lights do not come to you, you can go to the northern lights. Set off by car into the polar night on the lookout for clear skies.” (Excerpts from the website promoting tourism in Norway www.visitnorway.com, consulted the 09/24/2014).
Our work is based on empirical observation: the development of a tourist offer proposing to observe the northern lights in some Nordic areas. We place these developments in a broader dynamic of changes in our relationship to the night [3, 4,6]. These changes find a translation in a tourism  that takes the night and its environmental resources as objects [1,7]. This communication focuses on a particular object of these tourist dynamics: the northern lights.
We formulate the following hypothesis: the erosion by the urban lighting of the “natural” night and of the accessibility to its “environmental resources” (as the starry sky, for example) provides an opportunity for some areas of low density to convey an image of strong naturality . In the case before us, large areas of the North put forward three advantages: to striking daytime landscape naturalness, they add a good quality of the dark night and a very special nocturnal environmental resource that can be frequently observed in their latitudes, the northern lights. This set seems to be new forms of “lost identity” , new “spaces of nostalgia”  for many people living in large metropolitan cities.
By questioning the status of the northern lights as landscape object, we analyze the manufacture of a new touristic imaginary linked to the Nordic countries. The northern lights appear to be objects worthy of consideration as markers of a strong degree of naturalness, in which the themes of the return and the conquest are still relevant and play a key role in the production of images, landscapes or speech. Through qualitative and quantitative approaches, our empirical material is twofold: iconographic production of landscapes in geographical magazines, and tourism offers promoting the Nordic areas.
Night – Darkness – Northern Lights – Tourism – Imaginary – Landscapes – North
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 Challéat S. and Lapostolle D., 2014. “Conciliate urban lighting and nocturnal environment: the issues of a sociotechnical controversy”, Natures, Sciences, Sociétés. Article in press.
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- Geography and Regional Planning. University of Toulouse 2-Jean Jaurès, UMR MA Dynamiques Rurales, France.Coordinator of the RENOIR Research Group. Corresponding author. [↩]
- Information and Communication Sciences. University of Toulouse 3-Paul Sabatier, EA LERASS, France. [↩]
- Geography and Regional Planning. University of Toulouse 2-Jean Jaurès, UMR MA Dynamiques Rurales, France. [↩]
- Geography and Regional Planning. University of Burgundy, UMR CNRS ThéMA, France. [↩]
- Social Psychology. University of Toulouse 3-Paul Sabatier, EA LERASS, France. [↩]
- Political Economy. Observatory of Rural Development, INRA-Toulouse, France. [↩]
- Geography and Regional Planning. University of Paris 8, UMR CNRS LADYSS, France. [↩]