Marc Jacobsen

This paper demonstrates how different Greenlandic governments have exploited a narrative of a unique Greenlandic identity to shape and strengthen a foreign policy autonomous from Denmark. Central to this narrative is, on the one hand, the widespread anticipation of more independence in the future and, on the other hand, the notion of a common cultural core formed in the past. The three main elements of this core are the Greenlandic language, hunting traditions, and a particular relationship to nature. While the status of the three elements is often disputed in specific domestic policy debates, such as the commissions exploring future Greenlandic constitution and reconciliation with Denmark, on the international policy level there is a remarkable agreement about the narrative. Here the three elements are understood as a matter of societal security. They need to be protected from external threats in order to uphold the current Greenlandic society. In several cases, the elements are securitised. Hereby the nomination of external threats is used to successfully legitimise extraordinary rights, such as whaling, while the strive for independence substantiate more favourable CO2-reduction requirements. These different rights do, on the one hand, enhance Greenland’s individual position in the world, and hence also strengthen the nation-building process, while, on the other hand, making visible a paradox where increased CO2-emissions have negative implications for the traditional way of living. These implications mirror the complexity of the identity narrative, as the cultural core and the anticipated future independence sometimes contrast each other.

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