Rifling through a stack of books: Examining expressions of Norwegian national identity
In my last CHI blog post of 2016, I’ll discuss the next steps of my project, expanding from my last post regarding the visualization of cultural heritage and ethnographic topics to the overall scheme and vision of my own project on Norwegian national identity. As with most large scale and content heavy projects, mine has evolved over these several months to this current iteration that not only serves as the main component to my master’s thesis, but also as the platform from which I can launch further projects that involve my interests in Scandinavian culture heritage, language, and the use of technology as the medium through which I can explore these interests.
This project expands a bit from my original idea to examine language as a theme and means for expressing national identity in Norway, and looks at several conceptual themes of national identity from Norwegian constitutional independence in 1814 to the present. These themes include linguistic expressions of the words “national identity” and their variants, tangible heritage, intangible heritage, language, and relationships with nature. While it is likely that these categories will change, mold, expand, and shift, these are the broad categories through which I will examine relationships and trends in national identity expression in Norway. The overall purpose of my project is to make connections between history, modes of cultural expression, and evolving attitudes of national identity, to identify trends in national identity formation in Norway, particularly to examine if these trends move from relatively homogeneous in the early part of the 19th century, to more multicultural and complex towards the present day. My hypothesis suggests that we will see this evolving trend – but the importance of this project is connecting the presence and context of forces such as historical events, political policies, issues of colonization and acculturation, and revitalization to national identity to understand how national identity is impacted by these forces, how national identity can impact these forces (and thus, the people who are subjected to them), and what we can expect to see in the future.
My project, at this point in the development phase, will consist of a multi-page website that examines these concepts of national identity throughout Norwegian literature, a medium of expression through which much of those definitions of “Norwegianness” have found fruition (Bø 2011). The website, in the spirit of my love for narrative and honoring literature as the source for my data for this project, operates like one is reading a novel: the landing page serves as your table of contents and introduction. Each subsequent page is a new chapter that examines a particular concept, containing a chart that projects the use of the particular concept within Norwegian literature, and a commentary that combines this physical evidence of conceptual concepts within literature and scholarly analysis centered on anthropological and historical theory. The chart that will project the use of national identity concepts over time will be developed from functionality from Google Ngram Viewer (https://books.google.com/ngrams/info) and Culturomics Bookworm (http://bookworm.culturomics.org/). These tools allow the developer to data mine textual repositories such as Google Books and online libraries (for this project, repositories such as Europeana http://www.europeana.eu/portal/en, Project Gutenberg https://www.gutenberg.org/, Dokumentasjonsprojektet http://www.dokpro.uio.no/, and the Norwegian National Library http://www.nb.no/) to pull the textual examples of these concepts from the text and chart them on a timeline. From this timeline and from the theoretical connections I will examine based upon what is found in the literature, I can examine the evolution of national identity in Norway and understand how these conceptualization have impacted the people in this country, and where they might project into the future.
Because this project intends to function first as a master’s thesis and as the culmination of the overall CHI Initiative Project, it will be heavy in scholarly material and analysis. However, because I am enamored of narrative, literature, folklore, and stories in general, I aim to make this website interesting to all who have interest in Norwegian literature. Overall, this project aims to chip away at that larger question of “What does it mean to be Norwegian?” and also examines the importance and implications of national identity ideologies within culture.
Bø, Gudleiv. 2011 Nation Building and Folklore in Norway 1840-1905. Forum for World Literature Studies 3(2): 173-183.