Doing the Norway

Filmmaker: Gry Elisabeth Mortensen

Year of production: 2009
Location: Norway
Duration: 31 minutes.
Sound: mono
Language: Norwegian / English
English Subtitles

In Petersburg, Alaska, the inhabitants celebrate their Norwegian heritage with great enthusiasm. By the use of old symbols and artefacts, and the annual “Little Norway Festival”, an abstract relationship with “the old country” is constituted. For some, being “Norwegian” plays a vital role in the making of identity, even though the bloodline is getting washed out and the first-hand connection with Norway is limited. The strive for belonging and people’s need to feel special are fundamental subjects in this film, as we follow Vikings and Valkyries, Leikarring Dancers, Rosemalers and other inhabitants 

Copyright: 2009  Visual Cultural Studies, University of Tromsø

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ABSTRACT This thesis is about notions of authenticity in the Norwegian-American society Petersburg, Alaska. With the intention of gaining an understanding on why the Norwegian heritage keeps such a strong position in this society, I went into the field, and was surprised by the extensive role of food and the use of the term authentic in connection with it. I found that the idea of authenticity is closely connected to the nature one side, and ideas about the old on the other, constituting a dual possession of the really real. The old and the natural fits perfectly with the perception of Norway, which I argue is the key to its strong position in Petersburg. This conspiracy is imperative in the making of the place Petersburg, and influences, as well as is influenced of, economical spheres, gender and social hierarchies. The thesis is based on a three month fieldwork conducted in Petersburg during the spring of 2008, where qualitative methods led me to the findings I explore. The thesis should be read in connection with my film Doing the Norway, dealing with the issue of living in a society where notions of the past play an extended role, shown through the making of the Little Norway Festival.


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