Arctic Encounters: Contemporary Travel/Writing in the European High North (ENCARC)

Project Participants

Arctic Encounters is an international collaborative research project that looks at the increasingly important role of cultural tourism in fashioning twenty-first century understandings of the European Arctic. The project’s general objective is to account for the social and environmental complexities of the High North – an area which incorporates some of Europe’s most geographically extreme regions – as these are inflected in the mutual relationship between a wide range of recent travel practices and equally diverse representations of those practices framed in both verbal and visual terms (e.g. travel writing and documentary film).

Headquartered at the University of Leeds and involving academic partners from Denmark, Iceland and Norway as well as a number of associated non-academic partners and an academic advisory board, the project enquires into the Arctic as (1) an internally differentiated space of cross-cultural entanglement and encounter, and (2) a postcolonial space in which locally articulated desires to decolonise the region are seen in cultural-political and environmental terms. More specifically, its interlinked case studies make the case for a European Arctic that gauges the imaginative as well as geopolitical boundaries of Europe. These case studies also add to continuing debates on EU Arctic cultural policy; provide advanced understandings for European Arctic travel industries; and contribute to the de-peripheralisation of the Arctic in an expanding European cultural and economic zone. Particular attention in the project is given to the recent consolidation of environmentally oriented forms of travel (ecotourism, ‘green’ travel writing) in a region whose improved infrastructure and transportation networks, as well as the local effects of climate change, have resulted in a flourishing of tourism (especially nature tourism and aboriginal tourism) across the region.

Associated Partners: 

Inntravel ( is an ethically-minded tour operator based in Yorkshire that offers innovative Slow holidays, in particular self-guided walking and cycling holidays. Among their destinations, they offer popular trips to Svalbard, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Arctic Encounters is working alongside Inntravel to learn about how tourism companies which operate in the Arctic might work better in order to help ensure a positive future for tourism in the region.

The Snowchange Cooperative ( is one of Scandinavia’s best-known environmental cooperatives, specialising in Eastern Sápmi (Finland, Russia) climate-change and indigenous activism. Snowchange works closely with indigenous communities across the European Arctic region, where one of its main aims is to close the gap between site-specific academic research – involving both indigenous and non-indigenous scholars – and the various itinerant Northern indigenous communities whose traditional knowledge and cultural autonomy it supports. The Cooperative plays a consciousness-raising role for a variety of constituencies, both within and outside the European Arctic region, and has strong links to several major international bodies such as the US National Science Foundation, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the Arctic Council.

The Leeds International Film Festival (, which drew more than 30,000 visitors in 2011 and is one of the largest in the UK, is known for promoting cultural diversity in one of the UK’s most vibrant multicultural cities. Its varied programmes often feature anthropologically oriented documentary work, and promotes the appreciation of different, sometimes little-known cultures. As part of the 2015 Festival, Arctic Encounters is putting on several films and talks by filmmakers, as well as sponsoring a short film competition.