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Northern Studies at Umeć University
Northern Studies is one of the Areas of Excellence at Umeć University, Sweden, engaging scholars from a range of disciplines in all the University Faculties. One important focus for investigations is Northern Scandinavia, while other perspectives include the whole of North-West Europe or concentrate on the circumpolar area. Phenomena that could be gathered under the heading "northerliness" or "nordicity" are also subjects for research.
The North is a region full of contrasts. Its importance has varied greatly through history and it has been understood as the land of future as well as a marginalised periphery. Despite the region's rich natural resources, developments are hampered by sparse population and a peripheral geographical position in relation to the power and market centres of the surrounding world. Hunting, fishing and reindeer husbandry, and in later periods agriculture, forestry, hydroelectric power plants and mining have been and remain important bases for life in the North. The sometimes harsh climate means that the region is less suitable for crop production in agriculture, but prosperous farms based on especially animal husbandry exist in many areas. Today, the production industry and the service sector dominate the job market.
There has been varied and dynamic research concerning the North in Umeć ever since the University was founded in 1965. The Humanities have focused on people as cultural beings, and have studied, for instance, the languages and cultures that have existed in the North through the ages. Encounters between ethnic, cultural and social groups have shaped different identities and identification patterns that are manifested in languages, dialects, literature, art and music. Ground-breaking archaeological studies have changed the picture of ancient, northern history. An important field is what can be termed Sami studies, examining, among other things, migration patterns, health and living conditions within Sápmi from linguistic, cultural and demographic perspectives. Accounts by foreign visitors supply valuable information about outside images of the area.
In the Social Sciences, important research issues are questions concerning the development of the region and the various social and economic problems that seem to be particularly related to the North. Comparisons with other periods and locations add depth to the investigations. The emphases are on demographic developments, migration, available sources of income and the job market, the use of the region's resources and the structural transformation of the economy. The research is often connected to instruments for control of sustainable development, demographically, ecologically, economically and socio-culturally.
Ecologists at Umeć University study, for instance, how the exploitation of natural resources has influenced northern eco-systems and how the resources can be used responsibly. Some issues in focus are how forestry influences biological variety and what effects reindeer grazing may have on the vegetation of the area. Interdisciplinary projects study the relations between forestry and reindeer husbandry in boreal forests.
Population genetics and research concerning genetic dispositions for various diseases are important strands in the medical research conducted at Umeć University. There are, for example, studies of the causes of hereditary diseases typical of Northern Sweden or infection diseases with a specifically northern distribution. Epidemiological studies provide comparisons with other regions. Northern Studies at Umeć University is an interdisciplinary and comparative research field acknowledging the importance of both the past and the future. The research conducted illuminates the opportunities and difficulties for human activities in the North. There is front-line research as well as an excellent potential for developing and intensifying various thematic fields.
The Journal of Northern Studies is one way of consolidating the position of Umeć University in the field of Northern Studies. The refereed journal was launched with a double issue in 2007, and from 2008, there has been two journal issues per year. The journal is electronically published since 2017. Publication languages are English, German and French, with abstracts in English accompanying each article.
The journal contains scholarly articles concerning human activities in northern spaces. There are articles concentrating on people as cultural beings discussing, for instance, linguistic, historical or anthropological questions and articles focusing on people in society, treating economical or social issues. Other articles concern people in their natural environment with an emphasis, for example, on the opportunities for human activity provided by the special features of northern eco-systems and the consequences disturbances of these systems may have. Articles within the medical field deal with the health situation of people in the North. In many cases, the articles published represent interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches.
Apart from the scholarly articles, the journal contains a review section, a section with reports from conferences etc. and information about upcoming events relevant for Northern studies.
Umeć University is responsible for the publication of the journal, together with Kungl. Skytteanska Samfundet (The Royal Skyttean Society), Sweden's northernmost Royal Academy.
Lars-Erik Edlund, Editor-in-chief