"Norse and Christian. Constructing Identities in the North Atlantic Viking Age"
Université Laval, Québec
14 février 2012

In the 9th and 10th centuries AD the islands of the North Atlantic – the Northern Isles of Scotland, the Faroes, Iceland and southern Greenland, were colonised from Northern Europe. In all these places a distinctly Scandinavian and Christian cultural paradigm became established and they all eventually became part of the Norwegian kingdom. In the Faroes and Iceland the colonists occupied landscapes not previously inhabited by humans and southern Greenland was uninhabited at the time, although further westward and northward exploration soon resulted in contact with other cultures. These conditions provide exciting opportunities to examine society building and identity formation; how culture is created in a new place. Focusing on identity this talk will describe the growing evidence for a mid to late 10th century period of active, and to some degree conscious, identity formation in Iceland. This involved the adoption of Norse modes of cultural expression, social norms and political structures, establishing an ethnic identity important for the legitimisation of new political structures. The early spread of Christianity in the North Atlantic was a part of this process and seems to represent, among other things, an additional layer of identity emphasising modernity and progress compared to the more backward homelands.

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