Guðmundur Hálfdánarson

Guðmundur Hálfdánarson, Professor of History at the University of

Guðmundur Hálfdanarson (1956) was educated at the University of Lund (Sweden), University of Iceland and Cornell University (the United States). He is currently Jón Sigurðsson professor in the Department of History, University of Iceland. He specializes in European cultural and political history, with special emphasis on the history and theories of ationalism. Among his publications are Íslenska þjóðríkið – uppruni og endimörk [The Icelandic Nation-State – Origins and Limits] (2001), (with H. Jensen an Berntson) Europa 1800-2000 (2003), (ed. Discrimination and Tolerance in Historical Perspective (2008), and (with Sigríður Matthíasdóttir and Magnús Guðmundsson, Gunnar Karlsson ed.), Aldarsaga Háskóla Íslands 1911-2011 [History of the University of Iceland, 1911-2011] (2011). He was co-coordinator of the FP6 Network of Excellence, and is editor-in-chief of Scandinavian Journal of History.

National narratives are central to people’s perceptions of themselves and how they act as a group. To study such narratives, their formation, reproduction and impact, is thus of vital importance for understanding the workings of society. The objective of this research project is to analyze the Icelandic national narrative, or how the story of the Icelandic nation has been formulated and performed, by whom, for hom and to what effect. What stories reached a hegemonic position in the Icelandic public arena and how have they been used, transmitted, manipulated, resisted, contested, and endorsed? What exclusionary mechanisms have been created and maintained by tracing the nation back to its imagined “ethnic” or “racial” roots? Where have these narratives placed the Icelandic nation in the world and how have they interacted with and imitated similar narratives in other countries? How have these narratives shaped present predicaments in areas such as state politics, cultural production and gender relations? This array of topics will be examined through an interdisciplinary approach, where the narratives are explored from various perspectives – as texts, originating in certain political and cultural contexts, and as political instruments, or tools of power, which developed through time, but were based on recurring discursive themes. The project approaches the topic from a broad historical perspective, in order to explain how people’s conceptions of the past are used to legitimate political power relations in the present, and how they serve to promote, reject and rationalize socio-cultural change.

Project Partners: Ástráður Eysteinsson, professor of comparative literature, and Dean of the School of Humanities, University of Iceland; Birgir Hermannsson, researcher in political science, Reykjavíkurakademían (RA); Helg Björnsdóttir, sessional teacher in anthropology and qualitative methodlogy, University of Iceland; Jón Karl Helgason, associate professor of Icelandic literature, University of Iceland; Jón Yngvi  Jóhannsson, sessional teacher in the Deparment of Icelandic and Comparative Cultural Studies at the University of Iceland; Katla Kjartansdóttir, researcher at the Edda Centre of Excellence (Edda) and acting director of the Icelandic Centre for Ethnology and Folklore (ICEF); Kristinn Schram, post-doc researcher at ICEF, RA and Edda Centre of Excellence; Ólafur Rastrick, postdoctoral fellow in history, University of Iceland; Ragnheiður Kristjánsdóttir, adjunct in history, University of Iceland; Sigurjón B. Hafsteinsson, associate professor of museum studies, University of Iceland; Tinna Grétarsdóttir, sessional teacher in the departments of Anthropology,  and Folkloristics and Museology, University of Iceland; Valdimar J. Halldórsson, Director of the Jón Sigurðsson Museum, Hrafnseyri; Veturliði G. Óskarsson, professor of Nordic languages, especially Icelandic, University of Uppsala, Sweden.

Research Field and Areas: History, Comparative Literature, Anthropology, Museology, Cultural Studies, Social Linguistics

Keywords: National narratives, nationalism, national identities, historical formations, cultural heritage, social linguistics

Presentations and Publications