Scarcity in the Arctic: A Colonial Construct?


In European imagination the North Atlantic has been seen as a region on the far borders of civilization and marked by the contrasts of scarcity and plenty. For settlers from the mainland, Greenland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands were places of privation, hardship, and “doing without”: due to the short growing season, many familiar foods were scarce or simply not available. However, the region also contained a much desired abundance: for hunters, Arctic animals were a rich source of goods such as polar bear furs, sealskins, and whale oil. There is no question that hunger has always been a challenge in northern regions. Scarcity, on the other hand is not what exists, but what is perceived to be missing, and often it is intertwined with both gender and politics.