Date of Submission

Spring 2018

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Economics; Human Rights

Project Advisor 1

Aniruddha Mitra

Project Advisor 2

Peter Rosenblum

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Greenland was colonized by Denmark in 1721. Although Denmark’s colonization had elements of racism and economic exploitation, it was not violent. This project explores the long-term effects of a paternalistic colonization on the establishment of extractive institutions and on social well-being and cohesion. I examine ways in which Danish colonial policy, from 1721-1953, on the one hand sought to “civilize” and modernize Greenlandic society and, on the other hand, attempted to maintain traditional hunting practices for economic gain. These complex and sometimes contradictory social engineering techniques of governance have been linked to long-term problems of Greenlandic identity. Greenland was officially decolonized in 1953, becoming an independent nation within the Danish Realm. However, it is argued that this formal decolonization paradoxically strengthened Denmark’s influence and paternalism in Greenland; the 1950s and 1960s were known as the period of modernization or ‘Danization’ in which Denmark centered Greenland’s economy on the cod fishing industry. Studies have linked this modernization to social disruption: for example, Greenland has the highest suicide rate in the world. There is suggestive evidence linking the rise in suicide rates in Greenland to aspects of modernization, such as rises in urbanization rates. Although Greenland is no longer a colony of Denmark today, they still rely on an annual subsidy from Denmark and the two nations are politically intertwined. Greenland’s desire for self-reliance is becoming more globally debated as the polar ice caps melting is making natural resources and minerals more accessible in Greenland. While Greenland hopes revenues from these resources and minerals will aid their desire for economic self-reliance, the mining of these resources raises several concerns surrounding the exploitation of natural resources.

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