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MSCA-Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA)

Polar Night/Midnight Sun: A history of sleep and time in the Arctic, 1800-1900

Awarded: NOK 2.9 mill.

Sleep is universal to the human experience. A core element of our daily (circadian) rhythms, sleep is a biological and a cultural phenomenon. When we sleep, how we feel about sleep, and what we deem as normal varies with place and time. The new science of chronobiology is demonstrating that the daily rhythms of sleep and wake, eat and fast, have far reaching consequences for our physical and mental health. Understanding this embodied time can provide a new perspective on the everyday experience of people in the past and open up larger questions about time and society. This interdisciplinary project takes its start in the history of time and sleep and proposes to use an analysis of embodied rhythms to provide new perspectives on the history of Arctic exploration. European visitors to the Arctic in the nineteenth century experienced it as a timeless space where the seasonal fluctuations in light quite literally turned day to night. The Polar Night and the Midnight Sun challenged the crews emotionally and physically as disordered sleeping and irregular eating threatened physical and mental health. At the same time, the unpredictable magnetism of the North Pole frustrated attempts to overcome the Arctic 'timescape' with the tools of European science. PNMS is innovative in its subject area and its methodology. This project combines the tools of historical research with the insights of Henri Lefebvre's rhythmanalysis to attend to bodily rhythms in the past in new and exciting ways. Following Lefebvre's influential methodological lens, I propose to combine work on nineteenth century European sources with a contemporary rhythmanalysis, travelling to Svalbard in the Arctic Circle to observe the changing rhythms of residents in the bright summer and dark winter. This action brings together the insights of the history of science, environmental humanities, temporality studies, and feminist studies of emotion to gain new perspective on the Arctic landscape and its rhythms.

Funding scheme:

MSCA-Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA)

Funding Sources