UrbTrans is a radically interdisciplinary project that examines the development of Nuuk, the capital city of Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland). The aim with the project is to learn with and from Nuuk about the connections between urbanization, colonialism and decolonization. By studying the city's development from 1950 and up until today, the project will examine how the Nordic colonialism has contributed to shaping Nuuk, but also how today's urban politics and -development can be part of the decolonization of Kalaallit Nunaat. The project is conducted in cooperation with partners at Ilisimatusarfik (University of Greenland), Nunatta Katersugaasivia Allagaateqarfialu (The National Museum and Archive of Greenland), og Nuutoqaq (Nuuk Local Museum).
UrbTrans is an interdisciplinary project that builds on Science and Technology Studies to examine urban transformation in Nuuk, Greenland, from 1950 to 2024. During this period of decolonisation, urban planning and development has evolved from being governed from the offices of Danish ministries to becoming a matter of local authorities. At present, Nuuk's authorities are pursuing ambitious transformation schemes. Their expressed aim is to take advantage of the new economic prospects that have arisen in the wake of Arctic climate change. Meanwhile, the city also faces severe social problems, issues that are arguably rooted in its colonial past. Notably, stakeholders evoke Danish colonisation not merely as a historical explanation, but as part of processes still shaping Nuuk; the past is active. Rather than being a passive background, the colonial history of Nuuk hence constitutes what UrbTrans will conceptualise as an "active past".
By examining how the colonial past of Nuuk is activated in and affects ongoing transformation processes, UrbTrans will address two, interlinked research gaps: The lack of attention paid by Arctic studies towards the past, and the lack of research that examines the effects of Nordic colonialism. This will be achieved by use of a novel methodological approach that combines archival studies, document analysis and urban ethnography. By use of these methods, UrbTrans will examine the tools, devices and machineries involved in urban planning and development (e.g. urban plans, policy strategies and architectural renderings), but also how the urban environment is experienced and acted upon by the users of the city. Through this, UrbTrans will identify the characteristics of Nordic colonialism, as it has been exercised in and continues to affect Nuuk, and describe how the politics of decolonisation play into current transformation processes. This will be of high relevance to policy makers as well as to future research on the Arctic.