Crossing North Podcast

Crossing North is a podcast about Nordic and Baltic society and culture. Episodes feature stories and interviews with local UW community members, students, and faculty, and with guests from the Nordic and Baltic countries, including artists, scholars, journalists, and ambassadors. Crossing North is produced and hosted by Dr. Colin Gioia Connors. Listen to it on your favorite podcasting app or here on our website.

Find full transcripts for every episode below.


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Friends of the Scandinavian Languages and Literature Fund




Episode 28: Repatriation is in the Air

Sápmi | Indigenous | archives | activism | craft
How did so many Indigenous Sámi artifacts end up in private collections and museums outside of Sápmi? And why were collectors only interested in certain types of objects? American non-fiction writer, journalist, editor, and translator Barbara Sjoholm discusses the history of ethnographic collections and the future of cultural repatriation in her latest book, From Lapland to Sápmi: Collecting and Returning Sámi Craft and Culture.

Episode 27: She is Pretty, She is Powerful

Lithuania | feminist history | Žemaitė | performance | activism
Lithuanian actresses Marija Žemaitytė and Rugilė Latvėnaitė share songs from their performance “Graži ir ta galinga” (The Pretty and the Powerful One), and together with Professor Emeritus Violeta Kelertas, they discuss the legacy of Žemaitė, Lithuania's most famous female literary figure.

Episode 26: My Father's War

Norway | WWII | antisemitism | memory | trauma
What are the dangers of radicalization? Bjørn Westlie is a Norwegian historian and journalist best known for his reporting on Norway’s history of antisemitism, and he has been a driving force for elevating Norway’s Jewish history. Bjørn visited the UW to discuss his 2008 book, Fars krig [My Father’s War], recently translated into English. Bjørn’s book deals with his father’s past as a member of the Norwegian Nazi party and a volunteer soldier in the Waffen-SS during World War II.

Episode 25: The Family Clause

Sweden | literature | creative writing | parenting
How do you write a good story? Award-winning Swedish novelist & playwright Jonas Hassen Khemiri discusses his craft and his latest novel, The Family Clause.

Episode 24: The GjelleStad Viking Ship

Norway | archaeology | museums | science communication
In 2018, a radar image of a buried Viking ship in Norway went viral online. Dr. Joakim Karlsen put together a team of archaeologists and 3D modelers to create a digital exhibit.

Episode 23: Woman, Captain, Rebel.

Iceland | feminist history | fishing
Anthropologist Margaret Willson discusses the dramatic life of Icelandic Sea Captain Þuríður Einarsdóttir, who saved lives, solved crimes, and was largely overlooked by 20th-century historians.

Episode 22: The Baltic Hong Kong Way

Estonia | democracy | activism | civil disobedience | police brutality
On August 23, 2019, over 210,000 Hongkongers joined hands in a 60 kilometer human chain to protest police violence and to demand democratic reforms. This human chain, called the Hong Kong Way, took place on the 30th anniversary of another human chain protest—the Baltic Way of 1989—in which approximately two million Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians formed a 690 kilometer human chain across the three countries to protest the Soviet occupation. Iverson Ng, an Estonian-based Hongkonger, tells the story.

Episode 21: The Swedish Theory of Love

Sweden | welfare state | statist individualism
Historians Henrik Berggren and Lars Trägårdh are perhaps best known as the co-authors of the 2006 Swedish bestseller Är svensken människa?, which describes the Swedish model of statist individualism wherein the state supports individual autonomy. Now, thanks to the University of Washington Press, their book appears for the first time in English translation as The Swedish Theory of Love. In this episode, Henrik and Lars walk us through the philosophy behind the Swedish welfare model and its social consequences.

Episode 20: The Northpeople

Old Norse | film | medievalism
While Robert Eggers’ 2022 film, The Northman, was still in theaters, Lauren Poyer, Assistant Teaching Professor in Scandinavian Studies here at the University of Washington, was a guest on the podcast American Prestige to talk about the film’s interest in portraying a “historically accurate” Viking Age, as well as its medieval inspirations, and the popularity of Vikings in the United States. With the permission of the hosts Daniel Bessner and Derek Davison, we bring you that interview.

Episode 19: Those Days Are Long Gone

Norway | 9/11 | diplomacy | national defense
In this 2018 interview, former visiting lecturer of Danish Kristian Næsby speaks with affiliate instructor and retired U.S. diplomat Jay Bruns about his experience in Norway during and after the 9/11 attacks. Jay argues that effective diplomacy is built on deep cultural knowledge, clear communication, and empathy. Responses to terrorist attacks in the U.S. and in Norway reveal that the paths to security are many, and Jay advocates for one that stresses international partnership and cooperation.

Episode 18: open Your Heart

Sweden | Finland | folk music | education
Accordionist Pasi Pasanen and fiddler Per-Thomas Eriksson discuss the joys of playing folk music from their home region of Värmland in Sweden and explain how traditional music circulates and evolves, how music helps us to overcome some of our worst inhibitions, and how music education helps children grow up to become healthy and happy adults.

Episode 17: A Box in the Attic

Sweden | archives | memory | feminist history | activism
How will we be remembered when we’re gone? Swedish cultural attaché and former curator Helene Larsson Pousette discusses the importance of archiving our lives as a way to take control of what stories are told about us in the future. Whether you preserve your memories in an official archive or keep them in a box in the attic, Helene argues that archiving yourself is a form of activism that has the power not only to change how we see the past, but also how we see one another. Together with assistant professor Amanda Doxtater, we discuss how to think like an archivist.

Episode 16: On Wednesdays, I'll Go Dance

Scandinavian | folk dance | student life
Why is Seattle the best place to learn Scandinavian folk dance outside of Scandinavia? And what's it all about, anyway? UW assistant professor Amanda Doxtater interviews undergraduate students Blue Palmer, Fanny Mestä-Tokila, and Bill Cheung-Daihe about how a dance course with the Skandia Folkdance Society gave them a new way to connect with their studies, make new friends, and have good fun.

Episode 15: In A World That's Ever-Changing

Finland | literature | eco-dystopia | coronavirus
The coronavirus pandemic has many people worried about the future. Many people are eager for things to return to normal, but others are just as eager to take this crisis as an opportunity to reimagine and reshape what our idea of “normal” means. If you could rebuild your world right now, what kind of world would you build? Postdoctoral research fellow Toni Lahtinen discusses recent trends in Finnish eco-dystopian literature, and the role literature plays in exploring our anxieties about the future as well as our guilt about the past and present.

Episode 14: Soviet Milk

Latvia | literature | Soviet Union | trauma | memory
When author Nora Ikstena published her novel Soviet Milk in 2015, it became so popular that libraries had to create a special 24-hour loan policy for the book. Why was this novel about life in Soviet-occupied Latvia so popular? I discuss the novel with author Nora Ikstena and assistant professor Liina-Ly Roos.

Episode 13: Don't Just LeAve Footprints

Greenland | Denmark | climate change | sustainability | student life
How is global warming affecting Greenlanders and what responsibilities do climate-scientists have to the peoples of the Arctic? UW seniors Lela Cooper and Katie Hearther discuss how a course in Greenland about climate change inspired them to study new languages and integrate the humanities into the sciences they love.

Episode 12: Searching for Utopia

Denmark | African-American | African diaspora
Why did so many African-Americans go to Denmark in the 20th century and what were their experiences while there? Professor Ethelene Whitmire answers these questions while discussing her upcoming book, Searching for Utopia.

Episode 11: It's Illegal to Be Native

Sápmi | Indigenous | sustainability | green colonialism | ethnoscience
What happens when sustaining a Nordic way of life disrupts sustaining a Sámi way of life? Assistant Professor Tim Frandy discusses the history and future of Sámi fishing rights on the Deatnu River, as well as a few hard truths about the ethnocentrism of Western environmental management practices.

Episode 10: Myth & Fairytale in Frozen 2

Finland | Iceland | Norway | film | Disney
Director of Story Marc E. Smith discusses what it is like to work for Walt Disney Animation Studios and how a research trip to the Nordic countries inspired new artistic and thematic directions for the characters of Anna and Elsa in Frozen 2.

Episode 9: See the Woman

Sápmi | Indigenous | pop music | joik
Sámi music legend Mari Boine discusses the origins of her musical career as an Indigenous woman in Norway. [The episode audio is only an excerpt. See the transcript for the full interview.]

Episode 8: The Nordic Languages of Middle Earth (Part 2)

medievalism | critical race theory | Tolkien
Continuing our interview in Episode 7 about The Lord of the Rings with linguist Dr. Matt Boutilier, we consider more broadly how we imagine the past in medieval fantasy, and how those perceptions translate into racial typecasting in film.

EPISODE 7: The Nordic Languages of Middle Earth (part 1)

medievalism | linguistic stereotypes | Tolkien
Linguist and co-host of The Tolkien Heads podcast Dr. Matt Boutilier discusses the Nordic languages of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and the kinds of linguistic stereotypes that manifest in The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s other writings.

Episode 6: SEX and SKAM

Norway | sexuality | sex-ed | public television | post-television
In 2019, Assistant Professor Olivia Gunn was asked to redevelop a course on sexuality in Scandinavia. Kristian Næsby and I interview her about new directions in Swedish sex education and Norwegian public television for teens with "Skam" (2015-2017), which achieved an international following and in 2017 was the most talked about television show on Tumblr (aka the Internet) and arguably in the world.

Episode 5: An Army of One

Estonia | national defense | cyber security | democracy
Russia's willingness to exploit national tensions in former Soviet-occupied states has caused the Baltic countries to revamp their national defense policies over the past decade. Estonian Ambassador to the United States, Jonatan Vseviov, explains Estonia's national defense policy and how their reserve army model works.

Episode 4: Good Day, Axe Shaft

Sweden | translation | literature | #metoo
Saskia Vogel is an American writer and translator of contemporary Swedish literature. We discuss the intricacies of translation, the #metoo movement in Sweden, and her debut novel, Permission.

Episode 3: Bermuda Triangle of Music

Iceland | folk music | folklore | fakelore
What does it mean to be a folk musician in a country with no folk instruments? Musician and folk music festival organizer Linus Orri Gunnarsson Cederborg discusses the mysteries of Icelandic folk music.

Episode 2: There's No PTA in Finland

Finland | education | parenting | welfare state
In 2008, Professor Andrew Nestingen went on sabbatical to Finland with his pregnant wife and two-year-old daughter. It wasn’t his first trip to Finland—but it was his first trip as a father. Kristian Næsby and I sit down with Andy to discuss what he learned from his culture shock about Nordic approaches to parenting and schooling.

Episode 1: Werewolves on Campus

Latvia | folk music | Soviet Union | Singing Revolution
Latvian folkband Vilkači (Werewolves) discuss their music and worldview while Professor Guntis Šmidchens discusses the role folk music played in ending the Soviet occupation.