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Crossing North Podcast

Crossing North is a podcast about Nordic and Baltic society and culture. Episodes feature interviews with authors, performers, and leaders from Scandinavia and the Baltic, as well as discussions with faculty in the Scandinavian Studies Department and Baltic Studies Program. Crossing North is produced and hosted by Colin Gioia Connors.


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Friends of the Scandinavian Languages and Literature Fund

Episode # 21: The Swedish Theory of Love

Henrik Berggren and Lars Trägård pose outside by a brick wall.

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 21 Transcript & Show Notes

Episode #20: The Northpeople

Lauren Poyer poses by the seaside.

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 20 Transcript & Show Notes

Episode #19: Those Days Are Long Gone

Jay Bruns poses in the Edvard Greig Garden at the University of Washington.

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 19 Transcript & Show Notes

Episode #18: Open Your Heart

Pasi Pasanen plays the accordion and Per-Thomas Eriksson plays the fiddle.

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 18 Transcript & Show Notes

Episode #17: A Box in the Attic

Left to Right: Host Colin Connors, Swedish cultural attaché Helene Larsson Pousette, and assistant professor Amanda Doxtater pose outside the studio with coronavirus masks covering their faces.

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 17 Transcript & Show Notes

Episode #16: On Wednesdays, I'll Go Dance

Left to right: Assitant professor Amanda Doxtater and undergraduate students Blue Palmer, Fanny Metsä-Tokila, and Bill Cheung-Daihe sit around a microphone in the studio.

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 16 Transcript & Show Notes

Episode #15: In a World That's Ever-Changing

Toni Lahtinen poses outside at Gas Works Park in Seattle.

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 15 Transcript & Show Notes

Episode #14: Soviet Milk

Nora Isktena (left), Liina-Ly Roos (center), and Vaira Pelekis (right) at the Latvian Cultural Center in Seattle in 2018. Nora and Vaira wear Latvian national costumes for the 100th anniversary of Latvia’s declaration of independence.

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 14 Transcript & Show Notes

Episode #13: Don't Just Leave Footprints

Lela Cooper (left) poses on the ice sheet and Katie Hearther (right) poses with a sled dog.

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 13 Transcript and Show Notes

Episode #12: Searching for Utopia

Dr. Ethelene Whitmire poses on the steps of Denny Hall.

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 12 Transcript and Show Notes

Episode #11: It's Illegal to Be Native

Dr. Tim Frandy fishes in a canoe on a lake in Wisconsin.

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 11 Transcript and Show Notes

Episode #10: Myth & Fairytale in Frozen 2

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 10 Transcript and show notes

Episode #9: See the Woman

Mari Boine sits with a drum in front of a microphone.

Sámi music legend Mari Boine discusses the origins of her musical career as an Indigenous woman in Norway.

Episode 9 Transcript & Show Notes

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

Dr. Matt Boutilier poses outside.

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 8 Transcript & Show Notes

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

Dr. Matt Boutilier poses outside.

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

    Producer Colin Connors and Kristian Naesby sit around a microphone with Olivia Gunn.

    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 6 Transcript & Show Notes

      Episode #5: An Army of One

      Estonian Ambassador to the US, Jotanan Vseviov

      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 5 Transcript & Show Notes

      Episode #4: Good Day, Axe Shaft

      Saskia Vogel and producer Colin Connors pose in a university classroom.

      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 4 Transcript & Show Notes

        Episode #3: Bermuda Triangle of Music

        Linus Orri and his young son play accordions.

        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 3 Transcript & Show Notes

          Episode #2: There's no PTA in Finland

          Andrew Nestingen poses next to his children in a stroller.

          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 2 Transcript & Show Notes

            Episode #1: Werewolves on Campus

            Latvian folkband Vilkaci plays music in a classroom.

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

            Episode 1 Transcript & Show Notes