Nationalism, Capitalism, and Imagining a Place

I understand place - and Lapland as a place - as a space we live by. Of course, the term place refers to some cartographic location: for example, we may think that “Lapland” refers to some areas in Finland and

Scandinavia located north of the Arctic Circle. From the point of view of cultural geography, it is more interesting to think about what that place means to us and why it carries particular meanings. We may understand place as an experienced location: it is our relationship to some location, our willingness to be there, or a feeling that we are forced to be there (Karjalainen 1997, 230-1). We may also understand place as a cultural construction: representations such as novels, paintings, and movies may signify the place and even have an influence on how one experiences a place (Tuan 2006, 15-30).

As Doreen Massey (1991, 27-8) argues, place is not an objective fact, but rather a phenomenon whose significance consists of our lived experiences and subjective interpretations. For Massey (28; cf. Massey 2005, 130), place is a “meeting place”, an open interface in time and space. The uniqueness of a place is not based on the characteristics of the place but is rather a result of a signification process and its changes and continuities. This definition underlines the processual nature of place and the connection between time and place. The place changes, but also those memories, meanings and senses which we project onto the place are likely to change. As “meeting places” of social relations and lived experiences, places are also connected to cultural and social power relations. Many factors influence our mobility or our ways of being in a place: Massey (1991,14-15) mentions capital, race, and gender as examples. The negotiation of places and their meanings often also includes political and ideological battles, and the meaning, use, ownership, or even the location may change because of these battles. Obviously, the globalization process and the increasing mobility of people, ideas, and capital change our sense of a place. According to Massey (26-8), globalization opens new possibilities for experiencing places and taking part in their definition processes, and it also creates new power positions related to time and place. For example, in the time of the Internet, remoteness is a very relational concept. Similarly, as the case of Come to Finland shows, one may have a clear image of Lapland, even if she or he has never visited the place.

In travel posters the meaning process of a place, transnational relations, and national and economic aims are intertwined in complicated ways. Travel posters as visual art invite us to imagine places that we may have never seen. Following De Cesari and Rigney (2014), I understand the term “transnationalism” as a concept that “recognizejs] the significance of national frameworks alongside the potential cultural production both to reinforce and to transcend them”. Since nation-states, in principle, have legal boundaries, the “transnational” opens up “an analytical space to consider the interplay between social formations and cultural practices, or between state-operated institutions of memory, and the flow of mediated narratives within and across state borders” (4).

In the course of its history, travel advertising, including posters, has been a means to increase knowledge about a nation or a state, and has helped to establish its image. A positive and well-known brand is likely to bring more visitors and generate more money. In addition, travel advertising creates positive images of the country and strengthens national identity. This is visible, for example, in national landscapes, since some places work as national symbols (Hayrynen 2005, 26-7). Travel posters represent “banal nationalism”, to use Michael Billig’s (1995, 8, 93-5) term: this is a form of everyday nationalism, which may direct our relation to our country, to ourselves, and to others. In everyday life, almost unnoticeable symbols remind us of our nationality. In Finnish travel posters, pictures of blue lakes, birch trees, and snow signify “Finland”, inviting Finns to identify themselves with this picture and asking others to recognize it. A similar process takes place when we cheer for Finnish athletes, consume Fazer’s Blue chocolate, and try to convince others of the myth that Santa Claus lives in Lapland. This question of discursive construction and repetition persuades us to identify with an imagined community (see Anderson 1983/2006, 5-7).

In the age of globalization, the influence of nationalism has not diminished; in fact, it is expanding. Globalization has produced a new kind of space where we are, once again, invited to identify with nationalist discourses. What is characteristic of this new kind of capitalism is that companies sell brands, experiences, and images, and that the advertising industry aims at global attention. Typically, according to Jeremy Rifkin (2000,6, 98,114), in this new culture of capitalism, the art sector is organized similarly to the commercial business, and at the same time the commercial companies use art and culture to promote their business. As Jim McGuigan (2010, 96-8) has claimed, in “Cool Capitalism”, as he calls the new culture of capitalism, the positive image of art is transferred to the product. In this space the connection between nationalism and capitalism becomes visible. In the political discourse of the 2010s, economic competitiveness is often seen as a national question. Pauli Kettunen has analyzed the phenomena as “economic nationalism”, an ideology in which a nation-state is understood as a unit, whose mission is to create economic growth. In this discourse, culture and education exports, for example, are seen as potential moneymakers, and every citizen’s duty is to support national competitiveness by consuming the right products at the right time (Kettunen 2008, 209-23). This discourse presumes that the people are a national “we”, and still identify with the nation and its symbols.

The connection between capitalism and nationalism is obvious in the travel posters under study in this chapter: they invite their audience to consume and admire “our” beautiful landscape. However, it is significant how we depict a place, who is watching, and how we understand “us” and “others”. Tourism in northern Finland - and also in Sweden and Norway - has been advertised by means of Sami exoticism, which is part of the history of Nordic colonialism (Abran 2016, 70; on postcolonial

Come to Lap land! 121 exoticism, see Huggan 1994, 26-28). Even Lapland, as a cartographic location or an imagined landscape, is not a neutral concept.2 However, in my reading, Lapland is a space whose meanings and cartographic locations change over time. My research data, travel posters, and brochures participate in the construction of “Lapland”. The image of Lapland is based on artistic experiences and personal imaginations, but it is also connected with national and transnational ways of seeing a landscape (see Wilson and Dissanayake 1996). The gaze, which is represented in the old and new posters, is commercial. Lapland has been one of the most important tourist resorts in Finland since the 1930s. Unfortunately, the tourism industry has often been developed for conditions of business life and visitors from Southern Finland and abroad.

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