Nation, tourism and the road along Norway's national tourist routes
Paper short abstract:
Exploring a massive, 26-year national road building project in Norway, this paper questions how road biographies make explicit discrepancies between state and local ideas of the nation. I ask how 'national' roads constructed for international tourists are experienced by locals who live on/near them.
Paper long abstract:
Begun in 1994 as a trial venture offering motorists an alternative to main thoroughfares, Norway's National Tourist Routes project consists of restored and newly layed roads that run along its coast and fjords, enabling vistas of stunning scenery. Effectively, the project works by luring tourists to remote areas using outstanding contemporary architecture - rest areas, observation platforms and service facilities - as the bait. The project, which comprises 18 routes covering 2,036 kilometres of road at a cost of £350 million, has enabled the Norwegian state to use tourism to create sustainable rural communities in its aim to fight negative population growth and economic challenges. But just as ideas about landscape are deeply linked to notions of the nation and nationhood (Ween and Abram 2012), so are the roads that run through these landscapes - especially when they are bound up with discourses of the global tourism industry. This paper explores the extent to which the biographies of construction of these 'national' tourist routes make explicit discrepancies between state ideas of nationhood and various local notions of the nation where the roads are built. It asks, furthermore, how these roads are experienced by the locals themselves who live near/on them - given that some of them hinder the possibility of other industrial developments needed by the local economy? These implications are especially important given that other states (Scotland, for example) have been eyeing Norway's success in the project as a possible model for increasing the attraction of the countryside to tourists.