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Paul Kirschstein

Paul Kirschstein is a PhD researcher at the IRTG “Baltic Peripeties”. His current research centres around the Alta-saken, an event in Northern Norway between 1970 and 1982. He has studied Scandinavian Literatures and Nordic History and holds an M.A. in Intercultural Studies from the University of Greifswald. Fluent in Danish and Norwegian. Member of the ESEH.

University of Greifswald

Department of History
Domstr. 9a
17489 Greifswald

Office: Rubenowstr. 3, 2.15
+49 3834 420 9534
Orcid: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8444-9352

Department of History

Fluid Borders. Conflicts Concerning Water and Indigenous Rights

In 1970 the Norwegian government publicly announced plans for a monumental dam and hydropower-station located in the far north of the country. The Sámi minority played an important role in the numerous oppositional movements formed against these plans. The Alta-saken was a definite turning point in the history of the indigenous Sámi-population in northern Europe. Drawing on Jurij Lotman’s work, I analyse the narrative construction of this crucial event to explain the cultural negations surrounding the Alta-river.

By focusing on the close interconnection of the population with their local waterscapes, I open a comparative pathway to other conflicts and cooperations concerning water usage and cultural interests worldwide. For the analysis, a wide variety of text types as well as visual representations of the conflict is utilized to convey what kinds of qualities were attributed to the Alta-saken. How is it possible that this event constituted a critical tipping point for the Sámi, who had been subjected to several generations of Norwegian assimilation policies?

Blog posts, other

  • “Die Ostsee – ein Meer, das verbindet,” [blog] Baltic Peripeties Blog, May 13, 2022, https://peripeties.uni-greifswald.de/die-ostsee-ein-meer-das-verbindet/.
  • Translation of: “Julia Butschkow: Granit,” in: Zeitstücke (Neue Nordische Novellen VII), ed. Noëmi Grimm and Anja Köneke. Grevenbroich: Heiner Labonde, 2020, 96-105.
  • Translation of: “Lone Hørslev: Egernet,” in: Im großen Kreis (Neue Nordische Novellen VI), ed. Claudia Nierste and Mareen Patzelt. Greifswald: Freiraum, 2018, 95-103.


  • “Going Against the Current. Saving Rivers as an Act of Political Empowerment,” 12th Biennial European Society for Environmental History (ESEH) Conference Mountains and Plains: Past, Present and Future Environmental and Climatic Entanglements, organised by the Institute of History and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, August 22-26, 2023.
  • “Negotiating Indigenous Pasts in the Future of Renewable Energy Sources” (co-authored with Mary Keogh and Solveig Wang), Interdisciplinary Centre for Baltic Sea Region Research (IFZO) annual conference Predictable Futures? On the Impact of Fear and Insecurity in the Baltic Sea Region, University of Greifswald, in cooperation with the Pomeranian State Museum, Greifswald, June 7-8, 2023.
  • “Dramatic Developments: Identifying Turning Points in the Historiography of the Alta-saken,” international conference Negotiating Peripeties: Change and Its Narratives, organised by the IRTG Baltic Peripeties. Narratives of Reformations, Revolutions and Catastrophes, University of Greifswald, in cooperation with the Alfried Krupp Institute for Advanced Study Greifswald, May 25-27, 2023.
  • “Sámi Cultures, Sámi Challenges” (with Emmi Nuorgam, Eeva-Kristiina Nylander and Solveig Wang), roundtable discussion at the festival Nordischer Klang – Das Fest des Nordens , Alfried Krupp Institute for Advanced Study Greifswald, May 10, 2023.
  • “Turning Points for Issues of Belonging? A Comparison of Modern People’s Movements against Hydro-Electric Dam Projects in Norway and Canada,” 30th Nordiska historikermötet (NHM) Globalt och lokalt, University of Gothenburg, August 8-11, 2022.
  • Participation in the summer school Bringing Politics Back In(to) … Environmental Studies, organised by the Research School Political History / Onderzoekschool Politieke Geschiedenis (OPG), University of Groningen, June 27 – July 1, 2022.
  • Participation in the PhD workshop Environmental Storytelling and Narrative, NTNU Trondheim, April 25-29, 2022.
  • “La elva leve! Der Alta-saken und die kulturellen Dimensionen des Wassers,” 16. Überregionale Promovierendentagung der Skandinavistik, Abteilung für Skandinavistik an der Universität Wien und Nordeuropa-Institut an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, online, October 1-2, 2021.

University studies and degrees

  • Since 04/2021
  • PhD researcher of the International Research Training Group 2560 Baltic Peripeties. Narratives of Reformations, Revolutions and Catastrophes at the University of Greifswald.
  • 2020
  • M.A. Culture – Interculturality – Literature. Focus: Scandinavian Studies, Greifswald.
  • 2019
  • B.A. Scandinavian Studies and History, Greifswald.
  • 2013 – 2015
  • Civil Engineering, Bauhaus University Weimar.

Professional background

  • 2019 and 2021
  • Research Assistant at the Chair of Modern Scandinavian Literature and Chair of Nordic History, University of Greifswald.
  • 2018 and 2019
  • Student Assistant at the Chair of Nordic History, University of Greifswald.
  • 03/2017
  • Interpreter Danish-German at Lieferantentag Rostock 2017.
  • 03/2018
  • Internship at Museet Ribes Vikinger, Ribe (Denmark).


  • 2018 – 2020
  • Danish language course (intermediate Level) at KVHS Stralsund.
  • 2017 – 2019
  • Tutor for Danish, Beginner level.