By E. Paul Durrenberger, Gisli Palsson


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The sheer number of reports by foreign ethnographers on Icelandic topics is somewhat surprising, at least if one considers the relatively scant attention foreign anthropologists have paid to the neighboring "Nordic" societies of the Faroe Islands, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. While there are some recent attempts to analyse these societies, they tend to be either fairly narrow in scope (see, for example, Wylie and Margolin 1981 on the Faroe Islands), or the insiders' views greatly outnumber those of the outsiders (see, for example, Klausen 1984 on Norway and Frykman and Löfgren 1979 on Sweden).

Instead of accepting it, they try to explain it. Anthropology, whether done by natives or foreigners, creates this sense of alienation because it refuses to accept any axiom, questions everything, and tries to explain. In this sense, anthropologists actively try to be people without culture, the epitome of alienated persons, those who believe nothing and have no homes. Sometimes the writing for an alien audience, the marketing of Icelandic realities if you like, has clearly been motivated by emotional and ideological constraints.

Elsewhere, Pálsson (1982a, 1987) has presented the ethnography in greater detail. We have traced forms of production in fishing from the time it was embedded in household peasant production to an expansive phase that began with Iceland's increasing independence from Denmark, new technologies, and new markets until the very success of these developments resulted in a threat to the stock and the present period of managed fishing was instituted. Different models of production are associated with each form of production.

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