University of Oulu
Alix Varnajot is a PhD student, working at the Geography Research Unit at the University of Oulu, Finland, with research interests in Arctic tourism and border studies. More specifically, his thesis seeks to investigate tourists experiences at the border of the Arctic.
However, defining where the Arctic begins from a tourism perspective is not a simple task, unless using a spatial approach. So his work focuses on the Arctic Circle which is commonly considered as the main border for the Arctic region in tourism. Indeed, among the several borders that can be used to delimit the Arctic, the Arctic Circle is the only one celebrated with landmarks all across the circumpolar North. On the ground, these specific landmarks represent the gateways to the Arctic region and have become tourist sights, which are particularly interesting for studying the moment when tourists are crossing the Arctic Circle and consequently entering the Arctic. Therefore, the objective of his thesis is to contribute to the understanding of tourists’ experiences in the Arctic by exploring their practices around Arctic Circle landmarks.
His main research question is: how do the tourists perceive the Arctic Circle and how do they experience its crossing? Using ethnographic methods, his research has mostly been focusing on Rovaniemi, Finland. The first outcomes resulted from the analysis of tourists practices around the landmarks and led him to develop the concept of “border-crossing postures”, that can also be applied to other types of borders. His research is at the crossroads of research tasks 5 and 7, halfway between how places are constructed and tourism as an extractive industry influencing cultural, social and economic contexts in Rovaniemi.