Jen K. Hughes at Jökulsárlón (Glacial Lagoon) South Iceland, 2016.

About Jen K. Hughes:

I am a doctoral candidate in Sociocultural Anthropology and Linguistics at the University of Minnesota (Ph.D. expected in 2019). My book project examines the economic and political effects of settler-colonialism, queerness and utopian capitalism in Iceland, Northern Europe and the U.S. I am particularly interested in storytelling practices during economic and political crises in Iceland that intervene in as well as produce ideas of whiteness, gender and "the future" (time). I incorporate indigenous and local settler-colonial perspectives in tandem with European and Scandinavian accounts of economic practices and theory to decolonize thinking about finance and politics and posit settler-colonialism as ongoing process that manifests in what I call, "viking futures".

I also work as a professional video and web producer, museum and archives specialist, and ethnographic filmmaker. I conducted fieldwork in Iceland from June-August 2013 and October 2015-November 2016. I am in production on my first feature-length documentary, Viking Futures, and am a contributing editor for Cultural Anthropology's Visual and New Media Review section.

My past research focused on language, history, economy and "kinship" in lesbian bar culture and among queer homeless youth in Portland, Oregon. I previously worked on research, digital media, exhibit and video projects for the Discovery Channel, The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, The Smithsonian’s National Zoo, The Film/Video Dept. of The Walker Art Center, The University of Minnesota, Minnesota Opera, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera Plus, the Eric Carle Museum for Picture Book Art, Powell’s Books (Portland, OR), and Curiosity Retreats, LLC. I received a B.A. in Anthropology and Gender Studies from Mount Holyoke College in 2010.

About the Research:

Jen's dissertation and documentary film trace how 1) Iceland is narrativized and imagined through future talk and nostalgia for pre-colonial sovereignty and 2) the impact of these practices on the construction of whiteness and “Europe” from the “periphery”. Storytelling practices within Iceland (particularly due to ongoing crises) circulate and produce often-untranslatable concepts of value, human/non-human relations and time. However, many stories about Iceland posit the “Icelandic Model” as key to economic recovery and democratic superiority despite ongoing scandals, busts and government instability. I argue that post-colonial and indigenous studies approaches to Icelandic practices and experiences are necessary and show the influence of colonialism and racism on the formation of economic practices and possibilities now lauded and exported as a template for global economic futures.


All photos on this site were taken by Jen K. Hughes.