Society, Diversity and Human 
Development in the High North

Level of course unit: Bachelor

Year of study: recommended after completing at least one year of undergraduate studies

Semester/trimester when the course unit is delivered: Spring

Number of ECTS credits allocated: 5 ECTS

Responsible institution: Northern (Arctic) Federal University, Russia

Name of lecturer: Anna Solovieva, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor

Natalia Kukarenko, PhD in Philosophy, Associate professor

Lidia Kriulya, PhD in Philosophy, Senior lecturer

Language of instruction: English

Mode of delivery: face-to-face learning


Recent changes in the High North led to transformations in the lives of societies, local communities and individuals shifting borders between national, ethnic and individual identities. The course will address the issues of human development in Nordic communities and potentials embedded in the in the High North policies for different groups of populations living in the Arctic Cross-disciplinary approach will be used to show what opportunities different population groups have for their well-being and development. Understanding society as a dynamic phenomenon, the course is committed to studying experiences of diverse societies and groups living in the High North. Emphasizing the critical role of context and culture, special attention will be given to intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, age, living conditions, mobility patterns and High North policies in the Arctic region. The course will be particularly focused on diversity among different population groups, their living conditions and opportunities for agency and development. The course provides students with knowledge on societies and groups on different levels (micro-, meso-, macro-) and aims to enable students to analyse conditions for human development in the High North.

Learning outcomes of the course unit:

After the studies a student should be able to understand:

  • key issues and concepts of Identity, Diversity, Human Development, Border, mobility
  • how intersections of gender, age, race, ethnicity and social class affect and are affected by social, cultural, religious and political contexts
  • the importance of diversity-sensitive approach towards human development
After the course a student should be able to:
  • identify processes and mechanisms of how concepts are constructed and used in representing the reality
  • analyse how different categories like race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, cultural identity affect the lives of people in different countries
  • critically reflect upon the challenges for human development in the High North societies and to compare the opportunities/limitations for its achievement in Nordic countries

The course is divided into three modules. Module I focuses more on general issues and theories, and methods, while Modules II, III, are more practice-oriented.

Module I. Introduction to the course: basic theories and concepts

The module aims to introduce the basic theories and concepts in order to equip students for further discussions of practical issues and situations. Theories of social constructivism, post-structuralism together with feminist and post-colonial theories will be introduced to students in order to prepare students to critically reflect on policies and practices that define priorities for human development in the High North societies. Given recent research on the importance of human dimension in sustainable development of the High North areas, this module will focus on the diversity of population groups living in the polar region and, moreover, will bring forward the complexity in population constellation. Intersectionality approach will be employed to show the complexity of communities in the differences of perspectives that are abound within and between them.

Module II. Cultural differences and social boundaries formation in the High North

A key focus for the module is the formation of boundaries between groups of people who have shared cultural meanings, memories and descent (ethnicity), associated with the High North region. Within this module students will discuss the following dimensions of social and cultural differences: cultural distinctiveness (specific norms and practices of group behavior and communication), identity (affective meanings, that motivate group belonging), strategy (differential responses to a set of circumstances that may contribute to group consciousness), creativity (group innovations e.g. clothing styles) and disproportionality (differential structural characteristics e.g. unemployment).

The module provides a comparative overview of the working of inter-ethnic relations and the state of minority ethnic groups across the High North regional contexts. The cases, presented to students, reflect the nature and extent of discourses, rights, representation and conflicts around ethnicity and gender with particular emphasis on those where the selected indigenous and ethnic minority groups are involved. Particular emphasis is given to a wide range of indicators of exclusion, living conditions and marginalisation. The module also addresses the construction of official statistics on ethnicity and gender, forms of self-identification and problems in the comparative analysis of cultural differences data. Students are involved in the discussion of the ways in which inter-ethnic relations and conflicts are framed in public discourse and related central and local state responses.

Module III. Diversities, Mobility and Human Development in the High North: comparative perspective

Most of people move at least once during their lives, and many move several times over longer distances. People might experience mobility as voluntary or forced, as positive or negative, as an opportunity or not. People move for various reasons and with different effects on their lives and well-being. In this module the students will learn about different types and forms of mobility in the Arctic region. As during the whole course the students are supposed to investigate and to compare the current situations and opportunities/limitations for human development in the High North region , within this module they will learn about:

  • the impact of globalisation on mobility patterns,
  • the external and internal regulations of mobility patterns within different spheres of life (e.g. labour market, education, tourism, marriage mobility)
  • and the responses of those on the move to changing opportunity structures.

The module will bring forward the diversity of reasons and patterns of mobility in the High North focusing on opportunities and human development; inclusion and exclusion mechanisms in host societies; equality, welfare and its limits.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods:

Lectures, seminars, group work, presentations and individual work. Classes will integrate lecture and discussion. To make the subject of the classes more applicable to students’ everyday life, YouTube clips will be used during lectures and seminars. «Watch and talk» pedagogy aims to provide for debates and make classes more interactive as well as to develop analytic reflections in a productive environment with fellow students. To question the meaning of diversity in societies the students will be involved in an ongoing intellectual conversation throughout the course. Many issues we will discuss are controversial and different standpoints might be articulated, and it is crucial to respect each other’s opinion and experience across the differences.

Work requirements:

Participation in lectures, seminars and group work, reading the syllabus. Course materials must be read for the assigned day in class. All assignments must be completed. If the task is handed in on time a student will get the feedback. It is obligatory to be present at all classes and take part in the discussions and presentations.

Assessment methods and criteria: exam project description or an essay.

It is for the students to choose a form of assessment.

Project description is an independent creative design of strategies aimed to empower some target group/groups in gaining equality and better opportunities for human development in the High North.

Essay’s basic idea is to critically analyze the current situation, opportunities and limitations for diverse social groups in context in respect to basic human values that are recognized by individuals in all cultures. It is advisable to compare opportunities and limitations for a target group in two different geopolitical contexts.

Formal demands:

The exam paper’s length is 15 pages. Use Times New Roman font and the letter size 12. Line spacing format is 1,5. List of References line spacing must be 1,0. Some of the references used have to be among the titles in the reading list.


A-F / Fail (A-E means ‘approved’, F means ‘not approved’)


A reading list will be presented in the curriculum plan