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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Caught in between and in transit: forced and encouraged (im)mobilities during the Covid-19 pandemic in Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Brode-Roger, Dina; Zhang, Jasmine; Meyer, Alexandra; Sokolickova , Zdenka


When Europe shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, Longyearbyen, the main settlement of Svalbard, was moving from a coal-based economy to one based on science and tourism. The remote location of the Svalbard archipelago in the High Arctic makes it an isolated, secure haven from the chaos worldwide. But this renders its population vulnerable should the virus come since there are neither facilities to care for the sick nor other nearby communities to help in case of need. Svalbard, with its special territorial status, is in a unique geopolitical situation where people are free to come and go. Longyearbyen is an inherently transient space with a highly mobile population. Based on interview narratives of participants’ lived experiences in Longyearbyen during the pandemic (both in-person and online), this paper explores how forced and encouraged (im)mobilities impacted their individual life choices during the pandemic. Participants’ stories revealed systemic inequalities and vulnerabilities in Longyearbyen that were heightened and exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. By combining minor theory with politics of mobility, this paper aims to add to the discussion within mobilities studies on how the personal, emotional responses to these situations are linked to decisions about mobility.


Svalbard; Covid-19; ethnography; mobility; minor theory

Published in

Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography

Authors' information

Brode-Roger, Dina
University of Leuven (KU Leuven)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Meyer, Alexandra
University of Vienna
Sokolickova , Zdenka
University of Hradec Kralove

UKÄ Subject classification

Human Geography

Publication Identifiers


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