Ambitious Icelanders: The Background and Beginning of Icelandic International Development


  • Kristín Loftsdóttir



International development, developing countries nationalism, governmentality.


The idea of development gained hegemonic status in the middle of the 20th century as a way of understanding the relationship between different parts of the world. Even though debated how development would best be achieved, the idea as such was generally not critically assessed. Development institutions were seen as objective institutions with the technological knowledge necessary to move one society to the next level of development.The collection of data of these institutions in the so-called underdeveloped parts of the world involved the most intimate aspects of societies,and gave the idea of development content and meaning. The article looks at the origin of Icelandic development aid and aims at contextualizing it within international ideas of aid. The discussion starts with overview of historical appearance of international development globally and its hegemonic position. It focuses then on how the idea of development takes shape in an Icelandic context at a particular period and how it was shaped by international discourses, as is for example reflected in increased pressure on the Icelandic government to initiate an aid institution. The establishment of Iceland’s first governmental institutions focusing on aid in 1971 reflects still little interest by the Icelandic government at that time in international development. The article also shows how these international discourses become entangled with Icelandic nationalism, and thus the emphasis that the Icelandic nation-state would be engaged in international development.

Author Biography

Kristín Loftsdóttir

Professor, University of Iceland.



How to Cite

Loftsdóttir, K. (2011). Ambitious Icelanders: The Background and Beginning of Icelandic International Development. Icelandic Review of Politics & Administration, 7(2), 313–332.



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