D – Transregional connections and entangled regions

Global perspectives on Nordic colonialism

Event Details

  • Date

    Saturday, 27 June - 8:30–10:30

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    D – Transregional connections and entangled regions
Convenor
  • Linda Andersson Burnett (Linnaeus University)
Chair
  • Stefan Eklöf Amirell (Linnaeus University)
Commentator
  • Stefan Eklöf Amirell (Linnaeus University)
Panelists
  • Linda Andersson Burnett (Linnaeus University)
  • Janne Lahti (University of Helsinki)
  • Rinna Kullaa (Tampere University / University of Vienna)

Papers

  • Linda Andersson Burnett
    Displaying Europe’s aborigines: Sámi indigeneity in nineteenth-century transnational debates

    Displaying Europe’s aborigines: Sámi indigeneity in nineteenth-century transnational debates

    On 19 April, 1885, the British newspaper The Globe announced to its readers that a ‘large and representative group' of indigenous Sámi people had arrived at the popular entertainment venue Alexandra Palace in Muswell Hill London. Amid a plethora of restaurants, minstrel shows, a boating lake, a monkey house and horse races, the public could — according to the paper — study and encounter ‘one of the few surviving Aboriginal races in Europe’. The people held up to represent Europe’s Aboriginal race was a troupe consisting of seven Sámi from Karasjok in Norwegian Finmark: Ole Nilsen Ravna, Amund Johansen Anti, Elen Johansen, Johannes Larsen Anti, Anders Amundsen Anti, Johannes Amundsen Anti, and Anne Johannesdatter. By studying the literary remains of this exhibition, I will in this paper analyse how the Sámi featured alongside other indigenous and colonised peoples in nineteenth-century British, French and Scandinavian debates on aboriginality, prehistory and colonisation. Prehistory and Aboriginality became the conceptual means by Indigenous peoples were constructed as static subjects trapped in the past. They were potent concepts applied to both justify and to underpin colonisation of Indigenous peoples within Scandinavia and in the British colonies. My paper will demonstrate that these concepts were shaped both by national agendas and discourses but were also transnationally co-produced between Swedish, British and French writers.
  • Janne Lahti
    Settler Colonial Eyes: Finnish Travel Writers and the Colonization of Petsamo

    Settler Colonial Eyes: Finnish Travel Writers and the Colonization of Petsamo

    When Finland acquired the artic borderlands of Petsamo in the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty, the area already occupied a place in the Finnish mind as “our frontier,” a wilderness set to be penetrated by Finnish industry, transports, settlers, and culture, with Finns replacing its native peoples and landscapes and subjecting them to “Fennicization.” This paper examines how the notions of a Finnish settler colony were advanced, assessed, and criticized by the Finnish travel writers who ventured to Petsamo in the 1920s and 1930s. Authors such as Matti Olin (Petsamon muistoja, 1921), Armas Launis (Kaipaukseni maa, 1922), Håkan Mörne (Ruijan rannoilta Petsamon perukoille, 1939), and Sakari Pälsi (Petsamoon kuin ulkomaille, 1939), made sense, valued, and built hierarchies of the Sami peoples, ethnic Russians, Finnish settlers, settlements, and the landscape itself in their writings. They commented on the environment, its potential mineral riches, depicted the villages, public spaces, homes, and domesticity, and judged the outlook, dress, habits, gender roles, and physical (racial) features of the people. In short, they furnished a narrative (that was not necessarily uniform) of the Petsamo experience, representing its history, present, and possible futures in a Finnish settler colonial light. Furthermore, they compared and measured the lands and peoples they encountered not only in relation to the national context but placed Petsamo against a more global colonial canvas. They connected, explicitly and implicitly, the local and the global as they commented on the feasibility (or unfeasibility) of the places they traveled through for settler colonial cultures. These authors measured the present and imagined the future, likening, contrasting, and appraising Petsamo’s landscapes and peoples in relation to how they imagined settler colonization had happened and was happening in other regions around the world; in Africa, the Americas, and Australasia. Their experiences and voices show that the line between places deemed suitable and unsuitable for settler cultures was never clear cut and that settler colonial spaces, narratives, and experiences were built and imagined via the local, the national, and the transnational in a globally integrated setting.
  • Rinna Kullaa
    Russian Empire and Interactions of Soviet Imperialism across Scandinavia

    Russian Empire and Interactions of Soviet Imperialism across Scandinavia

    This paper discusses the history of empire building of the Russian Empire and later the Soviet Union across Finland within the broader outlook and scope of Moscow´s political intentions in Scandinavia. Discussed here are first the Russian Empire´s imperial politics in Finland under its rule 1809-1917. Of interest are workers brought from other parts of the Russian Empire to Finland to carry out the Empire´s development projects, and their place in Finnish history. Also, reviewed here is the distribution of Finnish labor across the Russian Empire. In its second part, this paper juxtaposes some of the Soviet Union´s economic and military policies in the later decades of the 1970s towards Finland, Sweden and Norway with its strategy in Africa. Of particular interests is how the differences in Soviet foreign policy towards the post-colonial world and towards Scandinavia were understood and interpreted in Finland. The aim of this paper is to shed light on the question of how Finland interacted with the Russian empire, and how Finnish decision makers and the public later on understood the Soviet empire´s politics and role in the colonial world. Although this paper does not examine directly Finnish colonialism, it seeks to look at the effects of the Finnish understanding of Russia´s imperialism in Africa also within the context of its own history.

Abstract

The Nordic countries are often absent from theoretical analysis of colonialism and there has not yet been a systematic examination of how Nordic colonial histories can be compared with other European and American colonial projects and practices. Furthermore, broader synthesis of colonial history seldom draw Nordic examples or if they do, they view Nordic colonialism as “exceptional,” meaning more humane, marginal, or mere complicit to the larger story. While a number of European countries have for long discussed their colonial pasts and postcolonial presents, research on northern Europe has not until very recently started to contemplate how this region contributed to, benefited from, and now inhabit a colonial history. This is because the region has been imagined, internally and externally, as being untarnished by colonialism despite its multiple colonial histories ranging from Sweden’s participation in the early colonization of North America, Denmark’s small but geographically widely dispersed set of colonies in Africa, Asia, the West Indies, and Greenland, and Finland was once colonized by Russia and then dreamt of its own settler colonial domain in Eastern Karelia during World War II. In addition, individuals, groups, and companies from all Nordic nations participated in the pan-European colonial project by helping to build the ideological, cultural, and discursive context that the colonial project depended on. This panel represents a step in correcting this by exposing Nordic colonialism in its myriad of forms, multidirectional entanglements, and widespread ramifications, in the process integrating and relating Nordic experiences into larger patterns of global colonial expansion and postcolonial relations. Our papers look beyond national histories and toward transnational understandings of Nordic colonialism. In conjunction, we advocate moving beyond the usual notions of “complicit colonialism” or “Nordic exceptionalism.” We do not suggest traditional comparative histories alone, nor of promoting examples of some static or singular brand of Nordic colonialism. Instead, we take seriously the suggestion made by the historians Tony Ballantyne and Antoinette Burton on the need to explore relationships and spaces not merely within but between colonial projects, and of connecting the local with the global. This involves treating imperial centers and colonial peripheries within a single analytical field as well as mapping and understanding “connections” - the multiple tensions, networks, circulations, and flows of ideas, practices, and peoples within and beyond the boundaries of formal territorial rule. But mere investigation of connections in itself is not enough. We also propose to embed these connections shaping Nordic colonial pasts and postcolonial presents into their global contexts. For centuries the global mobility of goods, peoples, and ideas took place, as historian Sebastian Conrad writes, “under conditions of colonialism.” This resulted in “colonial globality” where asymmetrical relationships that colonial empires created structured global integration, cultural flows, projects of modernization, and other transnational interactions. In all, we strive for more nuanced understandings of the shared histories as well as the divergent trajectories of Nordic colonial experiences as entrenched in and shaped by an interconnected, highly competitive, and increasingly integrated world of empires from the seventeenth century onward.