The Voice of the Colonizer Bridging the Cultural Barrier?

Encounters between the Swedish and the Sámi in literature for young readers from 1950 to 2000

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Keyword: Humanities and the Arts, Languages and Literature, General Literature Studies, Humaniora och konst, Språk och litteratur, Litteraturvetenskap, Swedish literature for young readers, 1950-2000, Non-Sámi writers, Encounters between the Swedish and the Sámi, Voice of the Colonizer, Svenska med didaktisk inriktning, Swedish and Education
Publication year: 2019
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SDG 11 Sustainable cities and communities
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Since Johannes Schefferus published the first Sámi poems in Lapponica in 1673, Sámi themes have been perceived as an aspect of Swedish literature. The vast majority of these literary texts, however, have not been written in Sámi or by writers of Sámi origin, and the early works reduced the Sámi and their cultures to extras or exoticized characters (cf. Lindskog 2005). This paper draws on a corpus of ten books for young readers, two from each decade from the 1950s till the millennium, to examine how Swedish writers of non-Sámi origin depict the relationship between the Swedish society and the Sámi peoples. Whilst post-colonial concepts such as ‘dominated and dominating’ and ‘colonizer and colonized’ are presented in simplistic binarisms in many of these works, there are also works that work towards addressing shame, and working towards apology and reconciliation (Ahmed 2014). The novels introduce plots where the Swedish protagonists are situated in Sápmi engaging in intercultural meetings Sámi characters. The young protagonists find ways of bridging cultural barriers, but the voice that readers hear is filtered through the non-Sámi writers. The paper concludes with reflections on how to approach such literature in a way that respects the histories, politics and cultures of the region without either essentializing or ignoring genuine attempts to promote reconciliation.  


Annbritt Palo

Luleå tekniska universitet; Pedagogik, språk och Ämnesdidaktik
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