This 88-page booklet by Åsa Virdi Kroik is named “You’d rather lose your head than turn in your drum”. The title refers to shamanic drums among the Saami. The book is based on an MA thesis in the history of religion defended at the University of Stockholm in 2006. Reading it, I soon realised that it can’t simply be evaluated from a scholarly point of view: this is at heart also an ethno-political tract. I’ll comment on the political aspects first and then on the scholarly ones.

For the non-Scandy reader, I should explain that the Saami are a sub-Arctic indigenous minority in Norway, Sweden, Finland and NW Russia. They speak a number of Fenno-Ugric dialects that are incomprehensible to the majority populations of the area. Historically, their presence has been documented about as far back as that of the area’s Indo-European speaking groups, to the early 1st Millennium AD. At that time the Saami were hunter-gatherer-fishers, and for the past millennium they have also been reindeer pastoralists. Since appearing on the historical radar, the Saami have steadily been driven into increasingly marginal areas by the agricultural majority populations. They were forcefully Christianised in the 18th century and their languages were suppressed into the 20th century. Today they are thoroughly modern people with a high general level of education. US readers will recognise the situation: the Saami are northern Fenno-Scandia’s First People, and they currently cultivate a nationalistic movement.

Kroik has been funded by the Swedish Saami Parliament, both while writing her thesis and in producing the book. Her publisher is Boska, “The Society for the Preservation of Saami Culture and Folk Medicine”. She grew up in a reindeer pastoralist family, she believes that reindeer pastoralism has gone on “since time immemorial” or “for ever”, she feels that three mountains visible from her childhood homes are “holy mountains with a special importance for the Saami people”, and she speaks nostalgically about “the old Saami gods”. All this is imparted in the book’s first few pages. Further into the book she keeps making statements about how Saami people are today, how important the landscape is to them all, what their goals and feelings are like. This is called ethnic essentialism, and it’s not a respectable position in modern academe, to say the least.

Now, I’m an anti-nationalist. I reject all claims to deep ancestral heritage, be it by Swedes, Saami, Finns, Germans or Native Americans. My Swedishness is not the Swedishness of my Medieval ancestors. Kroik’s Saaminess is not the Saaminess of her Medieval ancestors. And I’m quite sure she isn’t actually equipped to speak for all Saami of today.

I believe that all citizens of a secular democracy should enjoy equal rights and shoulder equal responsibilities. And I believe that ethnic guilt is not heritable: if my great-great-grandfather committed atrocities toward Kroik’s great-great-grandfather, then this is not my responsibility. What is important is that Kroik and I treat each other fairly now. Finally, I believe that the cultural heritage in all its diversity is aesthetically valuable regardless of ethnic labels.

Enough of politics. On to scholarship, to the fascinating study of the twilight of Saami ethnic religion! Kroik follows the lead of professor Håkan Rydving in studying micro-variation in Saami culture. Her area of study is Frostviken (where she grew up) and Namdalen, straddling the border between Norway and Sweden. Sadly, as I moved through the book’s drawn-out preliminaries, waiting for the actual study to begin, I finally realised that it contains no original research into Saami religion. It’s just a compilation of other scholars’ results, selected and held together by the geographical study area.

Many MA theses are of course not independent research projects, and the general level of independence varies from discipline to discipline. But this text would never have received a cum laude (“VG”) grade in my discipline for its contents, and formally speaking it’s an amateurish piece of work, the tense varying haphazardly etc. So it appears clear that the reason that the Saami Parliament funded the project can’t have been its academic or literary qualities. They liked it because of its politics.

Of course, when an ethnic Swede like myself criticises Saami nationalism, he invites angry comments about colonialism, fascism, even genocide. To try to avoid this knee-jerk response, just let me explain that I’m from Stockholm, far from the Saami area, and I have no stake in the land disputes over Saami reindeer herding. I have nothing against Saami people or Saami culture, just against nationalism and blood-and-soil politics. I’m not voicing this criticism as a representative of any “Swedish nation”, because I don’t accept that there is any such thing. In my view, myself and Kroik are simply both citizens of the secular democracy of Sweden, and I don’t like her book much.

Update 10 December: A historian of religion I know tells me that professionals in this discipline generally find Kroik’s New Age tendencies odd. Her mindset is not typical for scholars at the Stockholm department or elsewhere.


Kroik, Åsa Virdi. 2007. Hellre mista sitt huvud än lämna sin trumma. Boska. Hönö. 88 pp. ISBN 978-91-633-1020-1.

[More blog entries about , , , , , ; , , , , , .]

Comments

  1. #1 kai
    December 7, 2007

    This is an exjobb? cough It may reflect badly on my home institution, but of the 40+ theses I’ve supervised I wouldn’t have thought of publishing even one of them as a book, they just aren’t done on that level and for that purpose. (The department of history of religion may of course have other expectations on student work, or possibly other ideas of what is publishable material, but as it wasn’t they who sponsored the publishing we needn’t pull them into this.)

    That said, I think there is a point you slide over too fast when you write “What is important is that Kroik and I treat each other fairly now.” I don’t think anyone disagrees with the sentiment, but the interpretation of what is ‘fair treatment’ clearly diverges. If you argue that Saami have no more rights to the land they live in than any other random person, you will have to contend with feelings of “Bloody Southerners have oppressed us for n hundreds of years and now they pretend that’s bygones, so they can continue oppressing us!” So, do you have any good and satisfying arguments in a negotiation situation?

    To put it another way, is it going to be convincing to say to groups who live in the ongoing consequences of historical underprivilege that they should not receive a bit of extra support to try to correct the situation? (Affirmative action, positive discrimination, or whatever it may be called in the particular situation.) You might argue the the Saami in Sweden are relatively well off, compared to, say, Australian aboriginals, black Americans or women most anywhere, but I think the fundamental problem is the same.

  2. #2 Martin R
    December 7, 2007

    Actually, I think it’s less than an exjobb. You only get 10-15 academic week credits for an MA thesis.

    I don’t care much about the grazing land conflict and I don’t identify with either side in it. But I definitely don’t think we should institutionalise any rights linked to ancestry. If we want to open the opportunity for Swedish citizens to live as reindeer pastoralists, then it should be open to anybody regardless of their birth.

    As you point out, the Saami aren’t comparable to e.g. Australian aboriginals. But I’ve posted on them too. I think they should leave the reservations, drop their traditional ethnicity and move to the cities. Adapt and survive!

  3. #3 Mary Evelyn
    December 7, 2007

    So, you think that cultural diversity is valuable from an aesthetic standpoint? That is of course a purely arbitrary assesment, “beauty in the eye of the beholder.” If the whole world adapts by moving to a presumably globally homogeneous city, what is left of that diversity? Don’t you think that cultural diversity, like biological diversity, has some adaptive advantage, in that by preserving diversity, we are keeping a wider range of options for future selection to work on? After all, city life may turn out to maladaptive relative to some future circumstance, and if we all become homogeneous, just like limited diversity monoculture crops, we as a species will be less likely to survive changes that will inevitably come.

  4. #4 Martin R
    December 7, 2007

    Come on, you know people will never coalesce into a single global culture. There are fifteen subcultures in every high school.

    As for preserving cultural diversity in a goal-orientated way for long-term survival purposes, I don’t see that happening, for simple organisation reasons. And besides, if our environment changes radically, then people will always be able to come up with solutions out of the blue. We don’t need the cultural heritage for any practical purposes.

  5. #5 kai
    December 7, 2007

    “And besides, if our environment changes radically, then people will always be able to come up with solutions out of the blue. We don’t need the cultural heritage for any practical purposes.”

    Oh, come on! Whether you want to call it cultural heritage or skill sets, they are not something you get out of thin air whenever you need it. It takes years of practice to get reasonably good at anything, and I can well imagine that some knowledge, such as knowing which water holes are likely to contain water depending on the weather during the last month, could require a generation or two to accumulate.

    As I interpret Mary Evelyn’s question, the range of skills is considerably smaller in a population of Swedish suburban punk rockers, mods, and goths as compared to a population of Chinese megapolis inhabitants, South American hunter-gatherers, and Australian farmers, so having the wider range of the latter population would be better in an unsecure future.

  6. #6 Janne
    December 7, 2007

    Humans have been gaining new skill-sets, and losing old ones, since the species’ inception. Should anybody be pressured into keeping some cultural heritage alive, even at the cost of their own well-being or life prospects?

    If modern city life is so very appealing compared to “traditional” ways of life then that is because it offers so very much more. Why should anybody be pressured to forgo it just because some people (who coincidentally have long ago lost their own “traditional” skill sets) tell them they have to preserve their way of life?

    Wrote a bit about it here: http://janneinosaka.blogspot.com/2007/11/urban.html

  7. #7 windy
    December 7, 2007

    I think they should leave the reservations, drop their traditional ethnicity and move to the cities.

    How last century of you. Why not get them satellite broadband and distance educations, and then discuss the relative merits of bush and city life with them over the ‘net.

  8. #8 Martin R
    December 8, 2007

    Kai, sure, skill sets and technologies are not comparable to whatever funny hats and folk dances my particular ethnic group cultivates. Still, I find it unreasonable to allow minorities to live in economic museums just to preserve technological diversity for the day when the asteroid strikes. And as we all know, that is not the reason that there are still ethnic reservations around the world.

    Janne, I agree.

  9. #9 Martin R
    December 8, 2007

    Windy, haha, I take it you foresee a glorious future for the world’s ethnic minorities where they’re all operating call centres and Nigeria scams out of their arid far-off reservations? Well, maybe.

  10. #10 Sávon
    December 8, 2007

    I´m scared, because nowadays there is so much anti-saami arguments among the swedes, that it seems to me as a movement.

    We are an old people, there has been so many genetic investigations on us since the 1800. The swedes and finlands and norse took part for the rasist approach, during the thirties. And we, the saami, were the the people, if the nazi had won the second world war, who would have been “holocausted”.

    By the way of reindeer, bones of that animal have been found from the Magdalenien, in Isturitz, that show that it has been a tamed animal, and you can see wallpaintings in the paleolontic caves that reindeers seem to have “grimmor” (people put such things on horses). Reindeer can have been domesticated already then. (PG Bahn 1978, F Cornelius 1941, Vajnstein 1975)

    And it also seems as we are survivors of the oldest european peoples, when it comes to our haplogroups, mtDNA and Y-chromosomes. There is a lot of scientific works on that, and I dont see it as rasism. Instead it gives an idea of how people wandered around to find a place to live in/on.

    Now Martin wrote about the fight about the land, yes, there is a people in the north, they call themselves “Kväns” today, they came to north with the swedish colonialisation. They were earlier partly of the “Birkarlar” some sort of taxpayer, it seems to be Magnus Ladulas who sent them on us ca 1275 – 1290. The other part is from the colonialisation by finns, when Sweden and Finland was one country ca 1700-1800. (Se Jouko Vahtola, Tornedalens historia I, 1991 s 221)

    They want to get the name of beeing the first people in Fennoscandia, “urbefolkning”. They have got their dialect of finnish classified as a language, “Meankieli”. They “bombard” all authorities with writing were they criticize the saami in everything that they ever can. And they even say that the saami came 1600, and that the “kvaens” are the lapps…

    We saami have had “shamanism” until the swedish colonialised us with help of the swedish christian church, and burned to death some of our shamans (noaidi) and stole our drums. Shamanism is as a lot of scholars see it, the oldest way for people to explain life and death. Look at the paintings in the Franco-Cantabrian area, and other of those places it seem that we saami also came from.

  11. #11 Sàvon
    December 8, 2007

    Sorry: I wrote on Birkarlar, “taxpayer”, I meant “taxcollectors”, they had got the right to collect taxes from us saami, “lappskatten”…

  12. #12 Martin R
    December 8, 2007

    Savon, your people are as old or as new as everybody else. The notion of deep ethnic ancestry is a nationalistic fiction. The historical and archaeological matters you mention have no bearing on your personal rights, or on my personal rights, today. The Kvaen movement may be a recent fiction, but so were all ethnic identities once. They are all made up, Swedish, Saami, Kvaen and Klingon.

  13. #13 Sávon
    December 8, 2007

    But whatever you say, still I am a saami. I exist.
    And what´s more, people come to me because i still have so many things left from the old times, I have the heritage of the very old europeans…
    Look att this, and click and read also on earlier blogs:
    http://saamiblog.blogspot.com/

  14. #14 Sávon
    December 8, 2007

    Just for fun, look at an older post 11/10/07, (November 10, 2007)There you see a picture by Ålgård 1930, from a nomadschool in Gällivare, of a boy and a little girl hand in hand. I look very much like the girl, and she is a relative of mine.

  15. #15 Martin R
    December 8, 2007

    Savon, I have no doubt whatsoever but that you exist, and I hope you shall continue to do so for many decades in the best of health!

  16. #16 Lennart Nilsson
    December 8, 2007

    Friends,
    the Swedish Saami policy is based on layer over layer of stereotypes. First of the wild, pagan people that needed to be subdued, then romantic notion of the happy native that better remain where he is, then as a nationalistic icon of the “northern lands” and finally the image imported from the Americas, Australia and Africa on the indigenous fourth world people. The problem of northern Scandinavia today is that a certain group of people are separated out of the rest of this ethnical mosaic and given a special status. It is important to remember that many, maybe most, of the non-saami population of the area also has saami roots, but have chosen to leave reindeer herding and change their native speak to (mostly) finnish. The only reasonable strategy would be to treat all people according to the same set of standards, if we are to avoid turning this area in to a “Balkan of the north.”
    I find it fascinating that Finland, where the saamis are extremely few, is the country that uses them most as national symbol, and to attract tourists…

  17. #17 Lassi Hippeläinen
    December 8, 2007

    “I find it fascinating that Finland, where the saamis are extremely few, is the country that uses them most as national symbol, and to attract tourists…”

    Maybe because the Finns and the Saami are relatives. The Swedes, Norwegians, and Russians are newbies in Lapland.

    “They speak a number of Fenno-Ugric dialects that are incomprehensible to the majority populations of the area.”

    Just for the sake of clarity: the Saami don’t speak incomprehensible dialects of Finnish. The Saami languages form their own family in the Finno-Ugric tree.

    BTW, currently the spelling “Finno-” is preferred, to avoid confusion with the “Fenni” of Tacitus. There is no evidence that the people he wrote about had anything to do with Finno-Ugric people. Not even the Saami.

  18. #18 Martin R
    December 8, 2007

    Lassi, to be fair, there is equally strong or weak support for the idea that Tacitus referred to the Lake Mälaren ancestors of the Swedes. Personally, I find it reasonable to believe that he did have information about people in the Mälaren area and in Lapland, and that there is continuity between those groups and groups that survive today. Continutity, however, doesn’t mean identity.

  19. #19 Lassi Hippeläinen
    December 8, 2007

    This is getting off-topic, but here goes…

    I have wondered why people argue about the Fenni. Tacitus is quite clear in his geography. The Venethi traded with the Sarmati along the forests and hills that separated the Peucini from the Fenni (Germania 46.2). The first three can be located on a map using sources that are independent of Tacitus: Venethi in current southern Poland, Sarmati in western Ukraine, and Peucini in the upper valley of Dnestr, south of the trade route. That puts Fenni in the Pripet Marshes, which were then much wider than now. They were most likely Slavs, like the people living around the marsh.

    Living in a marsh would explain why they had no iron, no horses, and no houses. All were adaptations to the environment.

  20. #20 Martin R
    December 8, 2007

    Yeah, but your reasoning assumes that Tacitus knows what the f*ck he’s talking about when it comes to far-off areas in the north. Chances are he did not, and that much of what he tells us is badly garbled.

    Would the Peucini, in your opinion, then be forerunners of the Petjenegs? But they were Turkic-speakers.

  21. #21 Sávon
    December 8, 2007

    You just speculate. Noone of you seems to know anything. Why speculate then:”What you don´t know anything you shouldn´t speak!” (Wittgenstein)

  22. #22 Lassi Hippeläinen
    December 8, 2007

    It’s funny how the reputation of Tacitus changes when different theorists need different results. Placing the Fenni (and with them the Venethi, Peucini, and Sarmati) to Fennoscandia has no support in the text. Those who need it declare Tacitus “unreliable”, which is throwing away evidence simply because you disagree with it.

    IMHO Tacitus wasn’t describing “far-off areas in the north”. He progresses systematically from west to east. By the time he describes Venethi he should be in East-Central Europe, and that is just where they were. Moving the nations to Fennoscandia leaves a huge hole in the map of East-Central Europe. It also misplaces nations that are known from other evidence.

    Tacitus got Central Europe OK, so why should he be totally wrong about East-Central Europe? The Romans did have trade connections there. The area was within easy reach from the Black Sea, using the rivers.

    As to what happened to the Peucini (aka. Bastarnae) – Wikipedia suggests they evolved to the Zarubintsy culture, and eventually merged into the Chernyakhov culture. I can accept that without problems, because I’m not an expert on the issue.

    And to Sávon: speculation is the first phase of modelling. Without speculation there is no scientific progress.

  23. #23 Sávon
    December 8, 2007

    Of course speciulation is necessary, but before you start to speculate you must have something “real” to speculate about. The swedish and maybe finnish archaeologist or better historians should study the german “Ahnenerbe”.

  24. #24 Martin R
    December 8, 2007

    *BINGGG* Godwin’s Law!

  25. #25 Sávon
    December 8, 2007

    “you have only to say ‘Godwin’s Law’ and a trapdoor falls open, plunging your rival into a pool of hungry crocodiles.”[15]” And yes there they are the hungry crocodiles…you´re one of them, I´m sorry!

  26. #26 Bengt O.
    December 8, 2007

    This is very much outside the discussion above about which I have no considered opinion. I was, however, very intrigued by seeing Lennart Nilsson using the words �avoid turning this area in to a �Balkan of the north.�” Right now the future of Kosovo is very high on the international agenda. On my Swedish language blogs I have been arguing that this issue is not so simple as well-meaning souls in Sweden and elsewhere seem to think. A first internationally sanctioned break with the principles accepted in Helsinki 1975 of the territorial integrity of the present European states may have drastic consequences for countries like Slovakia, Spain, France, Greece, Hungary, Romania and others, even Great Britain and, of course, Russia. I have also mentioned the Saami nation in this context: if the Albanians in Kosovo would be granted the right to their own country, why not also the Saami? The thought certainly seems far-fetched today but may become reality sooner than we would like to think.

  27. #27 Sávon
    December 8, 2007

    Bengt wrote: “I have also mentioned the Saami nation in this context: if the Albanians in Kosovo would be granted the right to their own country, why not also the Saami?”
    ———–
    There is one big difference. The Saami is of old age Fennoskandias inhabitants. We have kept our way of life for very long time, even if other people has come to our area. We have been colonialised by other nations, Norway-Denmark , Sweden-Finland and Russia. Our area and our people(s) is divided between those nationalstates today. Our own organisation has never been on a state level, we have had an older form of organisation, the Sita, a klantype of living.
    I think if you compare with the albanians it is the “Kvaen” you have to consider. They are fairly newcomers into our area, they make aggressiv demands on land and they even try to steal our history, claiming they are the people called the lapps.
    But what is worse is that there is such a hatred among the swedes aganst us again, it has been earlier, we were once classed in rasist terms, swedish scientists even dug up our graves to steal our bones, to show that we were of “low value” not “nordic, blond, tall and healthy people”…

  28. #28 Jonathan Jarrett
    December 8, 2007

    I tread carefully into this debate because I’m conscious that I risk hurting people’s feelings out of my ignorance. But curiosity will trump tact every time :-)

    I’m ashamed to say that I first found about the existence of the Saami only a few years ago, when copy-editing a book that never came out on the Christianization of Northern and Central Europe. The standard English-language histories of Norway more or less fail to mention them. So this dormant book was the first I’d heard of them. In the book, each modern state had a chapter, written by different people, some historians and some archaeologists, some of each new and radical (as they pitched themselves) and some of each evidently traditional and er, ‘well-established’. They’d been written in English to start with, and the standards of English varied wildly, and I was being employed to try and make them all readable. I’m afraid I never found out the authors’ surnames, and as the book hasn’t come out I won’t try and dig out the first names in case the text has changed since I had my claws on it. So I can’t attribute what I’m about to remember, I’m afraid. Anyway.

    The Norwegian guy had a lengthy introduction about the fact that archaeology in Norway tends to leave out half the medieval population, and he went that it’s very difficult in fact to make up for this because the Nordic and Saami academic worlds don’t work to the same standards, don’t communicate effectively and have very different priorities. The Saami have little interest in outreach to the perceivedly Christianizing and duplicitous southerners, of any nationality (again, I paraphrase his summing-up), and the southerners can’t find out anything they’d like to know because the Saami won’t cooperate with them.

    Even as I read this, I thought that he was more or less invalidating his own ability to comment on the problems, even though he was clearly sensitive to both sides of the academic divide. It was so problematic, in fact, that my editor decided to more or less leave it out, as for the very reasons he was explaining, he didn’t really cover the Saami thereafter. I finished work on the project knowing only that I didn’t really know what could be trusted of what I’d learnt.

    So what I now wonder, now that we have spokespersons for both sides of the aforementioned divide, in some sense, present, is whether there is any work that either or ideally both would recommend to an English-reader (or French, or German, or indeed Spanish, but not I’m afraid Norwegian or Saami) to get a balanced view of the situation?

  29. #29 Martin R
    December 8, 2007

    Please tell us more: what situation? Do you want to read about current Saami ethnopolitics? Or about Saami history & archaeology?

  30. #30 windy
    December 8, 2007

    By the way of reindeer, bones of that animal have been found from the Magdalenien, in Isturitz, that show that it has been a tamed animal, and you can see wallpaintings in the paleolontic caves that reindeers seem to have “grimmor” (people put such things on horses). Reindeer can have been domesticated already then. (PG Bahn 1978, F Cornelius 1941, Vajnstein 1975)

    Unlike Martin, I don’t mind so much if Saami are given some special status as the first inhabitants of Fennoscandia, but this is a bit ridiculous frankly. Which one of these authors claims that reindeer were domesticated this early (making them possibly the first or second domesticated animal)? And that only the ancestors of the Saami were involved while presumably the ancestors of other Europeans were standing around the glacial steppes looking stupid?

    Afaik, there is not much archeological evidence of the domestication of the reindeer, but it’s as least as likely to have happened in the east as in the west.

  31. #31 Jonathan Jarrett
    December 9, 2007

    I suppose I was mainly meaning to express interest in the historical situation of the Saami peoples in my period, the early Middle Ages, but also get some sense of what if any work is being done inside either Saami or outside groups on this now.

  32. #32 Sávon
    December 9, 2007

    Jonathan,
    I wish I could tell you were to find information , I have now only possibility to give you this two adresses to start with. I’m sure you´ll find something. I can write directly to you on your blogg later.

    http://www.utexas.edu/courses/sami/dieda/hist/sami-west.htm

    http://saamiblog.blogspot.com/ Click on earlier posts too, theres a lot of information.

    Umeå university has a good department of Saami studies also.

    I´m glad that you are interested!

    .

  33. #33 Enkla Z
    December 10, 2007

    Is the word “saami” by any chance related to the word “shaman”?

  34. #34 Jonathan Jarrett
    December 10, 2007

    That first site looks useful, but it bothers me that it starts “According to historians…” My experience of historians is that we agree about almost nothing, and this is a zone full of contention. So whose view is it presenting? But it’s all a start. I suppose a neutral presentation would be impossible anyway… Thankyou for the help!

  35. #35 Martin R
    December 10, 2007

    Jon, when it comes to ethnicity, archaeologists are even worse guides than historians. In fact, we can’t speak about ethnicity at all without referring to written matter, that is, hitching a ride on historians.

  36. #36 Sávon
    December 10, 2007

    “Unlike Martin, I don’t mind so much if Saami are given some special status as the first inhabitants of Fennoscandia, but this is a bit ridiculous frankly. Which one of these authors claims that reindeer were domesticated this early (making them possibly the first or second domesticated animal)? And that only the ancestors of the Saami were involved while presumably the ancestors of other Europeans were standing around the glacial steppes looking stupid?”

    No, you put words in my mouth. I didn´t mean that it was the saami who domesticated the reindeer. And I didn´t say it. It could have been anyone, BUT the point was that the reindeer was found as a tame animal already during Magdalenien. The example was a broken and healed bone that a wild animal couldn´t have stayed alive with, so long time. It seems to have been nursed. I left the names of the authors inside the parentese.

    AND another interesting thing is that we also are the people with reindeer husbandry. Still. Even if the markettype of reindeerhusbandry is rather new, forced upon us by surroundig society.

  37. #37 Einar
    Norway
    November 3, 2012

    I have just discovered this blog so my comment is perhaps outdated.
    I would like to say that my position on the Saami is different to that of Martin R`s. Firstly, “Hellre mista sitt hovud…” is not a scientist paper, it is rather a popularised presentation of work on Saami historical matters. The reason being to increase interest in Saami history among the Saami, and in particular the South-Saami.
    It is a privilege to belong to an ethnic majority. Public funding is never questioned as to the purpose of establishing knowledge of the past. The National state`s purpose in providing a historical awareness is closely connected with the national state`s claim to the area it controls which again produces historybooks with an emphasis on national identity. We may not like this kind of history making but I think we should recognize that the State is not without motives when it comes to the production of national history.

    The Saami situation is completely different. Saami history before 1500 A.D., at least in central Norway, was wehemently denied by historians at NTNU at least up to 2005. A local Saami history in Trøndelag was not recognized by the uni at Trondheim untill 2008. We are therefore speaking of a people largely denied an ethnic history in the areas they live in, by historians and archaeologists representing the ethnic majorities in Scandinavia.
    The South Saami need to reclaim the right to their own cultural history should be obvious and this should, in my opinion, be received with enthusism by people interested in a cultural history without ethnic bias.

    There is therefore a need for papers like “Hellre mista sitt hovud…”. I would like to add that there is still no general acceptance in scholarly circles in Scandinavia that hunter`s rock art, for example at Naemforsen, is connected to pre-Saami culture. Ethnic Swedes did not settle down permanently at NesÃ¥ker untill the Middle Ages. I therefore think that Scandinavian archaeology is still not without etnic bias and it cannot surprise anyone that many Saami regard Scandinavian history as a history of ethnic oppression that continues to this day.
    There is therefore a need for publications in South Saami areas like “Hellre mista sitt hovud…” because the author is Saami. The Saami will trust one of their own which again clearly signifies distrust in Scandinavian historians. This matter of distrust can only be abriged if ethnic Scandinavians generally accept that history is also about how history is written in the present. We need to accept that Saami needs are different from Scandinavian needs in getting one`s ethnic history recognized. Give them the slack they need to feel on equal terms with Scandinavians when it comes to ethnic identity.
    Include them in our common Scandinavian history.

  38. #38 Martin R
    November 4, 2012

    I agree, the booklet is not a scientific paper. But MA theses are supposed to contain some original research, and this does not. A student who wrote a popular account would not pass the MA course at my department.

    As for the ethnicity of the inhabitants of Neolithic Northern Scandinavia, with Nämforsen etc., I believe neither the Saami nor the Norse have any right to claim it. That’s what prehistory means.

    http://scienceblogs.com/aardvarchaeology/2007/05/31/your-folks-my-folks-in-prehist/

    I have little regard for anybody’s ethnic identity, majority or minority. Humanity first.

  39. #39 Einar
    Norway
    November 4, 2012

    Hello again,
    Kroik`s booklet was never intended as a scientific paper, meaning that you are flunking people that did not intend to pass a grade when contributing to the booklet. Most articles there are mere elaborations of Saami related topics, resulting from different papers or Master thesii.

    I otherwise agree that it makes no sense to claim an ethnic ownership to neolithic or Bronze Age rock art. Relating this art to specific ethnic groups may however be awarding to an interpretor if elements can be connected with som credibility to known traits in for example the old Saami religion.

    As for your statement that humanity comes before ethnic identity I simply do not get it. All humans today live in a ethnic or multi-ethnic setting, meaning that ethnicity is an aspect locked to the quality of being human. This ethnicity disqualifies some minorities as participants of scientific debates, which is why they create their own arenas of communication.

    .

  40. #40 Martin R
    November 4, 2012

    Kroik’s booklet is a publication of her MA thesis. Surely you aren’t suggesting that there was lots of good independent research in the thesis that she removed before she published it. Nobody else contributed to it. You seem to be thinking of a different book.

    Relating Neolithic rock art to 17th and 18th century information about Saami religion seems like pointless speculation to me.

    I can’t say what it’s like in Norway, but in Sweden a Saami is equally eligible for study loans and grad school as anybody else. Most Swedish Saami live in Stockholm and have a university degree.

  41. #41 Einar
    Norway
    November 6, 2012

    Yes, I was thinking about the series of booklets that Kroik has been publishing, mainly with entries from different scholars, all in popularized form without references for example. Kroik otherwise got an A for her Master thesis meaning that at least some scholars must have seen valuable aspects in it. HÃ¥kan Rydving, among others, praised Kroik`s work highly in a personal comment to Kroik, so all scholars do not see eye to eye with you on the booklet`s topic.

    You are of course allowed to voice whatever point of view you would like in your own blog. I do however think that the critizism voiced here would benefit from a certain acknowledgement of the fact that Kroik has another academic and ethnic background than most scholars and that this permeats her entire study. You may not like it but I think you should respect it.

    The history of oppression normally ends up in a period of rather fierce nationalism on the part of the opressed as soon as the oppression is lifted. The fact that this fierce nationalism is directed partly against those who lifted the oppression is something we will have to live with for a while. A promlem following in the wake of this renewed nationalism is the generally held attitude among Saami scholars that you need to be Saami to understand Saami history. The result is an ethnic ownership to history that does not make sense.

    Most Saami live in Norway, some 50-60000 I think, the majority living mainly in Finnmark. Only some 15000 are engaged in reindeer herding directly the rest are to be found in every conceivable occupation, which might be expected. There is a tendency among the reindeer herderers to regard themselves as the “real” Saami, the ones carrying the Saami culture unbroken into the 21th century. This, however, is a detrimental position in regard to keeping up Saami ethnic identity as it is an attitude that excludes the majority within their own ethnic group.

    You may reject nationalism as a whole and ethnic claims to ancestral heritage when it comes to material culture but I suppose you do not deny human ownership to human heritage?

  42. #42 Martin R
    November 6, 2012

    I would consider it a great disrespect to judge Kroik’s work according to a separate yardstick because of her ethnic background. Saami ain’t stupid. Treating someone with condescension isn’t respecting their background.

    I claim co-ownership of all human heritage including that of the Saami, with whom I have no recent blood ties.

  43. #43 Einar
    Norway
    November 7, 2012

    I think you can claim blood ties to Saami cultural heritage also. When two ethnic groups live side by side for 4500-5000 years history tells us that children will be born as the result of this close contact. For one reason or another Scandinavian and Saami women largely share the same haplogroup ancestry. I think we therefore can safely say that Scandinavians and the Saami share blood ties.

  44. #44 Einar
    November 7, 2012

    Mr. Martin R.
    It does not matter to Ã…sa Kroik if you do not like her paper. If the yardstick she is judged by renders an A, I would seriously doubt that she will complain.
    You will have to confront the jurors that concurred that Kroik`s work was of value to religion history if you still dislike the contents of her paper. It is not Kroik`s fault that the jurors liked what she wrote in her masters degree(c-uppsats).

  45. #45 Martin R
    November 7, 2012

    Why should I confront them?

  46. #46 Einar
    November 7, 2012

    I suppose this is really the interesting part. You would not have spent even one sentence on Ã…sa Kroik if she had received a C for her thesis. She got an A which makes the situation less obvious.She published her thesis because of its grading, whereas you do not like it at all.
    So I would say, confront the jurors. If you do not like the thesis, they decided after all the grading of Kroik`s thesis.

  47. #47 Martin R
    November 7, 2012

    Whether I review a book or not actually has nothing to do with the grade the author may have received for their term paper. I review published books that interest me.

    I find your suggestion to be quite odd, to contact a university department years after they graded a term paper and try to open some kind of dialogue about whether the grade was deserved or not.

  48. #48 Einar
    November 8, 2012

    In my reasoning criticism of a paper rated at a C would require little effort and it would also provide an easy target for critizism. A paper receeiving an A is another matter as there must be some reasoning behind the grading indicating quality in the case of Ã…sa Virdi Kroik`s thesis.

    Since this thread was started in 2007 I still think it is a valid point of view that whatever criticism is directed towards the content of Kroik`s thesis the criticism affects her jurors more than Kroik as the jurors recognized a value of her paper that you do not see. Maybe it is odd to confront the jurors in 2012 but after all you obviously had the chance to do so already in 2007.

  49. #49 Einar
    November 8, 2012

    I will stop commenting this topic any further to avoid becoming a total pain in the *ss.

    I would like to conclude though that I think it is an important question why some get an A as an academic grade whereas other academics would flunk the very same thesis. It seems like there is a difference in academic standards between different institutions which prevents qualitycontrol in grading. Full objectivity in regard to all thesis handed in is perhaps too much to ask for. If one institute gives you an A and the other would flunk the very same thesis, you will however risk distrusting your peers in the end which of course is an unhappy situation.
    I know that it is none of my business to tell you what to do, Martin, but it would have been enlightening if you had confronted Kroik`s jurors with your own academic arguments as to why you think her grading is wrong. It might produce some tender or sore toes in the beginning but it would in the end clearify academic standards in grading, I think.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.