Collecting Sapmi: Early Modern Globalization of Sami Material Culture

This is an Archive of a Past Event

During the seventeenth century, Swedish scientists, aristocrats, kings, and queens started collecting Sami objects. Parallel to this, the researchers began, mainly in Uppsala, identifying and describing the Sami people. The Swedish government had colonial ambitions, and a will to rule over the people of the north. This produced a need to understand the new subjects. Sami would be induced, or if necessary, forced to abandon their own religion and convert to Christianity. They were also supposed to adapt to a new economic system and make way for the Swedish speaking settlers. Collecting Sami objects and the making descriptions of Sami identity, material culture, and religion was not only part of a national project to control the Sami people. Collecting and describing were also part of a general European colonial ideology an was related to other European countries' policies conducted in Africa and America during the same period. In Sweden, as well as in Denmark/Norway, Sami objects were collected, often under coersion. The objects were brought to Uppsala, Stockholm or Copenhagen, where they were incorporated into collections. In several cases it is known that the objects came to travel further as gifts or commodities to collectors in the Atlantic World, in London, Paris, Rome, or Vienna.

Jonas Nordin is PhD associate professor in historical archaeology and a researcher at the department of archaeology and ancient history at the University of Uppsala as well as the Swedish History museum. His main research interest lies within the field of early modern globalization and birth of modernity through studies of colonialism and cultural contact. He has studied Scandinavian colonial encounters in America, India, and Sapmi and is currently running two major research projects on colonial collecting of Sami material culture and on industrialization of northern Fennoscandia. His background is within medieval archaeology where he has studied enforcement of power through architecture and spaces as well as the birth of new forms of organizing people through guilds.