Accepted Paper:

Sámi heritage and the making of ethnic boundaries in museum exhibitions  

Author:

Nika Potinkara (University of Jyväskylä)

Paper short abstract:

The ethnic boundaries between the Sámi and the majority populations are maintained by a limited set of cultural features. In this paper, I examine how the cultural elements regarded as Sámi heritage are used in museum exhibitions, and what it implies for the further mobility of those elements.

Paper long abstract:

The Sámi are an ethnic minority living in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. In a situation where differences in the ways of life are disappearing or decreasing, the ethnic boundaries between the Sámi and the majority populations are maintained by a limited set of cultural features, including traditional handicrafts, contemporary Sámi costumes, reindeer herding, and the relationship to land and nature. These cultural features, together with the northern landscape of "Sámiland", are often ascribed the status of Sámi heritage.

In this paper, I examine how the cultural features and landscapes regarded as Sámi heritage are represented in the permanent exhibitions of two Sámi museums, Ájtte in Sweden and Siida in Finland. Sámi museums aim to reclaim Sámi heritage and display the Sámi from their own point of view; they are intended to serve as an arena for a dialogue about Sámi identity, promoting a positive Sámi self-understanding. How are the cultural elements regarded as Sámi heritage used by the museums? As selected cultural features are related to the boundary-making processes of Sámi ethnicity, what does this imply for the further mobility of those features?

Panel P38
Cultural heritage, status and mobility