MA de Jong - RCMC

Charlotte de Jong

MA Thesis | Sami Identity and Representation

Sámi Identity Representation and Revitalization in Northern Norway


This thesis combines the topics of material culture, museum representation and identity formation in the case of the Sámi living in the north of Norway. The Sámi are an indigenous people living in the north Norway, Sweden, Finland and on the Kola-peninsula of Russia. They are mostly known as reindeer herders migrating with their herds from winter to summer pastures, however most Sámi do not have this livelihood and there are many differences between Sámi groups. There are the coastal Sámi who used to live of fish, forest Sámi, Skolt Sami originating from Russia and Finland, and other groups (Lehtola 2004). ‘Traditional’ livelihoods, such as reindeer herding, are not widespread. Only a small percentage of Sámi nowadays can make a live of reindeer herding. Recently, people are finding out about their Sámi background, as a large group of people tried to hide the fact that they were Sámi due to discrimination and stigmatization as a result of decades of assimilation policies. In Norway, you can say you are Sámi when one of your parents or grandparents spoke Sámi and you feel Sámi. If this is the case, you can register yourself at the Sametinget, the Sámi parliament, and vote for the Sámi political parties.

The research question of this thesis is: How has material culture and identity representation in museums influenced the struggle for more rights and identity formation of Sámi in Northern Norway?

To support this question there are four sub-questions that I will answer:

  1. How have the Sámi struggled for indigenous rights and what role did representations of identity and material culture in museums play in this struggle?
  2. What role does Sámi material culture play during identity formation?
  3. What effect had the Sámi cultural revitalization on Sámi identity and Sámi material culture?
  4. How are material culture and identity of Sámi represented in the Volkenkunde Museum in Leiden and in the museums in Norway?

By Charlotte de Jong
MA Thesis Cultural Anthropology
Leiden University in cooperation with The National Museum of World Cultures: Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden
Supervisor: Prof. dr. Pieter ter Keurs
June 28, 2017