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Institutionalization, neo-politicization and the politics of defining Sámi research

Published: 2 January 2019

Abstract: This article critically examines recent changes in the social terrain of Sámi research in Finland, where the research field is subject to a new wave of academic institutionalization, and where questions regarding “Sáminess” have become particularly prominent. The article argues that in this conjuncture of institutionalization and neo-politicization, definitions of Sámi research which emphasize its political and ethical qualities (“Sámi research” as research done from a “Sámi perspective” or “taking it into account”) appear increasingly problematic and can actually end up doing the opposite of what was originally intended. Instead of bringing questions regarding the politics of perspective, location, representation and power/knowledge to the fore, presenting the research field in these terms might turn attention away from a variety of interests and political desires that currently are projected onto Sámi research, and hence depoliticize understandings of Sámi research and its complex interdependence with the state and society.
Keywords: Arctic / Indigenous studies / institutionalization / Lappology / neoliberalism / “non-status Sámi” / race-shifting / research policy / Sámi definition / Sámi research

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