Contested Ethnopolitical Arenas in Finnish Saamiland (CEAFS)


PI Professor Veli-Pekka Lehtola



The institutionalization of the Sámi movement in Finland, Norway and Sweden from the end of the 1980s was a result of gaining power by the Sámi movement. Successful legislative strategy produced new Sámi institutions, most prominently the Sámi Parliament in all three countries. The volume of activities increased, for example when positions based on the Sámi language or culture increased in municipal administration, schools and day care centers. As the earlier antagonism of the Sámi towards the state changed into a fruitful dialogue, increasing power also intensified local disagreements about both minority-majority relationships and interrelationships between the Sámi, as the “Sáminess” or ethnic belonging became a contested concept both in inter- and intra-ethnic. The official Sámi politics and also the essentialistic Sámi representations have been challenged by arguing that they dismiss the diversity of the Sámi culture and create a one-sided image of the “correct” Sáminess.

The project shall analyze the transition processes in Sámi-Finnish relations and Sámi internal relations from the 1970s to the 2000s in three levels. The legacy of the Sámi ethno-political movement is examined especially in context of the cultural and social strategies by the Sámi from the 1970s to the 1990s. The contemporary challenges of trans-cultural encounters are to be studied in contested ethno-political arenas, such as institutionalized ethno-politics in local societies, new revitalization movements among the Sámi, and Sámi education practices. Concerning new kind of identity processes, the commodifications of traditional Sámi culture shall be analyzed through e.g. Sámi music festivals, duodji (traditional handicraft) and modern design, and active consciousness of traditions.


1. The Cultural and Social Strategies in the Changing Sámi Society after the 1970s

An approach to the recent history of the Sámi society from the 1970s to the 2000s attempts to analyze the ethnopolitical history from a perspective of cultural and social strategies, reflected in Sámi politics, media, and artistic expressions. The question of inclusion and exclusion of ethnic belonging is relevant when describing the institutionalization of Sámi self-representations.


2. The Challenges of Trans-cultural Encounters in Contested Ethnopolitical Arenas 

The recent situation in the 2000s is analyzed in many sectors of the Sámi society, including the revitalization processes of small Sámi groups, such as the Inari Sámi; the Sámi education structures in the light of global human rights, and the transformation of Sámi traditions, such as kinship structures and ways to use natural resources. The question of reconstructing new belongings is very relevant here.


3. Constructing Commodificating Traditional Sámi Culture as a part of Identity Policies

The modern Sámi identity is not only reflecting the traditions in transition, but e.g. the Sámi artists are also commodificating the traditions due to such institutions as Sámi festivals or even marketing. What kind of cultural and ethical aspects are involved in exploiting the collective tradition for individuals, and what kind of belongings are to be discussed? One way to study this is to concentrate on how oral traditions and archival materials, such as photographs, can be used in modern identity work.


Principal investigator:

Prof. Veli-Pekka Lehtola


Postdoctoral researchers:

D. Ph. Marko Jouste

D. Soc. Sc. Laura Junka-Aikio

D. Soc. Sc. Anni-Siiri Länsman

D. Ph. Marja-Liisa Olthuis


Doctoral researchers:

M. Soc. Sc. Ulla Aikio-Puoskari

MA Eeva-Kristiina Harlin

MA Hanna Helander

MA Bigga-Helena Magga

MA Päivi Magga

MA Sigga-Maria Magga

MA Minna Rasmus

MA Petra Rautiainen

MA Sonja Tanhua

MA Rauna Triumf

MA Anna-Liisa Väyrynen


The project focuses on developing the Saami Culture Archive at the Giellagas Institute of the University of Oulu the national centre of Saami sound archive research material in Finland. It aims to develop the research services of the infrastructure for both academic and non-academic users. We will provide research materials and facilities with information security, cultural competence, and good archive practices including international standards (IASA), legislative and ethical knowledge. The collections of Saami Culture Archive form a significant “bank of resources” for academic research in Saami language, cultural and sociological studies as well as teaching and Saami cultural work.

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Besides the professor, there are fifteen other members in the group, four of them Doctors of Philosophy or Social Sciences and eleven Masters of Arts or Social Sciences. Professor Veli-Pekka Lehtola is a distinguished scholar in Sámi studies, having published 12 monographs and about 90 articles, emphasizing the Sámi-Finnish relations. D. Soc. Sc. Anni-Siiri Länsman made her dissertation in social sciences (University of Lapland) about the Sámi-Finnish relations in tourism. D. Ph. Marko Jouste is an ethnomusicologist who made his dissertation (University of Tampere) about the nearly forgotten music traditions of the Inari Sámi people. D. Ph. Marja-Liisa Olthuis is a linguist who has carried out a remarkable project revitalizing the Inari Sámi language, reflected in the joint monograph (Olthuis – Kivelä – Skutnabb-Kangas 2013). D. Ph. Laura Junka-Aikio has studied the politics and ethics of research and knowledge, anticolonial thought and practice, and the ways in which politics and the political might be rearticulated in the context of contemporary postcolonial and late modern societies.


Last updated: 26.5.2015