Indigenous landscapes and languages: Denali vs McKinley

In the aftermath of the political situation in the US, a debate about the name of the highest mountain in North America is taking place. Denali – meaning “the great one” in Athabascan – is the name given to the peak by Native Alaskan and it was recognised as official name by president Barack  Obama in 2015.

The newly elected president Donald Trump has already in his campaign declared that changing the name of the mountain as Obama did, was an insult to Ohio: previously the mountain was officially named Mount McKinley, after the 25th president William McKinley from Ohio. For native Alaskan, giving such a name to the mountain in the first place, instead of its Indigenous name, can also be perceived as an insult.

It is unclear whether Trump’s declaration will result in a name change. But this debate illustrates the ideological and political dimension of naming, and its implications in Indigenous contexts. Re-naming places back to their Indigenous names is part of a decolonization process, as Maori researcher Linda Tuhiwai Smith expresses it. Moreover, the impact and consequences of Indigenous language use in relation to the landscape are also of significance for the vitality and revitalisation of languages.


Digital demokrati, egenmakt och språkrevitalisering

På onsdag 9 november kommer jag att hålla en öppen föreläsning på temat Digital demokrati, egenmakt och språkrevitalisering. Jag kommer att presentera en del av min forskning där jag har studerat användningen av digital teknik och digitala medier för att stärka de samiska språken.

Föreläsningen är en del av docentdagen och alla är välkomna att delta!

Tid: 14.20 – 14.45
Plats: Rum för lärande, Humanisthuset, Umeå Universitet.

Traditional Legends in a Digital Age

Last week, I participated to the Annual Meeting of the American Folklore Society i Miami, Florida. My paper, co-authored with my colleague from Gothenburg Fredrik Skott, discussed examples of legends in social media. See abstract below!


Traditional Legends in a Digital Age: Easter Witches and Sámi Ogres in Social Media.
This paper discusses in what ways social media can be an arena for folk narratives and for research on traditional legends, based on recent instances of storytelling events and motifs on Facebook: “Party på Blåkulla,” an invitation to take part in a virtual witches’ Sabbath on Facebook and how the ogre Stállu, the evil enemy in Sámi traditional storytelling, reemerges as a motif in the Facebook pages of protest groups against the mining industry. We suggest that folkloristics can contribute to new insights in the understanding of digital culture through the study of core concepts in our field: tradition, context, and communication.



Jag får då och då frågor om ČSV-rörelsen, och hänvisningar till någonting jag skrev år 2000 dyker upp här och där… Det hela började med en B-uppsats som av någon anledning blev betraktad som en publikation (!).

Som B-student i samiska studier valde jag att skriva min korta uppsats om kulturella rörelser, med ČSV som exempel. Vid den tiden var mina kunskaper i svenska begränsade och mina kunskaper i samiska obefintliga. Även om uppsatsen blev godkänd (kanske t.o.m. med betyg VG om jag minns rätt) så är den bara vad den är: en B-uppsats. Anledningen till att den används idag som källa är bland annat att det inte funnits särskilt mycket publicerat om ČSV i Sverige.

Jag har senare skrivit kort om ČSV i en artikel (på engelska) om hur tradition (som begrepp och i praktiken) används i revitaliseringssträvan:

The emergence of national symbols, such as the flag and the national song, took place in the late 1980s, and the Sámi Parliament was inaugurated in Sweden in 1993. This followed the establishment of a Sámi Parliament in Norway in 1989 and preceded the one in Finland in 1996. Although active participation in politics began long before that, the 1970s are referred to as a turning point in Sámi organisational history. The ČSV movement, named after slogans such as Čájehehkot Sámi Vuoiŋŋa! (“Show the Sámi spirit!”) or Čohkkejehket Sámiid Vuitui (“Unite the Sámi for victory”) was a new awakening and “became a rallying call for the Sámi people who had a confrontational attitude toward Norwegian society” (Bjørklund 2000: 29). Many other Sámi initiatives followed the ČSV movement as signs of efforts to define Saminess based on the group’s own premises and self-representation. There was, for instance, a “renaissance in duodji (handicrafts)”; the gákti (Sámi costume) was ‘rediscovered’ and became “a way of expressing Sámi national unity”, and place names came to “constitute the clearest expression of Saminess” (ibid.: 31–32).

Cocq, Coppélie. Traditionalisation for Revitalisation: Tradition as a Concept and Practice in Contemporary Sámi Contexts. Folklore, vol 57. pp 79-100. 2014 (

Bjørklund, Ivar. Sápmi: Becoming a nation: the emergence of a Sami national community. Tromsø University Museum. 2000.


Jag har länge funderat på att omarbeta min B-uppsats till en “riktig” publikation, men har tyvärr inte lyckats prioritera det. I dagens kontext där aktivism och revitalisering gärna lyfts fram, har intresset för ČSV-rörelsen återaktualiserats. Om jag lyckas ge ut en ny version av uppsatsen sådär 16 år senare återstår att se… men jag har inte gett up tanken.

Sámi Uses of Participatory Media – Language, Identity and Communication

I have initiated a new research project about Sámi use of participatory media, that investigates and analyzes how digital media is used within the Sámi community for strengthening identities and for communicating cultural knowledge.

This project will examine to what extent digital media uses build on established modes of expression and communication within the community, i.e., to what extent Sámi groups are working with traditional modes of communication within the frame of media, and to what extent media imposes new modes upon the cultural communication.

This project is planned to run for a year, starting from now, and is partly financed by Vaartoe/CeSam, Center for Sámi research at Umeå University. Information and updates about the project will be posted on this blog.


Exploitation or Preservation? Your Choice!

New publication!

My chapter ” Exploitation or Preservation? Your Choice! Digital Modes of Expressing Perceptions of Nature and the Land” is now available for reading (open access). It is published in the book The Environment in the Age of the Internet. Activists, Communication, and the Digital Landscape (Ed. Heike Graf, Open Book Publishers).

You can read below the information posted by the publisher about the book. See Open Book Publishers for accessing the pdf or if you wish to order a copy!


This timely and necessary book examines the impact of digital media on how we talk about the environment. The Environment in the Age of the Internet is an interdisciplinary collection that draws together research and answers from media and communication studies, social sciences, modern history, and folklore studies. Edited by Heike Graf, its focus is on the communicative approaches taken by different groups to ecological issues, shedding light on how these groups tell their distinctive stories of “the environment”. This book draws on case studies from around the world and focuses on activists of radically different kinds: protestors against pulp mills in South America, resistance to mining in the Sámi region of Sweden, the struggles of indigenous peoples from the Arctic to the Amazon, gardening bloggers in northern Europe, and neo-Nazi environmentalists in Germany. Each case is examined in relation to its multifaceted media coverage, mainstream and digital, professional and amateur.

Stories are told within a context; examining the “what” and “how” of these environmental stories demonstrates how contexts determine communication, and how communication raises and shapes awareness. These issues have never been more pressing, this work never more urgent. The Environment in the Age of the Internet is essential reading for everyone interested in how humans relate to their environment in the digital age.




A Linguistic Landscape Study

I am currently working on a project about the linguistic landscape of Umeå (see slideshow below for a brief presentation and preliminary results).


Umeå's Linguistic Landscape


This is a pilot study that investigates Umeå’s linguistic landscape that I conduct togheter with colleagues (researchers and teachers) with experience and interest in multilingualism and multilingual environments, from a minority and Indigenous perspective.

The languages available and visible around us, displayed in public places, have become the focus of a rapidly growing research area called linguistic landscape studies (see eg Shohamy and Gorter, 2008). A linguistic landscape is created by the combination of various forms of official and non-official signs, top-down and bottom-up, ie “Road signs, advertising billboards, street names, place names, commercial shop signs, and public signs on government buildings [in a given] territory, region, or urban agglomeration” (Landry & Bourhis, 1997: 25).

Scholars within this field of research are interested in the consequences and impact of linguistic landscapes on language revitalization and language learning. A linguistic landscape in a certain area does not only have an informative and symbolic function; it also affects a language’s vitality (Landry & Bourhis, 1997: 45).

How the Sámi languages, for example, are visible in the landscape, illustrate a hierarchical relationship between languages (Salo, 2012). Attitudes towards a language, and thereby their the visibility and use in public places, affect a language’s potential for learning and revitalization (Grenoble & Whaley 2006; Hyltenstam & Stroud 1991).

We are now working on a tool for mapping the languages we have documented in the city. I will share the results in a next post!


Från kolonisation till gruvexploatering: Nyttoperspektiv på naturen i Sápmi förr och nu

New publication!

An article that I wrote together with my UmU colleague Daniel Andersson has now been published in the journal Kulturella Perspektiv (nr 1, 2016) in a special issue about Environmental Humanities.

The article is in Swedish and will be available as a pdf on the journal’s website in a few months.

Here follows a short abstract in English.

From Colonization to Mine Exploitation. Resource Perspectives on Nature in Sápmi Now and Then


Nature is found at the centre of important place-making processes in northern Sweden today. One example is conflicting discourses surrounding mining exploitations in reindeer herding areas. In this article, we discuss these processes in the light of the settler colonisation during approximately 1750–1850. Then, as well as now, a resource perspective on nature positions different ways of living of the lands against each other. Although the Swedish state in some regards have been replaced by global corporations, and the local people that are against the mines also turn the struggle to a global level, the situation today bears much in common with what happened during the colonisation in 18th and 19th centuries. We argue that a deeper understanding of contemporary processes – and their historical contexts – is needed in order to prevent conflicts and tensions between groups of people.



Small Data and Ethics

My article on ethics and digital data in Indigenous contexts has now been published in a volume edited Gabriele Griffin and Matt Hayler at Edinburgh University Press, Research Methods for Reading Digital Data in the Digital Humanities.  My contribution in the book discusses ethical decision-making in research processes dealing with small samples of digital data, more specifically in relation to principles defined by Indigenous methodologies.




DH Nordic

This week, I participated to a conference  on Digital Humanities in Oslo. It was the first conference organized by the organisation Digital Humanities in the Nordic countries.

I presented a joint paper with my Humlab-colleague Anna Johansson, “The blindspot of Digital Humanities or What Ethnography can contribute.” Our presentation addressed the relation between digital humanities (DH) and digital ethnography (DE) with focus on the significance of small and thick data for understanding digital culture. Ethnography as the process and product of qualitative research is applied in several disciplines in the humanities in order to describe, explain and understand cultural practices, constructions and interactions. Although ethnography is an important method for the study of digital culture, it is rarely addressed in literature about DH. Our paper discusses the relation between DH and DE and explain how and why DE can be a productive contribution to DH with focus on reflexivity and ethics.

Longer abstract available here.