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Kleppe, Else Johansen & Mulk, Inga Maria 2008: Emic and etic perspectives on the history of collecting Sami material culture. 2008,, Stavanger, Norway.

“We have not heard that the Sami should have come from anywhere”
(Johan Turi 1911)


Our focus is on how Sami material culture has been dealt with by museums and by other academic and official institutions. Questions about the ideological assumptions of these institutions are a central concern, and also whether political attitudes underlie the ways in which Sami culture is presented. The present attempt at generalising is based on a series of visits to museums with Sami collections. Generally neither emic nor etic considerations, together or separately, are made explicit in museum presentations. There is vagueness or even lack of understanding when it comes to specifying possible Sami connections. This is thought-provoking since the issue generally is clearly stated in scientific publications dealing with the material remains which are ascribed to Sami culture. Notions of heritage are generally associated with the culture of the majority group, and in the Sami areas this means first of all the Nordic culture. The origins of Sami oppression are relatively recent, and it is only documented over the last 400 years. In the early 1600s the Sami were exposed to missionaries, and church sites were established, which also meant that tax collecting and legal affairs were settled there. The interference with Sami traditional religion and with their religious objects started. Some Sami objects, not least religious ones, became collectors´ items and were dispersed to museums all over Europe. The county administrations started a decisive attack against the Lappmarken legal administration around 1800. This lead to further discrimination against Sami people, and it was reinforced through new ways of thinking in Europe at that time. Organised resistance by the Sami people themselves begins in the 19th century. A key person was Elsa Laula who had the central role in the foundation of the Lappish Central organisation: Lapparnas centralförbund.Around the 1820s live Sami people were exhibited, primarily as exotic representations, but half a century later a growing interest in race biology led to a new research trend. Unfortunately politics and ideology became inextricably mixed in many race biological studies.

Dr. Else Johansen Kleppe, University of Bergen, Bergen Museum, H. Sheteligs pl. 10, N 5007 Bergen, Norway. E-mail:

Dr. Inga-Maria Mulk, Ájtte, Svenskt fjäll- och samemuseum, Box 116, Se-962 23 Jokkmokk, Sweden. E-mail:

Keywords: Emic perspectives; etics; Sami material culture; ethnicity, Sami cultural heritage; race biological studies.


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