How might stories about supernatural experiences be a tool for resisting the effects of colonialism? In the article “It’s more like it doesn’t even exist: stories of hauntings as a way of resisting colonial elimination of Sámi presence,” published in the journal AlterNative, Astri Dankertsen, associate professor in sociology at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Nord University discusses how storytelling around haunting experiences is important to Sámi cultural identity, connecting them to their ancestors and the land. As they share their haunting experiences, the Sámi also relate their history of colonization.
The Sámi, an indigenous people who inhabit northern parts of Europe, including Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, have a long history of colonization. They risk losing their lands, language, and culture by way of forced relocation, cultural assimilation, and discrimination. Dankertsen, who is half Sámi and spent three months living in and interviewing a Sámi community, observed how the tales of hauntings allowed the Sámi people to challenge the dominant colonial narratives threatening cultural erasure. The stories are a way for the Sámi people to assert their continued relevance and resist their own cultural destruction.
Dankertsen describes one of her first encounters with hauntings as a researcher among the Sámi while a young research assistant in Finnmark in Northern Norway:
During my first night, I experienced strange sounds in the room, as if someone walked through my room and screamed outside my window. While I initially sought to dismiss this as a weird, yet normal sound in the house, the locals did not. When I met people in the village, they asked me where I lived during my stay, and when I told them, they answered with things like: “Oh, so you dare to stay there?” They then gave me good advice about how to behave, such as talking directly to the ghosts and explaining that I was just going to stay there for a while as a visitor, so that the ghosts would accept me and leave me alone. (p. 338)
Used as an icebreaker to invite the Sámi people to open up and tell their own stories, Dankertsen was able to encourage those interviewed to share their thoughts on the hauntings, thus delving deeper into the nuances of their experiences.
The main takeaway of Dankertsen’s article is that these hauntings and the oral tradition around them provide a way for the Sámi people to challenge dominant colonial narratives and maintain their own ancestral and cultural importance. Even though they have been removed, the land remains theirs by way of a continued supernatural presence. By recognizing the significance of these stories, it is possible to better understand the ongoing struggle for Sámi rights and recognition. By challenging dominant colonial narratives and asserting their presence in places that have been taken from them, the stories of hauntings provide a form of resistance that allows the Sámi people to maintain a connection to their culture and history.
Dankertsen, A. (2022) It’s more like it doesn’t even exist: stories of hauntings as a way of resisting colonial elimination of Sámi presence. AlterNative 18(3) 335-343. doi.org/10.1177/11771801221117549