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Launching (Post)Colonial Norway

Friday 22nd of September the research group Claimed Pasts welcomed local, national and international scholars to present and discuss their ideas for an upcoming anthology on (Post)Colonial Norway.  

Claimed pasts
Forskergruppen Claimed pasts

Norway’s connections with and contributions to European and U.S. colonialism recently became a point of public discussion around Christian Krohg’s large oil painting Leiv Eiriksson Discovering America, 1893. The intense public debate propelled the topic of postcolonial perspectives on Norwegian history and Norway’s role in colonialism. Some raised the question how Norway could be part of Europe’s or the United States’ colonial projects given its own history of being a province of Denmark; others pointed to the fact that Norway never had any formal colonies. 

- The controversy shows that there is a need for an in-depth discussion around questions concerning Norway and colonialism, and this is our motivation for the anthology and this meeting, says research group leader and co-editor Christa Wirth.

The project asks if Norway was part of the colonial project, and if it was, how it contributed to ongoing colonial activities. Furthermore, what is Norway’s role in a post-colonial world, if that even exists, and how are Norwegian notions of nation, identity and culture influenced by these global events and developments?

These questions have a broad scope, and a key feature of the anthology and also the meeting Friday is the interdisciplinary profile, with participants coming from different disciplinary backgrounds, such as history, art history, sociology, literature, archaeology, cultural studies and media studies.

- Our motivation for such an interdisciplinary anthology is to build on existing literature and develop a richer and more nuanced historical analysis on this topic, says the other project leader and co-editor, Monica Grini. 

The seminar was very successful, setting out some basic premises, but also questions, for the topics and also for the further work on the anthology. The list of participants and their papers, to give an impression of the topics discussed, was:

  • Mathias Danbolt (University of Copenhagen): LAND BACK: Sápmi and Nordic Settler Colonialism
  • Barbara Lüthi (University of Leipzig): Work and Experiences of Postcolonial Studies in Switzerland
  • Trond Bjerkås Colony or colonizer? (UiA): New perspectives on Norway’s and Norwegians’ place in the 18th century colonial world
  • Josephine Munch Rasmussen (NIKU): Ancient remains and savage spies in Paradise: a provenance study of the modern biography of ancestral remains from Fatu Hiva in the Norwegian Schreiner Collection
  • Øystein Sjåstad (UiO): The Cultural Biography of Christian Krohg’s Leif Eriksson Discovering America (1893)
  • Ronald Mayora Synnes (UiA) and Lars Laird Iversen (MF): Ethnicity, nationality and religion in the Norwegian Church Abroad
  • Espen Wæhle (Norwegian Maritime Museum) and Bjørn Are Godøy Beguiling Norwegians to the violent État Indépenant du Congo with colonial spin (1876- 1908)
  • Eirik Brazier (USN): Colonial Echoes: Exploring the Belgian-Norwegian “Congo-exhibition” of 1950 and the discourse(s) of colonial culture.
  • Melissa Forstrom and Ragnhild Utheim (Purchase Collage, State University of New York): Norwegian Museum Building, Landscape and Colonial Complicity

Photo 001: The interdisciplinary project includes scholars from history, art history, museum studies, heritage studies, sociology and cultural history, among other, aiming to examine and develop what colonialism meant and still means for Norway.

Photo 002: Espen Wæhle (left) and Lars Laird Iversen discuss, with online participants listening in through Zoom.