Nordic Colonialism: Articles

The Scandinavians ‘hitchhiked’ their way to the boons of empire” (2018) by Miles Macallister on Aeon

Excerpt: “By advocating free trade, Britain made possible a new style of imperialism. Free trade, even when diluted, rendered the administration of territory unnecessarily expensive for these little monarchies. Markets opened by British gunboats, especially in China and the Americas, were also open to other European shipping. Canals, then railways, steamships and telegraph lines helped in globalising the world economy. Connecting these local economies created specialisation of function: vast areas of the American South, India and Egypt devoted to the cash-crop cotton; gold rushes in California, the Transvaal and Melbourne. Though it’s less recognised, globalisation also led to specialisation of function among imperialists.
Danish and Swedish merchants and state trading companies no longer needed their own exclusive territories because now they could access bigger and wealthier British imperial markets. They sold up and ‘hitchhiked’ instead.”

P.c: Plantation Høgensborg on St Croix in the former Danish West Indies (1833). Courtesy Wikipedia

A murder in Congo: What does the decade-old “Congo-case,” involving two Norwegian mercenaries, tell us about residue coloniality in Scandinavia?” (2020) by Marta Tveit on Africa Is a Country

Excerpt: “In the prologue of Foul Play in Congo I write: “This is not a book about Tjostolv Moland and Joshua French. This is a book about Norway and Norwegians.” Indeed, it is about Norwegian colonial imaginings of Congo, and of Africa. Though Norway’s active role in colonization and the triangle-trade was limited, the European colonial paradigm—especially expressed in the imagining of people with darker skin, reached its long tentacles up north. The residue is tangible in the form of mindsets based on the construction of race, inherited and planted in me, in us, here and now. The case shook our nation. It held up a mirror to one of the world’s most progressive countries, showing us some ugly truths. There is something that does not quite add up in how we like to represent and think about ourselves, and what this case brings out in us. Although we are far north, Norway as part of Europe has been a signatory to the mindset that made colonization, slavery and generally 500 years of European global domination possible. (Both Moland and French declared a deep respect for Margaret Thatcher, and disdain for “the feminist state Norway,” which to them was “anti-white” and “anti-men” (see Kongonotatene).”

Lunde, Arne, and Anna Westerstahl Stenport. “Helga Crane’s Copenhagen: Denmark, Colonialism, and Transnational Identity in Nella Larsen’s ‘Quicksand.’” Comparative Literature, vol. 60, no. 3, 2008, pp. 228–243. JSTOR, JSTOR

Excerpt: “The present study makes two interrelated arguments. In the article’s first section, we argue that the novel’s Denmark scenes contain within them a structuring absence. Denmark’s own vexed attitudes (pride, glorification, shame, and amnesia) toward its colonial heritage in the Danish West Indies (which was sold to the United States in 1917) and the nation’s role in the black Atlantic slave trade haunt the text in ways that have not been sufficiently interrogated. Although the novel’s main character, Helga Crane, rarely speaks her mind to the white Danes in the novel, the text employs sophisticated narrative focalization strategies to convey suppressed and denied tensions of racism and xenophobia, particularly in the novel’s middle chapters set in Copenhagen. The novel’s silence (its present “absence” if you will) about the Danish colonial legacy thus parallels the Danish public silence regarding its own colonial heritage in the early twentieth century.”

Black in Norway: In the wake of the Norway massacre, we should focus our attention on the role racist ideologies have played there” (2011) by Felice Blake on Al Jazeera

Excerpt: As an African-American woman in Scandinavia, I was, however, a bit of an anomaly in Oslo. Although Norway had been receiving non-Western immigrants since the 1970s, the country has struggled both then and now to alter its steadfast perception of itself as homogeneous and consensual. Once I was a legal resident of Norway, no longer a romantic summer sojourner, developing a critical reading of racism abroad became a project of intellectual growth, activism, and survival. In 1997 I briefly worked with Oslo’s Antirasistisk Senter (Antiracist Centre) to translate a document, “Mangfold og likeverd” (“Diversity and Equality”), about racial discrimination in Norway for a United Nations panel.
Seeking recognition for racial and ethnic minorities in the country, the authors of that report addressed issues related to gender (DNA testing was sometimes applied as a requirement to prove the basis for Somalian immigrant women’s applications for familial reunification), sexuality (Norwegian women were alerted by the Red Cross to avoid sexual relations with African men for fear of HIV contamination), and the development of transnational, Nordic neo-Nazi cadres. The report was read with interest, but the demand for recognition ultimately denied.