Nordic Colonialism: Books and Reviews

Kjerland, K., & Bertelsen, B. (2014). Navigating colonial orders : Norwegian entrepreneurship in Africa and Oceania . Berghahn Books.

“Norwegians in colonial Africa and Oceania had varying aspirations and adapted in different ways to changing social, political and geographical circumstances in foreign, colonial settings. They included Norwegian shipowners, captains, and diplomats; traders and whalers along the African coast and in Antarctica; large-scale plantation owners in Mozambique and Hawai’i; big business men in South Africa; jacks of all trades in the Solomon Islands; timber merchants on Zanzibar’ coffee farmers in Kenya; and King Leopold’s footmen in Congo. This collection reveals narratives of the colonial era that are often ignored or obscured by the national histories of former colonial powers. It charts the entrepreneurial routes chosen by various Norwegians and the places they ventured, while demonstrating the importance of recognizing the complicity of such “non-colonial colonials” for understanding the complexity of colonial history.”

Aas, Sigmund, and Thomas Vestgården. Skammens Historie: Den Norske Stats Mørke Sider 1814-2014. Cappelen Damm, 2015. 

“Nowhere in the world today is trust in the authorities greater than in the Scandinavian countries, and this is also reflected in how we write, experience and not least celebrate our own recent past. As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Constitution, this book therefore sheds a critical spotlight on our own state.
This is the Norwegian history of the weak. A counterweight to the victors’ history with their focus on warriors, kings and the capitalist.
This book ties it all together into a story about the darker sides of Norwegian history. The authors want to challenge the general perception of innocent Norway. No, it is not typically Norwegian to be good, it is typically Norwegian to be well.
Known and unknown blemishes in Norwegian history are illuminated and placed in a historical context. In line with a modern understanding of human rights, we will focus on the role of the state in the broadest sense, that is, not only the actions of the state, but also the absence of action.
The authors have chosen Norway’s time as a state with its own constitution and up to its forthcoming 200th anniversary (1814-2014) as a time limit.
The book will be a strong and conspicuous contrast, counterweight and moderating voice to the expected general self-praise”

Afro-Nordic Landscapes: Equality and Race in Northern Europe. Routledge, 2016.

Afro-Nordic Landscapes: Equality and Race in Northern Europe challenges a view of Nordic societies as homogenously white, and as human rights champions that are so progressive that even the concept of race is deemed irrelevant to their societies. The book places African Diasporas, race and legacies of imperialism squarely in a Nordic context. How has a nation as peripheral as Iceland been shaped by an identity of being white? How do Black Norwegians challenge racially conscribed views of Norwegian nationhood? What does the history of jazz in Denmark say about the relation between its national identity and race? What is it like to be a mixed-race black Swedish woman? How have African Diasporans in Finland navigated issues of race and belonging? And what does the widespread denial of everyday racism in Nordic societies mean to Afro-Nordics?
This text is a must read for anyone interested in issues of race in the Nordic region and Europe writ large. As Paul Gilroy writes in his foreword, it is a book that “should be studied with care and profit inside the Nordic countries and also outside them by the broader international readership that has been established around the study of racism and ‘critical race theory’.”

Keskinen, Suvi. Complying with Colonialism Gender, Race and Ethnicity in the Nordic Region. Ashgate, 2009.

“Complying with Colonialism presents a complex analysis of the habitual weak regard attributed to the colonial ties of Nordic Countries. It introduces the concept of ’colonial complicity’ to explain the diversity through which northern European countries continue to take part in (post)colonial processes. The volume combines a new perspective on the analysis of Europe and colonialism, whilst offering new insights for feminist and postcolonial studies by examining how gender equality is linked to ’European values’, thus often European superiority. With an international team of experts ranging from various disciplinary backgrounds, this volume will appeal not only to academics and scholars within postcolonial sociology, social theory, cultural studies, ethnicity, gender and feminist thought, but also cultural geographers, and those working in the fields of welfare, politics and International Relations. Policy makers and governmental researchers will also find this to be an invaluable source.”

Loftsdóttir, Kristín, and Lars Jensen. Whiteness and Postcolonialism in the Nordic Region Exceptionalism, Migrant Others and National Identities. Taylor and Francis, 2016.

“This book examines the influence of imperialism and colonialism on the formation of national identities in the Nordic countries, exploring the manner in which contemporary discourses in Nordic society are rendered meaningful or obscured by references to past events and tropes related to the practices and ideologies of colonialism. Against the background of Nordic ‘exceptionalism’, it explores the manner in which the interwoven racial, gendered and nationalistic ideologies associated with the colonial project form part of contemporary Nordic identities. An important challenge to national identities that can become increasingly inward looking, Whiteness and Postcolonialism in the Nordic Region sheds light on the ways in which certain notions and structural inequalities, understood as residue from the colonial period, become recreated or projected onto different groups. Presenting a variety of case studies drawn from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Greenland, Denmark and Iceland, this book will be of interest to scholars across the social sciences and humanities conducting research in the fields of race and ethnicity, identity and belonging, media representations of ‘the other’ and colonialism and postcolonialism.”

Naum, Magdalena, and Jonas M Nordin. “Scandinavian Colonialism and the Rise of Modernity.Www.springer.com, Springer India, http://www.springer.com/us/book/9781461462019.

“​In Scandinavian Colonialism and the Rise of Modernity: Small Time Agents in a Global Arena, archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians present case studies that focus on the scope and impact of Scandinavian colonial expansion in the North, Africa, Asia and America as well as within Scandinavia itsself. They discuss early modern thinking and theories made valid and developed in early modern Scandinavia that justified and propagated participation in colonial expansion. The volume demonstrates a broad and comprehensive spectrum of archaeological, anthropological and historical research, which engages with a variation of themes relevant for the understanding of Danish and Swedish colonial history from the early 17th century until today. The aim is to add to the on-going global debates on the context of the rise of the modern society and to revitalize the field of early modern studies in Scandinavia, where methodological nationalism still determines many archaeological and historical studies.                 Through their theoretical commitment, critical outlook and application of postcolonial theories the contributors to this book shed a new light on the processes of establishing and maintaining colonial rule, hybridization and creolization in the sphere of material culture, politics of resistance, and responses to the colonial claims. This volume is a fantastic resource for graduate students and researchers in historical archaeology, Scandinavia, early modern history and anthropology of colonialism.”

Oxfeldt, Elisabeth. Journeys from Scandinavia: Travelogues of Africa, Asia, and South America, 1840-2000. University of Minnesota Press, 2010.

“For all of the scholarship done on postcolonial literatures, little has been applied to Scandinavian writing. Yet, beginning with the onset of tourism beyond Scandinavia in the 1840s, a compelling body of prose works documents Scandinavian attitudes toward foreign countries and further shows how these Scandinavian travelers sought to portray themselves to uncharted cultures.
Focusing on Danish and Norwegian travelogues, Elisabeth Oxfeldt traces the evolution of Scandinavian travel writing over two centuries using pivotal texts from each era, including works by Hans Christian Andersen, Knut Hamsun, and Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen). Oxfeldt situates each one in its historical and geopolitical context, and her close readings delineate how each travelogue reflects Scandinavia’s ongoing confrontation between Self and the non-European cultural Other.
A long-overdue examination of travel literature produced by some of Denmark and Norway’s greatest writers, Journeys from Scandinaviaunpacks the unstable constructions of Scandinavian cultural and national identity and, in doing so, complicates the common assumption of a homogeneous, hegemonic Scandinavia.”

Oxfeldt, Elisabeth. Nordic Orientalism: Paris and the Cosmopolitan Imagination 1800-1900. Museum Tusculanum Press, 2005.

“Nordic Orientalism explores the appropriation of Oriental imagery within Danish and Norwegian nineteenth-century nation-building. The project queries Edward Said’?s binary notion of Orientalism and posits a more complex model describing how European countries on the periphery ? Denmark and Norway ? imported Oriental imagery from France to position themselves, not against their colonial Other, but in relation to central European nations. Examining Nordic Orientalism across a century in the context of modernization, urbanization and democratization the study furthermore shows how the Romanticists? naive treatment of the Orient was challenged by increased contact with the “real” Orient.”

Wikan, Unni. Generous Betrayal: Politics of Culture in the New Europe. University of Chicago Press, 2002.

“All over Western Europe, the lot of many non-Western immigrants is one of marginalization, discrimination, and increasing segregation. In this bold and controversial book, Unni Wikan shows how an excessive respect for “their culture” has been part of the problem. Culture has become a new concept of race, sustaining ethnic identity politics that subvert human rights—especially for women and children. Fearful of being considered racist, state agencies have sacrificed freedom and equality in the name of culture.
Comparing her native Norway to Western Europe and the United States, Wikan focuses on people caught in turmoil, how institutions function, and the ways in which public opinion is shaped and state policies determined. Contradictions arise between policies of respect for minority cultures, welfare, and freedom, but the goal is the same: to create a society committed to both social justice and respect for human rights.
Writing with power and grace, Wikan makes a plea for a renewed moral vitality and human empathy that can pave the way for more effective social policies and create change.”

Human Exhibitions, Race, Gender and Sexuality in Ethnic” Displays, Ashgate 2015

“From 1870s to 1910s, more than 50 exhibitions of so-called exotic people took place in Denmark. Here large numbers of people of Asian and African origin were exhibited for the entertainment and ‘education’ of a mass audience. Several of these exhibitions took place in Copenhagen Zoo. Here different ‘villages’ constructed in the middle of the zoo hosted men, women and children, who sometimes stayed for months, performing their ‘daily lives’ for the thousands and thousands of curious Danes. 
While such shows occurred frequently in European cities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this book draws on unique archival material, including photographs, documentary evidence and newspaper articles, newly discovered in Copenhagen. This opens for new insights and perspectives on these European exhibitions. The book employs post-colonial and feminist approaches to the material to shed fresh light on the staging of exhibitions, the daily life of the exhibitees, the wider connections between shows across Europe and the thinking of the time on matters of race, science, gender and sexuality. 
A window onto contemporary racial understandings, the book presents interviews with the descendants of displayed people, connecting the attitudes and science of the past with both our (continued) modern fascination with ‘the exotic’, and contemporary language and popular culture. As such, it will be of interest to scholars of sociology, anthropology and history working in the areas of gender and sexuality, race, whiteness and post-colonialism.”