Encounters to Negotiate a Sámi Ethnography: The Process of Collaborative Representations
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Encounters to Negotiate a Sámi Ethnography:
The Process of Collaborative Representations

In any discussion of Sámi literature today, Muitalus sámiid birra is without exception recognized as the first book written by a Sámi in the Sámi language, which automatically bestows upon it a degree of significance. At the same time, this publication carries with it a certain equivocal baggage resulting in its contested reception. Sámi scholars recognize the groundbreaking role of Turi and Muitalus in cultural history, but when analyzing Turi's authorship, the instrumental role of the Danish editor and translator Emilie Demant Hatt is mentioned only in passing or even ignored. It seems tacitly asserted that her input diminished the creative quality and authenticity of Turi's work. For others, the dynamics of interaction between Johan Turi and Emilie Demant Hatt merit attention and creative imagination but only insofar as suggesting romantic affection as the central focus of their relationship. In this article, I explore the synergetic endeavor that produced Muitalus—a publication including a descriptive narrative of certain aspects of Sámi life by Johan Turi with an introduction and explanatory notes by Emilie Demant Hatt. This work was the result of an industrious collaboration between a well-meaning foreign anthropologist and a native informant-turned-writer, whose joint effort created a seminal work based on mutual respect and reliance. The Sámi wolf-hunter Johan Turi might have never written his book without the assistance of Demant Hatt. On the other hand, without his collaboration, support and friendship, the Danish artist Emilie Demant Hatt might have never evolved into an anthropologist. 1 [End Page 491]

While rethinking the discursive aspects of the collaborative project that eventually produced several ethnographic studies and poignantly idiosyncratic cultural descriptions, I seek to reach beyond the text of Muitalus to examine the historical context of its contested codes and representations, the negotiated subjectivities, and the politics of constituting textual representations and creating interpretive authorities. I propose to examine the personal experiences, relationships, and interactions of the people who became engaged in the project that resulted in Muitalus. Both Emilie Demant Hatt and Johan Turi led exciting, exceptional lives, but I include also a brief overview of the activities of the Swede Hjalmar Lundbohm, the third party instrumental in providing the means and opportunities necessary for the collaborative ethnography to materialize.

Emilie Demant Hatt, an Unconventional Artist and Ethnographer

Emilie Demant Hansen 2 (1873-1958) was born in Selde of North Salling, Jylland, Denmark. She became interested in art, graduated from the Luplaus Drawing School in Copenhagen in 1898 and continued her studies at the Women's School of the Academy until 1907. She made her debut at the Charlottenborg Spring exhibition in 1903, where she presented her work some twenty-five times through 1948. In 1904, she was featured at the Artists' Autumn Exhibition reflecting her active and relatively successful participation in the Danish art scene. Her style was described as naturalistic (she herself called it "gammel-dags naturalistisk" (Lefèvre 13) [old-fashioned naturalistic]), but in the mid-1920s, she turned to expressionism and has ever since been praised for her dynamic use of color and motif thus establishing her in Danish art history as an important Expressionist artist.

During her art studies, Demant Hatt made two extensive journeys abroad: she embarked on her first trip to Swedish Sápmi as a tourist in 1904, and in 1906 she visited Holland and Belgium. Her initial visit to northern Scandinavia turned out to be a significant turning point in [End Page 492] her life. On this trip, she met Johan Turi and visited a Sámi siida, which made a strong impression on her. In the next academic year, she studied the Sámi language at the University of Copenhagen with Professor Vilhelm Thomsen, a course offering which she would later describe as decidedly rare (Demant Hatt, Fataburen 98). After graduating from the Academy, Demant Hatt spent nearly a year and a half traveling in Sápmi with Sámi reindeer herders in 1907-1908. She kept up a lively correspondence with her northern friends and visited them again in 1910, the same...