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  • Translating Swedish Colonialism:Johannes Schefferus's Lapponia in Britain c. 1674–18001
  • Linda Andersson Burnett

The first anthropological work by Oxford University Press was published in 1674. The book, The History of Lapland, was the English translation of Johannes Schefferus's Lapponia published in Frankfurt the previous year. Although there had been scattered references to "Lapland" in classical and medieval sources, Schefferus's text was the first attempt at compiling a comprehensive account of Sápmi and its inhabitants, the Indigenous Sámi people.2 Through its endorsement by influential brokers, including the Royal Society and Oxford University, The History of Lapland was widely studied in the British Isles, with references to it cropping up in numerous sources, including poems, songs, newspapers, geography books, and philosophical tracts. The book fueled interest in the Sámi, who frequently appeared in non-Scandinavian works on religion, historical progress, and early racial studies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and often featured in these discussions alongside other colonized and indigenous peoples. [End Page 134]

Despite the curiosity in Britain about the Sámi prompted by Schefferus's text, the history of the Sámi and their epistemological representation in the early modern period has tended to be studied almost exclusively in relation to the Scandinavian countries and, to a lesser degree, Russia, with the exception being works charting how Sápmi was constructed in foreign travelogues.3 Adopting a wider transnational perspective, I will, in this article, analyze how Lapponia was part of an emerging pan-European interest in anthropology and a new scientific drive to map and construct both places and peoples. These processes were, as the article will show, permeated by colonial agendas. As several contributors to this special issue argue, the Nordic countries today are often imagined, both internally and externally, as being untainted by colonialism (Höglund and Burnett 2019; Keskinen 2019; Kristín Loftsdóttir 2019). By analyzing the construction of the Sámi in Lapponia and the book's circulation in both England and Scotland before and after the creation of the United Kingdom in 1707, I will respond to the lack of historicity behind the notion of Nordic colonial innocence by providing a case study of Swedish colonialism and the circulation of Swedish colonial depictions of the Sámi to a wider sphere beyond Scandinavia in the early modern period. I will do this by showing that the compilation and publication of Lapponia was an intrinsically Swedish act of colonization aimed at both domestic and international audiences. This act was done in order to claim Sápmi, a contested territory that crossed state borders, for Sweden, and to respond to transnational and colonially colored curiosity about the Sámi and their land.

I will also argue that as Lapponia traveled to Britain, it was reframed in translation for a British readership. Translation, as Walter Benjamin's seminal works have shown, entails transformation (1996). People and their cultures are transformed as they are translated, and this study will therefore chart how the construction of Sápmi in Lapponia was then translated into The History of Lapland (Schefferus 1674; 1704) in England.4 While some of my analysis concerns the translation of [End Page 135] the main text, the main focus is on the discursive presentation in the book's prefaces about Sápmi and its inhabitants for British audiences. The prefaces are of key importance since they were designed to entice new readers by summarizing the importance of the book and connecting it to topical cultural discussions. The new English-language prefaces differed substantially from Schefferus's own preface to Lapponia and therefore functioned as transformative "paratexts" by providing new British entry points to Schefferus's work.5 In the final part of the article, I will chart how a couple of joiks (traditional Sámi songs) included in The History of Lapland featured in British debates on savagery in the eighteenth century. I will end by discussing the colonial implications of constructing and translating the Sámi as curious and "savage" objects for a transnational audience.

Creating the Sámi: Swedish Nation-Building and Colonialism

In 1671, the Swedish Lord...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2163-8195
Print ISSN
0036-5637
Pages
pp. 134-162
Launched on MUSE
2019-07-31
Open Access
No
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