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  • Women in the Arctic:Gendering Coloniality in Travel Narratives from the Far North, 1907–19301
  • Silke Reeploeg

The Nordic region has a growing body of work that addresses "blind spots" when it comes to understanding its colonial past (Vuorela 2009; Mattson 2014). However, and as noted already in the introduction to this issue, Scandinavian Studies as a scholarly field has been quite resistant to connecting Nordic historiographies with colonialism beyond imagining it as a marginal and altruistic enterprise (Naum and Nordin 2013). Ideas about Nordic exceptionalism in these matters have often been used to deflect and explain away any responsibility or historical complicity with pan-European colonial ideologies and practices, replacing them instead with vague feelings of shame and guilt in what has been defined as a "privilege of innocence" (Körber 2018, 27). These strategies have not only left gaps and disputed memories in contemporary discourses about Nordic histories, but have also forced us to ask how these narratives are created and embraced as part of a variety of ongoing Nordic colonialisms. Recognizing the diverse roles that women have played in the history of the Far North, both as colonizers and colonized, this article uses historical travel writing by women writers to investigate female colonization strategies and responses within this context. The examples discussed here demonstrate the diversity of colonial practices within [End Page 182] the Nordic region, ranging from the more traditional form of Danish North Atlantic territorial expansion in places such as Greenland to the occupation of Sápmi lands by different Scandinavian nations, Finland, and Russia. Inspired by Maria Lugones's use of the concept of "coloniality of gender" (2008), the article will approach biographical writing from a postcolonial perspective and examine how gendered coloniality is produced and mediated through travel writing about and by women in the Far North. While Lugones's critique primarily addresses the racism and violence inherent in modern colonial gender systems, the analysis below will utilize her understanding of coloniality as a lived experience of Eurocentric domination in order to illuminate the gendered nature of colonial complicity by White, elite women.

Women in the context of Nordic colonialism were part of a much wider network of social frameworks and gender strategies. As shown by Keskinen et al. (2009), these are complicit with the structural processes of colonization in a variety of ways. Cultural frameworks and strategies include the establishment and domestication of exotic peripheries where "Arctic adventures" can take place. So, while there is no doubt that "women have been considered either absent from or powerless in the landscape of Arctic adventure" (Pierce Erikson 2009, 103), there is also no doubt that excavating their stories as part of the historical landscape of the Far North entails understanding the complicit nature of their activities and the agency they represent with colonial processes and discourses. Travel writing by women demonstrates gender as historically and socially located, in that (some) women were able to use their public persona to both express and question their gender role within the colonial context. Seen through a postcolonial lens, women's writing allows us to approach colonial archives with the aim of recovering alternative interpretations through multiple and concurrent voices that decenter and reframe existing imperial representations.

Coloniality refers to the way in which European norms surrounding gender, class, race, and sexuality were superimposed onto societies around the world during various colonization phases, but also during the writing of subsequent historiographies and anthropological studies of colonized peoples (Arnfred and Bransholm Pedersen 2015). The transnational dimension of identity formation and cultural memory means that colonial constructions of gender exist across the globe, but are often represented as taking place within the context of specific national or regional European colonial projects. This means that inter-cultural dimensions that cross national and regional borders are often [End Page 183] neglected and comparative studies are rare. Using the work of Emilie Demant (1873–1958; known later as Demant-Hatt), from Denmark, and Isobel Wylie Hutchison (1889–1982), from Scotland, this article will analyze both "Nordic" and "transnational" strategies of colonization as they are performed and articulated through biographical writing in and across Nordic colonial spaces. Both in form and content, these...


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