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  • (In)visibility and the Danish Body in Sultekunstnerinde (2004), a Novel on Postcolonial Greenland
  • Rozemarijn Vervoort

Introduction

One of the areas that forms an active part in the process of mapping and understanding the many different aspects of Nordic (post)colonialism is Greenland and its relation to Denmark. As Höglund and Anderson Burnett have described in the introduction, the aim of this special issue is to discuss the multiple and multifaceted ways in which Nordic colonial history continues into the present. Greenland and Denmark have an intertwined past and present, a relationship that is still in the process of being (re)defined. This article will specifically focus on the relationship between Greenland and Denmark as it is presented in the Danish novel Sultekunstnerinde (2004; The Hunger Artist)1 by Lotte Inuk, a pseudonym for Charlotte Christine Hoff Hansen. This auto-fictional novel is set in the late 1970s in Greenland in the run-up to the introduction of Home Rule and tells the story of the young Danish girl Charlotta Mikkelsen who moves with her mother to Greenland when she is eleven years old. Her mother finds a job as a photographer there, but Charlotta has difficulty fitting in. As this move coincides with the start of puberty, Charlotta struggles with the process of defining who she is: she has a preference for the inherent ambivalence that the nickname Charlie provides, but she has a hard time escaping the identities that are imposed on her by others, [End Page 205] for example, her grandmother who stubbornly refers to her as Lottapige (Lotta-girl). The gendered dimension of these imposed identities lies at the root of Charlie's identity crisis. Additionally, she tries to understand her place within Greenlandic society. The novel starts in 1976, and as nationalist feelings in Greenland in the years before 1979 become ever more prevalent with the approach of Greenland's Home Rule, Charlotta's insecurity about her position as a Dane in Greenlandic society combined with an awareness of her limited agency as a preadolescent girl manifest as a life-threatening eating disorder. After a long stay in the Nuuk hospital, where she struggles with anorexia and with herself, she finally overcomes her illness and is able to tentatively consider a future in a new Greenland that will be reshaped by Home Rule. Sultekunstnerinde presents specific social-political developments within the context of Danish colonialism that function as a background for the lived experience of the main protagonist in Greenland. It positions a Danish body in a Greenlandic context in relation to the colonial past and present.2 The aim of this article is to examine the role of the Danish body in the specific context of Greenland in the second half of the 1970s, as this was a time when the Greenlandic-Danish dynamics underwent significant changes. My reading of Sultekunstnerinde is motivated by the necessity of understanding the past and present through the lens of colonialism, which can be usefully examined in present-day literature from the Nordic countries.

The Visibility of Racialized Bodies and Their Representation through Shame

Greenland as a theme in Danish literature is not a new phenomenon, but the development of anti-colonial Danish literature on Greenland is relatively recent (Volquardsen 2014).3 Sultekunstnerinde fits into [End Page 206] this trend because it explores the implications of colonialism that still shape Danish-Greenlandic dynamics, but does so in a way that reverses majority-minority dynamics. The novel presents a description of the too-demanding expectations of normativity of a body in a specific cultural context. When examining the role of the body in this context, visibility and invisibility become important. Nirmal Puwar's discussion of the relation between visibility, race, and gender is useful in understanding the processes of belonging and exclusion (Puwar 2004).4 This approach to the embodied dimension of postcolonial structures and the perception of whiteness is relevant because it can uncover social structures that in fact still carry the hegemony that was the norm during the age of Western imperialism. Puwar focuses on the contemporary contexts in which colored bodies are perceived as visible and White...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2163-8195
Print ISSN
0036-5637
Pages
pp. 205-221
Launched on MUSE
2019-07-31
Open Access
No
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