Rud, Søren. ‘Governance and Tradition in Nineteenth-Century Greenland’. (2014)

Rud, Søren. ‘Governance and Tradition in Nineteenth-Century Greenland’. Interventions, vol. 16, no. 4, Routledge, July 2014, pp. 551–571.

This essay investigates the way in which the concept of tradition was evoked in colonial policies in nineteenth-century Greenland. It argues that ‘tradition’ provided colonial officials in Greenland with a strategy that enabled them to make fundamental changes appear as a restoration of a Greenlandic culture en route to its own destruction. The colonial authorities claimed that the establishments of new institutions were facilitating a return to the traditional practices of the past. Further, the essay argues that reforms effectuated in the later part of the nineteenth century reflect a fundamental shift in the rationality behind the colonial project in Greenland. This analytical point is reached through the deployment of the theoretical concept of colonial governmentality. Following the work of scholars such as Nicholas Thomas, David Scott and Gyan Prakash, it is argued that a significant shift occurred towards social engineering techniques (of governance). The new techniques were employed in order to structure the lifeworld of the Greenlanders, and ultimately shape their individuality. Finally, the essay draws attention to the short- and long-term consequences of the political utilization of tradition.