Reeploeg, Silke. ‘Women in the Arctic: Gendering Coloniality in Travel Narratives from the Far North, 1907-1930’. Scandinavian Studies, vol. 91, no. 1–2, [Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study, University of Illinois Press], 2019, pp. 182–204.
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 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.