University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: Updated tradition. Sámi imagery in contemporary Sámi poetry (Ahvenjärvi)

Start date: Jun 17, 2017 12:00 PM

End date: Jun 17, 2017 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, Old festival hall (S212)

Kaisa Ahvenjärvi, kuvaaja Tarja Vänskä-Kauhanen
Kaisa Ahvenjärvi, kuvaaja Tarja Vänskä-Kauhanen

M.A. Kaisa Ahvenjärvidefends her doctoral dissertation in Literature ”Päivitettyä perinnettä. Saamelaisen nykyrunouden saamelaiskuvastoja” (Updated tradition. Sámi imagery in contemporary Sámi poetry, Norway). Opponent Professor Vuokko Hirvonen (Sámi University of Applied Sciences) and Adjunct Professor Olli Löytty (University of Turku). Custos Professor Sanna Karkulehto (University of Jyväskylä).

This doctoral dissertation investigates the imagery of Sáminess in contemporary Sámi poetry. The research material of the study consists of poetry collections published in North Sámi and Norwegian by eight Sámi authors: Inger-Mari Aikio (previously Aikio-Arianaick), Inga Ravna Eira, Rawdna Carita Eira, Irene Larsen, Rauni Magga Lukkari, Hege Siri, Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, and Ellen Marie Vars. The emphasis is on poetry published at the turn of the 2010s.

The study examines how Sáminess has been depicted and constructed in Sámi poetry from the 1980s onwards. The four original research articles ask how images traditionally connected to Sáminess and indigenousness are used in contemporary poems and how this imagery has been deconstructed and updated. Further, the way the poems manifest the intersection of the internal differences and categorisations of Sáminess is scrutinised.

The analysis uses the method of socially contextualising close reading. The translation of the studied poems into Finnish forms the basis for interpretation. Thematic reading of individual poems and their comparison give shape to a larger picture of the focal points of contemporary Sámi poetry. The study is positioned in the ethically and politically oriented field of poetry research. It is connected to transnational literary studies, which aims to deconstruct the unconsciously nation-oriented research known as methodological nationalism. This dissertation also represents indigenous research by discussing the meaning of indigenous methodologies for literary criticism and by reflecting on research ethical questions related to the position of a researcher who comes from outside the Sámi culture. Moreover, the relationship between indigenous research and post-colonialism is scrutinised.

Since the representation of Sáminess has a prominent role in the research material, this study suggests that Sámi poetry takes part in the ethno-political project and in the production of national Sámi self-understanding. Established Sámi imagery is found in abundance in the poems as Sáminess is connected to, for example, the Sámi language, yoik, handicraft, reindeer herding, and mythology. The poetry, however, shows the traditional Sámi features in a new light.

Three different ways to relate to Sáminess can be outlined in the heterogeneous research material. Everyday Sáminess is commonplace and self-evident, and it is constructed, for example, through the practice of traditional Sámi livelihoods. Aware and reflective Sáminess is characterised by an active reflection on the individual and collective meanings of Sámi cultural features. Hybrid and mixed Sáminess is constructed at the interface of Sámi tradition and contemporary reality, and it is marked by the experience of between-ness and alienation. Instead of one uniform Sámi people, contemporary poetry constructs multiple forms of Sáminess both by leaning on the Sámi tradition and by problematising and updating it.

Keywords: contemporary Sámi poetry, Sáminess, ethnicity, indigenous literatures, indigenous research, post-colonialism, imagery

The dissertation is published in the series Jyväskylä Studies in humanities, 318, 90 pp., University of Jyväskylä, 2016. It is available at the Soppi University Shop and University of Jyväskylä Web Store, tel. +358 (0)40 805 3825,

Teos on julkaistu sarjassa Jyväskylä 2017, ISSN: 1459-4323, ISBN: 978-951-39-7091-8. E-publication:

Further information:

Kaisa Ahvenjärvi,, 0407706824
Communications Officer Anitta Kananen,, tel. +358 40 805 4142