Featured weekly article: Symbolic Charisma and the Creation of Nations: The Case of the Sámi

Symbolic Charisma and the Creation of Nations: The Case of the Sámi

By Lars Elenius

Volume 10, Issue 3, pages 467-482


The cultural charisma of the Sámi people has served to inscribe them in the nation myths of the Scandinavian states. This charisma was also built into the self-image of the Nordic countries when they established as a political organisation in the 1950s. While this charisma was to some extent created by leaders of the majority population, its symbolic value has also been used by the Sámi movement as a tool for political mobilisation. The global resistance by indigenous people towards colonialism resulted in a shift of the Sámi people’s strategy from national to global action, and in the redefinition from a ‘nature people’ within the nation-state to an ‘indigenous people’ in a global legalistic discourse. At the same time, Sámi politicians strive to unite the different Sámi groups through a common homeland, Sápmi, which crosses the nation-state borders. The political territory of Sápmi can culturally be regarded as an imagined nation in the same way as a nation-state, even if it is scattered across four countries. The creation of a Sámi nation also faces the same kind of inter-ethnic problems as the nation-state.

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