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"We Are the Land and the Land Is Us" - Analyzing the Construction of Sami National Identity in Sami Political Discourse on Land and Natural Resources


  • Melodie Viallon

Summary, in English

The collective fight for self-determination among indigenous peoples around the world has made headlines over the past few years. The exploitation of indigenous territories by settler-states has revived nationalist feelings among the groups, including the Sami, whose territories spread across four states.

This thesis aimed to explore how Sami national identity is constructed, shaped and promoted through Sami political discourse on land and natural resources and how, consequently, other categories of identities are created. Based on a critical discourse analysis of selected documents produced by Sami politicians in the Nordics between 2016 and 2018, I analyzed and critically discussed the Sami politicians’ discourse on land and territory. The theoretical framework of this thesis is based on social constructivism, as well as the concepts of identity and nationalism. A post-colonial approach is held throughout the paper, setting the context of Sami nationalism in the Nordics.

They were two main research goals, the first was to uncover how Sami politicians construct Sami collective identity in discourse about land and natural resources. I argue that Sami collective identity is constructed by associating the Sami people with common spatial narratives, including a common homeland, Sápmi. Reattributing Sápmi to its original inhabitants through discourse is a way to shape Sami national identity beyond the Western definition of state borders. The practice of traditional livelihoods is also identified as a marker of Sami identity, raising the question of Sami people living outside of Sápmi and unable to practice traditional livelihoods for subsistence. Sami collective identity is built through common experiences linked to colonization, marginalization, and assimilation, and a common will to achieve self-determination in their respective states. The second research question was linked to the construction of the “Other”. One of the main findings was that the notion of distinctiveness, required for the construction of the nation, is built through common characteristics associated with indigenous peoples (a deep and distinct relation to land, and rights inscribed in international declarations), and through the attribution of territories and social practices to the Sami, which exclude the “Other”. I argue that the construction of Sami collective identity takes characteristics from Western theories of nationalism, while including an indigenous approach based on collective rights.







Examensarbete för masterexamen (Två år)


  • Social Sciences


  • Sami people
  • Nordic countries
  • identity politics
  • nationalism
  • post-colonialism
  • critical discourse analysis
  • European studies


  • Tomas Sniegon