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Putting the Suenjel Sámi on the Map

Knowledge Circulation and Scholarly Persona Formation in the Finnish Petsamo 1933–1940

In: Nuncius
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  • 1 KTH Royal Institute of TechnologyDivision of History of Science, Technology and EnvironmentSwedenStockholm
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Abstract

This article examines the early publications and correspondence of Karl Nickul, a Finnish geodesist and amateur ethnographer/anthropologist. In his publications and correspondence, Nickul studied and discussed the Skolt Sámi of the village of Suenjel in the Finnish province of Petsamo. Nickul was a polyglot and an internationally-minded pacifist who framed the Suenjel Sámi among other “primitive” peoples worldwide, instead of among the neighbouring Finno-Ugric-speaking peoples in Soviet Karelia just across the Finnish-Soviet border. In the Suenjel Sámi, Nickul saw a chance to preserve an instance of the “original” Sámi way of life, which he viewed as being closely conditioned by nature. Nickul wanted to carry out this preservation for the sake of the Sámi themselves as well as for scholarly purposes. As he sought international recognition for the Suenjel Sámi and parallel cases of cultural preservation, Nickul simultaneously developed a scholarly persona as the foremost expert on this population without following the conventional academic route.

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