Northern Sweden as a colony and as utopia

The colonization and decolonization of Northern Sweden (Norrland) was intensely discussed during some decades in the late 19th and early 20th century. This project examined this theme in two historical novels, Olof Högberg's Den stora vreden (1906) (The Great Wrath) and Ludvig Nordström's Petter Svensks historia (1923-1927) (The Story of Petter the Swede), novels that also bring up the history of the Sami.

Project manager: Peter Forsgren
Participating organization: LNUC Concurrences, Linnaeus University
Financier: Vetenskapsrådet (Swedish Research Council)
Timetable: 2012-2015
Subject: Comparative and Swedish literature

More about the project:
This project, which was a part of the multi discipline project "Concurrences. Conflicting and concurrent voices in a postcolonial landscape" at the Linnaeus University and financed by Vetenskapsrådet (the Swedish Research Council) two historical novels which has the colonial history of Northern Sweden in common as well as the ambition to decolonize it. The novels are not analyzed only in relation to this history but also in relation to national and regional identities, and the analyses focuses on the often conflicting relations between metropolis and periphery as well as between Swedish and Sami.

The projects results shows to very different ways to decolonize the history of Northern Sweden. Högberg's novel connects to regional oral history and traditions and gives voice and power to the people there. In the end it presents a utopia of a democratic society without social hierarchies where the people of Northern Sweden control the natural resources there. Högberg also tries to include the Sami and their claims on history and society, but in the end of the novel the Sami claims on land come in conflict with his vision of an ideal Northern society and identity. Ludvig Nordström on the other hand bases his vision of a decolonized Northern Sweden on the industrialization and urbanization of it, a development led by business men and engineers. In contrast to Högberg, Nordström depicts a development towards modernity that comes from above, is led by experts, and which is connected to economic globalization. The analysis of his novel shows that this vision also relates to colonial ideas about nature and people, not the least when it comes to the Sami.

This project had to date resulted in a monograph in Swedish, Norrland som koloni och utopi. Olof Högbergs Den stora vreden, Ludvig Nordströms Petter Svensk historia och berättelsen om Sverige (2015) (Northern Sweden as a colony and as utopia) and two anthology chapters, one in English, "From colonial oppression to social utopia. Decolonization and reconstruction of Norrland in the Swedish historical novel The Great Wrath (Den stora vreden)", Concurrent imaginaries, postcolonial worlds. Toward revised histories, red. Brydon & Forsgren & Fur.