Whose settler colonial state? Arctic Railway, state transformation and settler self-indigenization in Northern Finland

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Settler colonial theory has effectively highlighted the continuity of colonial structures, but less attention has been paid on how also the settler state has transformed over time, and how such changes have affected the manifold relationships between the state, the settlers and the natives. This article addresses trajectories of settler colonial change in Finland, building on theories of state spatial transformation and taking the recurring plans to build a Railway across the Sámi homeland as its point of departure. The article suggests that central to the change is the destabilization of the relationship between the state and Northern Finland’s older, ‘endogenous’ settler communities. This has facilitated a popular turn to settler self-Indigenization, whereby settlers make new claims to being ‘Indigenous’, usually building on records of a distant (possibly) Indigenous ancestor. Since self-Indigenization directly challenges Indigenous self-determination, it articulates a new form of elimination of the native. The task for critical scholarship is not only to situate, contextualize and challenge such identity claims, but also to question the logic that continues to set especially older settler communities in opposition to Indigenous rights and self-determination, in the context of extractive and neoliberal development that ultimately may undermine both.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalPostcolonial Studies
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Aug 2022
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Endogenous communities
  • Nordic Colonialism
  • race-shifting
  • Sámi
  • extractive Infrastructure

Field of science

  • International political science
  • Social and economic geography
  • Political science


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