Revoicing Sámi narratives north Sámi storytelling at the turn of the 20th century

University dissertation from Umeå : Institutionen för språkstudier

Abstract: Revoicing Sámi narratives investigates the relationship between storytellers, contexts and collective tradition, based on an analysis of North Sámi narratives published in the early 1900s. This dissertation “revoices” narratives by highlighting the coexistence of different voices or socio-ideological languages in repertoires and by considering Sámi narratives as utterances by storytellers rather than autonomous products of tradition. Thus, this study serves as an act of “revoicing,” of recovering voices that had been silenced by the scientific discourse which enveloped their passage into print.Narrators considered “tradition bearers” were interviewed or wrote down folk narratives that were interpreted as representative of a static, dying culture. The approach chosen in this thesis highlights the dynamic and conscious choices of narrative strategies made by these storytellers and the implications of the discourses expressed in narration. By taking into account the intense context of social change going on in Sápmi at the time the narratives emerged, as well as the context that includes narrators, ethnographers and tradition, the analysis demonstrates that storytelling is an elaboration that takes place in negotiation with tradition, genres and individual preferences.The repertoires of four storytellers are studied according to a methodological framework consisting in critical discourse analysis from a folkloristic perspective. The analysis underscores the polyphony of the narratives by Johan Turi, who related with skillfulness of tradition by taking position as a conscious social actor. This study also investigates the repertoires of storytellers Ellen Utsi, Per Bær and Isak Eira who were interviewed by theNorwegian “lappologist” Just K. Qvigstad. Their contributions to his extensive collection of Sámi narratives express their relation to tradition and to the heteroglossia that surrounded them. Based on a receptionalist approach, this dissertation investigates the implications of these narratives for the North Sámi community at the turn of the twentieth century.Storytelling appears to have had a set of functions for community members, from the normative as regards socialization, information and warning against dangers to the defensive with the elaboration of a discourse about solidarity, identity and empowerment.