In Search of a Fulfilling Identity in a Modern World: Narratives of Indigenous Identities in Sweden and Canada

University dissertation from Uppsala : Institutionen för kulturantropologi och etnologi

Abstract: This thesis deals with the identity of individuals with parents from two different ethnic groups. The focus is on individuals in Sweden with one Saami parent and one Swedish (or other European) parent, and individuals in Canada with one Native (Indian or Inuit) parent and one Euro-Canadian parent. Further, in both contexts the subjects are those individuals with mixed parentage who have chosen to belong to the Saami/Native group. The results are based on fieldwork with participant observation and the gathering of narratives both in Sweden and Canada, as well as anthropological, sociological, and psychological literature. Among the many similarities between the two categories of interviewees in Sweden and Canada, the most important is that individuals in both categories belong to an indigenous population and to a majority population, and consequently are caught in the middle of a conflict between two ethnic groups. This thesis describes how they manage this situation, as well as how various other factors influence those individuals in their choice of ethnic belonging. An analytic model is presented, showing how ethnic identity changes over time and how ethnic identity changes depending on perspective, whether that of the individual or others. Individuals with mixed parentage can reinforce their Saami/Native identities by seeking out Saami/Native cultural islands in the midst of mainstream society in order to practise their cultural identities in that space. Different ways of reinforcing a Saami/Native identity are explored in the thesis.

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