Nordic Colonialism and the Global

Nordic Colonialism and the Global is a Nordic project consisting of series of workshops, funded by NOS-HS. These workshops advance transnational framings, understandings, and entanglements of colonialism in the Nordic context

The workshops reflect the recent rise of scholarly and public interest in colonial histories and postcolonial presents in the Nordic region by fostering international collaboration and exchange of ideasThey investigate how colonialism has been manifested in the historical experience and contemporary identities in the Nordic region and beyond. They investigate also, what kind of influence it has had on the definitions of nationhood, the society at large, and on group and individual identity. 


These workshops advocate an inclusive conceptualization of Nordic colonialism; as something the Nordic individuals, groups, companies, and countries, individually or together, were engaged within the geographical bounds of the Nordic region; and as something these actors did overseas and/or in the service of other colonial empires. Thus Nordic colonialism covers plenty of ground, from the settler experience in North America to participation of Nordic companies in the slave trade, from Nordic explorers, scientists, missionaries, and administrators working for other European empires across the world to colonization and assimilation of the Sami peoples in the North.

Nordic colonialism comes in many shapes and sizes. For example, Sweden participated in the early colonization of North America, Denmark had a small but geographically widely dispersed set of colonies in Africa, Asia, the West Indies, and Greenland, and Finland was once colonized by Russia and then dreamt of its own settler colonial domain in Petsamo and in Eastern Karelia during World War II.

Furthermore, individuals, groups, and companies from all Nordic nations participated in the pan-European colonial project by helping to build the ideological, cultural, and discursive context that the colonial project depended on. 


This series of workshops involves several separate meetings. “Researching Nordic Colonialism – Past, Present, Futuresis the opening of the series. More workshops will follow during winter 2021–2022.

Through these meetings we, first, seek to bring together scholars studying various strands of Finnish, Icelandic, and Swedish colonial experiences into a meaningful dialogue with each other. Second, we thrive to encourage these scholars to look beyond their own national histories and toward transnational understandings of Nordic colonialism. Third, we also propose to embed these connections shaping Nordic colonial pasts and postcolonial presents into their global contexts.

Aims of the project

We advocate moving beyond the usual notions of “complicit colonialism” or “Nordic exceptionalism.”

We do not suggest traditional comparative histories alone, nor of promoting examples of some static or singular brand of Nordic colonialism. Instead, we take seriously the suggestion made by the historians Tony Ballantyne and Antoinette Burton on the need to explore relationships and spaces not merely within but between colonial projectsand of connecting the local with the global. This involves treating imperial centers and colonial peripheries within a single analytical field as well as mapping and understanding “connections” – the multiple tensions, networks, circulations, and flows of ideas, practices, and peoples within and beyond the boundaries of formal territorial rule.

In allwe strive for more nuanced understandings of the shared histories as well as the divergent trajectories of Nordic colonial experiences as entrenched in and shaped by an interconnected, highly competitive, and increasingly integrated world of empires from the seventeenth century onward.