NorrSam kick-off gathers early career researchers in Sámi topics
An international group of around 30 researchers working with Sámi related topics discussed the development of the NorrSam-network on the 16th of May 2023. The hybrid kick-off was hosted by Várdduo – Centre for Sámi Research and funded by the Arctic Centre of Ubmejen universitiähta/Umeå University
Text: Lieuwe Jan Hettema
NorrSam’s official kick-off attracted researchers working on a great variety of topics in a wide range of academic fields. Participants came from nine different universities from all over Sábmie, the land of the Sámi People, and beyond. Among the participants were especially PhD students, but also postdocs, senior researchers, and some who plan to pursue a PhD in a to Sámi issues related topic joined.
NorrSam is a network for early career researchers with interest in research relating to topics relevant to Sábmie and the Sámi People. The kick-off’s aim was to gather active members of the network and to invite researchers who are not a member yet. By gathering in a hybrid event, the interests and needs of individual researchers for a relevant network could be discussed.
The kick-off’s great turn-out demonstrates the need to have a network, but also the interest in studying and including Sámi perspectives, knowledges, and experiences in academia. Associate professor Krister Stoor elaborated on the emergence of this interest during the event. He has been actively participating in establishing and developing Sámi studies in Ubmeje since 1989.
Building a network
Sábmie’s territory and division by state borders (can) lead to a dispersion of Sámi research. Participants of the kick-off discussed the need to be connected with other researchers in Sámi studies. The main aim of NorrSam is to connect individual researchers, no matter on which side of Sábmie they conduct research. However, the geographic distances and the diversity of academic fields within Sámi related topics can be a challenge to reach this aim.
Professor Coppélie Cocq was invited to share her knowledge on developing a transnational and interdisciplinary network. Her presentation included strategies to construct a network that can, despite the differences between disciplines, be interesting and relevant for all members of NorrSam. She highlighted the importance for early career researchers to have a meeting place to discuss their work and to learn from each other, and to build relationships within academia.
Discussing the needs
The participants discussed how a meeting place as NorrSam can be constructed and how it could function, following professor Cocq’s strategies. The importance to connect as a network to Sámi organisations, associations, and communities, was raised as a necessity. Another aim of the network should be to connect with established scholars within Sámi and Indigenous studies. The inclusion of decision-makers and authorities in activities was as well discussed.
The discussions demonstrated most of all the shared need for cooperation and a wide range of possibilities to organise events and to collaborate: from organising workshops and seminars, to establishing online reading groups and writing academic articles together. During the brainstorming, common research topics were identified that relate both to the fields of research of participants and to research on Sámi and Indigenous topics in general.
NorrSam’s kick-off marked a fresh start of a network that had been sleeping since the Covid-19 pandemic commenced. The overwhelming interest in the kick-off gives the impression that the focus on research within Sábmie, instead of focusing on Sámi research in Sweden, increases the possibilities for actively networking and cooperating. The discussed needs and interests of the participants are evaluated to develop the NorrSam-network further in the coming months.