Gymnastik- och idrottshögskolan, GIH

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Bland "rationella asketer" och "ädla vildar": Etniska relationer inom svensk längdskidsport från sekelskifte till mellankrigstid
Malmö högskola, Institutionen Idrottsvetenskap (IDV).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5702-0921
2017 (Swedish)In: Historisk Tidskrift, ISSN 0345-469X, E-ISSN 2002-4827, Vol. 137, no 4, p. 640-674Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [sv]

Historiskt har längdskidåkningen haft en framträdande plats i den svenska idrottsnationalismen. Manliga skidåkare har i detta sammanhang fått förkroppsliga ett folkhjälteideal där tysthet, strävsamhet, jantelag och skogsarbete varit centrala beståndsdelar. Etniska relationer inom denna vinteridrott har emellertid hamnat i skymundan, inte minst vid beaktande av skidåkningens betydelse som samisk identitetsmarkör. Denna uppsats tar därför avstamp i idrottens kontrastering mellan ”svenskhet” och ”samiskhet” som, visar det sig, var särskilt påtaglig i den moderna skidsportens ungdom.

Abstract [en]

Cross-country skiing in Sweden has long been a sport with connotations of nationalism. When skiing became a popular sport in the 1920s, an image emerged of the elite male cross-country skier as a ”folk hero” embodying certain characteristics: he was a silent, willful and hard-working lumberjack. The present study contributes to the discussion of identity formation within Swedish cross-country skiing by adding an ethnic perspective. Although skiing had an important function in early twentieth-century national identity formation, skiing was also strongly associated with the Sami people, the indigenous population of the Nordic countries who resides in a region that stretches across the national borders of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia. The study analyzes and sheds light on the contrast between ”Swedishness” and ”Saminess” in descriptions of individual elite cross-country skiers in press material and skiing literature of the early twentieth century. Two ideal types of cross-country skiers, both with connotations of nationalism and ethnicity, emerge from the sources. First, the ”rational ascetic,” representing the characteristics of the ”folk hero.” His industriousness, silence, restraint and unpretentiousness embody a protestant ethic, which combines the pursuit of success with an asceticism that prevents the skier from being satisfied with his achievements. Athletic skills were thereby explained as the result of intentions put into practice through rational goals and methods. The ”noble savage”, the second ideal type, on the other hand, represents neither rationality nor asceticism. Instead, his skills were understood to be an innate ability. Since the ”noble savage” belongs to the state of nature, where harmony and balance prevails, no aspirations of any kind are needed. Therefore, neither discipline, rational training or time perception are the bases for the success of a ”noble savage.” He is a ”natural talent” possessing biological properties suitable for skiing. Whereas the success of ”Swedish” skiers (rational athletes) were explained as the result of individual capacities, a victory for a Sami skier was perceived to be due to external circumstances – for example the ”lappföre”, a particular snow condition, or certain weather, trail and track conditions which were difficult to master – because their abilities were natural and not acquired. The heroization of Swedish elite skiers was thus a process reinforced by the construction of ethnic contrasts between the ”rational (Swedish) ascetic”, depicted as an active subject, and the ”noble (Sami) savage”, depicted as a passive object.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Svenska Historiska Föreningen , 2017. Vol. 137, no 4, p. 640-674
Keywords [sv]
History of sport, indigenous sport, Sami history, cross-country skiing, ethnicity, identity
National Category
History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:gih:diva-7868ISI: 000418623500004Local ID: 23959OAI: oai:DiVA.org:gih-7868DiVA, id: diva2:1801957
Available from: 2023-10-03 Created: 2023-10-03 Last updated: 2023-10-03
In thesis
1. På skidor i kulturella gränsland: Samiska spår i skidsportens historia
Open this publication in new window or tab >>På skidor i kulturella gränsland: Samiska spår i skidsportens historia
2021 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this compilation thesis is to shed light on the Sámi history of ski sport in Sweden from an organizational and cultural history perspective where concepts like nation and ethnicity fill an important function. The Sámi are an indigenous people living in Sápmi, a land area extending across the North Calotte region and including parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The thesis contains six separate articles which together comprise a research period extending between 1879 and 1990.  The articles have been studied from different points of view with the focus on how skis as sport equipment have been historically charged with cultural expressions created by the individual skiers as well as by the general public’s interest in skiing. These cultural expressions have also been internalized as collective identification objects positioning the mutual relations between groups and collectives. By historical links to kings, heroic myths and polar expeditions, the sport of skiing has, for example, become associated with a national Swedish identity. By pinpointing its Sámi origins in the light of history, the ski sport is in this thesis instead viewed as a culturally heterogeneous phenomenon.    In three of the articles of the thesis, the Sámi history of Swedish ski sport is studied. The focus of these studies lies on how ”Sáminess” and ”Swedishness”, viewed as cultural identities, were constructed in connection with the early rise and development of ski sport from the late 19th century to the interwar period (Articles I and II) as well as with the sporting career of downhill skier Bengt-Erik Grahn in the 1960s (Article V). The studies illustrate that, at its rise and early development, cross-country skiing in Sweden was regarded as a Sámi sport. In the early 20th century, however, an ethnic borderline was created between what was Sámi and what was Swedish, which gradually invisibilized the Sámi link to ski sport. Instead, cross-country skiing acquired the inofficial character of being the Swedish national sport. The three remaining studies investigate the separately organized Sámi sport movement from its rise in 1948 through the year 1990 (Articles III, IV and VI). The origin of this movement derives from the Sámi Championships, a winter event whose original contests include skiing and other sports with a background in reindeer husbandry.  The articles clarify the importance of ski sport in creating contrastive ethnic identities between Sáminess and Swedishness (Articles I–V). Similarly, these constructed cultural markers of Sáminess and Swedishness have been interwoven to symbolize an overarching ethnic national identity (Articles IV–V). In addition, the way ski sport has been operated within the separately organized Sámi sport movement has carried weight in the creation of Sápmi as a crossborder nation (Article VI).  

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Malmö: Malmö universitet, 2021. p. 114
Keywords
Cross-country skiing, Sámi history, History of sport, Ethnicity, Cultural identities, Indigenous sport
National Category
Humanities and the Arts
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:gih:diva-7859 (URN)10.24834/isbn.9789178771950 (DOI)978-91-7877-195-0 (ISBN)978-91-7877-194-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2021-09-10, D 138, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2023-10-03 Created: 2023-10-03 Last updated: 2023-10-03Bibliographically approved

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