Call for chapters
The Black Lives Matter movement has spurred in Finland the public discussion about Finland’s and Finns’ relationship to colonialism. Already budding since the publication of the report Whose History? by Historians without Borders (2018), the discussion, the movement and the report have strengthened calls for more inclusive and transnational histories of Finland. Especially the rapid growth of African diaspora communities in Finland calls for new perspectives on the legacy of colonialism. Prompted by the present-day needs, we call for contributions to an edited collection, which re-examines the historical relationship between Finns/Finland and Owambo/Namibia in terms of colonialism and/or coloniality.
Namibia, and particularly the Owambo region in the north (formerly known as Ovamboland, “Ambomaa”), has a special place in Finnish history as the histories of the two societies have intersected on various occasions, starting from the mission work Finns began to implement in 1870. At that time, the area was inhabited by various groups of African people, mostly Owambos, and the Finns became the only people of European origin staying there. During the German colonial era, starting in 1884, the grip of colonial administration in this region was weak or even non-existent. Other colonial powers – Portugal, Great Britain, and South Africa – have also had a historical presence and have exerted their influence in the region but that hasn’t changed the special role of Finns in the area.
Although Finland was not a sovereign state before 1917 and the Finns working in Owambo did not act in official colonial capacity but as missionaries, it can be argued that the Owambo region in some ways, e.g. with regard to knowledge production, had a similar status to Finns as colonies to colonising powers. Finnish presence in Namibia had long-lasting effects on the Owambos, as Finns introduced Western modes of education, medicine, material culture and social practices, in particular the Evangelical Lutheran faith and a literary language. Consequently, the Finns actively participated in advancing the Western informal empires as they sought to transform the Owambos’ ways of being in the world. Simultaneously, awareness of Namibia and Africa among Finnish people grew gradually in the course of several decades. The Finnish Missionary Society diligently distributed information about Ovamboland and the progress of the missionary work there to the supporters of the cause. Owambo has arguably had a central role in the Finnish imaginary and understanding of all matters African, as, for good and bad, the special relationship of Finns with Namibia continued for decades. Finns even had a noticeable role in the peace process and negotiations for independence of Namibia, with future Finnish President and Nobel Laureate Martti Ahtisaari as the UN Special Representative heading the UN Transition Assistance Group in 1989-1990.
This edited collection aims to broaden our understanding of how colonial worldviews were embedded in Finnish missionary and humanitarian practices in Namibia and how they affected the emerging relationship with local people. Furthermore, we seek papers that examine the spread and legacy of the Finnish (colonial) knowledge production concerning Owambo/Namibia and the continued presence of the latter in Finland (e.g. the naming of a square in Tampere after Rosa Emilia Clay). The volume will connect Finnish and Namibian points-of-view to examine the traces of colonialism and the different meanings they have had for different groups. We also encourage co-operation between researchers from both countries to enable a two-way approach that illuminate their shared histories and to create and enforce dialogue between the past and present both in Finland and Namibia.
Thus far, the majority of existing research on the Finnish-Owambo relations has focused on the Finnish and/or Christian impact in Namibia. We seek chapters on hitherto un- or less examined topics, inviting new empirical, theoretical and methodological discussions on the shared history of Owambos/Namibians and Finns.
Possible themes include but are not limited to:
– material culture (artefacts, museums, repatriation)
– art (literature, music, visual arts, theatre, dance, photography)
– children and childhood experiences
– colonial politics and struggle for Namibian independence
– identity formation and identity politics
– diaspora politics and how Finnish-Namibian relations may become intertwined into the histories of the rapidly increasing African diaspora communities
– how historical knowledge of Finnish-Namibian relations surfaces in contemporary discussions
The edited collection will be peer-reviewed and hopefully published OA to make it widely available. Article abstracts of 500-800 words along with a short biographical statement should be sent by 1 September 2021 to . We welcome case studies as well as theoretical and methodological discussions. Article abstracts should include a description of the theme, source material and methodology.
Contributors will be notified of acceptance by the end of September 2021. Selected contributors will be invited to an online workshop to present their first draft in March 2022 (exact date TBD). Completed manuscripts (c. 6,000 words) are due by 1 September 2022. Authors are responsible for the grammatical correctness of the text and the copyright of images. Please send any queries to . See also https://utuhicorg.wordpress.com/
The book will be edited by Professor Leila Koivunen and Docent Raita Merivirta from the Department of European and World History at the University of Turku.