Finnish Colonial Encounters

We are calling for contributions to an edited collection titled Finnish Colonial Encounters and aimed at an international audience. The collection seeks to examine the historical relation between Finland/Finns and colonialism from the eighteenth to the late twentieth century.

Colonialism has been largely associated with Western overseas expansion, which culminated in the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries when large parts of the world were under at least nominal Western, particularly European, rule. But colonial projects were by no means exclusively the domain of the great Western powers. Recent research has shown that even those European countries that never had overseas colonies were involved in the colonial world, sending out colonizers and producing images of colonial “others”. Such concepts as “colonial complicity” and “colonialism without colonies” have been developed to examine European societies and countries which were not classical colonial powers but which nevertheless were involved in and affected by colonialism. Many of these societies/countries that were complicit in colonialism without having any formal colonies, such as Switzerland, Iceland and Finland, failed to develop a self-understanding that would account for their engagements in colonialism, and proclaimed their outsider status instead.

The conventional image of Finland as a small, modern democratic nation-state does not fit well with the traditional image of European Great Power colonialism in Africa, Asia or Australasia. Furthermore, as Finland was not an independent country but had a subordinate position as the Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire in 1809-1917, the idea of Finnish exceptionalism – that since Finland had no colonies, Finns were outsiders and not involved in imperialist or colonialist practices – has been a commonly accepted view. Yet Finns arguably adapted ideologies and identities that are not easy to disentangle from the more typical trajectories of colonialism. Finns were not only passive victims of (Russian) imperial rule but also active participants in the creation of imperial vocabulary in various colonial contexts. They – we – benefitted economically from colonialism, sent out missionaries to spread the ideas of Western/white/Christian superiority and were involved in various colonial enterprises. Finns adopted, adapted and created common European knowledge about colonised areas, cultures and people, and participated in constructing racial hierarchies.

Despite increasing interest to analyse the relation between Finland/Finns and colonialism, until today no such study exists that would distinguish Finnish “colonial identities” from the more typical trajectories of colonialism. Finnish Colonial Encounters aims to fulfill this niche in the existing research. The collection, for which we aim to secure a reputable academic publisher, seeks to renew, readjust and restructure the contemporary study of colonialism. The term colonialism will be employed as a pragmatic analytical tool rather than as a theoretical term per se, and as such it provides a descriptive framework of analysing the various Finnish colonial encounters.

Article abstracts of 500-800 words along with a short biographical statement should be sent by 1 September 2019 to We welcome case studies as well as theoretical and methodological discussions.

Contributors will be notified of acceptance by 15 October 2019. Selected contributors will be invited to a workshop to present their first draft at the University of Turku in March 2020 (exact date TBD). Completed manuscripts (c. 8,000 words) are due by 1 September 2020. Please send any queries to See also

Editorial team: Docent Raita Merivirta (University of Turku), Professor Leila Koivunen (University of Turku) and Dr. Timo Särkkä (University of Jyväskylä)