Negotiating History addresses a comprehensive but largely neglected historical material: photographs, photographic collections and practices. Photographs forms part of cultural heritage and have been crucial in the formation of Sámi cultural institutions. The project approaches photographs as an entrance to Sámi history in its variations through time and space. At the same time, it opens for an understanding for how photographs actively contribute to shape and recreate the past. Historical photographs also visualize tensions and conflicts between the Sámi peoples and the majority society. In a historical perspective, Sáminess has often been defined and understood through the gaze of powerful outsiders. Today, freeing oneself from this gaze is a significant part of Sámi self-articulation. Such renegotiations represent a disruption both with tendencies of cultural homogenization within the Sámi community, and with the cultural stereotypes of the majority society. One such arena for negotiation is Sámi contemporary art. Another is contemporary youth culture where photography is used to explore Sáminess in a new digital context. The question of how to cope with colonial photographic legacy is something the Sámi population has in common with other indigenous populations around the world.
Research on colonial photographs and the role of photographs in the postcolonial reality is internationally an emerging field. Inspired by the last decades’ developments in the field of colonial and postcolonial studies, this project aims to broaden the perspective by viewing the Sámi situation in relation to indigenous populations elsewhere. Negotiating History intends to contribute to the new research field on indigenous uses and understandings of photography that both seek to illuminate and balance dominant Euro-American theories of the photographic medium. The research team includes both Sámi and Norwegian scholars with background from art history, history of photography and social anthropology.