Festivalising Heritage in the Borderlands: Constituting Ethnic Histories and Heritages under the Rule of the Finn Forest Republic


  • Stein R. Mathisen Finnmark University College


The Finn Forest Republic is a three-day celebration of cultural heritage and local identity among the Finn Forest population, a people living in small rural communities on both sides of the border between Sweden and Norway. This festival has been celebrated since 1970, and has been an important element in the revitalisation and constitution of a Finn Forest identity. The article investigates how elements of the cultural heritage of the area have been used during the days of the Republic to constitute the idea of a common ethnic identity and a shared past, through a wide range of public displays and performances. The Finn Forest Museum plays an important role in the festival, both with collections manifesting a genuine material culture, as an arena for the performance of intangible heritages, and as a venue for telling narratives about the historic background of this culture. The character of the festival and the cultural heritage it celebrates implies historical references to the immigrant border culture, as well as to conflicts with the other dominant national majority cultures of the area. These cultural relations are presented in sincere as well as humorous ways, and allows for a wide range of identifications with the project of building a Finn Forest cultural heritage.


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