A Decolonial View

By students in the Colonial and Postcolonial Master

Thoughts on the Church of Sweden’s apology to the Sámi people


“After 85 years in the basement of Uppsala Carolina Rediviva /I find you /my mother my family my people /in the racial biologists 20 measurement tables /in the naked pictures”

Extract of the testimony of Rose-Marie Huuva

Yesterday, 24 nov 2021, the Church of Sweden apologized to the Sámi people in an official ceremony in Uppsala and live on their website. But what was it that they apologized for, and what does it really mean? 

Before Antje Jackelen, the archbishop, gave the official apology, five representatives of the Sámi community gave their testimonies to the acts of abuse the Church has made itself guilty of. Their speeches were short, personal, and moving. They ranged from stories of loss of language and identity, to memories from the nomadic school, to finding one’s mother pictured naked in a photograph kept in the university library of Uppsala, and more. Hearing the testimonies, it becomes evident that the abuses the Church of Sweden is guilty of has had fundamental effects on every aspect of Sámi society. 

The apology itself, given by the archbishop, was solemn. She touched on the areas of which the five representatives just before her had brought up – the Church acknowledged and apologized for their part in assimilation, dehumanization, and colonization of land. The apology was accompanied by a promise to keep on working for reconciliation, hopefully meaning: this is just the beginning!

What I hope for in the continued work towards reconciliation, and what I missed in Wednesdays ceremony is this: actual factual returning of land and power.  The Church of Sweden owns 60 thousand hectare land in Luleå diocese, which yields 13 million sek per year.[1] Härnösands diocese owns just over 93 thousand hectare land[2], which in 2020 yield them 31 million sek.[3] What would it look like if the Sámi society got more power and influence when it comes to how the land is used, and over where the money it brings in is put?

For how can the church of Sweden apologize for sweeping Sámi religion under the rug, treating the students of the nomadic school as less than; opening the door for racial biology in Sweden; and taking the lands from the Sámi people – without subsequently working for opportunities for Sámi people to rediscover their spirituality and heal the generational trauma colonialism has effected in, advocate for pictures of and actual remains of Sámi ancestors be returned/buried, and give land back?

Alva Blomkvist


[1] https://www.svenskakyrkan.se/luleastift/skog

[2] https://www.svenskakyrkan.se/harnosandsstift/skog-och-egendom

[3]  https://www.svenskakyrkan.se/filer/500252/Egendomnsn%C3%A4mnden2020_l%C3%A5g.pdf?id=2229556

How effective can human agency be in decision and choice?


Human agency means the decision and choice of the individual, that is, the individual chooses a subject or behaviour of his own will, does it, and follows the consequences. Therefore, human agency includes decision-making, selection, action and acceptance of the result. Decisions and choices usually seem to be made by the mind, but in fact many issues have affected the mind of the human selector that eventually the person is faced with a choice. The experiences that human beings face in life, all form our views and beliefs and give us the power to make decisions and choices. So, a person’s choices who lives in a poor family is not the same as a rich person choice. But what if we put these two people in the same choice?

One of the important functions that can be mentioned to consider individual agency is to pay attention to historical events, cultural events and moral events. If we consider wars, can we say that the decisions and choices of individuals are effective in starting and ending wars? Is there a way out for people who are at war? If someone is fighting against the enemy during the war, was it his decision and choice? It seems that fighting against the enemy is a right and logical action. But who is really the enemy? When politicians want to take over a country for economic, political and military interests, they look for rational, cultural, religious and even moral reasons for their defence because they want to justify the soldiers’ minds to take part in the battlefield in their favour. People think that they have made this decision by their own agency. Colonialism happens in exactly the same way. Why some countries are colonized but others are colonizers? Do not colonized people have the power to think, decide and choose? Has a colonizer colonized a country by his own agency? In both cases, there are series of basic information that has given this view to the colonizer and the colony and that basic information has formed both group’s agency.

But as much as the impact of experience on individual agency may seem frustrating, positive functions can also be considered. For example, education is well done in this way. Education can greatly influence people views. Modern education in traditional societies introduces people to new ways of thinking. For example, in the discussion of women’s rights, the best way to acquaint women with their rights is to educate them properly. Unfortunately, even in literate societies, people are oppressed due to lack of sufficient and up-to-date knowledge, and sometimes they themselves accompany this oppression. Therefore, people should pay as much attention to education as they pay attention to the factors influencing their agency to moderate the negative effects of other factors. Finally, we cannot consider absolute agency for individuals, but we can pay attention to the education as an instrument for modifying our mind and resistance.


Fatemeh Shirazizadeh

Memory and Hybridity in How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1991)


Memory and hybridity are important concerns in migration literature. Expatriate authors write about vary from traditional English novels. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1991) by Julia Alvarez is a novel about a Dominican family who move to the USA. The characters live in a hybrid and cultural context. It is difficult for them to overcome not only the language barriers but also the cultural shocks. They find themselves living in a hybrid condition that makes them belong to none. Physically, they feel restricted by cultural differences and language barriers in the USA; mentally they feel nostalgic about the glory of the past. The article sketches the role of memory and hybridity in forming identity.

Alvarez explores the psychological sense of exile of the family and offers intriguing points of cultural and personal hybridity. Her novel affirms the sense of nostalgia while the memory of the relocated peoples was reconstituted in terms of different times and locations. Even after people left their physical homelands, their memory froze mentally at the very moment of their migration. Accordingly, the girls’ mother says, “I want to forget the past” (Alvarez, 50). As we know, people’s relocation caused the inconsistent and fragmented cognition that what was bygone was no longer bygone. What has passed instead fermented in their deepest mind to form their memory? In this sense, it is natural the mother says “… would like to forget the past, but it is really only a small part of the recent past she would like to forget” (Alvarez 50).

Moreover, Yolanda, the third sister, takes on the role of the storyteller mostly in the novel. Yolanda has such literal talents that her mother has big dreams for her bright future. Her immigrant experience strengthens her comprehension of language power. As Hoffman states: “Words are inseparable from Yolanda’s identity: it is absolutely crucial that she chooses the accurate and appropriate word, that she constantly and properly identifies, describes, defines, redefines, and name everything from mere objects to relationships, even to herself” (23). Generally speaking, words are tools to communicate and to express oneself, however, Yolanda is obsessed with them because mastering a second language is a method for her to take root in America. In her view, words become significant elements to distinguish the new land and the old island.

Ironically, her return to the Dominican Republic is to reconnect with the roots of her family. She asserts her identity by shifting into English when she is frightened in the Dominican Republic; she speaks English subconsciously even though it is not her purpose for returning there. As we know, her journey is supposed to reconnect with the roots of her family. The first chapter, “Antojos” (Alvarez 3) is a good example of Yolanda’s heart even though she has no idea of the meaning of “Antojos”. Her craving for guavas reflects her unconscious “Antojos” that she does not even know herself. In this context, her homelands of fiction are located nowhere, but the craving for memory caused by the resettlement triggers her memory that is inherited from the past, which only exists mentally but not physically.

It is to say, the girls have hardships not only in the bilingual context but also in the cultural differences. We see all of the girls search for belonging owing to the unsuccessful assimilation. The Garcia girls try to retrieve the memory of the past even though the memory has faded away. Thus, eventually they lose not only their accents but also their identity.

In short, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents shows the dilemma of immigrants, especially on memory and hybridity. The old memory brings their difficulties in assimilation; the hybrid languages and cultures create acculturation difficulty. The experiences of dealing with memory and hybridity are perpetual challenges of immigrant families.


Works Cited

Alvarez, J. (1991). How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. New York: Algonquin Books.

Hoffman, Joan M. She Wants to Be Called Yolanda Now: Identity, Language, and the Third Sister in How the García Girls Lost Their Accents. Bilingual Review / La Revista Bilingüe, vol. 23, no. 1, 1998, pp. 21–27. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25745393. Accessed 27 Apr. 2021.

Cheng-Fen Wang