A Decolonial View

By students in the Colonial and Postcolonial Master

Land exploitation and violence against Indigenous women

Postat den 9th March, 2022, 11:58 av

Yesterday was international women’s day. All over the world people demonstrated for women’s rights. An important issue when talking about women’s rights is of course the problem of violence against women. In the feminist discourse on violence against women, voices of Indigenous women are sometimes excluded.

In a brilliant article by Rauna Kuokkanen (2008), “Globalization as racialized, sexualized violence”, the overlaps and links between patriarchy, colonialism and capitalism is highlighted. Kuokkanen argues that economic globalization poses a threat of a multifaceted attack on the foundation of Indigenous peoples existence, in that capitalist exploitation of  Indigenous peoples’ territories further marginalize Indigenous peoples and undermine their right to self-determination (2008: 216). Indigenous women are the ones who bears the brunt of the violence that globalization entails. The increased pressures on  land displace Indigenous women from their roles and positions in their societies. This implies a shift in gender dynamics in Indigenous societies and disrupts the social fabric. As a result, women’s social status may diminish, making them more vulnerable to marginalization and exclusion (Kuokkanen, 2008:223).

The gendered violence embedded in patriarchy, colonialism and capitalism is multifaceted. It ranges from direct and interpersonal; to structural; to economic; to epistemic. Kuokkanen points out that  violence against women shouldn’t be analyzed as a result of inborn male sadism, but rather as a mechanism in process of ongoing “primitive acculumation”(2008:221-222). With this in mind, I turn the gaze towards globalization in Sápmi and the gendered violence it has brought to Sámi societies.

The violence Sámi women has bore the brunt of is not neccesarily physical or directly sexualized. It is structural, long term, and seemingly hard to discover.  When the 1928 reindeer grazing act was implemented in Sweden, it was presented as a solution to overpopulation of reindeer grazing lands and to land conflicts between Sámi and settler population in the north (Amft, 1999). A simplified explanation of the law and its effects is that it protected reindeer grazing lands from further overpopulation by constraining the group allowed to herd reindeer. In the law, a legal definition of Sáminess was created. The definition was not anchored in Sámi self-identification. With this definition, Sáminess was tied to reindeer herding, and reindeer herding was masculinized. This, in practice, meant that Sáminess was gendered: men and women were Sámi on different grounds. With the 1928 reindeer grazing act, Sámi womens position and role in reindeer herding societies changed. They were excluded and marginalized. In order for the colonizing state to gain control over traditional Indigenous lands, economic, epistemic, and reproductive violence against indigenous women played an important role. The gendering of Sáminess and the marginalization of Sámi women has had long term effects on the way Sámi women could participate in society.

When celebrating and or demonstrating for women’s rights on March 8 (and all other days of the year), we must remember that Indigenous women are the recievers of different kinds of violence brought by capitalist exploitation of Indigenous lands, both globally and here in Sweden. This should not just be a footnote in the struggle for women’s liberation going forward, but an integral part of how we strive to end violence against women.  

Alva Blomkvist


  • Amft, Andrea (2000). Sápmi i förändringens tid: en studie av svenska samers levnadsvillkor under 1900-talet ur ett genus- och etnicitetsperspektiv. Diss. Umeå : Umeå universitet, 2000
  • Kuokkanen, Rauna, “Globalization as Racialized, Sexualized Violence – The Case of Indigenous Women.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 10.2 (June 2008): 216-233.


Det här inlägget postades den March 9th, 2022, 11:58 och fylls under blogg

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