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"Alla människor har sin berättelse": Interculturalism, Intermediality and the Trope of Testimony in Novels by Ekman, Ørstavik and Petersen


This study focuses on Kerstin Ekman's Vargskinnet trilogy (1999-2003), Hanne Ørstavik's Presten (2004) and Martin Petersen's Indtoget i Kautokeino (2004). The premise of this dissertation is that these novels provide a basis for investigating a subcategory of witness literature called witness fiction, which employs topoi of witness literature within a framework of explicitly fictional writing. Witness literature of all types relies on the experience of trauma by an individual or group. This project investigates the trauma of oppression of an indigenous group, the Sami, as represented in fiction by members of majority cultures that are implicated in that oppression. The characters through which the oppressed position is reflected are borderline figures dealing with the social and political effects of cultural difference, and the texts approach witnessing with varying degrees of self-awareness in terms of the complicated questions of ethics of representation.

The trauma that is evident in my chosen texts stems from interactions between Sami and non-Sami communities, and I discuss the portrayal of interculturalism within these texts. Homi K. Bhabha's conceptualization of the Third Space and the enunciation of productive difference between cultures build the foundational analysis of representations of Sami and non-Sami in the novels. In Vargskinnet in particular, intersections of difference also play out discursively through ekphrasis and intermediality. I discuss the convergence of media that echoes the productive difference of interculturalism via visual-verbal and musical-verbal ekphrasis. Of primary importance is the description of the Sami joik in Vargskinnet and the aligning of intermediality with Sami-Swedish relations and traumatic history of oppression of Sami cultural expression.

The conclusion provides the implications of this study for future research, including the interrelatedness of oppression of indigenous peoples and other peripheralized groups, and land and the environment. I look at the relevance of the budding field of cognitive approaches to fiction and conclude with statements of the continued importance of fiction to exposing readers to cultural difference and helping readers envision and empathize with experiences of human and non-human trauma.

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