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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Eugenics, Admixture, and Multiculturalism in Twentieth-Century Northern Sweden: Contesting Disability and Sámi Genocide

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This article examines twentieth-century northern Swedish geographical isolate studies in Norrbotten Province involving Torne-Finns and northern Sámi, who have historically shared pronatalist Laestadian religious beliefs pathologized by mainstream eugenicists. Deemed a sign of religious fanaticism, Laestadianism was associated with the eugenic stigmatization of Torne-Finns and Sámi people and beliefs were conceptualized as an early sign of schizophrenia. Geneticists, as an outgrowth of early twentieth-century eugenics, structured schizophrenia as a genetic disease caused by first-cousin marriage. These consanguineous marriages that were reported as prevalent in Tornedalian and Sámi reindeer-herding communities practicing Laestadianism, legitimated race-based sterilization of psychitrized Torne-Finn and Sámi women. Similarly, the Swedish State Institute for Race Biology, established in 1922 by Herman Lundborg, advanced reorganizing race along family lines and populations, which supported gendered disability and Sámi genocide. Torne-Finn, as well as Sámi, religious minority women, who were sterilized at first admission to psychiatric facilities, require redress for colonial violence. Current academic and direct-to-consumer admixture research on Finnish and Sámi peoples is recognized as upholding colonial logics of difference in Swedish multicultural policies. This, in turn, results in ongoing gendered genocide. It is concluded that in a radical break from eugenic theories, major psychoses associated with common infections lie in the neglected half of the human genome rather than according to classical genetic rules.

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