Indigenous Spirituality in the Touristic Borderzone: Virtual Performances of Sámi Shamanism in Sápmi Park
For tourists travelling to the northernmost parts of Europe, the tour includes not only experiences of wild nature, Midnight Sun, and Aurora Borealis, but also encounters with the indigenous Sámi people who populate the area. Emblematically represented in tourist guidebooks as reindeer herders, the Sámi stand out as representatives of a life lived in close contact with nature, and as carriers of an indigenous spirituality that reflects a deep concern for the environment and for the powers found in nature. How can this insight be represented or performed in tourism? The article discusses the representation of this image of the Sámi in a theme park in the village of Kárášjohka, Norway. Transposed to the stage of the experience industry in the Sápmi Magic Theatre, a virtual Sámi shaman narrates to tourists the story of an ancient indigenous wise man. This narrative is on the one hand deeply embedded in Western imaginaries about the Noble Savage and about a prelapsarian, pre-colonial past. On the other hand, this myth is represented as something belonging to a more glorious past, and not as part of present-day indigenous life. From the point of view of ethno-politics, such narratives may support Sámi claims of representing a unique culture, while at the same time constituting a threat to the fight for an equal position in contemporary society.
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