Johnsen & Benjaminsen: “Rationalization” of Sámi reindeer husbandry in Norway since the 1970s

The art of governing and everyday resistance: “rationalization” of Sámi reindeer husbandry in Norway since the 1970s

Abstract: Since the late 1970s, a policy objective in Norway has been to rationalize Sámi reindeer husbandry. Among the government officials, there is, however, a concern that this objective has not been successfully met in West Finnmark due to “too many reindeer” and “too many pastoralists” degrading the pastures and jeopardizing the economy of pastoralism. Engaging with the concepts of “the art of governing” and “everyday resistance”, we examined the state rationalization programme. We identified four “techniques of power” used by the state to stimulate “rational” pastoral practices: discipline, neoliberal rationality, sovereign power, and truth. Based on in-depth interviews with pastoralists and government officials, observations, and written sources, we examined the public and hidden transcripts about rationalization. The analysis demonstrates how everyday forms of resistance are used by pastoralists to maintain control of their own livelihoods and practices. A common strategy is to partly adopt and partly avoid state regulations. Individual responses to the rationalization are determined by personal desires and capacity, as well as relationships to and the behaviour of fellow pastoralists. However, the governance of Sámi pastoralism since the 1970s affected power relations between the state and the pastoralists, as well as within the herding communities.

Published 4. May 2017 - 9:54 - Updated 23. May 2017 - 19:08