Relational Accountability as Research Ethics in a Nordic-Saami (Green) Colonial Context

Seminars and Colloquia

Eva Fjellheim’s research concerns how epistemic controversies in struggles over Saami reindeer herding landscapes are entangled in past and present colonialism in Norway. In particular, she explores ‘green colonialism’ as an analytical term to understand how Saami lands are being sacrificed in the name of the so-called ‘green energy transition’. This talk focused on the ethical dilemmas encountered while working in a context characterized by (green) colonial harm and fatigue. Speaking back to research practices that are being used as a tool to subjugate and dispossess ancestral lands, knowledges, and practices is a crucial decolonial endeavor, also for Indigenous scholars.

Opaskwayak Cree scholar Shawn Wilson argues that relationships are the very essence of seeking, building, and sharing knowledge. He asserts that researchers are accountable for these relations throughout all stages of the research process. As a Southern Saami researcher, Fjellheim sought to practice relational accountability from a positionality guided by sïjte, laahkoe and maadtoe – important concepts that concern relations to humans, other-than-humans, and the Saami homelands.

Indigenous and decolonial research methodologies strongly encourage collective, participatory, and collaborative methods. But questions arise: How to be an engaged researcher without putting yet another burden on fatigued communities? How to navigate the blurry space between ‘activism’ and research in a context where positivist assumptions of knowledge production as neutral, objective, and disengaged still dominate? In facing these challenges, the speaker proposes methodologies that enable solidarity and care – a much needed stance in and around settler colonial bureaucracies and courts.

Eva Maria Fjellheim is a Southern Saami researcher, writer, journalist and activist. Her work as an activist and as a researcher focuses on indigenous peoples’ rights, particularly in relation to land rights in the context of green colonialism, grassroots movements, and decolonial struggles of the Saami and of indigenous peoples in Latin America. She is currently an Emma Goldman Fellow at the IWM.

Ayşe Çağlar, IWM Permanent Fellow, introduced the speaker and moderated the colloquium discussion.


Fellows Colloquia are internal events for the IWM Visiting Fellows and Guests.