The Music, Language, and Culture Workshop

Thursday, November 20 – Thomas Hilder

Please join us for our penultimate meeting of the Autumn Quarter. This Thursday, we’re excited to welcome Thomas Hilder for a presentation entitled  “Sámi Musical Performance, Indigeneity, Cosmopolitanism.” (Please see below for Thomas’ abstract and bio).

As always, we will meet from 4:30-6:00pm in Goodspeed 205. We look very much forward to seeing you!


My paper explores the politics of cosmopolitanism in musical performance of the Sámi of northern Europe. Through a post-WWII political and cultural movement, the Sámi have highlighted their history of Christianisation, land dispossession and cultural assimilation, whilst working towards Sámi political self-determination within and across the Nordic states and Russian Kola Peninsula. Participation by Sámi activists, academics and artists at international indigenous meetings since the 1960s not only helped strengthen articulations of indigeneity at home, but also led to the Sámi playing an important role in campaigning for global indigenous rights (Minde 2008, 1996). Sámi musical performance, often drawing on the distinct unaccompanied vocal practice of joik, has strengthened political articulations, assisted wider cultural revival, as well as facilitated inter-indigenous cultural and political exchange.

Based on multi-sited ethnographic research, I will explore the challenges, potentials and contradictions of Sámi musical cosmopolitanism. Firstly, I investigate the participation by Sámi joikers at international indigenous meetings and the impact of these inter-indigenous encounters on Sámi musical performance. I then analyse the Sámi singer Mari Boine to unearth the ways in which aesthetic and political indigenous solidarity has been articulated. Finally, I examine the role of the Riddu Riđđu Indigenous Peoples’ Festival in forging a global indigenous network. By drawing on political and postcolonial theory (Ivison, Patton & Sanders 2000), and the literature of cosmopolitanism (Delanty 2009; Forte 2010; Feld 2012) I ask: how might Sámi musical performance propose alternative models for transnational collaboration and geo-political organisation?


Thomas Hilder is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for World Music, University of Hildesheim, after having completed his PhD in ethnomusicology at Royal Holloway, University of London in 2010. His main research area is the popular music of the Sámi, of northern Europe, with a particular interest in postcolonialism, digital media and transnationalism. He is author of the forthcoming monograph Sámi Musical Performance and the Politics of Indigeneity in Northern Europe (Rowman and Littlefield), and is co-editor of the book projects Music, Indigeneity, Digital Media and Music and Cultural Memory in Post-1989 Europe: Sounding Contested Past(s). In addition, he teaches courses on Nordic music, music and politics, and music and gender at the University of Hildesheim and Humboldt University, Berlin, he co-organises the annual doctoral workshop in ethnomusicology at the Center for World Music, and co-runs the Berlin ethnomusicology research group BEAM.

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