Piles of Bones: The Performance of Sovereignty through Reindeer Culling in the Subpolar North

Janse, Tessel. 2022. Piles of Bones: The Performance of Sovereignty through Reindeer Culling in the Subpolar North. Third Text, 36(6), pp. 535-557. ISSN 0952-8822 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Incorporating reindeer remains into haunting art installations, with Pile o’Sápmi, Máret Ánne Sara manifests how Norwegian forced culls impact Sámi autonomy. Mobilising the notion of animal colonialism, this article places Norwegian reindeer policy in a global history of colonisation through targeting animals upon which Indigenous peoples depend. Turning the gaze toward the North, it reads Sámi art and activism with Indigenous critique to examine how colonisation in Europe itself continues today. Whereas most interpretations stop at affirming Sara’s accusation of colonialism, this article argues that her work expands our understanding of it. Pile o’Sápmi unveils the performative aspect of colonial sovereignty, whilst her insistence on centralising reindeer indicates an opportunity for postcolonial studies to decolonise its own anthropocentrism. Simultaneously, her work escapes the violence it bears witness to. Seen through the lens of Sámi aesthetics or duodji, Pile o’Sápmi tends to localised interspecies ecologies and shows the value of art in doing the work of decoloniality.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):



Sámi, duodji, decolonisation, Norway, interspecies, ecologies, animal colonialism, recognition

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


23 October 2019Submitted
21 June 2022Accepted
12 December 2022Published Online

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Date Deposited:

15 Dec 2022 15:42

Last Modified:

14 Feb 2023 12:58

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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