Quest for authenticity - representation of the Sami image in Christmas tourism

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Title: Quest for authenticity - representation of the Sami image in Christmas tourism
Author: Suomi, Kirsi Marja-Leena
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Research
Thesis level: master's thesis
Abstract: Tourism is one of important livelihoods in Lapland. Christmas tourism was launched in the early 1980s and it became a success story - being labelled as the most epochal tourism product in Finland. Hence, today Christmas tourists are one of the most significant foreign groups arriving to Lapland during the winter season and contributing considerably to the economics of the northeastern periphery of the EU. Christmas tourism concentrates around Father Christmas who uses reindeer for transportation. The Sâmi are the only indigenous people in the EU. They are all stereotypically perceived to be reindeer herders. Somehow these three, that is, Santa Claus, reindeer and the Sâmi, have been incorporated into same fairytale dominion. In practice, this has happened by using the most visible cultural but also significant identity marker of the Sämi, the Sâmi costume. This, in turn, has created controversy over authenticity due to manners in which the costume is used in tourism - often in imitational, mismatched forms by non-Sâmi. In this thesis, after relevant literature review I intend to establish how the Sâmi are represented in Christmas tourism through visual data consisting of ten images from three foreign sources. Then I clarify why and to whom it matters of how the Sâmi are represented in Christmas tourism with the aid of 65 questionnaires and nineteen expert interviews collected mainly in the Finnish Sâmi Home Region in October 2009. Through the multiplicity of the voices of various interest and ethnic groups and by using critical discourse analysis I attempt to give an overview of the respondents opinions and look at some preliminary solutions to the controversy. Based on my data, the non-Sâmi appear to accept the Sâmi costume usage in Christmas tourism most readily. Consequently, respect and attitudinal changes have become the respondents propositions in addition to common set of rules of how the Sâmi image could be appropriated without violating the integrity of the Sâmi people, or a similar system of Sámi Duodji trademark guaranteeing the authenticity of the tourism products. Additionally, though half of the interviewees explicate Sami presence in Christmas tourism by adding local flavour to otherwise commercial enterprise, the other half see no rationale to connect facts with fiction, that is, the Sâmi with Santa Claus.
URI: URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201703271683
Date: 2011
Subject: christmas turism
joulu -- turismi
Discipline: Sociology

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