Verbing meahcci: Living Sámi lands

Joks, Solveig; Østmo, Liv and Law, John (2020). Verbing meahcci: Living Sámi lands. The Sociological Review, 68(2) pp. 305–321.



This article is about translating and mistranslating a Sámi landscape word. That word is meahcci. In what follows we start by exploring the logic of meahcci, contrast this with Norwegian land practices, with utmark – the term which is usually used to (mis)translate it into Norwegian – or such English-language terms as wilderness. We show that meahcci has nothing to do with agricultural logics, ideas of the wild, or cartographic spaces. Rather meahcit (in the plural) are practical places, uncertain but productive social relations with lively and morally sensible human and non-human beings in which there is no division between nature (Norwegian natur) and culture (kultur). Meahcit are taskscapes (Ingold) or places–times–tasks. Then we consider the relatively verb- or action-oriented character of the (North) Sámi language, and show that Sámi land practices and the patterns of words weaving through these enact contextual, processual and radically relational versions of space, time, interaction, subjectivities, objectivities, and the beings that live in the world. We also touch on the material character of this difference – the location of words and forms of knowing. We conclude by reflecting on what Sámi meahcci practices suggest for a hegemonic English-language social science that is also struggling to articulate situated and radically relational ways of knowing.

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