You are her, the Greenlander?
By Mikael Hertig M. of. Sc. Pol.
Mention of Marine Duc's scientific article
Marine Duc, « “You are the Greenlandic one”. Saisir la place de la région d’origine dans la production de l’autochtonie chez les étudiant·e·s groenlandais·e·s au Danemark », Espace populations sociétés [En ligne], 2020/1-2 | 2020, mis en ligne le 15 juin 2020, consulté le 02 juillet 2020. URL :http://journals.openedition.org/eps/9903
The 540 Greenlandic students in Denmark are, seen with Greenlandic eyes, elitist exceptions. In Denmark, they are stigmatized at universities. Prejudices lie beneath the surface; they move unconsciously up through the social strata. The Greenlandic students are hardly deliberately expelled, but end up in isolation.
That is the message of Marine Duc's article, which is part of the author's French PhD thesis. The focus is on the socialization of Greenlandic students in Denmark.
She draws attention to matters that have been left to oblivion: Belonging to the category of Greenlanders as indigenous peoples is not linked to Greenland as territory. There are up to 16-17,000 Greenlanders living in Denmark and a few thousand outside Greenland and Denmark. Do those people stop falling into the category of 'indigenous people' when they move to Denmark? They in no-man's land, marked by invisibility to the surroundings and to the educational institutions.
The Danes' delusions about Greenlanders are active at all levels - even the universities - in the stigmatization processes that weigh on the lives of the Greenlandic student in Denmark. When asked about it, the Dane involuntarily associates the Greenlander systematically with "skin color, an unfavorable social background and a low level of education".
Racialization and stigmatization
As a Frenchman, Marine Duc has an easier time imagining Danes and Greenlanders apart. She is both an observer and a companion. She has no position to defend, as Danes have. With the term 'racialization', she draws attention to the small hidden categorizations, expectations and prejudices about others that everyone to some extent drags around.
How can it be that the young Greenlandic elite is stigmatized and ends up more or less isolated? This is understandable enough, because the flower of Greenland's youth represents the part whose Danish skills should be at the top, even when Danish is its second language. The Danes anticipate that the Greenlanders know the Danish language at their own level. When it is not always completely on par, the hidden juxtaposition of Danish proficiency and intelligence as identical figures lies just below the surface. In Greenland they are the top, at the Danish universities they risk scraping the bottom.
There are several elements at play when it comes to identifying racialization. The Greenlander is indifferent, ends up in invisibility. Invisibility "is indifference lived, practiced and relational". Most striking are often bodily appearances:A Greenlandic girl was first taken for Asian and got the attribute 'good at mathematics', but the bucket turned when it dawned on her fellow student that she was indeed just a Greenlander - and thus a surprise, because despite all possible lack of prerequisites anyway. had ended up at a university as if she had been misplaced.
Violence made invisible
Duc criticizes the Danish understanding of the Nordic-plus variant of colonialism when it comes to the Danish-Greenlandic relationship. The violence in the Danish handling of Greenland as a colony is made invisible and replaced by a narrative about the Danish "benevolent colonialism". It is a story that is better suited to positive Danish self-understanding. We must, Duc writes, "not forget the history of the colonization of Greenland and its social, economic and political consequences". They come from Greenland with a kind of Danish citizenship and are "placed in a minority situation in a Danish state where whiteness is coded as normal".
She then presents her interviewees, who usually come from the largest Greenlandic cities. They often have a Greenlandic-Danish family ancestor to a greater extent than the Greenlandic population as a whole. Anyone with a little knowledge of Greenlanders' life situation will wonder about the use of the term 'native'. "I think when I heard the word 'native', I combined it but a kind of Aboriginal". The understanding of the modern Greenlandic 80-20 hybrid is miles away from each Greenlandic university student's own self-understanding - and with good reason.
"Indigenous" - a word that derives from colonization itself
According to Duc,, the term 'indigenous peoples' comes from colonization itself. In the political sense, it arose when the former colonial powers were to deal with the part of the population that originally ruled over the territory they themselves occupied.
In the never-expressed layer of imagination between the other students and Greenlanders, it may seem as if the Greenlanders are just considered indigenous peoples in the sense mentioned here.
"The similarity between the stereotypes constitutes the cement of a common minority experience that rests on a devalued and devaluing image of the area in which they grew up."
Duc identifies the home affiliation, the lineage and the inferiority as concrete patterns of different facets: whiteness, language, behavioral perceptions, etc. in Denmark, e.g. as at the university.
The false images: Primitiveness and morbidity
She sees the driving force in the continued stigmatization of Greenlanders in Denmark as notions of primitiveness and morbidity.
Primitiveness is the notion of life among polar bears and in igloos, a life very few Greenlanders have ever been near. The strange images in Danes' performances, in all their extreme imagination, fill memorable images that fill in the blind spots.
The morbidity is usually presented in the Danish press' dramatizing stories about abuse, suicide, pedophilia, violence, etc. There is a truth behind these stories, but when the characteristics suddenly appear as attributes of the individual Greenlander in Denmark, the background for distancing and degrading quietly put, without the individual having anything at all to do with it or being able to do anything about it.
The person in question does not come from igloos, the person in question hardly comes from abused homes, etc.
The adhesions are skewed and far from conducive to understanding. The stigma leads to varying degrees of social isolation. The mountain of what is to be explained and understood becomes too large, too high and too massive for social interaction to be established. The poles repel, do not attract.
The Danish slang word "Grønlænderstiv ", Drunk as a Greenlander"" belongs in this context: It belongs in the Danish notion of being humorous when you demean others.
The picture of the Greenlanders' social morbidity is wrapped up. But the stigma lingers, and that's exactly the point of the Duc.
The color of Greenland faces the whiteness of the Dane, together with the hesitation when it comes to the Dane's linguistic home advantage.
Thanks to Marine Duc for an important article. One might wonder that it should be written in Bordeaux and not in Bording. May it be published in Danish and in Greenlandic. It is really needed.