In defense of Dr. Erika Sarivaara

Florian Siegl florian.siegl at
Mon May 20 08:18:56 UTC 2013

As an outsider who has not followed this particular discussion in the 
Scandinavian North I want to add some strictly private thoughts.

I do not understand how this "potential FB scandal" relates to science 
and why this called for such a posting. FB is neither a dominant nor a 
suitable medium for scientific discourse simply because not all who are 
in the target community access it. FB is a private hobby for those who 
have the time to play around with it, but there seems to be a certain 
trend that people can no longer tell the differences between hobby and 
work. For those who are not using FB (including me and for sure several 
more subscribers of Ura-List), I cannot understand why a private opinion 
in a social, but closed (sic!) and predominantly private network should 
concern those who are not in FB. After all, this was not a blog post 
which can be accessed by everybody who wants to read this.

As long as a scientific statement has not been made available to a 
general audience, I really do not see any reason why subscribers of 
Ura-List should be interested in a "FB scandal" and as a matter of fact 
should be bothered. I hope to see Pekka Sammallahti's comments in print 
and I would suggest that Pekka sends a short note on Ura-List when his 
written statement has become published. This will create the necessary 
basis for a general discussion which, so far, is lacking...

Florian Siegl
University of Helsinki

P.S.I have deleted most of the original receivers from the original 
mail; if anybody feels that these personal thoughts are relevant, he/she 
is welcomed to forward this message.

On 7.05.2013 4:48, Pekka Sammallahti wrote:
> Dear receivers,
> While I strongly disapprove of sending this circular by people who 
> seem to be unaware of what is going on on the ethnic and 
> ethnopolitical scene in Finland, let me make known that a detailed 
> review of Sarivaara's thesis will be presented.
> Let me also make it known that Sarivaara has been a leading figure in 
> the fight against Saami self-determination in Finland and that her 
> thesis is constantly used as a weapon in this fight. It is thus 
> appropriate to treat it also as a political document and deal with its 
> inadequacies and absurdities such as "non-status Saami" by the way of 
> ironic humor.
> Pekka Sammallahti
> PhD, Professor emeritus of Saami Language
> Quoting Scheller Elisabeth <elisabeth.scheller at>:
>> Dear Erika Sarivaara, members of the URA-list, and other research 
>> colleagues
>> Over the last couple of weeks, we have been made familiar with the  
>> content of some discussions on Prof. Pekka Sammallahti's Facebook  
>> site concerning Dr. Erika Sarivaara and her PhD thesis  
>> Statuksettomat saamelaiset 
>> <> 
>> Paikantumisia saamelaisuuden 
>> rajoilla<> 
>> (2012). In general, Sammallahti's site is none of our business and 
>> way beyond our interest. However, the current discussions of 
>> Sarivaara and her work signal such a striking absence of common 
>> decency that we find it necessary to point out the  following:
>> In case anyone forgot: Sarivaara's thesis has been evaluated by a  
>> scientific commitee of competent people in her field of research,  
>> and it was accepted. Obviously, Sammallahti and some of his Facebook 
>>  friends find some aspects of Sarivaara's thesis problematic. That 
>> is  not problematic at all. What is problematic though, is their 
>> totally  disrespectful way of making fun of Sarivaara and her 
>> research in a  semiofficial forum on the Internet. Even her mental 
>> health has been  called into question.
>> In fact, the comments on Prof. Sammallahti's Facebook site say 
>> nothing at all about Erika Sarivaara. What they do say, is that some 
>>  people who find themselves in front of the research field they  
>> pursue, seem to lack: 1) social media competence, and 2) basic  
>> understanding of research ethics.
>> In the future, we hope that the important questions that our 
>> colleague raises in her thesis will be discussed in the professional, 
>> scientific, and, last but not least, respectful way  that Sarivaara, 
>> like any other researcher, deserves.
>> Thanks.
>> With kind regards,
>> Elisabeth Scheller
>> PhD Student in Saami sociolinguistics
>> University of Tromsø
>> elisabeth.scheller at<mailto:elisabeth.scheller at>
>> Åse Mette Johansen
>> PhD Student in Nordic languages
>> University of Tromsø
>> ase.mette.johansen at<mailto:ase.mette.johansen at>
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