Contact information

Research interests

Political theory, indigenous rights, political history, policy analysis.

Recent publications

In English

Mörkenstam, Ulf (2018), “Participation in Indigenous Democracy: Voter Turnout in Sámi Parliamentary Elections in Norway and Sweden”, Scandinavian Political Studies, Doi: 10.1111/1467-9477.12129, (co-written with Johannes Berg, Stefan Dahlberg and Jo Saglie).

- (2018), “Should first-year doctoral students be supervised collectively or individually? Effects on thesis completion and time to completion”, Higher Education Research & Development 37(4), 669-682., (co-written with Hans Agné).

- (2017). Actualizing Sámi Rights: International Comparative Research. Helsingfors: Statsrådets kansli (co-edited with Leena Heinimäki, Christina Allard, Stefan Kirchner, Alexandra Xanthaki and Sanna Valkonen).

- (2017). ”Some remarks on the criteria to register in the Sami electoral roll in Sweden”, in Leena Heinimäki et al (eds.) Actualizing Sámi Rights: International Comparative Reserach. Helsingfors: Statsrådets kansli, 361-365.

- (2016). “The Nordic Sámediggis and the Limits of Indigenous Self-Determination”, Gáldu Cála – Journal of Indigenous Peoples Rights No. 1, 6-46 (co-written with Eva Josefsen & Ragnhild Nilsson).

- (2016). “Indigenous Self-Determination through a Government Agency? The impossible task of the Swedish Sámediggi”, International Journal of Minority and Group Rights 1, 2016 (co-written with Rebecca Lawrence)

- (2016) “Popular Sovereignty, Globalization and Political Rights”, Revista Portuguesa de Ciència Política – Portuguese Journal of Political Science 6, 155-178 (co-written with Ludvig Beckman and Jouni Reinikainen).

- (2015). “Recognition As if Sovereigns: A Procedural Understanding of Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Self-Determination”, Citizenship Studies, 19(6-7): 634-648.

- (2015) “Patterned Inequalities and the Inequality Regime of a Swedish Housing Company”, Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies 5(4), 105-124 (co-written with Kristina Boréus).

- (2015). “Action, Organization and Confrontation: Strategies of the Sámi movement in Sweden during the 20th century”, in Mikkel Berg-Nordlie, Jo Saglie & Ann Sullivan (eds.), Indigenous Politics: Institutions, Representation, Mobilisation. Colchester: ECPR Press, 131-159 (co-written with Patrik Lantto).

- (2015). “Different Institutions in Similar States: The Norwegian and Swedish Sámediggis”, Ethnopolitics, 14(1): 32-51 (co-written with Eva Josefsen and Jo Saglie).

In Swedish/Norwegian

Mörkenstam, Ulf. (2017) Ett folk, ulike valg. Sametingsvalg i Norge og Sverige [One People, Different Elections. Sámi Parliament Elections in Norway and Sweden]. Oslo: Gyldendal (co-edited with Eva Josefsen, Ragnhild Nilsson and Jo Saglie). Including the following chapters:

— ”Inledning [Introduction]” (co-written with Eva Josefsen, Ragnhild Nilsson and Jo Saglie).

— ”Sametingene – institusjoner for selvbestemmelse [The Sámi Parliaments – institutions for self-detemination]” (co-written with Eva Josefsen and Jo Saglie).

— ”Politiska skiljelinjer vid sametingsval i Norge och Sverige [Political cleavages in elections to the Sámi Parliaments in Norway and Sweden]” (co-written with Johannes Bergh, Ragnhild Nilsson, Jo Saglie and Richard Svensson).

— ”Valdeltagande [Election turn-out]” (co-written with Johannes Bergh, Stefan Dahlberg and Jo Saglie).

— ”Nominansjonsprosesser ved sametingsvalg [Nomination processes in Sámi Parliament elections]” (co-written with Eva Josefsen and Anna-Maria Fjellström).


- 2016. Sametingsval: väljare, partier och media [Elections to the Sámi Parliament: voters, parties and media]. Stockholm: Santérus förlag (co-edited with Ragnhild Nilsson & Stefan Dahlberg). Including the following chapters:

— “Inledning [Introduction]” (co-written with Ragnhild Nilsson & Stefan Dahlberg).

— “Historisk bakgrund: den svenska statens politik och samisk politisk mobilisering [Historical background: the Swedish State’s policy and the Sámi political mobilisation]” (co-written with Patrik Lantto).

— “Valsystem, partier och kandidater [Electoral system, parties and candidates]” (co-written with Anna-Maria Fjellström, Marie Knobloch & Ragnhild Nilsson).

— “Valdeltagande i sametingsvalet 2013 [Election turn-out in the election to the Sámi Parliament in 2013]” (co-written with Stefan Dahlberg).

— “Partiernas väljare och partival [The parties’ voters and the voters’ parties]” (co-written with Stefan Dahlberg).

—  “Politiska skiljelinjer vid Sametingsval [Political cleavages in elections to the Sámi Parliament]” (co-written with Ragnhild Nilsson & Richard Svensson).

— ”Valdeltagande, skiljelinjer och legitimitet: en jämförelse med Norge [Electoral turn-out, cleavages, and legitimacy: a comparison with Norway]” (co-written with Johannes Bergh, Stefan Dahlberg & Jo Saglie).

- 2016. Politisk teori [Political Theory]. 2nd rev. ed. Malmö: Liber förlag (co-edited with Ludvig Beckman).

- 2016.  “Urfolks rätt till självbestämmande [Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination]”, in Ludvig Beckman & Ulf Mörkenstam (ed.) Politisk teori. 2nd rev. ed. Malmö: Liber förlag.

Work in progress

— “Organised hypocrisy? The Indigenous Rights Regime in Sweden”

— “Constituent and constituted power? A comparative analysis of recognition of indigenous peoples in national constitutions”

— “Social integration and voter turnout in three parliamentary elections: an analysis of the Swedish Sámi electorate”

— “Sametinget och rätten till självbestämmande [The Sámi Parliament and the right to self-determination]”


Current research projects

The Sámi audiovisual collection – films and TV programs in archives and on line (this project is a collaboration between two research environments (Vaartoe – Centre for Sami Research at Umeå University, and the Department of Political Science at Stockholm University), and four cultural institutions: two with responsibility for Sámi culture (the Sámi Parliament, and Ájtte, the Swedish Mountain and Sámi Museum) and two with responsibility for the Swedish audio-visual cultural heritage (the Royal Library and the Swedish Film Institute). Principal investigator is  Patrik Lantto, Vaartoe, Umeå University, and the project is funded by the Swedish Research Council (2019-2021), total sum 13 124 000 SEK).

The last three decades we have witnessed a growing global acknowledgement of indigenous peoples’ rights, manifested in the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The adoption of the declaration indicated that existing individual and minority rights were inadequate to protect the interests of indigenous peoples. Moreover, it established that indigenous peoples are equal to other peoples within international law, and as such indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. An important part of self-determination is the right of indigenous peoples’ to their own culture and cultural heritage. The UNDRIP states, for instance, that indigenous peoples have the right to “practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature”, and they have the right to “maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions […]” (UN 2007, Art. 11, 31).

Sweden has today recognised the Sámi as an indigenous people and voted – together with 143 other countries – for the UNDRIP in the UN General Assembly. In a historical perspective, however, the relationship between the Swedish state and the Sámi in Sweden has been characterised by a hierarchical approach based on stereotypes, exoticism and notions of a superior versus an inferior culture. In Sweden, this outlook provided the basis for and was institutionalised by means of the first reindeer pasture laws of 1886 and 1898. The history of film media coincides with the reindeer pasture laws from the late 19th century, but studies on how depictions of the Sámi people and Sámi culture in film media – and later also in television – helped to form the Swedish majority view of the Sámi, and how it affected the Sámi themselves, their self-image and their relationship with Swedish society are rare. Despite the importance of the moving image as a means of presenting Swedish history and culture during the 20th century, there thus exists no comprehensive charting or study of the films and TV programs that depict the Sámi people and Sámi culture. The extent of the material is unknown, and research is impeded by the diffuse nature of the archive administrators (e.g. municipalities, foundations, and companies), the activities of which are subject to different laws, regulations and directives. There are additionally both technical and legal obstacles (especially rights issues) and commercial reasons that present an obstacle to making the material available.

The development of audio-visual forms of cultural representation during the 20th century was until the last decades dominated by the Swedish majority society. The Sámi rarely got to speak for themselves, and with only minor exceptions films and TV programs were produced, distributed, shown and reviewed by non-Sámi. Early film, e.g., confirmed and perpetuated the dominant Swedish conception of the Sámi as nomadic reindeer herders – the exotic stereotype – excluding many groups within Sámi society. When constructing an infrastructure on the Sámi audio-visual cultural heritage there are, therefore, good reasons to distinguish between “films about Sámi produced by non-Sámi” and “films about Sámi by Sámi”. One fundamental question in this project is thus how films and TV programs made by actors in the Swedish majority society may be transformed into a Sámi cultural heritage as part of the Swedish cultural heritage.

The AIM of this three-year project is to create an infrastructure for the Sámi audio-visual cultural heritage, i.e. to survey, catalogue, digitise and make available films and TV programs about the Sámi people and Sámi culture. This will be achieved by making an inventory of films and TV programs, quality-assuring the material’s metadata, and by creating a searchable digital sub-database to Svensk mediedatabas (SMDB, administered by the National Library of Sweden, KB) – the “Sámi audio-visual collection” – made available primarily for research through a net-based access from the search service SMDB. Some of the audio-visual material will also be made available to a wider audience through (a collaboration between KB and the Swedish Film Institute, SFI) and Öppet arkiv (Swedish public service television company, SVT). To make the audio-visual heritage available raises, however, different ethical issues, e.g. how to avoid recreating the prejudices and stereotypes the majority society has produced throughout history, and how to make this project relevant for the Sámi community. The project is thus divided into four parts: 1) Creating an inventory; 2) Metadata; 3) Promoting availability; and 4) Ethical issues.

The project is a collaboration between two research environments (Vaartoe – Centre for Sami Research at Umeå University, and the Department of Political Science at Stockholm University), and four cultural institutions: two with responsibility for Sámi culture (the Sámi Parliament, and Ájtte, the Swedish Mountain and Sámi Museum) and two with responsibility for the Swedish audio-visual cultural heritage (KB and SFI). Making the Sámi audio-visual heritage available for researchers would create a foundation for future research from wide a range of academic disciplines, e.g. archaeology, history, film, political science, geography, ethnography, and on topics such as the effects of climate change and the use of natural resources within the traditional Sámi settlement area. Moreover, making this heritage available is also of great importance in a wider societal context, since it will facilitate an opportunity for the Sámi to control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, and traditional cultural expressions, as well as promote the majority society’s understanding of and knowledge about the Sámi and their culture as part of the Swedish cultural heritage

Who are “We, the People”? Popular sovereignty in national constitutions and the challenge of indigenous peoples (principal investigator, with Ludvig Beckman, Kirsty Gover and Sofia Näsström, funded by the Swedish Research Council 2016-2018)

A central idea in modern democracies is that the coercive powers of the state are legitimate only if they derive from the people. The significance of this idea can be found in the numerous constitutional documents where popular sovereignty is highlighted as key principle, or where “we the people” is declared the ultimate source of the constitutional order. But in recent decades, “the people” itself has become a controversial. A variety of groups compete today for the title of the sovereign people. The people as the ultimate source of public power is challenged both by eroding faith in nationalism as a unifying force in plural societies and by different groups’ mobilization for self-determination. Indigenous peoples are a case in point, a critical case, as the right to self-determination challenges the unified understanding of “the people” in popular sovereignty.

This project studies the problem of the people in popular sovereignty empirically as well as theoretically by distinguishing between constitutional self-definitions of the people and popular self-definitions of the people. The former refers to the legally defined people, its attributes and powers, whereas the latter refers to acts by individuals and groups to constitute themselves as collective entities. Varieties of these distinct and often conflicting conceptions of the people are studied by the collection of three unique sets of data including: (i) descriptions and categories of the people in national constitutions; (ii) the recognition and rights of indigenous peoples in national constitutions; and (iii) rules of membership in tribal and indigenous constitutions.

The project contributes to constitutional and democratic theory by addressing three distinct challenges to the ideal of popular sovereignty. First, the problem of self-definition holds that peoples are never able to define themselves but are always the creations of exercises of public power. What is the status of the people as the source of normative legitimacy given the problem of self-definition? Second, the problem of sovereignty concerns the conflicting aspirations of national and indigenous peoples towards popular sovereignty. Is the ideal of popular sovereignty viable given the challenges of indigenous people to existing constitutional definitions of the people? Third, the problem of liberal equality concerns the tensions between the values of nondiscrimination and equal treatment, on the one hand, and indigenous/tribal attempts towards self-definition, on the other hand. Are rules of membership based on kinship, decent or genealogy consistent with the defining values of liberal democracy?

The project generates new knowledge by systematically exploring – on the basis of a unique data collection – the problem with the people in national and indigenous peoples’ constitutions. The focus on the problem of popular sovereignty contributes to previously ignored issues in democratic and constitutional theory. The project also generates important results from a social point of view when it gives us new knowledge about the formal status and rights for indigenous peoples in the world, and how their continuing struggle for recognition is established by constitutional politics.

The Limits of Sámi Politics: Inside and Outside of the Sámi Polity (with colleagues from Norway and Sweden, principal investigator Jo Saglie, funded by the Norwegian Research Council 2017-2019)

The project explores different degrees of attachment to the Sámi polity in Norway and Sweden: Who are inside and outside of the Sámi polity? To what extent are boundaries drawn between those who are included in the Sámi polity, and those who are not? One main theme is people who have an attachment to the Sámi community, but have not enrolled on the Sámi Parliament's electoral roll, or do not meet the criteria to do so. When the Sámi Parliaments were established, it was necessary to make a distinction between those who had the right to register as voters and participate in Sámi politics, and those who had not. We will carry out qualitative interviews and study media content, in order to explore attitudes towards this issue in the Sámi public debate, among the non-enrolled Sámi themselves, and among political actors.

Another main theme is the varying degree of Sámi attachment among those who have enrolled on the Sámi electoral roll. This is done by means of quantitative voter surveys. We ask to what extent the increasing urbanization leads to a weaker attachment to the Sámi polity, and to conflicts between the urban Sámi and the Sámi in the traditional settlement areas.

A third theme is the distinction between Sámi and non-Sámi in policy-making, which is increasingly based on statistics. Using qualitative interviews and document studies, we will study the use of Sámi statistics in policy-making, and how the boundaries between "inside" and "outside" are drawn in Sámi statistics.

We compare Norway and Sweden throughout the project. Although Norway and Sweden are similar in many ways, there are major differences in the Sámi policy of the two states, and in the legal basis and authority of the two Sámi Parliaments. The relationship between the Sámi voters and their respective Sámi Parliaments and nation-states also varies between the countries.

The Sámi Parliaments as Representative Bodies: A Comparative Study of the Elections in Sweden and Norway 2013 (principal investigator, with colleagues from Norway and Sweden, funded by Formas 2013-2018)

The last two decades we have witnessed a growing global acknowledgement of indigenous rights, for instance manifested in the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Nordic countries have all responded to Sámi right claims by establishing popularly elected Sámi parliaments to serve as representative bodies of the Sámi people. Research on the parliaments’ position and function within the Sámi communities is, however, rare. The aim of this project is to analyse and compare the Sámi parliaments’ position and function within the Sámi communities in Sweden and Norway.

The comparative approach will generate new knowledge on both the Sámi parliaments’ position in respective country and on the impact of different institutional arrangements on the political mediation and representation of Sámi interests. A contemporary perspective is, however, not enough in order to understand the differences between the parliaments - a historical analysis of the Sámi movements’ political mobilisation and the political strategies chosen are decisive for our understanding of contemporary politics and the Sámi parliaments’ position today. The project thus consists of three parts: (i) to gather and make available information/statistics connected to earlier elections to the Sámi parliaments; (ii) to carry out an election study of the elections to the Sámi parliaments in Sweden and Norway in 2013; and (iii) to accomplish historical analyses of the political strategies of the Sámi movements in Sweden and Norway.


Previous projects (title)

Globalisation and New Political Rights. The Challenges of the Rights to Inclusion, Self-Determination and Secession (with Ludvig Beckman and Jouni Reinikainen, funded by The Swedish Research Council 2009-2016).

Indigenous rights to self-determination: The Institutional Design and Policy Process of the Swedish Sami Parliament (principal investigator, funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond 2009-2014)

Presumptions for Equality (with professor Kristina Boréus, funded by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions 2004-2006).

The Inner Boundary of Democracy – the Construction of Immigrants in Swedish Politics (principal investigator, funded by The Swedish Research Council 2001-2003).

Conceptions of Samihood in Swedish Sami Policy 1883-1997 (doctoral project, funded by the Faculty of Social Sciences, Stockholm University 1995-1999).