Var Ísland nýlenda?.
Á síðari hluta 19. aldar skiptu nokkur Evrópuríki stórum hlutum heimsins á milli sín í svokölluðu nýlendukapphlaupi. Þannig lenti Afríka nær öll og stórir hlutar Asíu á nokkrum áratugum undir beinum yfirráðum nýlenduveldanna. Samhliða þessu þróuðu nýlenduherrarnir kerfi þekkingar um heiminn, þar sem nýlenduveldunum, „Evrópu“, var lýst sem fulltrúum siðmenningar og nútíma en nýlendurnar töldust ósiðmenntaðar og því eðlileg viðföng evrópskra yfirráða. Hér er fjallað um hvernig Ísland fellur að þessu kerfi nýlendustefnunnar og um leið hvort hægt sé að nota sjónarhorn svokallaðra eftirlendufræða til rannsókna á sögu Íslands á síðustu tveimur öldum.
“WAS ICELAND A COLONY?" In recent years, scholars inspired by postcolonial theories have criticised Icelandic historians for not recognising Iceland’s colonial status in the past. This criticism is, it is argued here, based on a misunderstanding of both Iceland’s constitutional status in the Danish monarchy and the 19th-century political debates on Iceland’s relations with Denmark. Thus, neither the Danish authorities nor advocates of Icelandic nationalism saw Iceland as a colony, as the former treated Iceland as an integral part of the Danish state while the latter viewed it as an equal partner in a composite monarchy. This does not mean, however, that Iceland was untouched by 19th-century colonialism, because colonialism was not only a military and political strategy, but also a system of cultural power based on accepted norms of knowledge. In this system the world was divided into “civilised” and “uncultivated” parts; or into “us” and “them”, “Europe” and the “other”. This happened through various discursive schemes, including travel accounts of visits to exotic places. There European tourists and explorers described the living conditions and behaviour of “uncivilised” peoples to their European readers, confirming at the same time the civility of those who were seen as really European. Here two 19th-century travel accounts are used to demonstrate how Iceland was treated in literary works of this kind. One was written by the Austrian globetrotter Ida Pfeiffer, who visited Iceland in 1845, the other by a French traveller, Victor Meignan, who traversed the country sometime in the 1880s. Their descriptions of Iceland and Icelanders are quite similar, as they both contrast Iceland to the “civilised” world — or to “Europe” — while they compare the Icelanders to well-known “rude” peoples such as Bedouins and Greenlanders. In the colonial dichotomy, Iceland was therefore classified as a colony, whatever its actual political status was.