Abstract and keywords

Ritið 1/13 - 2013

Kristín Loftsdóttir: The Negroboys: Icelandic Exceptionalism, Nationalism and Racism

The nursery rhyme Ten Little Negros was originally published in Iceland in 1922 with drawings by the Icelandic artist Muggur. Its republication in 2007 caused a huge debate in Icelandic society where some criticized its racist content and images while others defended the publication. The article positions these debates within theories of social memory, in order to gain deeper insight into racism in the present, furthermore, situating the debates within critical re-evaluation of scholars in regard to the relationship of the Nordic countries to 19th and early 20th century colonialism. The article maintains that in spite of the strong racism in the rhyme, which is also represented in other Icelandic texts from the same period, it is too simplistic to position the view of those defending the publication as only an expression of racism. The discussion about the republication also revolved about a particular social memory, entangled in ideas of Iceland’s past and history, and as such within Icelandic nationalistic self-image. This social memory reflects how individuals remember their own history and themselves as a part of the Icelandic nation.

Keywords: Racism, nationalism, social memory, Nordic exceptionalism

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