This summer, Nordic Folklife Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Sallie Anna Pisera united her interests in Scandinavian and East African area studies at the 14th Congress of the Somali Studies International Association, hosted at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. The conference attracted scholars from Somalia, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark as well as from Ethiopia, Sudan, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, UK, Turkey, and the US for papers on the theme “Diaspora, Development, and Strengthened Social and Political Stability in the Horn of Africa.”
Sallie Anna presented “A Dwelling for Living Heritage and Memory: Presentation of an Aqal Soomaali in Museum Setting,” which discussed her work with the Somali Museum of Minnesota and their use of a traditional nomadic dwelling in their exhibitions and programs. Her paper also drew connections between dwelling presentation at the Somali Museum and the “living museum” approach of many Scandinavian and Scandinavian American cultural institutions.
Many conference papers discussed the Somali-Scandinavian world, such as presentations about opportunities and challenges within refugee education in Scandinavia and discussions of Somali cultural and intellectual life in the Nordic countries. Other papers were a product of collaboration between Somali and Scandinavian scholars, or featured studies by Somali researchers working out of institutions in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The presence of faculty and administrators from the Somali National University in Mogadishu, Somalia’s only publicly-run university, and an in-person keynote speech by Somali Minister of Education Dr. Farah Sheikh Abdulkadir on the importance of scholars and researchers in rebuilding the Somali state reinforced the significance of this venue for intellectual life in Somalia and the diaspora.
Following the conference, Sallie Anna continued on to Oslo, where she conducted a survey of the presentation of immigrant and minority heritage in exhibitions at public museums. Now back in Madison, Sallie Anna is working on a collaborative project with the Somali Museum of Minnesota and Pioneer Village in Barron, Wisconsin, which will bring Somali and Scandinavian traditional arts into conversation through public events presented for these cultural communities which have become uniquely transnational neighbors in Scandinavia and in the Upper Midwest.