Intercontinental Flows of Desire: Brass Kettles in Lapland and in the Colony of New Sweden

  • Visa ImmonenEmail author
Part of the Contributions To Global Historical Archaeology book series (CGHA, volume 35)


Colonialism establishes particular and sometimes surprising networks of desire between regions and groups of people. These networks produced new differences and created novel affective attachments and investments involving time and labor. Such a network connected Lapland and the colony of New Sweden in North America to each other. The desire of the Swedish statesmen to find new markets for the copper industry led to the founding of the colony in 1638. Although the venture was never a success, brass kettles were presented to Native Americans as gifts in great numbers, and they were also among the primary trade goods. The situation of New Sweden can be paralleled with the importance of brass kettles among the Sámi in Fennoscandia. As in North America, the cessation of the Sámi pottery tradition is associated with the adoption of brass kettles. Brass kettles were adapted to the native material culture and attached to different environments, practices, and values through the process of commodification. Their colonial and European macro-movements were met with conflicting micro-movements in the native lives. Kettles were invested with distinct social values and employed as currency, but they were also used in cooking, and buried with certain members of the native communities. These various ways in which kettles circulated among the native groups show how the colonial desire instituted shifting formations of value. In effect, brass kettles gave form to the desires of hunter-gathering cultures, made their subsistence strategies more efficient, and contributed to their social change, and thus, as artifacts, they bore transformative possibilities not actualized in European contexts.


Seventeenth Century Material Culture Subsistence Strategy European Trade European Contact 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I would like to thank the Turku Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (TUCEMEMS) for a travel grant which partly enabled me to write the present chapter.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Helsinki Collegium for Advanced StudiesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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