Edited by Léo-Paul Dana and Robert B. Anderson
Chapter 17: Entrepreneurs in Greenland
Frank Sejersen Throughout the world, the Inuit have been admired for their ingenious ways of coping with what most non-Arctic people consider a harsh environment of ice and darkness. The history of the Inuit is indeed one characterized by ﬂexibility, innovation, technical engineering and active adaptability – qualities often pointed out as characterising entrepreneurs. Even small technical or social changes and innovations could mean a major diﬀerence for the continuation of the individual or the community. Today, the Inuit often perceive these qualities as a part of their cultural heritage. This perception is challenged by a widespread (primarily colonial and Danish) perception which stresses that the Inuit intrinsically lack such qualities. Greenlanders are often portrayed as lazy, without initiative and a sense of responsibility. A perception like this has helped to legitimise most colonial activities and it has put the initiative solely in the hands of Danes who have played a major role in the development of Greenland since it was colonized in 1721 by the missionary Hans Egede. Some Greenlanders argue against such a position by claiming that their supposed lack of initiative is the result of 250 years of paternal Danish colonisation, which has marginalised Greenlanders in their own country and made them bystanders to a developmental process of titanic proportions. These perceptions are based primarily on cultural arguments: either entrepreneurship is intrinsic to Inuit culture or it is lacking in the culture altogether. Contemporary debates in Greenland often reﬂect these binary positions. However an additional parameter...
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