White Supremacists Have Weaponized an Imaginary Viking Past. It’s Time to Reclaim the Real History https://t.co/4plbnax7bi
The shootings followed the release of materials some have called a manifesto but that has more accurately been called a “media plan.” In it are multiple medieval references, several involving medieval Vikings, which these days function as a signal to white supremacists. Along with much else from the European medieval world, the Viking past is part of the far right’s standard visual and textual imaginary. That vision of a Viking world depends on contemporary digital and filmic popular culture — such as the TV show Vikings and Viking-adjacent video games — as well as on academic and historical sources.
But far-right Viking medievalism is not about historical accuracy. Rather, it’s used to create narratives. So, to resist the medieval narratives that activate violent hate, we must create counternarratives — and to do that, we must understand the real Viking past and how it has been weaponized.
The term “Viking” possibly comes from the Old Norse word víkingr (sea warrior). As Stefan Brink and Neil Price’s The Viking World describes, historically, it referred to seafaring groups who traversed the seas, oceans and rivers to raid, trade and colonize around the 10th and 11th centuries. They established settler colonies across the Mediterranean, Caspian, Black, Arctic and North Atlantic seas and waterways, maintaining a presence in regions ranging from present-day Russia and Europe to the Americas. Crucially, they were not homogeneous seafarers as is often imagined; they were multicultural and multiracial. But until recently, scholarly discussions of the Vikings in relation to race and a Global Middle Ages had been sidelined.
So where does the white supremacist vision of Viking genealogy come from?