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From institutionalized othering to disruptive collaboration: A postcolonial analysis of the police force in Greenland

Lotte Holck (Department of Organisation, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark)
Sara Louise Muhr (Department of Organisation, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 5 October 2019

Issue publication date: 21 September 2022




The purpose of this paper is to investigate how the construction and everyday maintenance of racialized psychological borders in the Greenlandic Police Force reproduce a postcolonial hierarchy of knowledge, where Danish knowledge and perceptions of professionalism are constructed as superior to Greenlandic knowledge and perceptions of professionalism.


The paper is based on an ethnographic study comprising 5 days of observation of a training course for Danish police officers going to Greenland on summer assistance, 13 days of observation of police work in Greenland, 2 days of participatory observation of a leadership development seminar in Greenland, 26 interviews conducted in Denmark and Greenland with both Danish and Greenlandic officers and interventions in Denmark and Greenland.


The racialized borders create strong perceptions of “us” and “them”, which are maintained and reinforced through everyday work practices. The borders have damaging effects on the way police officers collaborate in Greenland and as the borders are maintained through (often implicit) everyday micro-processes, management has difficulty dealing with it. However, the way the racialized borders became visible through this research project created an awareness of – and sparked conversation about – the colonial stereotypes that have constructed and reinforce the borders. This awareness opens up possibilities of collaborative disruption of those borders.

Research limitations/implications

The paper shows how racialized borders limit the way professionalism is understood in the Greenlandic Police Force. But it also shows that, because these borders are socially constructed, they can be contested. Making the implicit everyday discrimination explicit through vignettes, for example, offers the chance to contest and disrupt the colonial hierarchy otherwise deeply embedded in the work practices of the police force.


Thanks to unique access to Greenland’s police force, this paper offers exclusive in-depth insights into current processes of racialization and colonialization in a contemporary colonial relationship.



This paper is a part of the research project “Leading Cultural Diversity Ethically” financed by the Ragnar Söderberg foundation (


Holck, L. and Muhr, S.L. (2022), "From institutionalized othering to disruptive collaboration: A postcolonial analysis of the police force in Greenland", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 41 No. 7, pp. 993-1013.



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