Research projects – previous

1. Mistra Arctic Sustainable Development Program (MASD)

In this program KTH ‘s Div of history of science, technology and environment cooperates with Arcum at Umeå University as well as SEI, SIPRI and the Higher School of Economics (HSE) at St. Petersburg. The objective of the program is to provide a contextual and analytical framework for understanding the conditions for sustainable development in the European Arctic. To achieve this we study how and why natural resources, as well as laws and regulations for resource exploitation, has been constructed and have changed over time, and how and why Arctic communities has responded to those changes. Within the framework of this project, my research focuses on how and why the institutional arrangements for large scale natural resource exploitation in the European Arctic has emerged and changed, and how local communities in the Arctic can manage deindustrialization and the material remains of large scale natural resource exploitation. The program will run until April 2018.

Link to MASD home page.

2. Sweden and the Origins of Global Resource Colonialism: Exploring a Small Country ‘s Natural Resource Interests in Africa, Caucasia and the Arctic, 1870-1930

This project was funded by the Swedish Research Council (2013-2015). It investigated the role of Swedish actors in the emergence of the global resource colonialism in the period, focusing on three colonial arenas where both the Swedish government and private Swedish companies have been active – the Arctic, Africa and the Caucasus. During the period we are studying, Europe became an industrial center and several European states took colonies in Africa and Asia in order to gain access to natural resources and export markets. Sweden had no such colonies, but gained access to resources and markets in other ways. The project aimed to investigate how Swedish actors acted in this context and why. We believe that some of the main characteristics of the Swedish way of interacting with other players in terms of global resources were established during this period.

Project description at

3. Assessing Arctic Futures: Voices, Resources and Governance (2011-2014)

This project was funded by Mistra (The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research) and formed a part of this funding agencies research program Arctic Futures, which aimed to build competence in Sweden in human and social science polar research, and generate policy-relevant knowledge about the changes in the Arctic.

The project studied future visions about the Arctic from a meta-perspective. How do different actors construct future visions of the Arctic and why? Which future visions are realized and why? Inspired by actor network theory, we analyzed future visions about the Arctic both as projects which actors (companies, politicians, scientists, local people) try to realize by building actor networks, and as a form of narrative which actors produce and use to enroll allies to these actor networks. My research within this project focused on a) the production of Arctic future visions by industrial companies and b) on how competing actors in the Polar Regions uses history and heritage to create new futures.

4. LASHIPA – Large Scale Industrial Exploitation of Polar Areas (2007-2011)

The LASHIPA project was a historical-archaeological research project within the framework of the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-08. Its objective was to explain the development of industry in the polar areas from the 17th century until today and the consequences of that development for the geo political situation and the natural environment in the Polar Areas. In this project, the Div of history of science, technology and environment cooperated with university departments and research institutes in the Netherlands, USA, Russia, Norway and Great Britain. The LASHIPA project broke away from the national frameworks so common in Polar history, by seeking explanations and understandings from an international comparative perspective. The project dealt with research problems concerning a) the driving forces behind industrial development in the polar areas, b) the transfer of technology and community planning to polar environments, c) international competition over natural resources and d) international competition for national influence over polar no-mans lands.

I was the coordinator of the LASHIPA project, while based at the time at the Arctic Centre at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, in cooperation with the LASHIPA PI Professor Louwrens Hacquebord. I worked on two sub-projects within the LASHIPA project, described in the sections below.

Funding: The Dutch Science Council (NWO), the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet, VR) and the National Science Foundation in the USA (NSF)

4.1. Green Harbor, Spitsbergen and the international history of exploitation of the polar areas (2007-2011)

The objective of this LASHIPA sub-project was to produce general explanations to the development of industry in the polar areas, from an international comparative perspective. The point of departure was a number of industrial projects within whaling and mining at Green Harbor / Grönfjorden at Svalbard from the 17th century to the present, which we compared with other projects at Svalbard in the Arctic, and South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula Area in the Antarctic. The sub-project dealt with research problems concerning the driving forces behind resource utilization in the Arctic and Antarctica, the interaction between companies and national governments in the competition over natural resources and national influence in the polar areas, and the strategies of industrial companies when establishing stations in extreme polar environments.

4.2. Rituals and symbols in the struggle over the polar areas and their natural resources (2007-2011)

The objective of this sub-project within LASHIPA was to study the relation between industrial activities in the polar areas and the geo-political situation there. In contrast to much of previous research on the political history of the polar areas, this project studied the role of symbolic and ritual activities which competing actors conducted in the landscapes of the Arctic and Antarctic, in order to secure claims to natural resources and political influence (for themselves and / or their national governments). A central hypothesis was that these activities, historically and in the present, have been of special importance for the development of the international power relations in the polar areas.

The project focused on two former no-man’s land regions in the polar areas where the struggle for natural resources and political influence have been substantial – Spitsbergen / Svalbard in the Arctic and the Antarctic Peninsula area in the Antarctic. A third case study concerned South Georgia, an island in the Sub-Antarctic claimed by Great Britain and Argentina. The research was based on archival as well as archaeological sources. Theoretically, the project used the concepts of “rituals of possession” (Seed, Sörlin and Bravo) and Actor Network Theory (Latour, Law, Callon).

4.3. Archaeological field investigations of whaling stations at South Georgia and Deception Island, within the framework of the LASHIPA project (2009-2010)

This project consisted of two archaeological field expeditions to Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic, which constituted central parts of the data collection for two sub-projects of the LASHIPA project. The first was entitled ”The 20th century whaling stations at Finneset, Green Harbour (Svalbard), Deception Island (Antarctica) and Prince Olav Harbour (South Georgia); a historical-archaeological comparative study”. In this project PhD student Ulf Gustafsson seeks to explain how and why the modern whaling industry in the Arctic and Antarctic developed in the opening decades of the 20th century, and what consequences it had for the geopolitical situation there and for the natural environment, using four whaling stations in the Arctic and Antarctic as case studies. The second project is “Rituals and symbols in the struggle over the polar areas and their natural resources”, described in the above. We used the field investigations to generate sources which we could use to answer questions on how actors from different nations, in different time-periods and geographical circumstances, used symbols and rituals to secure political influence and control over natural resources. Moreover, the archaeological evidence was used to answer questions concerning the strategies of industrial companies when adapting their technology, methods and settlement planning to the environmental and political conditions in the Polar Areas.

5. Swedish Arctic Mining – between industry, science and diplomacy (1999-2005)

This research project was part of a larger research program called the VTI-project (Vetenskaplig forskning, Teknisk utveckling och Industriella förnyelse / Scientific research, technological development and industrial renewal), funded by the Tercentenary fund of the Swedish National Bank. Within this program I conducted PhD student education and wrote my PhD these: “Sveagruvan – svensk gruvhantering mellan industri, diplomati och geovetenskap” [“The Svea mine – Swedish Mining Between Industry, Diplomacy and Geo-science”].

The objective of the VTI project was to critically examine the so called linear model – a common way of explaining industrial growth in which scientific research is seen the major driver of technological development and subsequently industrial growth, in a linear fashion. In my theses I studied the relation between geo-scientific polar research in the Arctic and the development of coal mining on Spitsbergen in the 20th century. I showed that this coal mining industry developed not only because of the growth of geo-scientific knowledge, but as a consequence of the energy needs and market conditions in Sweden and Norway, as well as the desire of governments to gain political control over parts the Arctic and its natural resources.

I based my research on a historical-archaeological methodology, combining archival research with archaeological field investigations at mining sites at Svalbard. Within the framework of this research project, I participated in six archaeological field work expeditions, half of them as expedition leader.