Research Projects – ongoing

Resource Extraction and Sustainable Arctic Communities (REXSAC)

REXSAC is an interdisciplinary Center of Excellence, with partners in all Nordic countries, including Greenland and with partners Canada and Russia. The aim of REXSAC is to contribute to practices and processes that ensure the sustainability of Arctic communities in a rapidly changing social, political, cultural, and ecological environment. REXSAC focuses on extractive industries in the Arctic, seeking to explain what consequences they have for environments and communities in the Arctic, what opportunities exist for extraction based communities to diversify and transition, and how assessments and planning for extractive industries can be improved. REXSAC uses a number of case studies in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Greenland and Svalbard, to understand how lessons from the past can inform decision-making today as well as to compare Arctic experiences with other parts of the world.

In REXSAC, History at Luleå university of Technology collaborates with KTH-Royal Institute of Technology, which is leading REXSAC together with Stockholm University, and 12 other partner institutions in the Nordic countries. The researchers involved work across the humanities, the natural and social sciences. Several communities in the Arctic are involved. REXSAC funds 12 senior researchers, 6 PhD students and a PhD school involving 6 additional PhD students funded from other sources. In addition, over 40 researchers are affiliated with the centre.

Dag Avango is PI of REXSAC together with Ninis Rosqvist at Stockholm University. Dag Avango also lead one of REXSACs 8 research tasks, exploring the role of mining legacies in Arctic communities where mining operations have closed down and under what circumstances such legacies can contribute to sustainability.

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Funding agency: NordForsk

Funding: 28 MSEK

Duration: 2016-2021

PI’s: Dag Avango, LTU/KTH and Ninis Rosqvist, Stockholm University

Project participants at LTU: Dr. Annika Nilsson, Unit of history

Project participants at other universities:

10 senior researchers, 12 PhD students and about 40 senior researchers at 15 universities and research institutes in the Nordic countries.

Link to REXSAC home page.

Mining heritage as a resource for sustainable communities

With the aim to contribute to sustainable development in the Arctic, this project examines how legacies from mining have been handled in Arctic parts of the Nordic countries and why, and under what circumstances such legacies have contributed to sustainability after closure.

History at LTU conducts this project in close cooperation with the Nordic Centre of Excellence REXSAC – Resource Extraction and Sustainable Arctic Communities. At the heart of the project is the material remains of mining, from ecological impacts, waste rocks and tailings to operational equipment, infrastructures and built environments that persist long after the end of mining. In the extraction based regions in the Nordic Arctic there are examples of widely differing approaches to these legacies, from large scale environmental remediation schemes, to active re-use for new purposes, or abandonment, decay and passage out of memory.

In this project, researchers from Luleå University of Technology, KTH-Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm University and the Institute for Arctic Landscape Research (INSARC) at the Silver museum in Arjeplog cooperate to explore how such legacies of mining have been handled in different parts of the Arctic and why. We use approaches from history, archaeology, law, physical geography and cultural heritage studies to explore the role of institutional frameworks, economic factors, the relation of actors to mining legacies, as well as physical and biological processes, in determining the afterlives of mining sites in the Arctic.

Funding agency: Swedish Research Council
Funding: 4.9 MSEK
Duration: 2017-2022
PI: Dag Avango
Project participants:
Professor Ninis Rosqvist, Stockholm University
Dr. Malin Brännström, INSARC / Silver museum in Arjeplog
Camilla Winqvist, PhD student, KTH-Royal Institute of Technology

Mining heritage as a resource for sustainable communities: lessons for Sweden from the Arctic

Based on cases studies from mining communities in the Nordic Arctic, the aim of this research project is to explain how and why legacies of mining have become defined and re-used as cultural heritage. The project examines post-mining histories of communities in the northernmost parts of the Nordic countries, including Greenland, in order to inform contemporary discussions on the future of mining communities in northern Sweden. History at LTU conducts this project in close interaction with the Nordic Centre of Excellence REXSAC – Resource Extraction and Sustainable Arctic Communities.

The project primarily focuses on the heritagization of material legacies of mining – from transformed eco-systems to operational equipment, infrastructures for transport and energy, as well as settlements and other built environments. Across the Nordic Arctic, communities have taken very different approaches to mining legacies, where heritage making and incorporation into new economies through tourism or other forms of re-use has been only one out of several possible post-mining histories. We want to explain how, why and under what circumstances mining legacies have been constructed as cultural heritage and used to generate new values for active or former mining communities.

In the project researchers from LTU (Dag Avango) cooperate with scholars from Dalarna University (Albina Pashkevich), using approaches from history, human geography, archaeology and cultural heritage studies. Through archaeological documentation of former mining sites, archive work, and interviews, we explore how different groups interpret and use mining legacies to support different visions for the future of local communities.

Funding agency: Formas
Funding: 3 MSEK
Duration: 2017-2021
PI: Dag Avango
Project participants:
Associate Professor Albina Pashkevich, Dalarna University

CHAQ – cultural heritage in the Antarctic

The aim of CHAQ is to explain how and why heritagization processes take place in the Antarctic. The project explores how actors operating in the Antarctic have handled material remains from past human activities there (e.g. sealing, whaling, scientific research), and how and why remains from the past has been constructed as cultural heritage. An ambition is to contribute to developing approaches and methods that make it possible to handle remains from previous operations in Antarctica as not only an environmental problem but also as a potential resource for the actors who are increasingly using the continent today – the tourism industry and polar research organizations. Our main research questions are the following: how, why and under what circumstances do historical remains in Antarctica become the subject for a) preservation as cultural heritage, b) reuse for new activities or c) destruction / restoration? What approaches have contributed to sustainable development in the Antarctic?

The project consists partly of historical research based on documents in archives. It also consists of anthropological-ethnographic research based on interviews with actors whose task is to deal with historical remains today. Finally, it consists of archaeological research that documents the remains and examines how they have affected the local environment and how other actors in Antarctica have handled them.

At LTU History, Dag Avango participates in CHAQ. Project leader is Dr. Lize-Marie Hansen van der Watt at the Royal Institute of Technology’s Division for the history of science, technology and environment. The project is one of several projects which LTU history leads or participates in, that aims to contribute to sustainable development in the polar regions – the Arctic and Antarctic. Within these projects, researchers from different disciplines work to investigate a) why people during different time periods have chosen to colonize and utilize the polar regions, b) what consequences their activities have had for environments and societies, and c) how to best manage their material and immaterial legacies. The research in CHAQ mainly deal with the third of these research problems, with a focus on Antarctica.

Dec 2019 – Feb 2020, Dag Avango led a Swedish research group within the Swedish-Argentine research expedition CHAQ2020 to Antarctica. The purpose of the expedition was to collect data for CHAQ, but also to contribute with Swedish conservation and documentation expertise to the management of the remains from the First Swedish Antarctic Expedition 1901-1903. CHAQ2020 was a collaboration between Luleå University of Technology, the Royal Institute of Technology, the National Heritage Board and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and the Dirección Nacional del Antártico and Instituto Antártico Argentino in Argentina. It was part of the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat’s Antarctic program and was under the operational leadership of the Argentine Antarctic authorities. The focus was on the remains of the first Swedish Antarctic expedition 1901-1903. That expedition, which was one of the most important in Antarctic history, left behind three buildings on the Antarctic Peninsula – at Snow Hill Island, at Hoppets Bay and on Pauletön. CHAQ uses those three sites as a lens to explore heritagization in the Antarctic.

In March 2021 Luleå university of technology launched a documentary film on the research within CHAQ, in which Dag Avango and Kati Lindström participated.

For more information on CHAQ2020, see our website Melting history.

Funding agency: The Swedish Research Council
Funding: 4.5 MSEK
Period: 2017-2021
Project leader: Dr. Lize-Marie Hansen van der Watt, KTH, Division of history of science, technology, and environment
Project participant at LTU: Professor Dag Avango, unit for history
Project participants at other universities:
Dr. Kati Lindström, Department of Historical Studies of Technology, Science and the Environment, KTH
Dr. Daniela Ligget, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Dr. Ricardo Roura, The Netherlands

Colonial Natural Resources and Swedish Foreign Policy, 1914-1989

This project is funded by the Tercentenary Foundation of the Swedish National Bank (Riksbankens Jubileumsfond) from 2016-2019. The objective is to explore explore the interaction, from a Swedish perspective, between two prominent global trends in 20th century – Political turbulence, especially relations between Europe and the (post)colonial world, and the growth of worldwide natural resource extraction as the material underpinning of industrial development and modernization.

Sweden did not take part in the two world wars and remained a formally non-aligned state in the Cold War, and it did not have any colonies to secede. Yet tensions and turmoil in the global political arena formed the basis for Swedish foreign policy making and, more generally, for the country’s attempts to build friendly and fruitful relations with other parts of the world. Interests and needs for natural resources in Sweden was part of relation building efforts by Swedish actors. Swedish industrial and agricultural production depend on access to various raw materials from abroad – ranging from fossil fuels and alloying metals to fertilizers and agricultural raw materials – but Swedish industrial actors also took active part in – and profited from – the extraction of natural resources especially in (post)colonial regions. The project will explain how and why Swedish actors involved themselves in the hunt for resources they needed.

From this starting point, three researchers at the Division of history of science, technology and environment – Dag Avango, Per Högselius (PI) and David Nilsson – will work on three  related hypothesis: 1) that the increased importance of resources in (post) colonial contexts motivated Swedish governments to support Swedish involvement in resource oriented colonialism, 2) that the Swedish government made use of natural resources as a foreign policy tool to build political relations with resource-rich countries and 3) that Sweden’s neutrality policy and non-aligned status was instrumental in strengthening Swedish (post)colonial resource interests.