Research Projects – ongoing

Resource Extraction and Sustainable Arctic Communities (REXSAC)

REXSAC is a Nordic Centre of Excellence in Arctic research, funded with 28 million NOK by Nordforsk for 5 years starting in 2016. REXSAC studies extractive resource industries in the Arctic as cultural, social, economic, and ecological phenomena – from analysis of why resource extraction commences, to what consequences it has for communities in the Arctic and beyond, and what opportunities exist for transitioning toward post-extractive futures. REXSAC uses a number of case studies, principally from Sweden, 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. The center is led by KTH Royal Institute of Technology in collaboration with Stockholm University and Stockholm Environment Institute, and includes 12 partner institutions in the Nordic countries, Canada and Russia. The researchers involved work across the humanities, the natural and social sciences. In addition several communities in the Arctic are involved.

Researchers in REXSAC cooperate in 10 different research tasks. I am leading a research task aiming to explore under which circumstances legacies of mining (material and immaterial) can be turned into a resource for building post-industrial futures in Arctic mining regions. The main research questions are how do de-industrialized mining regions deal with the remains of previous mining activities and why? How, when and under which circumstance can communities use remains of previous mining activities, as for example resources for tourism, for new purposes (economic, cultural etc) or as heritage, i.e. anchor points for narratives and understandings of the past(s) and its relations to the present. I am also participating in research tasks studying the history of EIA and SIA legislation for mining and scenarios as a tool for co-production of knowledge. In addition I am responsible for researcher training in executive committee of REXSAC.

Link to REXSAC home page.

Mining heritage as a resource for sustainable communities

The research project Mining heritage as a resource for sustainable communities, was started on January 1, 2017 and will end on the December 31 in 2020. The project is funded by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) with 4,9 MSEK.

The project examines the legacies of mining in the context of communities around the Nordic regions of the Arctic in order to inform contemporary discussions on the future of mining communities in the Nordic Arctic. The project is conducted within the framework of REXSAC – Resource Extraction and Sustainable Arctic Communities, mentioned in the above. At the heart of this research project is the material remains of mining, from ecological damage to operational equipment and infrastructures, that persist long after the end of activities and the end of mining-generated income. Mining sites are often sites of cultural memory, central to the identity of the communities that depended upon them. Yet different communities have taken very different approaches to these legacies, from actively interpreting them as industrial heritage, using them as a basis for new economies, to leaving them as non-economic places of local memory.

In this research project researchers from KTH (Dag Avango, Peder Roberts and PhD student Camilla Winqvist) and Stockholm University (Ninis Rosqvist) cooperate to explore how communities in the Arctic can handle the material and immaterial legacies of mining when building post-industrial futures. We use approaches from industrial and cultural heritage studies, history and archaeology to physical geography to understand how communities can deal with legacies of mining – societal as well as environmental. Through field research, archive work, and interviews with stakeholders, we explore how even the most physically resistant mining legacies are constantly open for reinterpretation by different groups and thus able to support different visions for the future of local communities. With mining in the Arctic a subject of intense contemporary debate, and the future of mining communities in Norrbotten under considerable scrutiny, lessons from around the Arctic can help inform responsible decision-making.

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

The research project “Mining heritage as a resource for sustainable communities: lessons for Sweden from the Arctic”, was started on January 1, 2017 and will end on the December 31 in 2019. The project is funded by the Swedish Research Council Formas, with 3 MSEK. The project is conducted within the framework of the above mentioned Nordic Centre of Excellence REXSAC – Resource Extraction and Sustainable Arctic Communities.

In a manner strongly related to the above mentioned research endeavour, this  project examines the legacies of mining in the context of communities around the northern parts of the Nordic countries, in order to inform contemporary discussions on the future of mining communities in northern Sweden. The material remains of mining, from ecological damage to operational equipment and transport infrastructure, persist long after the end of activities and the end of mining-generated income. Mining sites are often sites of cultural memory, central to the identity of the communities that depended upon them. Yet different communities have taken very different approaches to these legacies,
from actively incorporating them into new economies (tourism in particular) to leaving them behind with no further consideration.

In this project researchers from KTH (Dag Avango and Peder Roberts) cooperate with scholars from Dalarnas Högskola (Albina Pashkevich in particular), using approaches from industrial and cultural heritage studies in addition to history and archeology to understand the conditions under which Arctic mining legacies become particular resources for
local communities. Through field studies, archive work, and interviews with stakeholders, we explore how even the most physically resistant mining legacies are constantly open for reinterpretation by different groups and thus able to support different visions for the future of local communities. In comparison to the above mentioned project, this research project focuses less on environmental legacies of mining and more on the development of mining tourism and heritage tourism.

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.

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.

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 is funded by the Swedish Research Council (2013-2015). It investigates 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 aims 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 kth.se