Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Second Week at KTH; 8-12 June

This series of posts shares field notes from the study abroad course "Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic." The course begins at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, and then students from the University of Illinois and KTH travel north to conduct research in the Arctic. This blog was originally posted on KTH's Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic webpage.

by Klara Bergman and Skylar Lipman

The start of our second week was packed with interesting lectures and seminars, preparing us for our trip to the Arctic. On Monday Dag Avango talked about Sweden in the Arctic, with a focus on colonization and industrialization. It felt incredibly important to get an overview of the history of the Swedish Arctic - even for the Swedes! The afternoon continued with a lecture by Mark Safstrom from University of Illinois about Arctic narratives. We had read “The Norse Myths” and “The Vinland Sagas” and discussed them in class. It is nice to look at the Arctic from all perspectives: culture, science and history. The course is becoming richer and we are learning so much.

This is one of many examples of creativity in the subway stations. Each station represents characteristics of the surrounding area. This piece from Universitetet represents some of Carl von Linne’s work, which has been important in our studies.

On Tuesday we started out with a lecture by Rebecca Lawrence from University of Stockholm. She discussed the treatment of indigenous peoples in Sápmi and Australia, in connection to natural resource extraction. She had also prepared a role-play exercise for us where we were divided in two groups; one group representing a mining company wanting to open a mine and one group representing a Sámi community living near the mine site. The discussions that followed were heated, to say the least. This certainly made us think about how resource extraction is a tricky matter and how important it is to include and listen to indigenous groups that are affected by the industry. Later in the afternoon we had a lecture with Annika Nilsson from SEI (Stockholm Environment Institute) regarding governance in the Arctic. This showed how very complex the matter of governance is in an area like the Arctic.

Discussions during group work in class during this week.
The second half of the week was filled with more lectures as well as a few outings. Dag Avango discussed the actor-network theory, which helps to thoughtfully organize resources required to reach goals. These actor networks include a handful of key components, including network builders (those who organize the network itself), actors (participants who can represent/speak for themselves), and actants (resources, including people, who are represented by someone else). We learned more about this theory by applying it to a few case studies, such as the current situations in Malmberget, Kiruna, and Aitik. We are excited to experience these places first-hand very soon! Interesting “food for thought” that developed through this conversation is the idea that the environment may be considered a structure (more of a static resource) or/and an actor, as the environment certainly responds to happenings such as mines, fishing, etc.

The lectures later in the week also discussed the applications of heritage sites. For instance, retired and abandoned mines, whaling stations, and a great many more examples which may be used as heritage sites to legitimize state sovereignty claims, further historical and archaeological research, and attract tourism. We also read Carl von Linné’s “Tour in Lapland” and continued our discussions with Mark about narratives and depictions of nature and people.

The students and professors got to know each other a bit better this week. Students got together to barbeque, get lunch, celebrate a birthday, and travel to Uppsala. Thanks to the many people we’ve encountered for a wonderful week!


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