Meet REXSAC PhD students: Anna-Maria Fjellström
Discover the seventh episode of our Q&A series with REXSAC PhD students. This time meet Anna-Maria Fjellström, PhD student at the department of political science, Stockholm University. Her research explores how different political perceptions and understandings of reindeer herding influence extractive industry decision-making.
What drew you to the area/topic of your studies?
I have since the early stages of my university studies been interested in concepts, knowledge and meaning as a part of environmental policies and decisions about extractive industries. In Northern communities and for many indigenous livelihoods, the management of nature (land) is a significant issue. It is one of the most important resources for economic activity, subsistence, and livelihoods, as well as a vital foundation for culture and identity. It is apparent that many decisions about nature management significantly affect the customary ways of locally organizing the use of nature, and many of these decisions are followed by local disputes, controversies, and conflicts.
There are different reasons for my focus on reindeer herding. It is, for example, central for Sami culture and the organization of local land use has also retained a place in the traditional informal customs in Sapmi. Research about reindeer herding is a field where many different types of knowledge systems meet and it has been explored from several different scientific perspectives.
I grew up in a Sami community where the relations between the surrounding nature, the people and the reindeer were central to my understanding and learning of reindeer herding practices. I have always been inspired by people who are able to navigate and explore the intersection between different systems of knowledge.
What are the objectives of your work?
The interests of mining and renewable energy industries often clash with land use of traditional pastoralist systems, such as reindeer herding. Different political decisions about land use also often constitute an interpretation of which knowledge is relevant and what values are to be promoted. Conflicts around natural resource extraction, therefore, show which perceptions and relations with the land that get visibility. My theoretical interest is in knowledge production, especially in the power aspect. The purpose of my work is to investigate how different political perceptions and understandings of what reindeer herding is, and should be, influence decisions about extractive industries on the same land since the 1970s. I also explore how the role and space of the practice of reindeer herding has been affected and changed during this time period.
How does it support the objectives and work of REXSAC?
My research supports the objectives and work of building a better understanding of how contemporary challenges for reindeer communities and herders are connected to a longer period of land-use intensification and environmental change. My research supports the objectives and work of Research Task 2: “Impacts of multiple pressures on Arctic landscapes and societies”.
What has been your learnings or reflections from the REXSAC field-based coursework?
I really enjoy the multidisciplinary nature of REXSAC which allows us to discuss and understand problems and opportunities from different scientific perspectives. The fieldwork has given us many opportunities to interact with a wide variety of stakeholders, and it has made me interested in how people try to influence decisions through different knowledge claims. As a political scientist I rarely have the opportunity to visit mines and learn about technical possibilities and problems in the way that we have done on these trips. It has taught me a lot about how the landscape is changing through different procedures and what different types of mines have.