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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Negotiating (with) Fire: Contemporary Fire Domestication in Swedish Sapmi

Cogos, Sarah; Ostlund, Lars; Roturier, Samuel


In Sweden, fire management is driven by nature conservation objectives through both regeneration burning, used as a soil preparation method in forestry, and conservation burning in protected forests, aiming to reintroduce fire as an ecological process necessary for the preservation of biodiversity. The burning strategy affects Indigenous Sami reindeer herders who use commercial and protected forestlands as pastures for their reindeer. Fire can have ambivalent effects on reindeer pasture depending on where it occurs. Yet, Sami herders are currently not included in the planning process of burning but for a consultation by forest owners occurring late in the process. In this article, we interpret fire management as a system of fire domestication, understood as continuous interactions between humans and fire. To describe the modalities of contemporary fire domestication, our study draws on semi-structured interviews carried out with Sami reindeer herders, forestry planners, conservation managers, and burning practitioners in different localities of the northernmost counties of Vasterbotten and Norrbotten. We show how the domestication of fire involves a dual negotiation process: a negotiation with fire during the burning process, and a negotiation about fire between Sami herders and forest managers. Burning practitioners conceive fire as an agent rather than a tool, able to produce unique effects in forests and increase their naturalness, which they must steer in order to reach desired ecological results. Through the negotiation of the use of fire, fire domestication stimulates new interactions between Sami herders and forest managers, and constitutes a possible common ground from which new forms of collaboration could emerge. Our study reaffirms the hybrid nature of fire, both natural and cultural, resulting from negotiations with and between the human actors of the domestication system.


fire domestication; boreal Sweden; Sami reindeer herding; forest management

Published in

Journal of Ethnobiology
2021, Volume: 41, number: 4, pages: 499-516

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    • Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG10 Reduced inequalities
      SDG15 Life on land
      SDG16 Peace, justice and strong institutions

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Forest Science
      Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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