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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Protected areas and indigenous rights in Sapmi: an agonistic reading of conflict and collaboration in land use planning

Larsen, Rasmus Klocker; Raitio, Kaisa


The recognition of Indigenous Peoples' rights has sailed up as one of the most critical issues in land use planning, globally. In this paper, we use a recent planning process for a national park on traditional Sami territory in northern Sweden to demonstrate how state officials engaged in everyday conservation planning are pivotal in navigating colonial legislation and promoting policy change on Indigenous rights. The analysis contributes, among other, to scholarly debates about the role of conflict in land use planning and the practices of frontline bureaucrats in natural resource governance. Our contribution demonstrates the value of an agonistic lens that attends to the constructive role of conflict in democratic change in pluralistic societies. This concerns both how state officials approach disagreement as well as the way contestation can create novel spaces to promote structural changes towards sustainability and justice. By not assuming collaboration but respectfully seeking it, the state officials succeeded in re-designing a collapsed process to help actors explore larger structural issues around Indigenous rights and government policy. In our agnostic reading, then, contestation should be perceived not as oppositional to the establishment of collaboration but as a necessary, and productive, part of inclusive land use planning.


Protected areas; Indigenous rights; conflict; Sami; agonism

Published in

Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning
2023, Volume: 25, number: 3, pages: 342-354

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG16 Peace, justice and strong institutions

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Social Anthropology
    Public Administration Studies
    Human Geography

    Publication Identifiers


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