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Doctoral thesis, 2023

The Specter of Community : An Ethnographic Exploration of the Local Support for the Kaunisvaara Mine

Landström, Katarina


This dissertation explores the reasons behind local support for the opening of an iron ore mine in the village Kaunisvaara, Pajala municipality, Sweden. The thesis makes a contribution to knowledge by deepening our understanding of mining conflicts in Sweden’s rural north in the twenty-first century. It seeks to answer the following question: What hopes, dreams and expectations do Pajala’s mining proponents wish that the opening of the Kaunisvaara mine will realize?  
In contemporary research, mining conflicts are grasped as the result of conflicting values between mining proponents and mining opponents. Previous research links opposition to mining with valuation of a clean environment, local culture and livelihoods. Meanwhile, local support for mining is linked to a valuation of local economic and demographic growth. However, the notion of value employed in much research is insensitive to the distinction between intrinsic and instrumental values. This has left the values or ends of mining proponents, who see money and development as means to something else, unexplored.  
Although value is acknowledged as being central to mining conflicts, previous research on mining conflicts rarely unpacks the notion of value in detail. By taking a more precisely defined notion of value as its starting point, this thesis offers a deeper understanding of the hopes, dreams and expectations underlying the explicitly stated economic rationales advanced in support for a mine. Empirically, the dissertation adds to the literature on mining conflicts through an ethnographic account of support, rather than resistance, to local mining operations. Theoretically, it offers a starting point for rethinking mining conflicts, and other natural resource conflicts, not primarily as the product of actual, clashing values between different local groups, but as struggles over the very definition of value. In that struggle, the main line of conflict runs not between members of the local community, but between local communities and actors driven by profit maximization.


value; value conflict; anthropological theory of value; mining; mining conflict; alienation; form of life; contradiction; rural development; Pajala; Tornedalen

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2023, number: 2023:61
ISBN: 978-91-8046-174-0, eISBN: 978-91-8046-175-7
Publisher: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences