Invisible Histories and Stories of Progress : Discourses and Narratives in Decision-Making Institutions in Mining Affairs in Sweden

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för arkeologi och antik historia


During the summer of 2013, fierce protests broke out against a test-mining operation in Gállok (Kallak) outside Jokkmokk, Sweden. Environmental activists joined with local indigenous Sámi in the protest. The incident made national and international headlines, resonating with other instances of conflict between mining companies and indigenous peoples around the world. This thesis aims to explore political discourses and historical narratives behind those, and other, protests and tensions in relation to mining between, on the one hand, the Swedish state which express – through various institutions – to be a proud 'mining nation' with a firm environmental legislation, and, on the other, indigenous Sámi in the Swedish north. Using discourse analysis in combination with a novel application of concepts from narrative theory (the concept of masterplots), the narratives and ideologies of the national institutions responsible for decision-making in mining affairs in Sweden – the government, the parliament, and the Mining Inspectorate – are investigated by analyzing various written and verbal sources. The investigation show a coherent trend within the institutions in making the Sámi people, their rights to land and water, and Sweden's colonial history towards them and their land, Sápmi, invisible, misunderstood, and/or belittled. Mining is understood as an evidently vital and typically Swedish industry, fundamental for the rise of Sweden as a modern welfare state, and an industry which 'makes the world better' by providing the necessary raw materials for the (assumed) inevitable progress and benefit of (western) technology and (western) civilization. The exclusion of certain histories allow for a hegemony in which a certain future is naturalized, made out to be unavoidable. Furthermore, the plot structures employed to create and sustain the hegemony draw on several colonial masterplots. The conclusion of this thesis is that the hegemonic discourse sustains a colonial attitude towards Sápmi and the Sámi people, without it ever being expressed nor understood as such.

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