Forest fire and indigenous landscape identity (2020)

Dr Andrew Butler, Dr Annette Löf and Dr Sara Holmgren, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Image: Physical effects of a forest fire © Dr Andrew Butler

Project summary

This project aims to investigate the consequences of forest fires in the Swedish boreal forest from the Sami landscape perspectives compared with the dominant discourse. Fire causes dramatic and abrupt landscape change reaching beyond the visible, physical and temporal location of the fire. The research will explore what happens to individuals and communities when landscapes such as these abruptly change and how we can handle the consequences and address these events to support social and environmental justice. With the objective of revealing differences and laying the ground for a pluralistic understanding of landscapes, the project will develop an understanding of what distinguishes Sami boreal landscape identities from the dominant discourse and of important nuances that exist within Sami landscape identities.

Working with the Swedish Sami National Federation (SSR) and their strategic group for land use, a workshop will be held to outline a landscape understanding beyond reindeer herding and how these could be included in the study. This supports a critical and decolonising approach. Whereas reindeer herding is an integral part of Sami culture it has, by a colonial administration, been constructed as the sole bearer of indigenous Sami land rights and political identity. Purposively exploring other Sami relations to the land and landscape, for example through doudji (Sami handicrafts and art), can provide a practical way of challenging the colonially constructed norm of Sami landscape identity.

This transdisciplinary project will focusing on Sami understanding of landscape, mapping and lifting Sami perspectives on forest landscapes; providing nuanced insight into the plurality of boreal forest landscapes and forest fires. It aims to make visible overlooked perspectives that can inform public and institutional preparedness to forest fires, and enable adaptation of forest management practices attuned to the needs and interests of Sami stake and rights holders.

LRG funding will allow for a workshop with members of the Sami community to take place and for the researchers to travel to the field.

Image: Physical effects of a forest fire © Dr Andrew Butler