The article

The paper follows the development of the tourism industry in a small, traditional mining town in northern Sweden. It highlights local agency in the diversification process, as well as interpath relations between tourism and mining. Drawing on 21 semi-structured interviews, the paper finds that the two seemingly unrelated paths share the need for a variety of local endowments and in so the dominant mining industry both compete with and support the growing tourism industry. The paper further finds that both private and public actors can exercise change agency, in a region dominated by reproductive agency, and that change agency can widen the room for further actors to exercise change agency.

Linda Stihl, Challenging the set mining path: Agency and diversification in the case of Kiruna, The Extractive Industries and Society, 2022…


Linda Stihl PhD Candidate at the Department of Human Geography and CIRCLE, Lund University


Linda thank you very much for having a coffee break with me, how are you doing?

I’m doing very well, thank you for having me.

We’re both having the same coffee filtered, but actually quite nice in Sweden and this time I want to talk with you about a paper you wrote of challenging the set mining path agency and diversification. Can you please tell me what the paper was about?

Well the paper is based on the observation that we had exclusive tourism growing in an old mining town and I was a bit curious about why that happened because usually we know that it’s easier for regions to diversify into something similar and this was something very different and then also we know that for resource regions in particular it’s difficult to diversify into something completely new, so therefore this is an interesting case to dig into.

I can imagine that thank you for clarifying it, and which ones were your main findings?

Well before saying something about the the findings I want to stress that we need to remember that this is a town with a long mining tradition and that it’s placed in the periphery in the arctic and that it’s dominated by this by a state-owned firm and this kind of sets the context and what’s possible in the region and and those conditions forms informs us that it would logically be quite difficult to change. So the first key finding is that the growth of the tourism industry is actually product of two different processes, both of them starts in the 1980s and 1990s and first of all it’s due to a single entrepreneur who starts a new idea, he builds a nice hotel and with informal networks and with a long-term commitment to the region he builds something new and the industry transforms and it changes the mindset of what’s possible in Kiruna, but then also the local municipality, the organizers the business support structure that they have in order to include the local firms more in the development, so this then tell us that both public actors and private actors can initiate change. A second key thing that I would like to highlight is that once this mindset was changed it was then it created new opportunities for other actors to follow so you can say that change agency actually paved the way for new change agency, which is interesting, and then finally a surprising finding though is that even though we think that tourism and mining industries are very different and in theory we would call them that they’re unrelated because they don’t share competencies or skills or products in any way but when we look into these two industries, there’s actually quite a lot of linkages between the two of them, so the binding industry it supports indirectly the tourism industry to grow for example through infrastructure investments, but then also we can see that they actually compete even though they need different things they still compete over housing and and land and labor and this is due to the fact that it is very small place and it’s far away and that creates a larger competition for the scarce resources that are there.

Wow how interesting and imagine as a PhD candidate this is quite interesting also to do a single paper like that and so congratulations to that I want to know about the personal motivation what drove you to to write this paper.

Well first of all Kirana is a fascinating place there is it’s beautiful and there’s so many complex processes going on at the same time so so my paper only actually looks at a part of what is interesting in character but then I think it’s also have a general research interest, which is based on coming from the Nordics and from Sweden, where we have very large distances we have spores population which creates quite challenging conditions, when you have natural resources in one place maybe and then you have population and in another so a long-term interesting challenge I would say great. Finally could you please tell us where the main policy of implications of your paper based on the under findings? the two key things that I would like to highlight is first that it is possible to create change but it is quite difficult and that it also takes quite a lot of time so in this case I said that change agency paved way for further change agency but this is actually then maybe 10 15 years between these different cycles of change processes so for policy makers, this means that you have to have a long-term agenda and you have to be united behind that and be persistent in actually following these things through. And then second of all so stressing that all actors have agency and this might seem very trivial but it’s quite easy to forget the power that each actor actually have so you might not be able to change everything but as a local municipality or some sort of organization you can map out what can you actually influence so in the mining region you maybe cannot actually influence the mind to a big extent, but you can influence by building new capacities or capabilities so that you together in the community, then build possibilities for new industries.

That’s amazing Linda thank you very much congratulations again I wish you all the best in your PhD in your future career and see you next time in a coffee break, thank you.

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