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Published: 2020-11-09

The Industrial Doctoral School is more than just business

PROFILE Kristina Sehlin MacNeil’s strong interest in peace and conflict management led from a master’s degree thesis on how conflicts have been dealt with in indigenous communities to obtain a position as a doctoral studentship at the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation at Umeå University where for four years she studied conflicts between extractive industries and indigenous peoples in Australia and Sweden.

Text: Ingrid Söderbergh
Image: Per Melander

 “The Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation will always be close to my heart,” remarks Kristina Sehlin MacNeil, who was a doctoral student at Umeå University’s Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation from 2012 to 2017.

After obtaining her doctoral degree, Kristina Sehlin MacNeil has chosen to remain within the academic community. Sehlin MacNeil has a postdoctoral position at Vaartoe – Centre for Sami Research at Umeå University and additionally is also Deputy Director of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. Graduate School.

Kristina Sehlin MacNeil is Umebo from birth, her parents were involved in the medical profession, so the university and the university hospital were always present during her upbringing. As a teenager, she wanted to get away from little Holmsund and went as an exchange high school student to Florida during upper secondary school studies. That gave her a taste and whetted her appetite, so she kept travelling.

At the age of 19, she lived in Ireland and became interested in the Northern Ireland conflict, which also led to her studying peace and conflict studies at university and soon got a job at the Åland Islands Peace Institute. After many trips and further travels, she ended up in Australia and there earned a master’s degree in conflict management.

Her master’s degree paper was about the traditional conflict management methods used by indigenous peoples in Australia and Sweden, and Kristina Sehlin MacNeil came into contact with Peter Sköld, then director of Vaartoe – Centre for Sami Research. They kept in touch for many years.  

“In 2011, Peter told me about the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation and about the investment that was made when the Faculty of Humanities was able to establish two doctoral studentships with full funding.

It sounded like an excellent opportunity for me to apply because I wanted Sámiid Riikkasearvi, the Swedish Sami National Association, as a partner organisation,” explains Kristina Sehlin MacNeil. 

The application was successful and she was able to begin her third-cycle studies in autumn 2012. The project was an ethnological, qualitative comparative study of conflicts between extractive industries and indigenous communities in Australia and in Sweden. Kristina Sehlin MacNeil used interviews as a data collection method, as well as peace and conflict research models as an analysis tool.

“I introduced the term ‘Extractive Violence’ in my dissertation, which together with the concepts of cultural and structural violence, constitutes the analysis of the testimony of the research participants. It was clear that the conflicts between extractive industries and indigenous peoples were asymmetric, and that both Sámi and Aboriginal people were systematically subjected to all three forms of violence in contact with extractive industries,” comments Kristina Sehlin MacNeil.  

Sehlin MacNeil stresses how important it was to have the opportunity to have a Sámi organisation as a co-project owner in her PhD dissertation work, thanks to the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation.

“The participation of the Samernas Riksförbund/National Association of Swedish Sami was fundamental to my research and the method I used; I would not have had that possibility with a ‘normal’ doctoral studentship.”

According to Kristina Sehlin MacNeil, the special characteristic of the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation was that the interdisciplinary perspective is really allowed to be at the centre.

“Our small doctoral student group was a form of an oasis where there was no competition among disciplines and where we could talk openly about both problems and successes. I have an interdisciplinary background as it is, but in the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation we had to try to think bigger – how could a chemist, an economist and an ethnologist work together and collaborate? This provided inspiration to think outside the box and not be afraid to think about boundaries between disciplines.

Her experience during her time as a doctoral student was largely positive, rewarding, and above all, great fun.”

“Some of us are still in contact, but unfortunately we lost contact with some after their public disputation and graduation. However a small group remains in contact and we meet up sometimes. One beautiful day we find our research idea where we all fit so that we can work together!”

What advice would you give a person who is considering applying to IDS?

– “Apply! Apply ! Apply ! It is especially so with those in the humanities and social scientists – when one says ‘Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation,’ because of the term ‘företag’ in the name that it refers to companies, many people think it’s just business, but that’s not the case. There are a large number of organisations with potential research projects that can enrich the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation.


Some quick facts:

Lives: in Holmsund, and in Adelaide Australia as often as we can
Family and pets: Has a husband and two daughters, cats Lakrits and Loki, as well as a lot of aquarium fish
Hobbies: Horse riding, animals and nature
Favourite book: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (now more up-to-date and more fun than ever)
Unsuspected talent: Can juggle
I like: Being out in the sun