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Published: 06 Feb, 2017

Extractive industries have negative impacts on Indigenous peoples

NEWS Extractive industries affect Indigenous peoples in Sweden and Australia, and Indigenous group’s perspectives are often ignored or trivialised, according to a dissertation by Kristina Sehlin MacNeil. She has collaborated with Indigenous organisations in developing concepts that include Indigenous peoples’ perspectives on conflicts and power relations.

Text: Per Melander

The doctoral dissertation compares situations for Laevas čearru, a Sami reindeer herding community in northern Sweden and Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners, an Indigenous people in South Australia. Both groups identify various forms of violence caused by extractive activities on their lands as threats to their societies, livelihoods and cultures. Furthermore, the results show that in order to address violence against Indigenous peoples and improve processes of conflict transformation, Indigenous and decolonising perspectives should be heard and taken into account.

“By illuminating asymmetrical conflicts and power relations between Indigenous groups and extractive industries and by highlighting Indigenous peoples’ perspectives, a better foundation for inclusive dialogue and conflict transformation can hopefully be achieved,” says Kristina Sehlin MacNeil, doctoral student at Vaartoe – Centre for Sami Research at Umeå University.

As a part of Umeå University’s Industrial Doctoral School, Kristina Sehlin MacNeil, with the mentorship of the Swedish Sami Organisation, Sámiid Riikkasearvi, has also developed methods and analytical tools aimed to make the research more relevant for the communities it concerns. In her study, Kristina Sehlin MacNeil has used Indigenous and decolonising methodologies to centre the research participants’ perspectives and create space for their voices.

Adapting model for violence

Kristina Sehlin MacNeil has adapted the Violence Triangle, developed by Norwegian peace researcher Johan Galtung, in order to understand the conflicts and power relations. The model includes structural violence (unfair social structures), cultural violence (discriminating attitudes) and direct violence (physical violence).

“As the model didn’t allow for the type of violence that the Sami and Aboriginal research participants experience when their lands are destroyed by extractive industries, I introduced the term extractive violence, to replace direct violence. Extractive violence is a concept that illuminates how extractivism impacts Indigenous peoples negatively and how this is often ignored or trivialised,” concludes Kristina Sehlin MacNeil.

What is an extractive industry?

The extractive industry consists of any operations that remove metals, mineral and aggregates from the earth. Examples of extractive processes include oil and gas extraction, mining, dredging and quarrying. Source: BusinessDictionary.

Kristina Sehlin MacNeil comes from Umeå and has a background in communications and conflict studies from the University of South Australia in Adelaide. From an early age, she has been interested in conflicts, particularly in conflict transformation, and has worked and studied in the peace and conflict field for a number of years. In 2014–15 Kristina Sehlin MacNeil was a Visiting Scholar at University of South Australia's David Unaipon College of Indigenous Education and Research. There she worked together with Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners in exploring Adnyamathanha people's resistance to proposed nuclear waste dumps on Adnyamathanha land. After completing her doctoral studies at Umeå University, Kristina Sehlin MacNeil aims to continue researching conflicts and power relations between Indigenous groups and extractive industries. 

Read the digital publication of the dissertation

For more information, please contact:

Kristina Sehlin MacNeil, doctoral student at the Centre for Sami Research, Umeå UniversityPhone: +46 70-293 57 20

Portrait photo for download

About the public defence of the dissertation:

On Friday 17 February, Kristina Sehlin MacNeil, Centre for Sami Research at Umeå University, defends her dissertation in ethnology with the title: Extractive Violence on Indigenous Country: Sami and Aboriginal Views on Conflicts and Power Relations with Extractive Industries.

The public defence of the dissertation takes place at 10:00–12:00 in the Humanities Building, Auditorium F. Faculty opponent is Florian Stammler, research professor, Artic Anthropology at the Artic Center, University of Lapland. Supervisors are Professor Marianne Liliequist, Department of Culture and Media Studies, and Per Axelsson, Centre for Sami Research.

Editor: Anna Lawrence