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What causes internal conflict in Indigenous and local communities?

Research project Conflicts within Indigenous and local communities are highly topical and there are several current examples in Sweden where hatred and threats have flared up. Intra-group conflicts are also called lateral violence, this project examines both the effects and underlying causes of lateral violence by exploring the relationship between external pressures and intra-group conflicts. The knowledge generated will be used to formulate recommendations for conflict transformation.

The purpose of this project is to investigate lateral violence (intra-group conflict) in indigenous and local communities on the Swedish side of Sápmi, with special focus on the causes of lateral violence and to formulate methods for conflict management and conflict transformation. The project is based on qualitative case studies in three municipalities on the Swedish side of Sápmi, data is collected through observations and interviews with research participants from Sami and local communities. Causes and effects of lateral violence are then analyzed in a systematic way.

Head of project

Kristina Sehlin Macneil
Other position, research fellow

Project overview

Project period:

2021-12-01 2025-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Várdduo - Centre for Sami research

Research area

Ethnology, Peace and conflict studies, Sami studies

External funding


Project description

Lateral violence occurs within marginalized groups where members strike out at each other as a result of oppression. The term describes how physical and psychological violence is directed at members within one's own group instead of the oppressor and has, among other things, been used to explain so-called "minority on minority violence". Lateral violence stems from a complex mix of cultural, historical and social dynamics and includes a number of behaviors such as gossip; jealousy; bullying; shameing; social exclusion; family feuds; organizational conflict; physical violence; psychological violence and threats of violence.
Indigenous peoples and communities at a global level are currently affected by a number of external pressures, including land grabbing and the destruction of sacred sites and traditional lands, with consequential threats to language, culture and livelihoods. There are no existing studies on lateral violence specifically in Sami or local community contexts in Sweden. In fact, lateral violence within Indigenous groups is a research area in progress that has so far generated a small number of studies. The existing literature on lateral violence in Indigenous communities focuses either on the violence itself or how it affects the community. Thus, there are no studies to date that scientifically examine the relationship between external pressures and lateral violence in Indigenous and local communities. The present project will contribute knowledge about this.
The project asks the questions: What causes lateral violence in Sami and local communities on the Swedish side of Sápmi?; How can lateral violence be handled?; and What specific methods can be used to handle and transform situations where lateral violence occurs in Sami and local communities? Data will be collected through observations and interviews in case studies in three smaller municipalities on the Swedish side of Sápmi. The knowledge generated will form the basis for recommendations for handling and minimizing lateral violence.

External funding

Latest update: 2021-02-19