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Meet Rasmus Kløcker Larsen, Research Fellow

Meet Rasmus, a researcher at SEI in Sweden who works with natural resource governance. Formerly a lecturer in environmental communication, Rasmus now facilitates dialogues to address land use conflicts. Here he shares how research can create new spaces to tackle controversial issues, and highlights how marginalized voices must be heard to catalyse real change.

Published on 13 March 2019
Rasmus Kløcker Larsen

Rasmus at SEI’s headquarters in Stockholm. Photo: Mischa Andrews / SEI.

What did you do before you joined SEI?

I was teaching at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala. I worked with environmental communication, helping launch a new Masters programme. Actually, I worked part-time at both places for a few years – teaching at Uppsala and doing research at SEI.

What made you want to work here?

There were several reasons, but for one I was attracted to SEI because of its emphasis on practice and policy. It’s more applied, more societally relevant. It’s simply a very dynamic environment where you’re encouraged to engage in real-life issues and work together with people whose lives may be directly affected by our research.

What do you do today?

Most of my work is on natural resource governance, especially land use conflicts. I look at the relationships between Indigenous peoples and communities, and private developers such as the mining industry and wind power operators – as well as state actors and government agencies. How do these actors navigate contested resource decisions when interests and perspectives diverge, basically.

The Sámi flag waves in the foreground, with police in the background.

Sámi blockade and police presence at the protests against the planned mine in Gàllok. Photo: Carl-Johan Utsi.

What does SEI bring to these conversations?

SEI and our partners offer a new way to discuss contentious issues which have gotten stuck. We offer new platforms – it could be a workshop – and new perspectives and analyses. People appreciate our approach that aims to support enhanced collaboration and contribute to change in the near-term, but with a critical eye to power relations and the need for state institutions and industry to become active participants in decolonization.

Could you share a memory that stands out from your work?

We work in close partnership with Sámi reindeer herding communities, and one of the ongoing projects involves facilitating a planning process for communities wanting to develop their own goals for land use. Reindeer herding tends to be a male-dominated livelihood – but in one recent meeting several young women from the community joined. There was an exciting moment in the pre-discussion to the major meeting where they brought up ideas, perspectives and issues that had not been surfaced at the meetings we’d had with larger group of herders. When they brought those ideas into the larger meeting, suddenly the conversation totally shifted. I thought that was fascinating, and it demonstrates the importance of whose voices are heard in these dialogues and within Indigenous groups.

What would you like to achieve in the future?

Together with my collaborators and partners I’d love to contribute to the Swedish government taking Sámi perspectives, knowledges, and rights more seriously.

There’s no doubt that Sweden has to revise legislation to better respect Sámi rights and culture – that’s been said repeatedly by international expert bodies like the UN. There are some exciting new developments taking place now in Sweden and people are becoming increasingly aware, due in part to struggles and court cases led by Sámi organizations. We play only a small role but hopefully we can help contribute to concrete changes soon – in legislation, government practice, and the way industries behave on Sámi lands.

What would you say to someone who’s thinking about applying for a job at SEI?

SEI is a very diverse group of people, but we have a great need for more diversity. From my perspective, working with the questions I work on, we need Sámi researchers. We need other Indigenous researchers, too. If SEI is to offer robust and credible knowledge in situations shaped by still-ongoing colonization of Indigenous peoples, then we must also help decolonize research itself. This can only be done together with Indigenous colleagues.

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