State space and reindeer space: New perspectives on land-use conflicts

Theme 1. Environmental protection
Session Name 1.11 Reindeer & caribou in the Arctic system: Interactions between environmental, social and biophysical processes
Presentation Type Oral
Author(s) Gitte du Plessis (University of Oulu, Finland)
Abstract text

What are traditionally labeled land-use conflicts between reindeer herders and logging, mining, and state infrastructure are not merely conflicts between different entities wishing to utilize the same land. Rather, they are clashes between two distinct modes of being in space. The state, and by extension the industries that procure large resources and profit for it, occupy a space by striating it – it builds roads and railroads, clears land, and determines borders. Reindeer on the other hand, and the people who make a living by following the migratory behaviors of reindeer, occupy a space without determining that space, moving through in a smooth manner, holding a vector with unlimited directionality. Building on philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s concepts of smooth and striated spaces, this paper provides a political ecological analysis of the relationships between state spaces and reindeer spaces. By examining for example the Norwegian army’s Mauken-Blåfjell military area, which crosses reindeer pastures, and the proposed “Arctic corridor” railway from Rovaniemi to Kirkenes, the paper describes how state striation activities encroach upon smooth space in sometimes-violent ways. As such, the “benign” colonialism of the Nordic Arctic states involves a spatial attempt to homogenize and monopolize what constitutes living: Life must not get in the way of the state, its security, and its capital.

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