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Is the self-read water meter a pro-poor innovation? Kenian experiences by Nilsson and Blomkvist

Just this February, KTH Water Centre director and division member David Nilsson has together with Pär Blomkvist (Mälardalen University, Division of Industrial Economics and Organisation) published a new article in Utilities Policy: “Is the self-read water meter a pro-poor innovation? Evidence from a low-income settlement in Nairobi”.

Profile picture of David NilssonIn this article, both authors engage the topic of access to one of the most critical resources, humans need. In a situation of climate emergency, the situation of access to clean and safe fresh water supply becomes even more difficult for people with low incomes living in regions strongly affected by changes in climatic conditions. Low-income areas in Kenya’s capital Nairobi are among those places.

Nilsson and Blomkvist investigate how the implementation of the Jisomee Mita, a self-reading metering tool initiative which in the eyes of the authors benefits mainly property owners, has been changing this situation. This introduction of a new tool notwithstanding, consumers still stay dependent on overpriced and unsafe water supply. It seems like it did not work as a technofix to increase water-related resilience among Nairobi’s poor population.

If you want to continue reading, you can find the article here.

Winter at Hope Bay, Antarctica

To Northern Europeans, Antarctica is still a place of wonder and mystery. This might even more so be the case in times of rapid climate change – for a plethora of reasons.

The following story happened at Hope Bay in Antarctica. In January 1902, Otto Nordenskjöld together with his Swedish Antarctic Expedition discovered the bay. Unfortunately, their boat sank due to collisions with floating ice and the expedition was forced to spent quite some time at land. The shipwrecked built a stone hut, which provided them with much-needed shelter against the elements. Ultimately, they were rescued by the Argentinian boat “ARA Uruguay” under the command of Julián Irízar and could return home.

The following text is a translation done by our division’s researcher Kati Lindström from Duse’s Amongst Penguins and Seals (Stockholm, Beijers Bokförlagsaktiebolag, 1905, pp. 178-181). Duse was a member of the stranded expedition. The translated text was originally published on the Melting History blog. This blog is part of the project evolving around CHAQ 2020 (Cultural Heritage Antarctica 2020), “an Argentinean-Swedish expedition to the historical remains of the First Swedish Antarctic Expedition 1901-1903 on the Antarctic Peninsula.” Researchers involved with ties to our division are Dag Avango (now Professor of History at Luleå University of Technology), Lize-Marié Hansen van der Watt and Kati Lindström.

Samuel Duse writes:

The worst was during the periods of rough weather when we were forced to stay inside the artificial polar darkness of the stone hut, not disturbed by a single ray of light – perhaps only when a heavier storm tore open the ice plaster in the roof. …

We soon learned to predict when the southern storms would hit. Usually, it first started with a quiet snowfall while the barometer sank. When the barometer started to raise again, it was not long before a gust of wind heralded that the dance is starting soon. The newly fallen snow would start to move and it was best to crawl into the stone hut while you could still see something. Here inside you could lay down now and listen to the wild play of the mighty storm. It whispered and roared, it whistled and squeaked, the roof pounded with flying ice bits and small stones. It sounded as if all hell’s demons were trying hard to lay their hands on us here inside.

But the stone hut was sturdy and no storm could pull it down. Despite the brutal cold inside, filthiness and darkness, we snugged into our sleeping bags with a feeling of gratitude and the feeling of triumph was not missing when we saw that wind was powerless against the creation of our hands.

The longer we laid captive there inside, the more desperately we desired to go back again towards the light, towards the blinding sun that gave warmth and life….

And then we finally got out again from the darkness, we felt like the sky shone lighter and bluer than ever before, that the glacier glittered in sunlight in richer colours, and that Mt Flora’s ridged hillsides rose skywards more majestically than ever. We filled our lungs with the clean fresh air and a feeling of freedom brimmed our hearts amidst our captivity.

For pictures of the stone hut remains check out the Melting History blog.

New PhD-student in the “Making Universities Matter”-project!

We have a new PhD-student at the division! While the pandemic is still disrupting usual work routines, we are very happy that new people can nevertheless join us. Starting a PhD under these conditions in a new work environment is all but easy. Therefore, the division’s blog wants to continue introducing new people to make them more visible and to facilitate collaborations. Thus, Klara Müller was so kind to answer the following questions to introduce herself.


Could you please tell us a bit about yourself and the field(s) you are working on? 

I am an historian of science and technology and started at KTH as a doctoral student in January 2021. I work within Making Universities Matter (MUM), a project devoted to studying how the blend of missions and tasks of universities has evolved over time.

I finished my Master’s degree in The History of Science and Ideas at Uppsala University in June 2020. Previous to my Master’s I did a dual Bachelor’s degree in Media History and The History of Science and Ideas at Lund University. I have also studied archival science and was an exchange student at Utrecht University in 2019. My broader research interests relate to the history of humanities, history of bureaucracy, university history and the history of computing. Besides my studies, I have a far-reaching interest in research- and education policy.

In my previous research, I have mainly focused on the history of the information infrastructure of hospitals, through studies on the media history of medical records and on computers in healthcare. My Master’s thesis “Computer Power and the Art of Medicine: The Introduction of Computer Technology in Swedish healthcare 1962 – 1968” examined how computers affected medical knowledge production. The study shows how physicians’ diagnostic assessment of patients was reformulated into binary language so that computers could interpret it, and discusses the implications this process had on which type of knowledge was created and used in medical practice.

My PhD project has a lot of similarities with my previous research interests, but focuses on a different topic – instead of medical knowledge, I am looking into knowledge created in humanities disciplines. This agenda can be grasped as research on the information infrastructure of knowledge in the humanities in Sweden from the latter half of the 20th century. Methodically, I will approach this object by studying how humanities research has been measured and valued, in relation to, for example, the introduction of bibliometrics. The overall purpose of the study is to investigate changes regarding what has been considered to be high-quality humanities research, in relation to processes such as digitalization, internationalization, bureaucratization and the expansion of higher education.


What do you work on right now? Is something in particular coming up?

I am currently working on my PhD project outline, trying to map out the field. I am also involved with the Division’s upcoming Biennial report, analysing publication data.

Since I am affiliated with the knowledge platform MUM, I get to participate in a lot of interesting research policy events. For example, MUM and Vinnova have organized a seminar on the latest research and innovation bill (more information can be found here).


Starting during the pandemic is challenging. What kind of impact do you feel that Covid-19 have on your work? 

Since I knew that I would begin during the pandemic I guess I was able to adapt my expectations. But of course, it is not easy to be new at a workplace without the possibility of being there physically, without meeting people in person. And the feeling of a fresh start is difficult to achieve when you have been in the exact same apartment every day of the work week since March 2020. And it is, of course, not easy to plan for future courses, conferences and potential archival work, because of the uncertain future. Covid-19 has also led me to think a lot about how crucial cultural and historical knowledge is to understand societal reactions to crisis.


Thank you, Klara! Let’s hope we can all soon meet in person again.

Profit from Sverker Sörlin’s book on crisis became new scholarships for even more books on crisis!

In early summer 2020, Sverker Sörlin published the book “Kris! Från Estonia till Corona” (Crisis! From Estonia to Corona) on Bokförlaget Atlas. Here he puts the Corona pandemic as a crisis in a historical perspective along with other big crises in our society. He also shares his own experience from being ill with Corona. The publisher together with Sverker decided early on that the income of the book would go to scholarships for those who writes about crises. Last week the two reciepients of the scholarship was announced: Rasmus Landström, who will write a book about the hidden solutions to the climate crisis, and Ingrid Eckerman, Jan Stattin, and Karin Fridell Anter that will write about the refugee crisis, civil society and the rule of law. The two projects will recieve a total of 25 000 sek each.

Read more about the project in a Swedish article from Arena Idé, or translated to English below:

“Rasmus Landström’s project Ustopi: The Hidden Ways of the Climate Crisis will result in an essay and a subsequent book. Rasmus is a literary scholar, critic and author of the critically acclaimed book Arbetarlitteraturens återkomst (2020). In his application, he writes that utopias are often criticized for “advocating over-planned model societies. That critique is based on a misunderstanding of utopia as a literary genre. But also that the concept of ‘planning’ is in such a state of disrepute today. The climate crisis shows an enormous need for democratic planning of the economy. That we expand the welfare sector to more parts of society and disconnect parts of the economic life from the market’s chaotic price signals. ” Ustopia is a combination of utopia and dystopia, coined by author Margaret Atwood.

Jan Stattin, Ingrid Eckerman and Karin Fridell Anter’s project Flyktingkrisen – Civilsamhället, rättssäkerheten och de unga flyktingarna 2015–2020 (The refugee crisis – Civil society, the rule of law and the young refugees 2015–2020) will result in a book. A historian, a doctor and an architect have chosen to come together to critically examine one of the crisis understandings that have characterized our time most deeply. In the application, they write that “refugee crisis” is a word that has been used extensively in debate and the mass media since 2015, but which is rarely given a more precise meaning. “We who are involved in the civilian work of civil society see the crisis of asylum seekers and our own, when we try our best to support people whose lives are being torn apart. We also see an ever deeper social crisis where the handling of refugees exposes major shortcomings in what is claimed to be legal certainty, and where the public debate is based on untruths that are never questioned,” the authors write further.
Translation of the article: Intäkterna från Sverker Sörlins bok Kris räckte till två stipendier: Rasmus Landström ska skriva om klimatkrisens dolda utvägar. Ingrid Eckerman, Jan Stattin, och Karin Fridell Anter ska skriva om flyktingkrisen, civilsamhället och rättssäkerheten published in Arena Idé, February 2021.


On “Protection and Improvement of the Human Environment”

Eric Paglia has just now published a new article in Humanities and Social Sciences CommunicationsTopic is the 1972 United Nations Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. The conference was convened after the Swedish delegation’s intervention on behalf of environmental protection four to five years earlier. Happening within a framework determined by the goal of sustainable development, this event acted as an embryonic cornerstone of global environmental governance.

Profile picture of Eric Paglia

While working in our division’s project SPHERE (in partnership with the Universities of Cambridge, Berkeley and Sydney), Eric analyses this political milestone of environmental protection through the lens of science diplomacy. Among other things, the conference produced a joint declaration of principles, of which one small example can be seen here to illustrate the scope of the issues discussed:

Principle 2

The natural resources of the earth, including the air, water, land, flora and fauna and especially representative samples of natural ecosystems, must be safeguarded for the benefit of present and future generations through careful planning or management, as appropriate. [UN Report, p. 4.]

How did Swedish diplomats leverage science for their objectives in negotiations to achieve this declaration? How was science used to (successfully) lobby for convening a guiding UN environmental conference? What was the role of science during the conference’s preparation process?

You can find the answers to these questions and a lot more in Eric’s article!

Something I Have Learned from COVID-19

The following text was published by Marco Armiero in Environment and History 26 (3), pp. 451-454, in August 2020. Marco writes as acting president of the European Society for Environmental History (ESEH).


I hope I am not taking advantage of my position as the president of our society to write what might seem to be a quite personal text. Feminist practices and scholarship have taught me that the personal is never only personal but also political. In my own work I have always blended – someone less sympathetic would say mixed up – the personal, the scientific and the political, convinced, as I am, that we know the world not only through concepts and words but also through emotions and political passions. So, please bear with me in my perhaps inappropriate trespassing of those various realms.

I would like to start by thanking all of you for your caring and warm support during these difficult times. As many of you may already know, I have been seriously ill with COVID-19. I was hospitalised for almost one month, spending ten days in the Intensive Care Unit. My condition was critical. During that time, and in my convalescence, I felt the privilege of being part of such a loving community; my family and I never felt alone. In this weird time of quarantine, colleagues and friends  unleashed their creativity, overcoming geographical distance, my  difficulties in speaking, and the physical distancing that the virus has imposed upon us. I happily run the risk of sounding cheesy but I wish to say that so much love was an amazing therapy – together with all the antiviral drugs and assisted breathing tools I received from the hospital. An academic society is not a group of friends, I realise this very well. But friendship, caring, and love can make a difference also in an academic society.

I have often campaigned for a scholarship that has the ambition to contribute to changing the world; perhaps this experience has taught me that we need to also change the ecologies of our relationships and feelings, starting from where and who we are.

Someone told me, trying to cheer me up, that it must have been my  obsession with bottom-up research and empirical fieldwork that brought me into the eye of this epidemic: ‘It was not enough to read about COVID-19, you had to experience it first-hand.’ Jokes aside, I wonder what I have learned from that unplanned fieldwork. I should immediately confess that it is not easy for me to reflect on my experience because it is painful and very emotional. While writing these few lines, I feel inadequate for the task and I am struggling with myself over whether I have actually something to say that might be of general interest. Perhaps, this is lesson number one: being humble and not pretending always to have something smart to say.

When I arrived at the local hospital here in Sweden, nurses and doctors were sure I was coming from Italy, perhaps after a short visit to family or friends. Indeed, I am from Italy – if you have ever heard me speaking in English, you would have no doubt about it – but I was not coming from Italy. The need to track the contagion is often a relevant tool in the control of epidemics like the current one. In Italy, at least at the beginning of the pandemic, there was an attempt to follow the movement of the virus from one subject to another, aiming to stop the spread of the contagion. Even now, regional governments have the authority to declare a ‘red zone’ – that is, to lock down a specific area (a town, a neighbourhood or perhaps a hospital) where the virus is especially prevalent in order to end the contagion. I was also asking myself – at least when I was still conscious – how and where I got infected, revising in my mind the last two weeks of my existence. Isn’t this lesson number two?

I believe that, in general, people in the Global North do not think of their daily lives in those terms. We move in antiseptic, immunised  environments, assuming that the world around us is not affecting our bodies, at least not with such immediate consequences. Even fewer of us would routinely see other human beings as biological threats. COVID-19 reminds us of what Stacy Alaimo has defined as trans-corporeality– that is, the interconnectedness of all beings with the material world in a dialectic relationship which transforms both of them simultaneously.

Although not employing this post-humanist lexicon, Alfred Crosby was arguing something very similar to trans-corporeality in his volume on the history of the Hispanic Flu: ‘The human body is a collocation of wonders, and none is more wondrous than the lungs. Here, quite literally, the line dividing the body from its environment is thinnest. The embodied experience of trans-corporeality in the dramatic form of COVID-19 calls for rethinking our understanding of the daily, familiar environment and its invisible/invisibilised relationships to the wider world. Several scholars have stressed that the present pandemic is the result of the expansion of intensive animal farming and the impingement of market-oriented agriculture on the wild. The organisation of production and consumption makes invisible the links connecting our daily environments with these wider networks of exploitation, but the body is the middle ground where those connections can become visible again, sometimes in a spectacular form as with COVID-19. The illusion that we live in a completely isolated and immunised environment is shattered.

However, while revealing the interconnections of the world and the impossibility of preserving indefinitely the safety of a small portion of it alongside the ruin of the rest, my experience of COVID-19 also goes almost in the opposite direction, and here we come to lesson number three. I got the virus in its aggressive form, as did many others around the world, but this does not make all of us equal. Rob Nixon once wrote that we might all be in the Anthropocene but in different ways. Similarly, Robert Bullard wrote that not all communities are created equal. COVID-19 is not the biological equaliser reducing our socio-ecological structure to the bare strength of our bodies. Race, class, gender and history matter in this pandemic. Many countries impoverished by colonial and neoliberal extractivism and exploitation have extremely weak health infrastructures; plus, as Mike Davis has noted, epidemics do not occur in a void, acting instead in combination with lack of food, inefficient sanitisation and poverty. Several studies are pointing at the unequal distribution of the virus, which seems to hit already vulnerable people more severely, including ethnic minorities, migrants and prison inmates. Obviously, this is not because of inappropriate behaviours – blaming the victims is always an easy toxic narrative – but rather because the virus is completely embodied into the current socio-ecological relationships which reproduce inequalities and privileges.

Something I have learned from COVID-19 is that I survived because I live in the ‘right’ part of the world, I belong to the ‘right’ class and I am not an illegal immigrant. Even now, going through my convalescence/quarantine, it is clear to me that my privilege makes my experience bearable. The  appeal to social distancing and washing hands frequently are fantasies – perhaps insults – for most people who live in overcrowded environments, without services or are homeless. The very idea of home as a safe place denies the reality of domestic violence against women – and in fact several sources mention an increase of gender-based violence during the  quarantine. And apart from violence, for many women the pandemic has brought even more care work. No, through COVID-19 I have not discovered how much we are all the same, but, on the contrary, the extent to which inequalities are inscribed in our lives and deaths.

But the truth is that I did not think of any of those issues when I was in the hospital, when I was intubated or when I was struggling to breathe. I was instead thinking of my family, I was afraid of not seeing them again; I was wondering whether I would see my daughter getting older, if I had been a good father and partner. I was afraid to die and I did not think about the many deadlines I was missing, the grants I did not get and the books I did not write.

Perhaps, this is lesson number 4, but this lesson might be just for me.


President of the European Society for Environmental History

Politics, industry, and tourism: The conceptual construction of the blue highway/Blå vägen: Politik, industri och turism

Division researcher Fredrik Bertilsson is published in the scientific journal the Journal of Transport History. In the article Politics, industry, and tourism: The conceptual construction of the blue highway Fredrik focus on Swedish governmental reports and national press between the 1950s and the 1970s to examine how the Blue Highway was conceptualized. The Highway runs from Mo i Rana on the Norwegian Atlantic coast through Västerbotten in Sweden, Ostrobothnia in Finland and to Pudozh near Petrozavodsk (Petroskoj) in Russia. Today seen upon as a tourist attraction, but the highway played a role in both political and industrial agendas in the mid-twentieth century. Please find the abstract and link to the publication as well as a blog post (in Swedish) from Fredrik below.


Fredrik Bertilsson came to the Division of History of Technology, Science, and Environment in 2018. His main research focus is within the area of knowledge management and research policy.


This article contributes to the research on the expansion of the Swedish post-war road network by illuminating the role of tourism in addition to political and industrial agendas. Specifically, it examines the “conceptual construction” of the Blue Highway, which currently stretches from the Atlantic Coast of Norway, traverses through Sweden and Finland, and enters into Russia. The focus is on Swedish governmental reports and national press between the 1950s and the 1970s. The article identifies three overlapping meanings attached to the Blue Highway: a political agenda of improving the relationships between the Nordic countries, industrial interests, and tourism. Political ambitions of Nordic community building were clearly pronounced at the onset of the project. Industrial actors depended on the road for the building of power plants and dams. The road became gradually more connected with the view of tourism as the motor of regional development.
Full article: Politics, industry, and tourism: The conceptual construction of the blue highway

Sininen tie sign by Santeri Viinamäki .

Blå vägen: Politik, industri och turism

Fredrik Bertilsson

Många av samhällets grundläggande funktioner bygger på vägtransporter. Utbyggnaden av det svenska vägnätet under efterkrigstiden spelade stor roll för samhällets utveckling. Vägar är inte bara materiella konstruktioner. Meningsskapandet kring vägar pågår i förhållande till bredare sociala, ekonomiska, politiska och kulturella förändringsprocesser. I historien om det moderna vägnätets expansion under andra halvan av 1900-talet står ofta den tekniska expertisen eller betydelsen av personbilen i centrum. Turismens inflytande har väckt mindre intresse i den historiska forskningen. Blå vägen är ett exempel på hur politiska initiativ, den industriella utvecklingen och turistnäringen samverkade.

Blå vägen går nu från Mo i Rana vid den norska atlantkusten genom Västerbotten i Sverige, Österbotten i Finland och till Pudozj nära Petrozavodsk (Petroskoj) i Ryssland. Numer betraktas vägen vanligen som en turistväg men flera intressen låg bakom dess tillkomst. Initiativet till att bygga vad som senare blev Blå vägen togs på 1950-talet men det fanns färdvägar och marknadsplatser längs sträckan långt tidigare. Vägen mellan Umeå och Lycksele byggdes under första delen av 1800-talet. Blå vägen invigdes 1964 och blev i början av 1970-talet en europaväg. Namnet Blå vägen anspelar på att vägen går längs med Umeälven i Sverige men det lär i själva verket ha tillkommit efter att vägen markerats ut på en karta med en blåfärgad penna.

Blå vägen förankrades i ett politiskt arbete med att förbättra relationerna mellan Sverige och Norge efter andra världskriget. Det skapades en större rörelsefrihet mellan de nordiska länderna. Från 1952 kunde skandinaver resa utan pass mellan Sverige, Norge och Danmark. Passfriheten sträckte sig till Finland 1953 och Island 1955. Passkontrollen för samtliga resande flyttades till Nordens yttre gränser 1958. Det fanns under mitten av 1960-talet förhoppningar om att Blå vägen skulle dras ända in i dåvarande Sovjetunionen, vilket skulle bidra till att öppna upp de rigida gränserna mellan Öst och Väst under kalla kriget. Det dröjde till slutet av 1990-talet innan den vägsträckningen blev verklighet.

Den stora statliga planen för utbyggnaden av svenska vägnätet som presenterades i slutet av 1950-talet utgjorde en grundplåt för moderniseringen av de svenska vägarna. Bättre vägar skulle lösa dels ett kapacitetsproblem som skulle uppstå när fler fordon måste trängas på vägarna, dels ett säkerhetsproblem: trafikolyckorna befarades öka om vägarna inte förbättrades. Blå vägen inrymdes inte i den ambitiösa vägplanen. Vägen finansierades istället av Vattenfall och genom kommunala insatser.

Aerial view of Umeå Arts Campus. Wikimedia Commons.

Industriella aktörer hade tydliga intressen i en ny väg. En väg till en isfri norsk hamn skulle gynna den omfattande transporten och exporten av trä och virke. Viktiga delar av den väg som fanns var stängd vintertid. Skogsindustrins intresse i en moderniserad väg förstärktes av att flottningen alltmer ersattes av lastbilstransporter. Det fanns också ett tydligt intresse av att rusta upp den befintliga vägen för att klara av den trafik som uppstod i samband med att vattenkraftverken i Umeälven byggdes.

Fler intressenter involverades successivt. Den så kallade Blå Vägen-föreningen bildades i början av 1960-talet för att påskynda vägbygget. Föreningen bestod av representanter från politiken, näringslivet och turistnäringen. Det fanns representanter även från Norge och Finland. Kommersiella intressen stod ofta i fokus. Blå vägen-föreningen fick draghjälp av den svenska pressen där den kunde föra ut sitt budskap och stärka intresset för vägen både lokalt, regionalt och nationellt. Det gjordes även program i radio.

Blå vägen betraktades som en lösning på flera stora problem som Västerbottens inland ansågs stå inför, inte minst vad gällde avfolkning och arbetslöshet. Byggandet av vägar hade varit ett sätt att skapa arbetstillfällen under lågkonjunkturerna under 1920- och 1930 talen. Vägarbetet var ett säsongsbetonat komplement till övriga inkomster men det genomfördes vanligen under svåra omständigheter och ersättningen var ofta låg. Från ett längre perspektiv var det ett led i en omställning från ett jordbruksbaserat samhälle till ett där industrier och servicenäringar har större betydelse.

The Blue Highway, Kattisavan Västerbotten. Wikimedia Commons.

Vägens betydelse för turistnäringen betonades allt tydligare. Västerbotten låg länge efter andra områden vad gällde turismen. Redan i slutet av 1800-talet fanns turistförbindelser till fjällvärlden i Abisko. Turistnäringen i Jämtland var också utvecklad. När Västerbottens turism drog igång på allvar var det inte längre aktuellt att satsa på järnvägar. Bilen betraktades dessutom som ”folkligare” än järnvägen.

Blå vägen laddades med stora förväntningar. I riksmedia målades en bild upp av en omfattande turisttrafik. Enligt en uppskattning i Expressen (26/7 1963) skulle hundratusentals turister åka längs Blå vägen under det första året och sedan väntades trafiken öka. Dagens Nyheter (7/12 1963) påpekade att Hemavans fjällhotell kunde byggas ut i samband med Blå vägens expansion. Turismen till skidanläggningarna i Västerbottensfjällen är en viktig inkomstkälla. Det går att spekulera i vilken betydelse turistekonomin fått för utvecklingen av skidnäringen i stort. Från Tärna kommer flera av Sveriges mest kända skidåkare, bland andra Anja Pärsson, Ingmar Stenmark och Stig Strand.

Marknadsföringen av Blå vägen spelade på stereotyper eller fantasier om norra Sverige. Det talades om en omvandling av landskapet, ett slags återanvändning av det gamla jordbrukssamhället som skulle bli till pittoreska vyer för moderna turister. Enligt Göteborgs-Tidningen (21/6 1964) gav en resa längs Blå vägen ”hela skalan av det svenska landskapets olika nyanser”, dvs. en modern universitetsstad i Umeå, bördig jordbruksbygd i kustlandet, gles bebyggelse i inlandet, ”milsvida skogar” och en ”fascinerande fjällvärld där snön ligger kvar året runt”. Samtidigt skulle turisterna få ta del av det moderna samhällets alla bekvämligheter.

Korpberget, Raven mountain, in Lycksele, with the E12 Blue Highway crossing the Ume river. Photo by Mikael Lindmark, WikiCommons

I många nutida sammanhang beskrivs Blå vägen främst som en turistväg utan att kopplingarna görs till det industriella arvet. De politiska betydelser som satte igång vägbygget träder också i bakgrunden. Den berättelsen ska ses i ljuset av de historiska narrativ som nu etableras om norra Sverige där turismen snarare än den industriella produktionen och utvinningen samt förädlingen av råvaror står i fokus. Blå vägens historia ger en inblick i hur politiska ambitioner, den industriella utvecklingen och efterkrigstidens turistnäring hängde ihop. Det skapades nya former av samverkan men det fanns också slitningar mellan olika intressen.


Texten bygger på en artikel som publicerats i Journal of Transport History, ”Politics, Industry and Tourism: The Conceptual Construction of the Blue Highway” ( Forskningen har finansierats av Brandförsäkringsverkets stiftelse för bebyggelsehistorisk forskning.


Discussing the issue of flying and sustainability

By Nina Wormbs

The week before Christmas, a number of colleagues at the Division gathered for a workshop where we discussed flying habits. It was part of the research project Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations: from data to practice at the EECS school, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, led by Daniel Pargman with funding from the Swedish Energy Agency. Elina Eriksson led the workshop with support from Daniel and Aksel Bjørn-Hansen.

The aim of the project is to see how we might reduce the carbon footprint of KTH that stems from flying. Since flying is a large part of KTH emissions and totally dominates those of travel, it could be seen as low hanging fruit. At the same time, travel is nowadays also part and parcel of academic culture. Thus, there are interesting obstacles to change behaviour.

Academic flying has interested us at the Division for many years and as a response to a discussion at our kick-off in 2015, the blog The travelling scientist was launched and Johan Gärdebo had a small project with workshops of similar kind.

In the workshop we received information on our flight patterns, data that the project has collected after great work. It was not easy for Pargman and his colleagues to get a full picture of the flying at KTH, and not even now do they know for certain the sources of KTH flying emissions. This data is of course crucial since the government has required that public agencies work with their emissions. And if we do not have data, we cannot report and reduce.

It turned out that flying at our Division, perhaps not so surprisingly, was not evenly distributed among our colleagues for the year 2019. Of 47 employees, 12 did not fly at all, whereas some made about a dozen flights. Moreover, the type of flights varied, and this is particularly interesting since the focus is CO2 emissions. Based on our division’s data a medium-range flight to Europe emits 3,4 times as much as a Scandinavian flight. And an intercontinental flight emits 20 times as much. Not surprisingly, Division emissions from intercontinental flights make up almost 80 percent. (See figure below.)

In the workshop we were encouraged to think about travelling and if and how to change it. This we did in small groups (everything on zoom of course) and with feedback through Menti. The first question regarded what flights could be avoided and common suggestions were intercontinental ones, very brief conference trips and those of committee work. On the other hand, field trips and archival work was hard to avoid.

This was most likely connected also to the insights of the pandemic, where we have realised that some things can indeed be done differently. The second question in the workshop focused on precisely this: what did we learn from the pandemic that we can use in the future. Here answers varied from the longing for real meetings with colleagues to realising that many meetings work fine digitally. Some digital conferences that we have experienced also shows that this was of meeting can be more inclusive.

About a dozen people joined the workshop, and hopefully it can still help the Division in contributing to a constructive change. KTH has environmental and emission targets and if we do not want to see hard regulation from above, we need to work from below. The workshop participants were in agreement that we have a responsibility to reach the climate objectives and most also believed that flying less is possible.


Nina Wormbs

Co-author of Grounded: Beyond flygskam (2019)

Experiences in Digital Teaching

Covid-19 has profoundly changed the way we work as scholars of the humanities. Teaching is no exception to this. The digitisation of university education was abruptly maximised and teachers were to a big extent forced to adapt to the new reality of online teaching on their own.

Kati Lindström has written about her experiences during the autumn term. She is a researcher with a lot of know-how both in teaching in general and in digital education in particular. In her opinion, the systems we use can be majorly improved. Canvas as a teaching platform is limited under these new conditions and needs a drastic makeover or at least generous supplementation to make education more efficient. As a result of inefficient software, teachers need to spend a lot of time on tedious clicking-work, which easily could be made obsolete. During the last term, this got out of hand.

The stress, which is put upon teachers, manifests in different forms. For Kati, it took the form of severe arm pain, which under the given circumstances is hard to mitigate. Therefore, the question needs to be asked:

A computer mouse, being used by a hand. A keyboard, pen, headphones and a mug are standing left of it. The picture is kept in black and white.

What can we improve in the field of digital education during the upcoming terms?

In the face of the surging Covid-19 pandemic, we will most likely not be able to go back to normal any time soon. So if we have to do online teaching to this extent for the foreseeable future, it should be in the interest of everyone to enable the conduction of education within the boundaries of (professional) sustainability.

Please check out the original blog post by Kati Lindström here. The link directs you to Kati’s home page.


The ethnography of an ethnographer: Dmitry Arzyutov on the life of Andrej Danilin (1896-1942)

Our division has a very international setup, which is also reflected in the diversity of languages we publish in. Our colleague Dmitry Arzyutov (Candidate of Sciences in the field of anthropology, Kunstkamera St. Petersburg, and PhD-student at KTH in History of Science/ Environmental History) has just now published an article in the Russian journal “Siberian Historical Investigations” (Sibirskie istoricheskie issledovaniya). In this article Arzyutov uncovers the difficult archival situation one encounters while doing research on the life of one of the most prominent Soviet ethnographers of the inter-war period.

Andrej Grigor’evich Danilin (1896-1942) was a leading Russian scholar conducting ethnographic research on the people living in the Altaj region. In their article, Arzyutov reconstructs the archival situation concerning Danilin’s life and creates a map, of how Danilin archived his documents in his personal archive. The co-author of this article is Lidiya Danilina, the daughter of ethnographer Andrej Danilin. Together, they propose what they call an “ethnography of the ethnographer”, which turns the investigator-investigated matrix of earlier times upside down.

How did Danilin correspond with different people? How were bureaucratic situations dealt with? How can one find Danilin’s personal voice in his papers? If you want to find out more, check out the publications entry in DiVA.

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