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State transformation in the High North: Cases of environmental justice struggles

State transformation in the High North: Cases of environmental justice struggles
 Helge Hiram Jensen

2015

Department of Political and Social Sciences, European University Institute, I-50014 San Domenico di Fiesole (FI), ITALY.

ABSTRACT

This is a study in the art and science of fundamental systems transformation. The study is hypothesis-generative, based upon qualitative research. The cases are selected from one ongoing process of state transformation at the Arctic fringe of Europe. An indigenous rights struggle feeds into the ongoing re-constitution of the body of law. The study contributes to an ongoing re-thinking of concepts and methods in European Political and Social Sciences. The struggle for rights is also a struggle for proofs, which feeds into ongoing re-constitution of the body of knowledge.

Positive findings describe my attempts to observe some possible causal mechanisms whereby the indigenous human rights movement has enjoyed some limited success in its effort to decolonize the four states that have divided and conquered Sápmi, the homeland of the Sámi (formerly known as Lapps), the only group within the EU recognized by the UN as an indigenous people.

Negative findings describe my attempts to observe some limitations of my own observational capacity. Many questions of relevance to subaltern interest groups remain under-researched and under-documented: There is a great deal of colonial bias that must still be overcome, not only within European political science at large, but also within my own limited contribution, even though I strive to overcome such bias.

Seven empirical chapters, discuss two single-case studies: Alta Watershed, ca. 1970-1980, and Deatnu Watershed, ca. 1980-2012. The empirical foundation is qualitative data from field observation and historical archives, which is put ino context with some quantitative data from official registers. The different chapters operate within different disciplines: two are geographical, two are sociological, one is historical, one large one is anthropological, and one should be regarded traditional political science. Although multi-disciplinary, my empirical research continues what I call the major research tradition in the field. This focuses on collective action and social ecology, and informs human rights policies.

The theoretical discussion addresses observations by colleagues within another, rival, tradition, which emphasizes coercive force and geo-strategy, and serves public security policies. Transformative social movements need to be aware that both traditions remain limited by a heritage of colonial bias. They also need to be aware that both traditions may be used in a complimentary manner, to help overcoming either fatalism or over-optimism. The thesis concludes that transformative social movements need to avoid the dual pitfalls of naïve idealism and naïve realism, and pursue critical realism.