Moving Kiruna: Speculating a Utopia of Perseverance

Authors: Freya Johnson*, University of Bristol
Topics: Cultural Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Anthropocene
Keywords: Speculative fiction, progressive fiction, post-capitalist possibilities, environmental thinking
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Maurepas, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper is a speculative intervention in utopian ideas of growth. Writing this speculation through fiction I position the work close to Povinelli’s idea of endurance in the face of abandonment (2011), and Gordillo’s rethinking of devastated spaces outside of modernist reifications (2014). The fiction stories a world where new social projects emerge following dispossession and destruction. The story responds to the sub-arctic town of Kiruna in Northern Sweden and the event there of living with the consequences of mining-induced subsidence. Kiruna exists at the fringes of “thriving” capitalist assemblages, yet its contribution to the supply of the world’s iron ore has exhausted the land, necessitating re-location of the city 3km East.

So the story goes: such irreparable collapse and damage begets unrest in the community, and a small pocket of utopia is created, albeit positioned carefully within the jurisdiction of the benevolent Swedish government.

Isolated, but relieved from wider capitalist society, the people of Kiruna work to develop an economy that sustains without excess growth. Whilst reconfiguring perceptions that previously were orientated by the imagery of capitalism, an informal rhizomatic cultural network unexpectedly unfolds.

Centring this narrative is the tale of Linnéa, the protagonist whose role in the movement Morgondagens Kiruna (Tomorrow’s Kiruna) is principle, but whose personal conflict between self-limitation and capitalistic lures is troubling. Linnéa reflects on her political motives, remembering the clouds of silk web that dress the trees every summer. An unlikely sharing economy; the spiders labour in a commune, collectively catching the notorious mosquitos.

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