Contesting Marginality

The Contesting Marginality (UTMA) project focuses on the Boreal forests of Inland Scandinavia. It combines the research project Contesting Marginality: The Boreal Forest of Inland Scandinavia and the Worlds Outside, AD – 1500 AD  funded by the Swedish Research Council (VR), with the communication project Explorative Imaginaries funded by the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences (RJ).

The boreal forest of Scandinavia contains contested landscapes characterised by tensions between state and commercial interests, development efforts and local land-use. Current rewilding efforts have resulted in increasing numbers of large predators, such as the bear and the wolf, favoured by people interested in restoring biodiversity; other predominantly hunters and small scale farmers, express concern over the increasing numbers of predators. The forestry – which currently can be said to have a preferential right of interpretation of forest use – dominate over alternative uses of the forest, for example, reindeer and livestock herding.

After the industrial peak, the rural edge has become socially and economically more sensitive: unemployment, de-population, and a general withdrawal of commercial interests and state functions. This setting requires heritage research, which is prepared to engage in critical discussions and debates and disseminate research results to a wider audience. The question of what constitutes the Biocultural Heritage of the rural edge and how best to manage it is the subject of ongoing discussions and in general, the humanities have had a limited bearing of the debate.

Norrbodarna, Jämtland

We want to highlight the rural edge as an important arena for social interaction and innovation, able to maintain and improving social sustainability of the long term, in contrast to sometimes negative views of the inland forest region as static, peripheral and underdeveloped. The project will address these issues by drawing upon a theoretical framework of niche construction, landscape domestication and entanglement, and by studying relict hotspots of biocultural heritage, which are visible remains of past practices in the landscape, in archaeological sites, in place names and as responses in the forests vegetation and soils as reconstructed from pollenanalyses and vegetation inventories.

Biocultural Heritage “hotspots” combines past and present practices traceable through archaeological sites, memories and histories with landscape structure and species diversity (Lindholm, K.-L., 2018)

Contested landscapes require critical discussions and debates, which draw inspiration from the belief that heritage (and our understanding of it) has a valuable role for shaping the future by addressing historical and cultural values of the forest. The past societal structuration of the biocultural heritage has been constituted on diversified and dynamic and land-use systems, in contrast to current monocultural land use activities forestry, hydropower and mining. A better understanding of the forests´ biocultural heritage and living small scale practice are valuable for sustainable forest management and for the empowerment and self-definition of rural communities.

Explorative Imaginaries

A focal point of the methodology will be a geodatabase linked to a webbased platform for compilation and dissemination of research results, incorporating social media. Interactive maps, digital landscape models, local history and situated knowledges, audio-visual representation and music, photography and art. The platform will allow both an integrated platform for advanced spatial analyses and communication with stakeholder and larger audiences outside the project. Apps will build on shareware existing GIS and social media online resources, available online and readily accessible. 

We will collaborate closely with existing heritage organisations and as a first step focuses on specific parishes with a living heritage tradition, such as the Ängersjö Parish. Building on Eliassons (2013) careful documentation of farms and family history in Ängersjö, we will expand oral history and interviews for a life history project focusing on the elders in the community.

Kårebolssätern, Värmland

Forms of visualisation will be key in the project either through photography, arts and film. One of our approaches will be to recreate the sensual experience of the forests. A soundscape is a sound or combination of sounds that forms or arises from the environment. We use forest sounds blended with the sounds of human practices exploring the past and present-day practices in the forest. Soundscape includes recordings of animals, wind, human practices and the dissonance of these sounds together. The recorded sounds will be experimentally mixed with music composition, possible themes are clearing the forest, reindeer hers trundling across the mounting, the melting snow in the spring, the smelting of iron, the herding of the cows for summer grazing, and industrial forestry.  Visual representations will also aim to recreate the sensual and bodily experience of past and present forest activities and livelihood. In particular, we will focus on the activity nodes in the landscape as identified by the Contesting Marginality and the sounds and practices of this Biocultural Heritage.

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Karl-Johan Lindholm, PhD and Associate Professor in Archaeology, Uppsala University

Eva Svensson, Professor in Archaeology, Karlstad University

Ove Eriksson, Professor in Plant Ecology, Stockholm University

Anneli Ekblom, PhD and Associate Professor in Archaeology, Uppsala University

Daniel Löwenborg, PhD in Archaeology, Uppsala University

Erik Ersmark, PhD in Bioinformatics and Genetics, Natural History Museum

Sigrún Dögg Eddudóttir, PhD, researcher in Palaeoecology, Uppsala university

Andreas Hennius, Postgraduate researcher in Archaeology, Uppsala University

Eugene Costello, PhD in Archaeology, Postdoctoral Fellow, Stockholm University.

Michel Notelid, PhD in Archaeology, Uppsala University, coordinator of Explorative Imaginaries

Maria Kvist, Music composer, Explorative Imaginaries

Dani Kouyaté, Film director, Explorative Imaginaries


Lindholm, K-J. & A. Ekblom. 2019. A framework for exploring and managing biocultural heritage. Anthropocene, 25 special issue, Using palaeoecology to develop a past-present-future perspective on Sustainability

Eriksson, O. 2018. What is biological cultural heritage and why should we care about it? An example from Swedish rural landscapes and forests. Nature Conservation 28: 1–32

Hennius, A. 2018. Viking Age tar production and outland exploitation. Antiquity 92(365): 1349–1361

Hennius, A., Gustavsson, R., Ljungkvist, J., & L. Spindler. 2018. Whalebone Gaming Pieces: Aspects of Marine Mammal Exploitation in Vendel and Viking Age Scandinavia. European Journal of Archaeology, 21(4): 612–631

Lindholm, K-J. 2018. Environing: The Archaeology of ‘Real Life’ Remains. In Ekblom, A. Isendahl, C. & K-J. Lindholm. The Resilience of Heritage: Cultivating a Future of the Past, Essays in Honour of Professor Paul J.J. Sinclair. (Studies in Global Archaeology 23). Uppsala: Uppsala University: 243–258

Svensson, E. & E. Costello (eds.) 2018. Historical archaeologies of transhumance across europe. London: Routledge

Eriksson, O. Ekblom, A. Lane, P. Lennartsson, T. & K-J. Lindholm. 2017. Concepts for Integrated Research in Historical Ecology. In (eds) Crumley, C., Lennartsson, T. & A. Westin (eds) Issues and Concepts in Historical Ecology The Past and Future of Landscapes and Regions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 145—181.

Sandström, E., Ekman, A.-K. & Lindholm, K.-J. 2017. Commoning in the periphery – The role of the commons for understanding rural continuities and change. International Journal of the Commons. 11(1).

Lindholm, K-J. & J. Ljungkvist. 2016. The bear in the grave – Exploitation of top predator and herbivore resources in 1st millennium Sweden – first trends from a long term research project. European Journal of Archaeology, 19(1): 3—27.

Lindholm, K-J., Sandström, E. & A-K. Ekman. 2013. The Archaeology of the Commons. Journal of Archaeology and Ancient History. Journal of Archaeology and Ancient History, 10: 1—49.