Presentations of hydropower in hydropower communities: a comparative study of heritage- and memory making in southern and Arctic sweden
9:00 AM, Wednesday 31 Aug 2022 (20 minutes)
UQAM, pavillon J.-A. De Sève (DS) - DS-1525
Hydropower, along with other renewables, has been narrated as a clean energy resource necessary to provide for rising energy consumption and combat the threats of climate change and environmental degradation. Throughout the 20th century, continuous hydropower development was deemed necessary in the Swedish context to satisfy a growing population and energy demand. As a result, almost all Swedish rivers are today linked with each other in a vast sociotechnical system of hydropower plants and regulations. Hydropower development meant immense changes of eco-systems, landscape, land-use and how people were able to make a living. Hereby it affected local communities, and in the northern parts of Sweden the indigenous Sami population considered it to greatly intrude on their rights, lands, lives, livelihoods and cultural practices such as reindeer-herding – as this was the region where the more extensive hydropower development projects took place. Various interest groups fighting for the protection of nature, livelihoods, cultural heritage and communities continues to voice concerns. Hydropower can in these instances be framed as a disaster, necessity or success, an environmental threat or savior, a threat to cultural heritage and identity or as part of the local industrial heritage and identity. Hydropower development in Swedish contexts is entangled with subject matters such as sustainability, cultural heritage and social movements at a national as well as local level. In Sweden, hydropower companies have themselves emerged as stewards of developed rivers, landscapes and heritages, sponsoring projects, breeding fish and offering exhibitions, tours and activities for tourists and local visitors. Noteworthy such examples can be found in Akkats and Laholm, where the hydropower companies have also invested in art and architecture. The aim of this project is to explain how and why sociotechnical systems for hydropower are constructed and maintained as cultural heritages in different geographical, social and cultural contexts. In Sweden this remains a research field with few contributions, especially in terms of the hydropower companies’ roles as makers and managers of cultural heritage. This paper explores and compares the Arctic context of Akkats and the southern context of Laholm and how these two hydropower plants are being and have been defined and presented as cultural heritage sites, and which and whose narratives that have and are being spread and presented. This involves dealings with responsible hydropower companies, namely Vattenfall and Statkraft, as well as local and national interest groups.