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2014: Finished PhD projects

Human Ecology Division


Andreas Malm

     "Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam-Power in the British Cotton Industry, c. 1825-1848, and the Roots of Global Warming" 

  • Presentation: PhD-thesis defence: 15th February 2014. The more we know about the catastrophic implications of climate change, the more fossil fuels are burnt in the world. How did we get caught up in this mess? This thesis returns to a crucial moment in the emergence of the fossil economy: the rise of steam-power. With the adoption of the steam-engine, fossil energy was first coupled to a process of self-sustaining growth, the new prime mover using coal to impel machines for commodity production. It happened in Britain; the cotton industry led the way. Before steam, up to the second quarter of the nineteenth century, British cotton manufacturers used water as their source of mechanical energy – so why did they shift from the one to the other? By examining the causes of the original transition from water to steam, we might come closer to an understanding of the mechanisms igniting – and perhaps still fuelling – the process now known as ‘business-as-usual’.

Department of Human Geography


Ståle Holgersen

     "The Rise (and Fall?) of Post-Industrial Malmö. Investigations of city-crisis dialectics"

  • Presentation: PhD-thesis defence: 14th April 2014. Over the last twenty years Malmö has developed into a prototype of a post-industrial city. My PhD-thesis investigates different aspects of the dialectics between urban planning and policies on the one hand, and economic changes and crisis on the other. How responded Malmö to the 2008 economic crises, and what characterises the transformation processes that followed the industrial crisis of the 1980s and early 1990s? At the time of writing (i.e. 2014) the 2008 economic crisis is still not over, as Western European countries still struggle with low growth rates.  But the very same urban policies that contributed to the crisis-prone economy in the first place are still being reproduced in full force. Malmö currently continues to produce the post-industrial city established in the mid-1990s, and only the future will show how this will play out. Malmö is today internationally famous for its focus on “ecological sustainability”. This dissertation scrutinises how this came to play such a central role in Malmö´s urban policy, and how this has developed into what we call a “green fix” – a strategy for overcoming crises of capital accumulation. In the current conjunction the “standard story” of Malmö says that the city has succeeded in ecological and economic sustainability – and that we can now turn to fixing the last part: social sustainability. This dissertation questions this view, and argues that segregation and socio-economic polarization of the city have been written into the very production of the post-industrial city

Lovisa Solbär

     "Anthropogenic Open Land in Boreal Landscapes. Investigations into the Creation and Maintenance of Arable Fields on Swedish Farms"

  • Presentation: The human-induced open land (cropland, pasture) in the predominantly forested boreal landscapes relies on arable land use; it thus represents an active intervention to hold back forest regrowth. The thesis investigates the practical management decisions by landholders on discrete farms, which in Sweden often comprise both forest and arable lands. The theoretical framework utilizes the concepts timespace, landscape, orientation and commitment to understand how the farmer relates to the land. The study draws on farm cases in various parts of the country, and links land-cover continuity on arable fields and forest clearance with land-use decision-making as a temporally and spatially situated activity
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Faculty of Social Sciences