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The town of Kiruna in northern Sweden exemplifies new and old industrialization processes that still take place in several parts of Northern Europe today, based on the exploitation of natural resources. The mining company, LKAB (Luossavaara‐Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag) has survived historical iron‐ore market fluctuations, and today the company employs more than 2,100 of Kiruna's approximately 18,100 inhabitants. The article investigates the meanings that present‐day inhabitants of a town strongly marked by industrial signifiers ascribe to the place where they live. The specific methodological strategy has been to not only see the place through its inhabitants and the way they talk about the place, but through the lives of inhabitants and their ways of describing these lives. The article elaborates on the epistemological strength of this operationalization, and explores and demonstrates some of its possible analytical potential. Representations made through interviews tell of townspeople who express profound rural longings and decentre the meaning of the town in their lives, while also harbouring cautious urban expectations of the place. The article describes how place meanings are spoken into existence, after which an investigation of the significance of place meanings – using a relational, material and dynamic understanding of place – is embarked upon. By the end, the inhabitants' ascriptions of meaning are addressed in relation to their engagement in the ongoing extensive and much‐discussed town transformation of Kiruna. As such it displays a complex web of industrially as well as non‐industrially related trajectories of meaning that meet up in the continuous making of the place.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology, Political Science and Community Planning/CEPIN Research School, Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education, University of Tromsø, N-9037 Tromsø, Norway,

Publication date: 2012-06-01

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