17 February 2015

Linköping University has been awarded another SEK 20 million –
now SEK 40 million in total – to create a world-leading programme in interdisciplinary environmental humanities. Amongst the more than twenty projects included in this programme, one project deals with the mentality that lead to the dumping of chemical weapons and military waste in the Gotland Deep in the Baltic Sea.

Cecilia Åsberg och Johan Hedren.Foto: Björn Pernrud“This is the biggest ever investment in the humanities in Sweden. The fact that we have received this funding shows that the perspective of the environment and human society is important. We need to have a deeper discussion about the role of man in nature and what role nature plays for humans,” says Cecilia Åsberg, associate professor and head of Gender Studies at the Department of Thematic Studies, who is in charge of the initiative and will head the new programme.

In December, Linköping University received SEK 20 million from the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (Mistra) to construct a programme in interdisciplinary social and environmental research that will put Sweden on the map. Now the university will receive another SEK 20 million from the Swedish Research Council Formas.

Johan Hedrén, reader at the division of Environmental Change in the Department of Thematic Studies, believes the reason the funding is coming to Linköping University is the cross-disciplinary Department of Thematic Studies.

“With the success of the different divisions at the Department of Thematic Studies we have shown that at Linköping University we know about interdisciplinary work in the social sciences and we have the competencies for a programme of this size,” he says.

Thirteen national and international universities are taking part in the overall programme that will work on a combined total of 20 cross-disciplinary research projects. One of the projects is Gotland Deep, which aims to find the answer to questions about the 15,000 tones of chemical weapons dumped in the Baltic during the Second World War. Apart from when fishermen have been injured when they pulled up parts of the sunken arsenal, these chemical weapons pose a threat should fish ingest the chemicals.

“How does this ‘undersea military archive’ affect our view of the Baltic Sea? Has our environmental awareness changed? How do the environment and human society interact in this? Even if this is a historical event, it is of interest, as the poison will not just disappear,” Ms Åsberg says.

The Gotland Deep project, along with many of the other projects, is expected to present its initial findings within four years.

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