MA in Global Affairs

Leslie Spitz-Edson, 2023

Leslie Spitz-Edson

Describe your dissertation, thesis, or capstone (if you completed one):

My capstone is a critical discourse analysis of Swedish newspaper reporting about the Sámi (Sweden’s Indigenous people), mining for critical raw materials, and what is often called the "green transition." Mining on traditional Indigenous lands is controversial throughout the world, and I wanted to understand which topics play into the consideration of this issue in Sweden. My research question asked, how do Swedish newspapers represent and contribute to the discussion of mining for the green transition on Sámi lands? I selected three national and two regional mainstream newspapers and retrieved news articles that relate to three specific mining projects from 2012-2023. My findings indicate that, throughout the period, news coverage represents mining in a positive light, through discourse that is largely limited to traditional economic arguments about jobs and tax revenues, and, more recently, a geopolitical argument that mining for critical raw materials is necessary for Swedish (and European) security. While newspapers allow space for statements by Sámi representatives and activists, the surrounding journalistic structure of headlines, leads, editorials, and interviews undermine Sámi statements and their standing within the Swedish nation and society. Finally, coverage within my sample does not address the larger, values-oriented question of what type of energy transition might be needed or wanted by Swedish society.

How did you choose your specific area of study?

My background is in culture—I previously worked in the fields of ethnomusicology and folklore. I believe that human culture and traditions are key to our survival as a species. I also have a love for particular landscapes, in Sweden and elsewhere, that goes back to my childhood. Grief and anger over the omission of voices, human and non-human, in the debate about climate and energy needs have led to my interest in Indigenous movements for environmental justice, which (to me) are especially compelling in this moment of crisis.

How did your academic experiences in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences impact you?

The knowledge I’ve gained here has allowed me to put so many pieces together. I’ve learned so much about how the world works, from the big picture down to the intimate details. I hope I can make good use of it.

Of which accomplishment(s) during your time at Mason are you most proud?

I'm proud that I was able to follow a line of interest, or questioning, throughout my time here. I feel that it has added up to something meaningful and significant.

Are there faculty or staff members who made a difference during your Mason career?

It’s hard to give just one example. Many staff and faculty have been important to me. Cortney Hughes-Rinker has been a great support, along with Virginia Holm. I have learned so much from Iccha Basnyat’s approach and guidance on the capstone. Byunghwan Son’s inimitable style, Patrick Ukata’s deep knowledge, Niklas Hultin’s knowledge and advice have all pushed me to understand new and demanding ideas. Laura Sauls has especially influenced me—her class on environmental justice was pivotal, and she has been extremely supportive. I had many fascinating discussions with Helen McManus, my GPA mentor. Finally, Jennifer Ashley has advised and helped me throughout; I’ve been inspired by her brilliance as well as her interests in democracy and social movements. I’m particularly grateful that she welcomed me on the GLOA trip to Argentina, which provided me with a whole new perspective on my field of study.

What advice would you give to an incoming cohort of graduate students?

Talk to your professors whenever you get the chance. Try to do a little more than you think you can. Enjoy the chance to be on this beautiful campus and to learn.

What are your current career plans following graduation? What are your long-term career goals?

I plan to apply for fellowships, jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities. I would like to find a way to be a part of the conversation about what we, as humans, want our future to be.