Table of Contents

Polar Geopolitics?

Polar Geopolitics?

Knowledges, Resources and Legal Regimes

Edited by Richard C. Powell and Klaus Dodds

The polar regions (the Arctic and Antarctic) have enjoyed widespread public attention in recent years, as issues of conservation, sustainability, resource speculation and geopolitical manoeuvring have all garnered considerable international media interest. This critical collection of new and original papers – the first of its kind – offers a comprehensive exploration of these and other topics, consolidating the emergent field of polar geopolitics.

Chapter 14: Northern geopolitics: actors, interests and processes in the circumpolar Arctic

Lassi Heininen

Subjects: environment, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, politics and public policy, international politics, international relations


This chapter discusses and analyses the dynamic and relational qualities of Northern geopolitics, the challenges of the so-called new geopolitics of the Arctic region, and the wider North. For our purposes, ëthe Northí refers to the ëgreaterí Circumpolar North, that is, the northernmost parts of the globe. This area can be called either ëthe Arctic (region)í, or ëthe Circumpolar Northí. In any case, this is a region without exact borders but with fuzzy borderlands. Within the region, for example, there are important differences, as Norwegian commentators refer to a ëHigh Northí, and Canadians represent the Arctic as comprising a ëCircumpolar Northí (Coates 1994). Whatever the terminology used, it is important to bear in mind that such terms reflect a general desire to regularize particular understandings of spaces, territories and borders, which may well then inform a host of socio-cultural, economic and political projects revolving around how the Arctic is defined and understood. There are no politically and geographically innocent definitions of the Arctic. In the 20th century, the Circumpolar North has been characterized as either a colonial-like periphery to more southerly imperial/metropolitan centres and/or a complex mosaic of homelands to peoples with their unique and even pre-modern identities (Heininen 2010a; Nuttall 2012). For political realists, a group of academics working in the discipline of International Relations (IR) and Political Science in particular, the Arctic region is understood through the lens of the security/military-political and economic interests of the nation-state.

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