Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic
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Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic

Edited by Leif Christian Jensen and Geir Hønneland

The Arctic has again become one of the leading issues on the international foreign policy agenda, in a manner unseen since the Cold War. Drawing on the perspectives of geo-politics and international law, this Handbook offers fresh insights and perspectives on the most pressing issues, grouped under the headings of political ascendancy, climate and environmental issues, resources and energy, and the response and policies of affected countries.
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Chapter 20: Arctic change through a political reading

Monica Tennberg


This chapter aims at broadening our understanding of political aspects of Arctic change. Arctic change is a combination of complex, interrelated environmental, social, cultural, economic and political transformations and efforts to tackle them and adapt to them. Current Arctic political research, heavily focused on governance studies and geopolitical realism, captures only partially the multiple political dimensions of this change due to its focus on regulative, territorially and temporally bound polity and policy-making efforts in the region. The chapter suggests another kind of a reading of political aspects in Arctic changes inspired by Kari Palonen’s (2003) classification of political aspects as ‘polity’, ‘policy’, ‘performance’ and ‘politicking’, that is, politicization. In simple terms, Palonen suggests that the range of societal phenomena that may be interpreted as political and are amenable to political analysis extends beyond formal institutions and the practice of politics as we usually focus on it. If one includes the performative, politicizing aspects into the analysis of Arctic change, instead of focusing on regulative polity and policy-making, the field of political studies becomes a study of ‘politics of relationality’ with multiple temporal and spatial dimensions. This chapter discusses first our ontological understanding of Arctic change and its implications for political research before presenting various ways of analysing the political aspects of change in the Arctic and offering some examples of analysing Northern politics of relationality in practice.

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