From Ilulissat to Kiruna: Managing the Arctic Council and the contemporary geopolitics of the Arctic

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In this chapter, I want to make a figurative journey from foggy Kiruna to the two Greenlandic towns of Ilulissat and Nuuk, which hosted a ministerial signing and a ministerial meeting, respectively. Before leaving for Greenland, we need to reconsider the extraordinary impact a Russian flag had, from August 2007 onwards. In so doing I am not offering a detailed institutional history of Arctic Council development (see for instance English 2013 and Koivurova 2013); my concern here is more on how different understandings of the Arctic itself were managed through a series of declarations, public appearances and documents. In essence, the argument presented here is that the ministerial meeting in Kiruna marked the culmination of efforts to re-cast the Arctic away from popular notions that it was an exceptional space, with weak governance, opportunistic corporations and militaries, as well as untold riches (e.g. Borgeson 2008; Blunden 2009; Howard 2009; Kraska 2011), to a notion that emphasized legal frameworks, intergovernmental cooperation and the willingness to engage with external partners and stakeholders in an orderly space carefully managed by territorial states. In other words, considerable administrative and political labour was invested in the re-calibration of what many term ‘Arctic geopolitics’, all the more significant in the context of a ‘global Arctic’. Observer status on the Arctic Council is thus an opportunity to explore in more detail a tension between a rooted Arctic composed of indigenous states and peoples, and a ‘global Arctic’, characterized by interconnection, networks and extra-territorial interest and investment
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on the Politics of the Arctic
EditorsGeir Honneland, Leif Jensen
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)978 0 85793 473 4
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Sept 2015


  • Politics
  • Arctic
  • Governance
  • Law
  • Geopolitics
  • global change

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