Geopolitics and Ice Humanities: Elemental, Metaphorical and Volumetric Reverberations

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This paper develops further interrogation into ‘icy geopolitics’ and what it might tell us about how we treat substances like ice as geopolitical matter. It brings together various literatures that speak to ice as a substance and substantial matter. Second, ice is represented and experienced in a multitude of ways, from oral cultures of indigenous communities living and working in the Arctic and mountainous environments. This matters again because ice as metaphor is often complicitous with the settler colonial framing of empty, unstable and ungoverned spaces. The paper takes this icy interrogation and brings it into contact with the experiences and struggles of Arctic peoples and states alongside non-Arctic states that seek to press their interests in the midst of ongoing melting and thawing. Icy geopolitics is being reconfigured; melting is said to be ‘triggering’ further expressions of territorial colonization and resource extraction and/or commitment towards indigenous autonomy, stewardship and conservation. The territorial volume is being put to work while at the same time it is being melted, thawed, opened and closed by human and more than human forces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
Early online date24 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 24 Dec 2019


  • Ice
  • Geopolitics
  • Arctic
  • Territory
  • Resources
  • Ocean
  • Governance

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