Arctic Continuity and Change

8.6.2018 

Northern Political economy team will organize its annual symposium in August 2018 in Rovaniemi. Arctic continuity and change are to be discussed from various viewpoints and disciplinary traditions. Researchers Marjo and Heidi are opening up the dynamics of Arctic continuity and the power of the rhetoric of change.    

‘Change’ is the term that is commonly used to describe the Arctic in all kinds of contexts, be they environmental, political, social or legal. Furthermore, this ongoing, anticipated and even feared ‘change’ is described as rapid and fundamental. Indeed, the mantra of the changing Arctic has become all-encompassing; change is presented as a neutral description of events that will unquestionably take place and as something, that one ought not to doubt. There is no denying that, for example, the effects of climate change are felt in the Arctic already now and this has profound effects on Arctic communities and the ways in which people live. Inevitably, change is also something that describes Arctic environment. 

However, as members of the critically attuned NPE research group, we have been drawn to reflect the dynamics of continuity and change and the power of the rhetoric of change. For example, relatively new political arenas, with organisations such as the Arctic Council, are claimed to be leading the way to change. They are argued to be transforming traditional state-based politics through the inclusion of indigenous peoples and their knowledge in its proceedings. However, it seems that there is little evidence of actual change taking place. As we demonstrate in our recent book “Global Politics and its Violent Care for Indigeneity: Sequels to Colonialism” (2018, Palgrave Macmillan) practices of exclusion and othering continue in the midst (and despite) of the rhetoric of change. 

Indeed, we think that the dominant rhetoric of change overlooks the ways in which continuities have shaped the Arctic to be what it is today. The continuous existence of local and indigenous cultures, livelihoods and the practices of using and benefiting from the region’s renewable resources are some of the examples of this persistence. Equally, the less empowering perceptions of the Arctic as a global frontier live on. The area is still seen as either full of resources to be exploited or a wilderness calling for protection. In terms of power relations between Arctic actors, it is critical to note the ways in which seeing the Arctic merely through lenses of change actually hides coercive continuities. Among these we have found the lingering of colonial practices and hierarchical center-periphery relations.

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Monica Tennberg presents in NPE symposium 2017 


These are some of the questions that led the NPE team to choose “Arctic Continuities” as the theme for its symposium this year. We invite scholars from a range of disciplines to reflect on the elements of continuity in the Arctic and the ways in which continuity and change mesh. The symposium will be held in Rovaniemi, 29-30 August 2018. The deadline for abstracts is 28 June. More information on the symposium: https://www.arcticcentre.org/events/Northern-Political-Economy-Symposium-2018

Organizing team of the symposium,

Marjo Lindroth and Heidi Sinevaara-Niskanen

Photo: Joonas Vola

 

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