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CPSA/ISA-Canada section on International Relations

C17(c) - The International Politics of the Arctic

Date: Jun 6 | Time: 10:30am to 12:00pm | Location: SWING 307

Chair/Président/Présidente : Dani Belo (Carleton University)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Dani Belo (Carleton University)

Precarious Existence? The Future of Arctic Stability in an Era of Renewed Major Power Competition and Implications for Canada: Adam MacDonald (Dalhousie University)
Abstract: The Arctic is one of the world’s most stable regions, but the return of major power competition as a central feature in international life has inspired a growing chorus of warnings the region will fall victim to strategic rivalry between the US, Russia and China. Such assessments misdiagnose Arctic stability as only possible by remaining a strategically unimportant space, but ‘Arctic Exceptionalism’ arguments asserting a thickening institutional network will continue to foster peace and cooperation does not entirely explain the region’s enduring stability either. Arctic stability is premised on a Latent Balance of Power- defined by the region’s geographic division of authority, strategic alignments, and state stability – that ensures territorial security and facilitated the emergence of a decentralized but robust regional order offering portals of involvement and interest achievement for regional states and major powers. Major power competition will pose challenges, but as its main axes in the Arctic is over the economic use of, not physical control over, maritime and terrestrial spaces Canada’s regional defence priorities should remain on augmenting presence and surveillance capabilities, not permanently deployed warfighting ones, to protect sovereignty and preserve regional security through the maintenance of a Latent, not moves towards an overt, Balance of Power. The future of the region and Canada’s Arctic will be determined in boardrooms and inter-government meetings requiring the leveraging of various power instruments beyond simply military ones. Canada should take the lead in maintaining region-wide engagements which necessitates navigating through, not avoiding, major power competition considerations


Datafication as Regime: The Hermeneutic Governance of UNCLOS in the Arctic: Val Muzik (University of British Columbia)
Abstract: Owing to regional, international, and global transformations in the last several decades, the Arctic’s relevance to politics has also seen a transformation and increase that is still unfolding. This paper examines the linkage between governance of the Arctic and emerging technologically-enabled methods of knowledge production: drawing on literature from Critical Data Studies (CDS) as well as the ‘aesthetic turn’ in International Relations (IR), it is argued here that ‘datafication,’ which describes an epistemological, aesthetic, and increasingly software-driven practice entailing the empiricist ordering and analysis of the representations of worldly phenomena, also acts as a regime of transnational governance in its own right. This is especially evident in the Arctic, which, reflecting global trends, has particularly seen a growth in the number and extent of governance institutions since the 1980s. After setting out the geographical and geopolitical context of the Arctic, the paper draws from the literatures on transnational governance and the politics of aesthetics to elaborate the CDS concept of datafication as a regime that is global in scope and aesthetic in mode. Subsequently, the paper illustrates the theoretical dimensions of this in the form of a case study: the science-based process currently underway as per the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) by which several Arctic states have applied to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) to legally extend sovereign jurisdiction in the Arctic Ocean. The paper concludes outlining potential directions for further research.