I mentioned in my wrap-up note on the first Scotland Model Arctic Council (SCOTMAC) that faculty at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), where the simulation was held in March 2022, seem to have found the experience just as inspiring as the participating students did. It was amazingly gratifying enough for me that my educational programme had such an effect on respected professional colleagues. So it was a real thrill to receive an invitation from Prof Finlo Cottier and Dr Anuschka Miller of SAMS to give a guest lecture on Arctic international politics to fourth-year undergraduates in their ‘Polar Seas’ oceanography module. Their module normally includes one lecture, at the very end of the term, on Arctic governance. But Finlo and Anuschka told me that this year, inspired by SCOTMAC, they were putting ‘people before science’ and kicking off their module with my guest lecture!
So earlier today I gave a lecture entitled ‘Arctic political geography(-ies)’ to their assembled students. As I do in my ‘Director’s introduction’ to my MAC conferences, I began with a look at dubious popular ‘imaginaries’ of the Arctic that are mostly devoid of people—including, for these aspiring marine scientists, the idea Arctic as a giant scientific laboratory. I then introduced the idea of the Arctic as a homeland, and I raised the question of whether Arctic politics should begin with the states who colonised the region and still govern it, or with the peoples who call it home. Broadly speaking, these are the two major competing ‘political geographies’ of the Arctic—made all the more complicated now by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia is geographically half of the Arctic, and demographically, economically and politically a large part of it, too. Can we think of the Arctic as a coherent region now, so long as there is minimal communication between the Russian half and the rest?
I’m most grateful to Finlo and Anuschka for inviting me to launch their ‘Polar Seas’ module. I hope their students found the lecture stimulating, and that they will keep in mind the Arctic as a homeland, even as they explore the region from an oceanographic perspective for the rest of the term.
Download a copy of my lecture slides from this website.