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Science as National Belonging: the Construction of Svalbard as a Norwegian Space
KTH, Historiska studier av teknik, vetenskap och miljö.
Swedish National Defence College, Department of Security, Strategy and Leadership (ISSL), CRISMART (National Center for Crisis Management Research and Training). KTH, Historiska studier av teknik, vetenskap och miljö.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)Text
Abstract [en]

This paper examines how science has been employed to establish, maintain, and contest senses of belonging on Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago administered by Norway since 1925 under an international treaty. The central argument is that the process of constructing Svalbard as a space belonging to Norway has long been intertwined with the processes of describing and representing the archipelago, and that participating in those processes has also permitted other states to articulate their own narratives of belonging— on Svalbard in particular and in the Arctic more generally. The concept of belonging is deployed to capture a sense of legitimate presence and stakeholdership that we do not believe can be adequately captured by the narrow concept of sovereignty. The article explores Norway’s historic and current use of science to validate (and even naturalize) its rule over Svalbard. At the same time, we argue that other states use science on Svalbard to articulate geopolitical scripts that portray them as stakeholders in an Arctic that is of trans-regional relevance due to the teleconnected effects of climate change.


Keyword [en]
Arctic, history of science, Ny-Ålesund, polar geopolitics, research stations, scripting, Svalbard
National Category
History of Ideas
URN: urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-5680OAI: diva2:890525
Available from: 2015-12-11 Created: 2016-01-04 Last updated: 2016-01-04Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The Northward Course of the Anthropocene: Transformation, Temporality and Telecoupling in a Time of Environmental Crisis
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Northward Course of the Anthropocene: Transformation, Temporality and Telecoupling in a Time of Environmental Crisis
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The Arctic—warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet—is a source of striking imagery of amplified environmental change in our time, and has come to serve as a spatial setting for climate crisis discourse. The recent alterations in the Arctic environment have also been perceived by some observers as an opportunity to expand economic exploitation. Heightened geopolitical interest in the region and its resources, contradicted by calls for the protection of fragile Far North ecosystems, has rendered the Arctic an arena for negotiating human interactions with nature, and for reflecting upon the planetary risks and possibilities associated with the advent and expansion of the Anthropocene—the proposed new epoch in Earth history in which humankind is said to have gained geological agency and become the dominant force over the Earth system. With the Arctic serving as a nexus of crosscutting analytical themes spanning contemporary history (the late twentieth and the early twenty-first century until 2015), this dissertation examines defining characteristics of the Anthropocene and how the concept, which emerged from the Earth system science community, impacts ideas and assumptions in historiography, social sciences and the environmental humanities, including the fields of environmental history, crisis management and security studies, political geography, and science and technology studies (STS). The primary areas of empirical analysis and theoretical investigation encompass constructivist perspectives and temporal conceptions of environmental and climate crisis; the role of science and expertise in performing politics and shaping social discourse; the geopolitical significance of telecoupling—a concept that reflects the interconnectedness of the Anthropocene and supports stakeholder claims across wide spatial scales; and implications of the recent transformation in humankind’s long duration relationship with the natural world. Several dissertation themes were observed in practice at the international science community of Ny-Ålesund on Svalbard, where global change is made visible through a concentration of scientific activity. Ny-Ålesund is furthermore a place of geopolitics, where extra-regional states attempt to enhance their legitimacy as Arctic stakeholders through the performance of scientific research undertakings, participation in governance institutions, and by establishing a physical presence in the Far North. This dissertation concludes that this small and remote community represents an Anthropocene node of global environmental change, Earth system science, emergent global governance, geopolitics, and stakeholder construction in an increasingly telecoupled world.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2016. 62 p.
TRITA-HOT, ISSN 0349-2842 ; 2071
Anthropocene, Arctic, Fernand Braudel, environmental and climate crisis, environmental history, expertise, polar geopolitics, securitization, Svalbard, telecoupling
National Category
History and Archaeology
Research subject
Statsvetenskap med inriktning mot krishantering och internationell samverkan
urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-5678 (URN)978-91-7595-809-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-01-22, V1, Teknikringen 76, KTH, 14:40 (English)
Available from: 2016-01-04 Created: 2016-01-04 Last updated: 2016-03-23Bibliographically approved

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