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Arctic geopolitics researcher to join Department of Geography

Posted on 19/04/2012

Prof Philip Steinberg

The research that Prof Steinberg will be carrying out at Royal Holloway, Global Alternatives for an Interconnected Arctic (GAIA), seeks to understand how debates concerning Arctic governance are in fact influenced by different understandings of the region's geophysical and geographical characteristics.  

As Prof Steinberg comments: “A number of fundamental questions about what the Arctic is underlie questions of how it should be governed: is the Arctic understood as primarily a region of land, water, or ice; a distant or near region;  an uninhabitable, uninhabited but habitable, or already inhabited region?  

“How one answers these questions”, he asserts, “has a major impact on whether one favours a governance regime that, for instance, simply extends coastal state territory out into the region, or that places governance within the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, or that gives indigenous peoples a significant voice in governance, or that transfers governance to an international body.”  

For this project, Prof Steinberg will catalog a wide range of Arctic governance proposals that have been floated by national, local, and global policymakers and - through a mix of interviews and documentary research - he will tease out the geophysical understandings and assumptions that underpin these proposals.

The research is driven by the belief that a better understanding of how and why policymakers base their proposals for Arctic governance in perceptions of the region's geophysical conditions should enable us to reach compromise and consensus in the future. The benefits will thus reach beyond the Arctic to other regions, whose physical properties make it difficult to apply the usual categories that underpin territorial governance in the modern state system. 

The fellowship, which carries an award of €223,038 (£185,824), follows on from previous research carried out by a three-university team initiated by Prof Steinberg and funded by the United States National Science Foundation. Prof Steinberg will be resident at Royal Holloway, carrying out this research until December 2013.

The Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship program brings non-European scientists to European universities for up to two years to work full-time on research projects, with the goal being synergistic and long-lasting relationships between European and non-European researchers. For this research, Prof Steinberg will be working particularly closely with Prof Klaus Dodds of the Royal Holloway Department of Geography, also an expert in polar geopolitics. More broadly, Prof Steinberg’s presence will contribute to the Department of Geography’s growing expertise in the intersection of geopolitics, cultural, and historical geography, as well as the Geopolitics and Security MSc programme that will be commencing in autumn of 2012.


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