Arctic Politics

Postgraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

Scholar Robert McGhee famously called the Arctic "the last imaginary place" - a place where people from more temperate latitudes have for centuries imposed their own political concepts, values, and dreams. Hence, even before the Arctic was fully mapped, it was carved up among developed democracies; prodded by whalers, goldseekers, and oilmen; celebrated and defended by environmentalists; proselytized by missionaries; and overlain by a fragile veneer of Western culture and governance.

Now, those old Arctic imaginings are unravelling. The challenge comes from Arctic minorities, especially Sami and Inuit Indigenous peoples, seeking to take back control of their lands and lives. It comes also from new Arctic states and organizations, like China and the United Nations, asserting their own keen interests in the region. It comes from old Arctic states, like Russia, renewing its Northern forces just beside Norway's border and making claims to the North Pole itself. And the challenge comes from Mother Nature itself - vanishing ice, swelling seas, and the global climate emergency.

Hence, unlike anywhere else in the developed democratic world, politics in the Arctic have become unsettled. In the far northern areas of Norway, the rest of Fennoscandia, and North America, state-making and state-breaking are no longer history. They are current events. Despite being increasingly political salient, these events are understudied. They demand examination.

In this course, we will tackle these challenges, using the broad toolset of political science. We will focus on the Arctic as a living laboratory, where peoples and political phenomena spill across borders and can thus be examined through the lens of comparative politics. We will focus on the Arctic as a hot-zone of geopolitics, where competitors collide and collaborators interact in a region that is highly militarized, brimming with resources, and environmentally imperiled. We will address the Arctic as an understudied, but ever-more-relevant, arena of Norwegian domestic politics. And, we will look at the Arctic using political theory, examining norms of Indigenous self-determination, territorial acquisition, individual rights, and ecological duty.

Learning Outcomes

A student who has completed the course should have the following learning outcomes: 


The student

  • Has advanced knowledge concerning salient political actors within and across the contemporary Arctic, including relevant states, Indigenous peoples, regional and global bodies, and environmental and resource-development interests.
  • Has advanced knowledge about salient trends and challenges within and across the contemporary Arctic, including climate change and environmental protection; Arctic sovereignty, militarization, and cooperation; Indigenous mobilization and counter-mobilization; and resource and industrial trade and development.
  • Has in-depth knowledge of the historical political developments and circumstances shaping these present-day actors and challenges

General competence

The student

  • is able to analyze contemporary Arctic political actors, trends, and challenges through methods and concepts of comparative politics, geopolitics, and political theory

ECTS Credits


Level of Study


Semester of Instruction

Spring - irregular
Required Previous Knowledge
Recommended Previous Knowledge

The course is mainly oriented towards students who have been admitted to the Department of Comparative Politics' master's program, but is also open to exchange students after approval of the query.

The course is limited to a maximum of 15 students. Access to the course will be given to the first 15 who register for assessment in the course.

Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
5 ECTS reduction due to overlap with SAMPOL323
Access to the Course

The course is open for students who have been accepted into the Master's program in comparative politics.

Guest students at the master level may be accepted upon application. Applications may be rejected due to capacity.

The maximum number of students in this course is 15 students. The first 15 students to register for the course are admitted.

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures/seminars: 12

Hours per seminar: 2

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance
Full attendance at no fewer than 70% of the lectures/seminars.
Forms of Assessment

Three-day end-of-semester take home exam, 3000 words

The exam will be given in the language in which the course is taught.

The exam can be submitted in English. It is also possible to submit in Norwegian, Swedish or Danish.

Grading Scale
Graded A-F
Assessment Semester

Assessment in teaching semester

A retake exam for either parts of the exam is arranged for students with valid absence according to § 5-5 of the Study Regulations at UiB. If a retake exam are arranged for students with valid absence, students with the following results can also register:

  • Interruption during the exam
  • Fail/Not passed

If you qualify for the retake exam and a retake exam is arranged for students with valid absence, you can register yourself in Studentweb after August 1.

Reading List
The reading list will be ready before 1 July for the autumn semester and 1 December for the spring semester. 
Course Evaluation
All courses are evaluated in line with UiB's quality system for education.
Programme Committee
The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.  
Course Administrator
The Department of Comparative Politics at the Faculty of Social Sciences has the administrative responsibility for the course and the study programme.