Aaron John Spitzer


Associate Professor, Associate Professor of Arctic Governance



Aaron John Spitzer is an associate professor of Arctic governance at the Department of Comparative Politics and is the co-leader of the international research project Indigenous Peoples and Governance in the Arctic. His research focuses on Indigenous governance, Arctic governance, liberal-democratic peripheries, and post-Westphalianism. He has spent extensive time conducting research in Alaska; Canada's Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut; and Australia's Northern Territory. His latest work investigates clashes concerning the accommodation of Sami interests; the contested constitutional structure of settler-colonial federal “territories” and other peripheral regions; and the normative navigation of contests juxtaposing the liberal-democratic rights of individuals versus the self-determination rights of peoples.   


Course development and teaching 

Aaron has been responsible for developing and teaching courses at the undergraduate and graduate level on Arctic governance, Indigenous governance, and state-and-nation building:

SAMPOL105: State- and Nation-Building (co-instructor, 2022-2023) is an undergraduate course at the Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen, introducing first-year students to the history of, and theories concerning, the rise of the Westphalian state system, and exploring challenges that system is now experiencing. 

SAMPOL203: Comparative Arctic Indigenous Governance (curriculum developer and instructor, 2018-2023) is undergraduate course at the Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen, exploring the rapidly evolving field of Indigenous governance in the Nordic states and Canada.

SAMPOL 371: Arctic Politics (curriculum developer and instructor, 2022-2023) is an M.A.-level course at the Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen, studying contemporary challenges in the North including climate change, resource extraction, militarization, and Indigenous (de)colonization.

SAMPOL323: Arctic Governance and the Role of Indigenous People ((co-instructor, 2018, 2020-2021) is an M.A.-level course at the Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen, exploring how the Arctic Indigenous peoples take part in and influence processes of political change.

STV-2048Comparative Arctic Indigenous Governance (curriculum developer and co-instructor, 2018-2019) is an undergraduate course at the University of Tromsø – the Arctic University of Norway, exploring the rapidly evolving field of indigenous governance in the Nordic states and Canada.





See a complete overview of publications in Cristin.


Contested Frontiers: Understanding the Constitutional Politics of Settler-State Peripheries (CONFRONT)

European Research Council Starting Grant (101115513), 2024-2029

Between Indigenous self-determination and settler colonization lie contested frontiers, subject to “metapolitics.” In the past, settlers, using force, domesticated frontiers. Recent decades have seen an Indigenous resurgence, rekindling metapolitcs, most consequentially on settler-state peripheries. These contests are increasingly waged as clashes of “constitutive principles”: Is the demos rightly universal or divisible? Should individual or collective rights prevail? Should democracy or self-determination decide? Resolving such contests is difficult. Yet the metapolitics of modern frontiers have escaped political-science attention. They lack conceptualization, analysis, and theorization.  

CONFRONT aims to develop a theory of frontier metapolitics, by for the first time studying contests over constitutive principles in, and how such contests shape and are shaped by, settler-state peripheries. This project will generate and test data from settler federal territories (e.g., Australia’s Northern Territory, Canada’s Nunavut, American Samoa) and related peripheries to learn how constitutive metapolitics are conducted and refereed, how they (re)constitute peripheries, and how they should be resolved. To do this, CONFRONT will pursue four research objectives: 1) conceptualizing metapolitics to render it cognizable, 2) compiling the first dataset of frontier constitutive metapolitical contests, 3) analysing such contests and their interaction with the constitution of peripheries, and 4) normatively theorizing how such contests should be approached and resolved.

CONFRONT will innovatively combine comparative politics, comparative constitutional law, and normative political theory to identify and open a salient new research field. Led by a pioneer of settler-metapolitical studies with a unique pre-academic background in peripheral regions, this project will make modern frontier metapolitical contests visible, comprehensible, and more soluble. If successful, CONFRONT will place peripheries central to studies of metapolitical contestation, inspiring and preparing scientists, decisionmakers, civil-society actors, and perhaps even colonized peoples to grapple with the rising metapolitical instability of peripheries and of the “late Westphalian” world at large.