Student Pages
Postgraduate course

Arctic Politics

Main content

ECTS Credits


Level of Study


Teaching semester

Spring - irregular

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

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 available to students who have been accepted into the department's master's program and to visiting students upon approval of student request.

The course size is limited to 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

Grading Scale

Graded A-F

Assessment Semester

Assessment in teaching semester

Reading List

The reading list will be ready before 1 June 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 Coordinator

Course coordinator and administrative contact person can be found on Mitt UiB. 

Course Administrator

The Department of Comparative Politics at the Faculty of Social Sciences has the administrative responsibility for the course and the study programme. 

Exam information

  • Type of assessment: Home examination

    Assignment handed out
    26.04.2023, 09:00
    Submission deadline
    28.04.2023, 14:00
    Withdrawal deadline
    Examination system
    Digital exam