Department of Comparative Politics
New PhD candidates

Indigenous People and Governance in the Arctic

Elin Monstad and Aaron Spitzer are newly appointed PhD candidates at the Department of Comparative Politics.

Aaron Spitzer og Elin Monstad
Aaron Spitzer and Elin Monstad

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Monstad and Spitzer are affiliated with the project “Indigenous people and governance in the Arctic,” led by Professor Per Selle.

The project is working towards developing a comparative indigenous study with special emphasis on the Nordic countries and Canada. Also involved in the project are Professor Kristin Strømsnes and master students from the elective postgraduate course SAMPOL323: Arctic Governance and the Role of Indigenous People.

Elin Monstad
Elin Monstad started her engagement at the Department of Comparative Politics in June. Her PhD project is about political power among indigenous people in the Arctic with a comparison of Canada and Scandinavia.

Monstad has a great interest in research and especially research methodology. She finds the theme of her project, political sovereignty of stateless nations, very exciting. She likes the idea of being able to contribute to promoting knowledge and examining how things are interrelated.

Monstad’s bachelor thesis was about a similar theme, and her master thesis dealt with unacknowledged de facto-states. She sees many similarities between those two theses and her current project, but believes they are still different enough to provide for a good width in her research.

Elin Monstad completed her M.A. at the Department of Comparative Politics in 2013. Afterwards, she worked at the University of Bergen for a semester before backpacking through the Stan-countries in Central Asia. Since then she has worked at NSD (Norwegian Centre for Research Data) for two years. In addition, she has worked as a research assistant on different projects at UiB and NHH, and as a freelancer for FN-sambandet (United Nations Association of Norway).

Aaron Spitzer
Aaron Spitzer joined the Department of Comparative Politics this month. The title of his PhD project is “Individual freedoms versus Indigenous self-determination in Canada’s North and Norwegian Samiland: Constitutional structure, legal tradition and the ‘clash of rights’ in settler-colonial states.”

The project builds on his M.A. thesis, which explored how non-Indigenous settlers have asserted individual rights of mobility and voting to constrain Indigenous autonomy and self-determination in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

Because settler-colonialism has had a relatively recent and relatively limited impact on Arctic Indigenous peoples, the Arctic provides unique opportunities for creatively and fruitfully pursuing decolonization and working out arrangements whereby Indigenous peoples can enjoy autonomy and self-determination within and across the borders of modern nation states. These efforts may provide guidance to states around the world grappling with the challenges of internal pluralism, says Spitzer.

Aaron Spitzer earned his M.A. in Northern Studies, with a concentration in Northern governance, from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2015. He earned his B.A. in political science in 1995 from Carleton College in Minnesota, USA. For nearly 20 years in between, he worked as a journalist and editor specializing in the world’s Polar Regions. He lived and worked in Antarctica, Alaska and all three of Canada’s northern territories. For eight of those years he was the editor-in-chief of Up Here, the magazine of Canada’s North, which in 2010 was named Canada’s Magazine of the Year. He also co-wrote several Lonely Planet travel guides on Alaska and Northern Canada, and continues to work as a lecturer aboard cruise ships travelling in Greenland and the Canadian Arctic.