Where/when does power – be it political, economic, historical, etc. – come into play in the Arctic? The theme of the 2020 Northern Political Economy Symposium is “Excavating sites of power in the Arctic”. The symposium is organized online on October 27-28, 2020 by the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland.

Organizers welcome presentations that delve into power in its different, and potentially disguised/hidden/subdued, forms and manifestations. The presentations can discuss the exercise of power by different human and non-human agencies and analyze its different consequences, for example, for the region’s population, development and governance. Critical perspectives on power in Arctic studies are important to challenge current metanarratives of the Arctic as, for example, a resource region or a stage for (non)human resilience in the face of climate change. These depictions dominate public perceptions of the Arctic and expectations of its development. The aim of the symposium is to advance critical perspectives on the meaning and means of power in Arctic studies by challenging conventional positions and mainstream approaches to knowledge as well as to explore alternative ways of understanding the Arctic, its history and future development.

Keynote speaker

The symposium keynote speaker is professor Julian Reid. He is Chair and Professor of International Relations at the University of Lapland. He taught previously at King’s College London, SOAS, and the University of Sussex. His latest book is Becoming Indigenous: Governing Imaginaries in the Anthropocene (coauthored with David Chandler) (Rowman & Littlefield, London, 2019).

The title of his key note lecture is “Arctic Biopolitics”. This lecture will provide a critical assessment of the potentials of the concept of biopolitics for the theorization of power in the Arctic. In particular the lecture will focus on the question of the governance of migration within the Arctic. Migration of populations is an issue of fundamental interest to biopolitical regimes of power, and has been since their inception in the early modern era. It has also always been closely related to issues of climate and concerns especially over the implications of climate migrations for the stability of populations, both human and non-human. The lecture will provide an overview of the different ways migration of human and non-human populations is interpreted today, as threats to the stability of the Arctic region, as well as threats to the survivability of migratory populations themselves. We will consider the different policy regimes which arise from these interpretations. In particular the lecture will focus on the contemporary debate over the climate migration of polar bears in Arctic Canada and provide an account of the biopolitics of conflict between the Canadian state and its indigenous populations; a conflict which has arisen from their different interpretations of the climate migration of polar bears. As we will see, analysing this conflict through the lens of the concept of biopolitics provides a very different slant on the issues involved than has hitherto been achieved to date in Arctic research.


In addition to the key note lecture, the programme will include presentations by the participants and time allocated for discussions. The symposium will be held this year online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The link to present and participate to the event will be send to the registered participants by October 23, 2020. Working practices will be adjusted to suit online participation with shorter presentations and longer breaks.

Presentation proposals

Please send your abstract (max. 250-words) with your name, title, affiliation and contact information before September 20, 2020 by email to Monica Tennberg (monica.tennberg@ulapland.fi).

The accepted abstracts and the programme will be announced by October 1, 2020.

Deadline for registration

If you prefer to participate to the symposium without presenting a paper, please register your participation before October 15, 2020 by sending an email to Monica Tennberg (monica.tennberg@ulapland.fi).

More information

Monica Tennberg
Research professor, Northern Political Economy research group
Arctic Centre, University of Lapland