Nikolas Sellheim, Leilei Zou & Osamu Inagaki

Over the last 20+ years the Arctic has seen a significant increase in legal regimes that directly or indirectly affect its peoples, livelihoods, environment(s) and resources. Especially under the auspices of the soft-law Arctic Council, non-binding agreements reflect a trend which point towards the creation of a ‘legal Arctic’ that encompasses understandings of a world rooted in environmental awareness, cultural respect, collaboration and cooperation. At the same time, non-Arctic players have generated their own understanding of the Arctic in either their national Arctic strategies or policies or legal regimes that reflect onto the Arctic in which their own views on the Arctic are politically or legally embedded. Two of these, Japan and China, are presented in this paper. In literary studies, the somewhat utopian creation of the Arctic has been labelled ‘Arctopia’, which explores a fictitious vision of global societies that often holds an environmental message. The ‘Arctopian’ literature therefore makes use of characteristics of the innovated Arctic that is rooted in a diagnosis of the ills of the present with potential pathways for its positive transformation. This paper argues that also in binding and non-binding legal regimes dealing with or relevant for the Arctic a vision of a ‘better world’ is embedded — leading away from a utopia towards real-world policy-implications, going beyond problem-solving, but holding also an exclusively expressive function which narrates and shapes the Arctic as a region where the ills of the present are eradicated through long-term cooperation.

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