Ellen A. Ahlness

It is tempting for southern actors to imagine an Arctic that is separate from the challenges that define the rest of the world. From geopolitics to pollution, militarization to a loss of biodiversity, the complex events that span the globe highlight the desirability of identifying a region isolated from broader struggles. However, the very concept of an isolated or untouched region is a production, one of multiple human imaginaries of the region. While the Far North was, for long chapters in history, largely inaccessible to the majority of humanity, it has never fully been isolated or protected from the events and processes happening to its south. Arctic images created by and for southerners fundamentally shaped early—and inaccurate— imaginaries of the North. As societies and states move forward from 1909 to 2007 (both symbolic years in encountering the North Pole) and beyond, we find that social attitudes toward the Arctic are shaped by nostalgia. However, actors hold different nostalgia narratives which have been shaped by timelines emphasizing different key social, technological, and geophysical events. Three groups of Arctic actors are identified (policymakers, researchers, and extractionists) whose understandings and nostalgia of the Arctic are shaped by emphasis on different events within these timelines. Each category of actor utilizes their varying timelines in their policy rhetoric; however, each discourse has origins in the settler-colonialism frontiersmanship of the 19th and 20th centuries. Ultimately, divergent temporalities and imaginaries mobilize actors to pursue different socio-economic policies in the North.

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