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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Inuit Political Engagement in the Arctic
association in Canada, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), to redraw the map of Canada to ensure all
Inuit benefit from domestic northern policies. Both domestically and internationally Arctic
indigenous peoples are challenging the conventional concepts of territory in favor of a regional
understanding of the Arctic in an effort to enhance their voice and influence in political affairs.
New Concepts of Territory in International Relations Theory
Spatial theory provides a broad context for understanding the role of territory in international
relations. Prior to the 1970s, the analysis of space or territory was relegated to the study of maps,
surveys and physical geography with little relevance to the social sciences. This changes with the
publication and translation of Henri Lefebvre’s
The Production of Space
Lefebvre argues
that space has inherent value – social relations create space, and space creates social relations. With
Lefebvre’s work, the politics of space was born. Social scientists begin to develop new and
innovative ways of looking at space. From the mid-70s forward, space moves out of “the exclusive
domain of geographers” and becomes the “intellectual terrain across a broad spectrum of social
science disciplines” (Ferrare & Apple, 2010: 209) including contributing to a better understanding of
global relations. The recognition of the limitations of the nation-state model to effectively analyze
international relations, combined with an emerging understanding of the inherent relationship
between concepts of territory and social justice issues, lends insight into contemporary Arctic
Agnew (1987, 1994, 2005) is credited with reinventing the meaning of geopolitics. He argues that
international relations must include an understanding of the role of territory or place in political
power structures. In his seminal article, “The Territorial Trap” (1994), Agnew points out that
international relations theory has been limited by its insistence on defining states as “fixed units of
sovereign space” or “‘containers’ of society” (Agnew, 1994: 53). Agnew advocates for a redefinition
of political space. He calls for the new conceptual framework to foster a more nuanced and
appropriate lens within which to understand the evolving nature of political relations at the global
level. As the impact of globalization intensifies in the 1980s and 1990s, the redefinition of political
space becomes increasingly critical.
Agnew (1994) observes that a growing number of non-state actors have begun to gain significant
power at the international level challenging the conventional nation-state framework. These new
“networks of power” (Agnew, 1994: 72) no longer fit into the “territorial representations of space”