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Does Ice have Politics? The Materiality and Mobility of Frozen States

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  • UserDr. Michael Bravo, Dept. of Geography, University of Cambridge
  • ClockTuesday 04 June 2013, 13:00-14:00
  • HouseSeminar Room.

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Abstract: In 2006 I predicted that there will another Exxon Valdez ecological disaster and that it would be watched in real time across boardrooms and throughout public spheres around the world – my message was that the new Arctic is less remote or hidden from view than we have imagined. In the same article in the Brown Journal of World Affairs (co-authored with Gareth Rees), I coined the term ‘cryopolitics’ to draw attention to the claim that frozen states – in their many forms – have a material history, culture and environmental politics. These cryopolitics are both changed and distorted by the dominant neoliberal narrative that a future ice-free Arctic presages and enables new more efficient flows of global commodities.

In this seminar, I want to discuss three aspects of cryopolitics. First I will try to communicate something about the materiality of the High Arctic archipelagic region by sharing some of my fieldwork experience working with Inuit Elders in Pond Inlet near Lancaster Sound, the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage. Secondly I will illustrate contemporary cryopolitics by briefly exploring some relationships in the indigenous world between the materiality of ice and mobility, and how they risk being displaced by industrial investments. Thirdly, and most importantly, I hope to engage the audience in generating a discussion as to what if anything, makes cryopolitics distinctive from other kinds of environmental materialities and their associated geopolitics in other parts of the world (e.g. aridity, drought, flooding, volcanic eruptions).

  • M. T. Bravo and W. G. Rees, Cryopolitics: Environmental Security and the Future of Arctic Navigation, Brown Journal of World Affairs, 13(1), Fall/Winter 2006, 205-215

*The link to access this paper is:

This talk is part of the Political Ecology Group meetings series.

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