Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 447

447 Arctic Yearbook 2015 sub-national jurisdictions to identify how international law’s blindness to the specificities of sea ice might be overcome. We recognized from the start that any attempt to implement recommendations emerging from this exercise would face formidable political hurdles. The modern state system is based on a fundamental distinction between solid land (which is divided into state territories) and liquid ocean (which is beyond territory) (Steinberg 2001, 2009). The history of preliminary efforts to conceptualize an ‘Arctic Treaty’ has made it clear that any effort to implement a legal regime based on any other understanding of the relationship between geophysics and geopolitics in the Arctic would face a chilly reception in diplomatic circles (e.g. Bellinger 2008; Ilulissat 2008). Nonetheless, we felt that ‘blue sky’ thinking was needed to begin a conversation that could become highly relevant should the political opportunity emerge. To encourage this ‘blue sky’ thinking, we attempted to bracket questions of political practicability to the greatest extent possible. The programme sent to participants prior to the workshop made this intent clear: As an academic grouping without sponsorship from any policy-implementing body, the collection of anthropologists, legal scholars, and political theorists being brought together for this workshop will have the freedom to consider options that address the concerns and practices of peoples and institutions that encounter the specificities of Arctic and sub-Arctic landscapes and seascapes (IBRU 2014). The politics that might hinder implementation would be considered later, if at all. We also sought to prevent the discussion from being overly constrained by considerations of political practicality by pairing the ‘practical’ goal with the workshop’s more ‘conceptual’ goals: to use sea ice as a lens for exploring more generally the ways in which geophysical categorizations fail to reflect experiences of space ‘on the ground’. Such an inquiry would address a broader trend within political geography and international relations toward querying the material basis of political categories and institutions and, in particular, the relationship between geophysical and geopolitical binaries (e.g. Clark 2010; Coole & Frost 2010; Millennium 2013). To ensure that both the conceptual and practical goals were continually engaged, twelve invited Arctic scholars were joined by ten invited scholars without any particular Arctic expertise but with strong research profiles in related areas of law, political theory, anthropology, and geography. As might be expected, the Arctic experts, and in particular the anthropologists and lawyers among them, focused more on the practical goals. Conversely, the non-Arctic experts, and in particular the political theorists and geographers among them, focused on the more conceptual goals. However a surprising diversion of priorities emerged as the conversation proceeded. Notwithstanding the project’s origins in the identification of a specific gap in UNCLOS (and the need to suggest ways to fill it), ‘practical’-oriented Arctic experts consistently argued that the remit of the project should expand beyond sea ice. If, they asked, the goal was to investigate how actual encounters with the environment resist the categorizations of modern law, then should the remit of the project not be expanded to Arctic waters regar