Voicing Bipolar Futures: The Antarctic Treaty System and Arctic Governance in Historical Perspective

  • Lize-Marié van der Watt
  • Peder Roberts
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology book series (PSHST)


The Antarctic Treaty of 1959 has long been held up as a model for enlightened governance of an international space. This chapter asks how and why the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) regularly has been presented as inspiration for potential future Arctic governance regimes during the past half-century. We examine how legal regimes are freighted with temporally specific values (including geopolitical assumptions); and how the outcomes deemed most valuable may be achieved without replication of the specific legal framework. We begin by tracing how the origins of the ATS have been systematically described as exceptional to rather than exemplary of late 1950s Cold War geopolitics. We then consider how and why particular actors invoked the ATS in discussions of multilateral Arctic governance through the 1970s and 1980s. Finally, we discuss how the ATS has been proposed as a solution during the most recent narrative of crisis in the Arctic.


Antarctic Treaty System Cold war Geopolitics Governance Arctic 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lize-Marié van der Watt
    • 1
  • Peder Roberts
    • 1
  1. 1.KTH Royal Institute of TechnologyStockholmSweden

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