Recalcitrant Materialities of a Liminal Ocean: Deconstructing the ‘Arctic Nomos’

In: The Yearbook of Polar Law Online
Apostolos Tsiouvalas null

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Published in 1950, Carl Schmitt’s Nomos of the Earth has been one of the most influential contributions in legal theory, illustrating inter alia the territorial conceptualization of the Eurocentric global legal order. While the Earth’s nomos has been largely hinged on the constructed ontology of a land-sea dichotomy and the appropriation and division of space through the establishment of sovereignty upon it, this article contends that the particular geomorphology of the Arctic seascape, the multiscalar dynamics of Arctic politics, and the rapid pace of change in the region render the Arctic spatial order rather intricate and may challenge the existing territorial application of state sovereignty. After critically deconstructing the process of territorialization of the Arctic Ocean, the article delves into three conceptual challenges – one ontological, one epistemological, and one technological respectively – pertinent to the juridical imaginary of the ‘Arctic nomos’ engraved by sovereignty, and seeks to expose the limits of the existing regime in place.

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