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The Contiguous Zone as Ocean Frontier

Packing up my computer to head out the door en route to the ‘Ocean Frontiers’ workshop being held in Toronto later this week, I made one last news check and stumbled upon this piece in The New York Times about a niche group of trans-Mediterranean asylum seekers who travel in style, paying a premium above the usual smuggling charge to travel on relatively well appointed private boats from Turkey to Italy. Although the journalist is careful to note that this is not the usual migrant experience, the article, with its seeming identification of first-class asylum seekers (the modern equivalent of Ronald Reagan’s perjorative ‘welfare queen’?) is politically problematic. But that’s not what piqued my interest.

What caught my eye was that this article has to be one of the few pieces of maritime journalism where the contiguous zone plays a central role:

“To avoid routine checks, the sailors skillfully navigate what is known as the ‘contiguous zone,’ the continuous maritime area extending beyond any country’s territorial waters.”

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Sea Ice Publications….in press and more forthcoming

While sea ice has been an issue in almost all of my Arctic work and it’s at the core of the ICE LAW Project, it’s only now that a series of my pieces specifically on sea ice are finding their way to publication.

Today sees the publication of my first piece in the sea ice series: ’The ice edge is lost…nature moved it’: mapping ice as state practice in the Canadian and Norwegian North. The article, co-authored with Berit Kristoffersen, has just been published early online on the website of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. It’s also profiled on the associated Geography Directions blog. The Wiley Online website is making the article free access  through 19 May, of, if you use the link embedded above it should be free access forever.  so download it now while you can!

A second sea ice piece is within a day or two of submission. This one – “Edges and flows: exploring legal materialities and biophysical politics at the sea ice edge” — is destined for the book Ocean Legalities: The Law and Life of the Sea, which is being edited by Irus Braverman and Elizabeth Johnson and will be published by Duke University Press. This chapter, which includes Kristen Shake as well as Berit Kristoffersen as co-authors, takes up where the Transactions article leaves off, going deeper into Norwegian ice edge politics as well as the dynamics of sea ice ecologies.

A third piece, on ice islands, is also within a day or two of finalisation. This one, “Placing territory on ice: militarisation, measurement and murder in the high Arctic,” is co-authored with Johanne Bruun and will be appearing in the Territory beyond Terra book that I’m co-editing with Kimberley Peters and Elaine Stratford (to be published by Rowman and Littlefield International). Of course ice islands are not technically sea ice (they’re made from glacial ice), but they’re still big chunks of ice in the ocean…which is close enough.

A final article, with Kristen Shake, Karen Frey, and Deb Martin — “(Un)frozen spaces: exploring the role of sea ice in the marine socio-legal spaces of the Bering and Beaufort Seas” — is working its way through to publication in the Journal of Borderland Studies‘ special issue on the Arctic.

All this gets me in the mood for next week’s ICE LAW Project workshops in Durham and Amsterdam and, following that, an Arctic literature, cinema, and geopolitics seminar in Zurich.

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The ICE LAW Project comes out from the cold

logo copyThe ICE LAW Project is close to concluding its first full year of funding and we’re in the midst of a particularly active few months. We’ve been providing regular updates on the ICE LAW Project’s website and Twitter feed. However, with so much happening in April-May-June, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight events to followers of this blog who are not ICE LAW regulars.

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New Associate Editor position at Political Geography


Political Geography is looking for a new associate editor to join the current editorial team (myself, Tor Benjaminsen, Halvard Buhaug, and Fiona McConnell). We’re looking for broad expertise in the subdiscipline, but specialisms in political theory, critical IR/security studies, migration studies, and urban/economic geography would be particularly welcome. Please see the complete advert and apply before 1 May.

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New Coastal-Ocean Studies Posts in Germany and the UK

Three new ocean-related job adverts have across my desk in the past two days, so I thought this would be a good place to spread the word. Christian Albrechts University in Kiel has made a number of hires in coastal-marine studies over the past year and is ramping up its expertise in the social sciences in what’s long been a center of ocean research. There are new two post-doc positions advertised there, one in Geography, focusing on social dynamics in coastal areas, and one in Politics, focusing on the ocean as political space and related topics in ocean governance. German language skills are helpful, but not required, for either post, but fluency in English is a must. Also, I’ve been led to believe that there’s some flexibility to the disciplinary qualifications spelled out in the adverts.

At the other end of the career spectrum, the University of Southampton has put out a call for applicants for its Regius Professorship of Ocean Sciences. Although they clearly are envisioning a physical scientist (or perhaps an economist), again I have the impression that they’ll be somewhat flexible if the right applicant comes along.

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ICE LAW Project schedule for Spring/Summer 2017

logo copySince arriving at Durham in 2013, I’ve slowly been developing the core structure of The Project on Indeterminate and Changing Environments: Law, the Anthropocene, and the World (The ICE LAW Project). Thanks to a generous grant from the Leverhulme Trust as well as sponsorship from UArctic’s Thematic Network on Arctic Law, I am happy to announce a full schedule of workshops and presentation sessions for Spring/Summer 2017:

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Academic Boycotts, the AAG, and the Trump Muslim Ban

In response to the now week-old (and partially suspended) US ban on migrants and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim nations, as well as President Trump’s announcement that subsequent easing of these restrictions would include a preference for non-Muslims, I have been following a growing number of conversations, online and sometimes literally around the office water cooler. It appears that I am far from alone in trying to figure out an appropriate response.

Inspired, in part, by the apparent success that the cancellation of major events has had in generating opposition to North Carolina’s transgender ‘bathroom bill’, and, going back to the 1990s, in forcing recognition of Martin Luther King Day in Arizona, there has been a growing movement to boycott US-based academic meetings. Given the timing of things, and the particular academic community that I belong to, most of my exposure has specifically been to debates surrounding the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers, to be held next month in Boston. I’m well aware, though, that similar debates have been transpiring among the membership of other international professional organizations with planned annual meetings in the US.

Before continuing, a bit of self-positioning is in order. As a US passport holder living abroad, I am arguably more affected by this order than US citizens in the US, but less affected than non-US citizens or, of course, citizens of (or past visitors to) any of the seven named states. I also am less affected than any of the countless individuals who, for reasons of skin tone, surname, travel history, birthplace, nationality, or religion, have long sought to avoid US border crossings. On the other hand, although it doesn’t usually weigh heavily on my identity, I myself am the child of a war refugee, and that may also  influence my perspective.

And finally, as editor of a journal called Political Geography, I don’t feel like it would be right for me to be silent on this topic which is most certainly one of political geography. That said, Political Geography has its own long history with boycotts, and what follows are purely my own beliefs and opinions and not those of the journal.

So, here goes…. Continue Reading »

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