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Arctic Exceptionalism: Cooperation in a Contested World

Barry Scott Zellen
Arctic Exceptionalism:  Cooperation in a Contested World
ISBN: 978-1-962551-10-6
$125.00 $45.00
ISBN: 978-1-962551-27-4
$125.00 $45.00
2024/335 pages/LC: 2024010529
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"A thoughtful and inspired analysis of the Arctic world…. Arctic Exceptionalism will long be a standard against which Arctic scholarship is measured." —Alan Tidwell, Georgetown University

"No previous author has provided such an insightful analysis of "Arctic exceptionalism"–-its deep roots, its resilience, and the forces that could end or save it."—Alun Mark Anderson, author of After the Ice: Life, Death and Geopolitics in the New Arctic

"A thoroughly unique perspective on Arctic exceptionalism…. Zellen weighs in on debates concerning both the history and the future of the Arctic and pinpoints the weak spots of dominant approaches to its geopolitics. I urge every scholar of Arctic international relations to read this book." —Julian Reid, University of Lapland

"Well researched and provocative…. Zellen offers ways to move forward, as well as a cautionary tale that sees the circumpolar world divided between East and West amidst a lack of action in dealing not only with rising sea levels, permafrost thaw, and wildfires that are burning bigger and more often, but also paramount indigenous concerns.”"—Edward Struzik, Queen's University

"A timely, compelling account of the international forces that influence and constrain the foundations and functions of Arctic collaboration." —Christopher Kirkey, State University of New York at Plattsburgh


For some three centuries, the Arctic region has been a zone of collaborative governance. The interests of diverse sovereign states, indigenous peoples, NGOs, and other stakeholders have been aligned—even during periods of global conflict. Now, however, these consensus-based foundations are being tested.

In Arctic Exceptionalism, Barry Scott Zellen considers: What explains the enduring cooperation in the region? Will new international dynamics upend the consensual approach? Could the intensifying nationalism across the Inuit homeland likewise endanger it? Zellen traces the region's long diplomatic history to show how competing interests have managed to establish an enduring stable order, and how escalating state rivalries and renewed nationalism are likely to affect it.


Barry Scott Zellen is research scholar in the Department of Geography at the University of Connecticut.


  • Arctic Exceptionalism.
  • Strategic Expansion to the Arctic Region.
  • The Age of Arctic Land Claims.
  • Inuit Sovereignty in a Westphalian World.
  • The Rise and Collapse of Consensus.
  • The Realist Foundations of a Collaborative Arctic Order.
  • A Cooperative Arctic in a Contested World?