1st Edition

Role Theory, Environmental Politics, and Learning in International Relations The Case of the Arctic Region

By Sandra Engstrand Copyright 2021
    230 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    230 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In this book, Sandra Engstrand uses role theory to study learning processes in environmental policy negotiations in the Arctic Council.

    Owing to rapid ice-melting in the Arctic region, and more accessible commercial opportunities, there is a greater need for environmental protection. However, large sections of the Arctic fall under state jurisdiction, often causing tensions to arise that prevent any cooperation from achieving fully efficient environmental protection. To enhance our understanding on how states learn about environmental norms, Engstrand examines negotiation processes on environmental protection for the prevention of Arctic marine oil spills and the reduction of short-lived climate pollutants. Through interviews with state representatives and through text analyses of nearly twenty years of meetings between Senior Arctic Officials from each of the eight Arctic states, Engstrand suggests that learning on environmental norms runs firstly through a learning of roles in international relations. She demonstrates how member states develop through self-reflection and by considering the expectation of others, concluding that states’ wishes to preserve their social role in a group and to be perceived as Arctic ‘cooperators’ are drivers for a social education on environmental norms.

    A timely and unmatched volume Role Theory, Environmental Politics, and Learning in International Relations will engage students and academic researchers in international relations, environmental governance, and Arctic politics.

    1. Introduction: Learning in Arctic environmental cooperation

    2. The studying of learning through roles

    3. Above the timberline – the logic of Arctic cooperation

    4. Role-playing in the Arctic Council

    5. When sovereignty is expected to interfere: a micro-level departure in negotiations on oil spill prevention

    6. When action-taking is prescribed: a micro-level departure in negotiations on shortlived climate pollutants

    7. Conclusion: The studying of learning through roles – findings and suggestions

    8. Epilogue: Looking ahead of Arctic Cooperation


    Sandra Engstrand has a PhD in Political Science from Lund University. She has been teaching courses in International Relations at the Department of Global Political Studies at Malmö University, Sweden.

    "One of the great strength of this book is its rigorous and empirically rich account of Arctic cooperation from a role theoretical perspective. Sandra Engstrand’s analysis brings together in-depth knowledge of Arctic state interaction, enviromental and resource politics as well as foreign policy learning theory, thereby offering an excellent starting point to explain future cooperation and non-cooperation in this vital region."

    Sebastien Harnisch, Professor of Political Science, Heidelberg University

    "Sandra Engstrand offers a refreshing view on Arctic relations, by identify how Arctic states learn and play their roles. It is an important and awaited contribution to the Arctic governance literature. A must read for everyone interested in how states understand the Arctic."

    Svein Vigeland Rottem, Senior Research Fellow, Fridtjof Nansen Institute

    "No serious scholar of environmental politics or international relations would deny that climate change in the polar regions has become a matter of urgent concern. If our present habits must change, then states must learn to embrace new behavioral norms. Sandra Engstrand uses role theory to give us new insight into the unfolding drama of Arctic Council negotiations, and new hope about the prospects for learning even as the geopolitics of environmental cooperation have become more fraught than ever."

    Paul Kowert, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts