Klaus Dodds and Mark Nuttall, The Scramble for the Poles (Polity, 2016)

by howkins


  1. Scrambling for the Extraordinary
  2. Making and Remaking the Polar Regions
  3. Under Ice and Snow
  4. Governing the Arctic and Antarctic
  5. New Resource Frontiers
  6. Opening up the Poles
  7. Polar Demands and Demanding Polar Regions


Dodds and Nuttall’s The Scramble for the Poles offers a fascinating insight into the past, present, and future of the Arctic and Antarctica.  As would be expected from a geographer and an anthropologist, the book’s perspective is very much informed by these two disciplines, especially geography.  The book likes to play with words and ideas.  The authors acknowledge, for example, that the “scramble” of the book’s title is not unproblematic, but they like its implications as both a hurried effort to do something and a mixing and confusing.  But alongside the geography and the anthropology there is a significant historical dimension to this work.  In agreement with Andrew Stuhl’s argument, for example, Dodds and Nuttall suggest that there is little new about the supposedly “New Arctic,” with activities such as resource exploitation and “frontier mentalities” having existed for centuries.  There is lots in common with my The Polar Regions book in the thematic approach, and the book engages with similar topics such as exploration, resource exploitation, environmental change, and governance.  The penultimate chapter contains a very interesting discussion of “emerging powers,” especially Chinese, interest in the Polar Regions, and introduces the useful idea of a “Polar Orientalism.”  Overall, the book is certainly weighted toward the Arctic, and scholars of Antarctica might be left wanting a little more.  But this is a rich interpretation of the two Polar Regions and the connections between them, and contains lots of interesting ideas that help us to understand these two regions.