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Political Philosophy Looks to Antarctica (completed)

This project explored the moral grounds of claims over territory and natural resources in Antarctica, as well as the moral legitimacy of the Antarctic Treaty System.  

Small boat with people on in the sea with ice. Photo.
Photo: Pablo Ruiz, Instituto Antártico Chileno (INACH)

About the project

Global pressure over natural resources in Antarctica will mount in the coming decades. Three pressing factors might motivate states to claim exclusive rights to Antarctica: climate change, dwindling natural resources in occupied territories, and the fact that, by virtue of Article IV of the Antarctic Treaty, the question of sovereignty in the White Continent remains unresolved. We are thus at a unique point in history to influence the ethical dimensions of the decisions that may govern Antarctica in the future.

So far, most analyses of Antarctic politics have taken a descriptive and matter-of-fact approach, while political philosophy has been blind to Antarctica as a case study. In this project, we used these blindspots as a point of departure.


Primary objectives:

  • To carry out a normative analysis of claims over territory and natural resources in Antarctica, and to develop a systematic normative framework with which to morally assess these claims.
  • To carry out a normative analysis of the political legitimacy of the Antarctic Treaty System, and to develop a systematic normative framework with which to morally assess it.

Secondary objectives:

  • To take Antarctic politics and, more specifically, the Antarctic Treaty System, as a unique locus wherefrom to rethink certain key concepts and theories of territorial rights and rights over natural resources, on the one hand, and political legitimacy, on the other.


Polar Programme, The Research Council of Norway.


September 1, 2017 until January 31, 2021.


  • Arctic University of Norway
  • University of Southampton (UK)
  • University College Cork (Ireland)
  • Queens University (Canada)
  • University of Tasmania (Australia)
  • Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Public outreach

Media articles

Public lectures

Conferences and talks

Seminar "60 years of the Antarctic Treaty: Challenges and Questions"

The seminar took place during the winter solstice in Punta Arenas, Chile.

With more than fifty participants, the seminar gathered philosophers, legal scholars, anthropologists, scientists, historians and policy-makers from Chile and Argentina. 

Natural Resource Rights within Planetary Boundaries

Three of the team members were invited to present at this workshop in the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, EUREF Campus, Berlin, Germany.

  • Alejandra Mancilla presented “Four principles to Think About Territory and Natural Resources in Antarctica”
  • Cara Nine presented “Territory as Moral Space”
  • Øyvind Stokke presented “Resource Rights, Carbon Sinks and Indigenous Peoples”

11th Polar Law Symposium

The PPA project participated in the 11th Polar Law Symposium in Tromsø in october 2018.

Three of our project members presented their work-in-progress at the conference. 

  • Alejandra Mancilla talked about “A normative framework for territorial claims in Antarctica”
  • Julia Jabour presented “The Worth of Water: Designing a legal regime to regulated iceberg harvesting”
  • Yelena Yermakova talked about “Future Governance in the Arctic: Press, Policy and the Arctic Council”

SCAR 2018

The project members participated in the SCAR conference "Where the poles come together", which was held in Davos in June 2018. 

The project members had an active participation in the biannual conference of the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) which took place in Davos, Switzerland. 

Alejandra Mancilla, the project leader, co-convened the panel “Environmental Protection, Resource Rights and Evolving Geopolitics in Antarctica”. 

Three out of the six papers presented in this session were from project members:

  • “The legal grounds of territorial claims in Antarctica: A sober assessment” (Mancilla) 
  • “How should we justify ecologically sustainable resource rights in Antarctica?” (Øyvind Stokke)
  • “Moving Towards a Feasible Mineral Regime in Antarctica” (Yelena Yermakova)

Mancilla also presented the paper “A Gap in the Antarctic Humanities, and Why It Should Be Filled” at the panel “Polar Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences: Approaches and Challenges”.  


Workshop 1

The first workshop of the project took place in Oslo from the 4-5th of September 2017.

Both project members and participants from various diciplines and countries gathered in Oslo in the beginning of September to take part in the first workshop of the Political Philosophy looks to Antarctica project.

Group of people outside at Blindern campus, University of Oslo. Photo.
Workshop participants at the University of Oslo.

Workshop 2

Workshop participants at Soria Moria in Oslo

The second workshop of the project took place in Soria Moria Hotel in Oslo, the 5th and 6th of December 2018.

Both project members and external presenters discussed their work-in-progress on topics related to the project during this two-day retreat. 


Wednesday 5th of December
  • Julia Jabour (via skype), “Is the Antarctic Treaty an objective regime, erga omnes?”
  • Marco Genovesi, “Arguing and bargaining in Antarctica: Effectiveness and legitimacy in global commons international forums” Commentator: Alejandra Mancilla
  • Cara Nine, “Territory as moral space and Antarctica” Commentator: Kim Angell
  • Alejandra Mancilla, “Superseding White Colonialism” Commentator: Chris Armstrong
  • Chris Armstrong Commentator: Nicolas Kempf
  • Nicolas Kempf, “Legitimacy in Antarctica” Commentator: Yelena Yermakova
Thursday 6th of December
  • Yelena Yermakova Commentator: Margaret Moore
  • Margaret Moore, “Rights over resources in unoccupied places” Commentator: Daniel Schwartz
  • Øyvind Stokke, “Taking environmental responsibility in Antarctica: The case of legitimacy” Commentator: Cara Nine
  • Daniel Schwartz,“Uti possidetis, possession, and the Antarctica” Commentator: Alejandra Mancilla
  • Ignacio Cardone (via skype), “Environmental challenges and its impacts over the Antarctic Treaty System” Commentator: Øyvind Stokke
  • Kim Angell Commentator: Marco Genovesi
  • Summary and goodbye
  • Meeting for project partners
Group of people outside at Soria Moria, Oslo. Photo.
Workshop participants at Soria Moria in Oslo.

Workshop 3

On Its 60th Birthday, Is the Antarctic Treaty in Good Health?

The workshop took place on the 10th and 11th of October at the University of Oslo.


Thursday 10th of October
  • Lize-Marie van der Watt, “More information is needed: non-state actors and the negotiation of CRAMRA”
  • Julia Jabour, “Is the Antarctic Treaty Customary International Law: How will we know?”
  • Alejandra Mancilla, “White Colonialism in Antarctica and Beyond”
  • Ximena Senatore, “Ruins in Antarctica: Critical Thoughts about Policies Concerning Things”
  • Lie Xueping, “ObligationOrientation in China’s Forthcoming Antarctic Law: Exact Rationales and Possible Regrets” 
Friday 11th of October
  • Yelena Yermakova, “Toward Global Egalitarianism in Antarctica: The Svalbard and the ISA Models”
  • Kees Bastmeijer, “The Antarctic Treaty Turning Sixty: Does Aging Affect Decision-Making? The Case of Antarctic Tourism”
  • Cara Nine, “Understanding the Antarctic Commons”
  • Ricardo Roura, “Protected Areas, Heritage and the Health of the Antarctic Treaty System”
  • Peder Roberts, “Could Climate Change Melt the Foundations of the ATS?”
  • Meeting of the project’s members
Group of people in a meeting room. Photo.
Workshop participants at the University of Oslo.

Workshop 4

The workshop Colonialism, Postcolonialism and Antarctica will take place via zoom on the 28th and 29th June, 2021.

Joint workshop from the projects “Political Philosophy Looks to Antarctica” and “Greening the Poles: Science, the Environment, and the Creation of the Modern Arctic and Antarctic”


Monday 28th of June
  • Alejandra Mancilla, “Argentinian and Chilean Claims to Antarctica: Colonial, malgré tout”
  • Ignacio Cardone, “Argentina and Chile's cultural approaches to Antarctica: a postcolonial critique to Eurocentric analysis”
  • Luís Guilherme de Assis, “Autochthony as colonization and vice-versa”
  • Rebecca Herman, “Greenpeace in the Global South: Argentine Environmentalism and the Postcolonial Politics of the Antarctic World Park Campaign”
  • Germana Nicklin, “Insights From the Bordering of Antarctica: Colonial, Postcolonial, and Extracolonial”
Tuesday 29th of June
  • Peder Roberts & Kati Lindström, “Animals, Colonialism, and Antarctica”
  • Roman Khandozhko, “Antarctic Minerals for the Eastern Bloc? Imagining the South Pole Frontier of Extractive Socialism.”
  • Charne Lavery, “Under Southern Ice: Literary Encounters with the Antarctic Submarine”
  • Katherine Sinclair, “Colonial Rockets, Imperial Geographies: Algeria, Antarctica, Guiana, and the French Space Program, 1959-1974”
  • Adrian Howkins, “Colonialism without religion? Faith and conquest in the history of Antarctica”


Graduate course at Universidad de Magallanes

The first graduate course related to the project took place at the Universidad de Magallanes, Chile, from the 3rd to the 5th of January 2018.

Entitled "The Antarctic Treaty System and Its Challenges", the course was attended by PhD and master students of the Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic Program, as well as by members of the academic staff and of the Chilean Antarctic Institute.

Group of people sitting around a table talking. Photo.
Participants at the course at Universidad de Magallanes.


Tags: Antarctica, political philosophy, natural resources, sovereignty
Published June 13, 2022 8:44 AM - Last modified June 13, 2022 8:51 AM