Elana Rowe


Norwegian Institute of International Affairs

ew [at] nupi.no


CJ Hambros Plass 2D

Brief Biography

My research fits into the sub-field of Political Geography and is shaped by an enduring curiosity about the changing nature of diplomacy and foreign policy in a globalized world. This preoccupation aligns with a growing push within Political Geography/critical geopolitics to open up the ‘black boxes’ of international organizations and state actors to understand how linkages between scales are forged and how particular framings of global issues and of local, national and ‘global’ places are developed and propagated. Like most human geographers, I am also in close conversation with other social science disciplines, in my case international relations (IR) and science and technology studies (STS).

My work on diplomacy networks and the politics of expertise at local and regional scales is focused on the circumpolar North (Canada, Norway, Russia and Arctic regional politics). In my doctoral work, I produced a genealogy of co-management of natural resources mechanisms and impact benefit agreements in Nunavut (Canada) and an ethnographical study of how Canadian indigenous actors sought to export these mechanisms to fellow indigenous peoples and communities in Arctic Russia. I illustrated how rhetoric about the uniformity of Arctic space, insistence on the shared nature of indigeneity and a downplaying of local context undergirded this attempted transfer of knowledge, which was fundamentally contested by target audiences in Russia. Along similar lines, I have recently concluded a study of how community-level understandings of sustainable development and corporate social responsibility are shaped by both local experience and flows of people and ideas in the Barents region. At the level of the nation-state, I have done an in-depth study of various aspects of Russia’s climate politics with an emphasis on how the challenge of climate change has been framed for policy purposes and how international scientific knowledge (like IPCC assessments) has figured into domestic policy debates. In two research articles and a capstone book, I illustrated how the dynamics of expert intervention in domestic politics vary according to whether the country has been at the forefront of an international policy field or more of a ‘laggard’ and how factors far from the field of environment – ‘great power’ relations, for example – shaped Russian debates about climate science.
Turning to international relations, I have carried out two studies of an interrelated strand of climate diplomacy around land use changes and carbon accounting in developed and developing countries (LULUCF and REDD+, respectively). These studies explored how delegates seek to shape negotiations by carefully alternating between political arguments and expertise-based claims. I illustrate that multiple sources, techniques and positions of power can be utilized in climate negotiations and argue for a political geography approach that also accounts for the ‘local’ politics and dynamics of international relations.

Science Specialties

political geography, international relations, Russian studies

Current Research

I am currently heading a research project exploring the formation and influence of science and business networks in Arctic environmental governance. I am also updating my research on Russia's approach to Arctic sustainability.