1. Introduction

What are the political, economic and social consequences of a melting Arctic? Is the Arctic set to be the scene of conflict and rivalry, or will common challenges foster peaceful cooperation? Will the region turn into an economic powerhouse? How will the people that are living in the region be affected?

Over the last few years these questions have been frequently asked. The future of the Arctic has become an issue of significant public concern. There has been a strong upsurge in political meetings and academic conferences dealing with the development of the Arctic, and a number of reports, books and articles have appeared, highlighting the history, present state and future challenges of the region.

As part of the Fram Centre activities, a group of researchers in Tromsø decided to take a closer look at this literature. We wanted to identify the basic assumptions, analytical approaches and future images that characterise current thinking about the Arctic. The work reported here was carried out in 2011.