Critical Northern Geography

A Theoretical Framework, Research Praxis and Call to Action in our (Post)Pandemic Worlds


  • Christina Goldhar Memorial University
  • Arielle Frenette Université Laval, Département de géographie, Québec, QC Canada
  • Aimee Pugsley Memorial University of Newfoundland Department of Geography St. John’s, NL Canada
  • Danielle Browne Memorial University of Newfoundland Department of Geography St. John’s, NL Canada
  • Kathleen Hackett Memorial University of Newfoundland Department of Geography St. John’s, NL Canada
  • Veronica Madsen Memorial University of Newfoundland Department of Geography St. John’s, NL Canada
  • Gillian McNaughton Memorial University of Newfoundland Department of Geography St. John’s, NL Canada
  • Julia Christensen Memorial University of Newfoundland Department of Geography St. John’s, NL Canada


Critical northern geography, methodology, Indigenous geographies, northern research, Indigenous research ethics, northern Canada


This article traces the historical and evolving development of “critical northern geography”- paying attention to questions of Indigeneity, research ethics, and the practice of northern geographical fieldwork from within the settler colonial context of Canada. We share our reflections on the current state of the field and its future directions by weaving together contributions from scholarly literature, and creative texts, among other sources. Critical northern geography offers a theoretical framework and research praxis shaped by feminist, anti-colonial, anti-racist and critical Indigenous scholarship, and is driven by a belief that scholarly inquiry and practice can be tools for social justice. We argue that the COVID-19 pandemic has reframed understandings of research harm and practices of care for study communities. COVID-19 thus amplifies existing imperatives to move towards the use of critical research methodologies grounded in social justice frameworks, such as critical northern geography, as a means of nurturing more respectful research relationships. To this end, critical northern geography can help shape the questions we are asking as researchers and can contribute to the ever-evolving development of anti-colonial, anti-racist and non-extractive research relationships in the North.

Author Biographies

Arielle Frenette, Université Laval, Département de géographie, Québec, QC Canada

PhD student

Aimee Pugsley, Memorial University of Newfoundland Department of Geography St. John’s, NL Canada

Masters student

Danielle Browne, Memorial University of Newfoundland Department of Geography St. John’s, NL Canada

Masters student

Kathleen Hackett, Memorial University of Newfoundland Department of Geography St. John’s, NL Canada

Masters student

Veronica Madsen, Memorial University of Newfoundland Department of Geography St. John’s, NL Canada

Masters student

Gillian McNaughton, Memorial University of Newfoundland Department of Geography St. John’s, NL Canada

Masters student

Julia Christensen, Memorial University of Newfoundland Department of Geography St. John’s, NL Canada

Canada Research Chair (II) in Northern Governance and Public Policy 

Department of Geography


Abbott, Dina. 2006. “Disrupting the ‘Whiteness’ of Fieldwork in Geography.” Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 27, no. 3: 326–41.

Ahmed, Sara. 2004. “Declarations of Whiteness: The Non-Performativity of Anti-Racism.” Borderlands 3, no. 2: 1–14.

Aldred, Terri Leigh, Charis Alderfer-Mumma, Sarah de Leeuw, May Farrales, Margo Greenwood, Dawn Hoogeveen, Ryan O’Toole, Margot W. Parkes and Vanessa Sloan Morgan. 2021. “Mining Sick: Creatively Unsettling Normative Narratives About Industry, Environment, Extraction, and the Health Geographies of Rural, Remote, Northern, and Indigenous Communities in British Columbia.” Canadian Geographer 65, no. 1: 82–96.

Allison, I, M Béland, D Carlson, D Qin, E Sarukhanian and C Smith. 2007. “International Polar Year 2007-2008.” World Meterological Organization Bulletin 56, no. 4.

ArcticNet. 2017. “ArcticNet Annual Report 2015-2017.”

———. 2020. “Network Investigators.” 2020.

Arnaquq-Baril, Alethea. 2016. Angry Inuk. Canada: National Film Board of Canada and EyeSteelFilm.

Audla, Terry and Duane Smith. 2014. “A Principled Approach to Research and Development in Inuit Nunangat Starts with the People.” Arctic 67, no. 1: 120–21. 

Barnes, Trevor J. 2002. “Critical Notes on Economic Geography From an Aging Radical. Or Radical Notes on Economic Geography From a Critical Age.” ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 1, no. 1: 8–14.

Bernauer, Warren. 2019. “Land Rights and Resource Conflicts in Nunavut.” Polar Geography 42, no. 4: 253-266.

Blackstock, Cindy. 2007. “Residential Schools: Did They Really Close or Just Morph into Child Welfare?” Indigenous Law Journal 7, no. 1: 71–78.

Bloom, Lisa. 1993. Gender on Ice: American Ideologies of Polar Expeditions. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Bowers, Renee, Gail Turner, Ian D. Graham, Chris Furgal and Lise Dubois. 2020. “Piecing Together the Labrador Inuit Food Security Policy Puzzle in Nunatsiavut, Labrador (Canada): A Scoping Review.” International Journal of Circumpolar Health 79, no. 1.

Cameron, Emilie S. 2015. Far Off Metal River: Inuit Lands, Settler Stories, and the Making of the Contemporary Arctic. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Cameron, Emilie S. 2012. “Securing Indigenous Politics : A Critique of the Vulnerability and Adaptation Approach to the Human Dimensions of Climate Change in the Canadian Arctic.” Global Environmental Change 22, no. 1: 103–114.

Campbell, Nancy. 2020. Annie Pootoogook: Life & Work. Toronto: Art Canada Institute.

Choi, Andrea. 2016. “Equity, Race, and Whiteness in Canadian Geography.” Canadian Geographer 60, no. 3: 369–380.

Christensen, Julia. 2012. “Telling Stories: Exploring Research Storytelling as a Meaningful Approach to Knowledge Mobilization with Indigenous Research Collaborators and Diverse Audiences in Community-Based Participatory Research.” Canadian Geographer 56, no. 2: 231–242.

Coulthard, Glen S. 2007. “Subjects of Empire: Indigenous Peoples and the ‘Politics of Recognition’ in Canada.” Contemporary Political Theory 6, no. 4: 437–460.

Cruikshank, Julie. 2006. Do Glaciers Listen? Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters, and Social Imagination. Vancouver, UBC Press.

de Leeuw, Sarah, Emilie S. Cameron and Margo L. Greenwood. 2012. “Participatory and Community-Based Research, Indigenous Geographies, and the Spaces of Friendship: A Critical Engagement.” Canadian Geographer 56, no. 2: 180–194.

de Leeuw, Sarah and Sarah Hunt. 2018. “Unsettling Decolonizing Geographies.” Geography Compass 12, no. 7: 1–14.

de Leeuw, Sarah, Margot W. Parkes, Vanessa Sloan Morgan, Julia Christensen, Nicole Lindsay, Kendra Mitchell-Foster and Julia Russell Jozkow. 2017. “Going Unscripted: A Call to Critically Engage Storytelling Methods and Methodologies in Geography and the Medical-Health Sciences.” Canadian Geographer 61, no. 2: 152–164.

Desbiens, Caroline. 2010. “Step Lightly, Then Move Forward: Exploring Feminist Directions for Northern Research.” Canadian Geographer 54, no. 4: 410–416.

Farley, Rebecca. 2005. “‘By Endurance We Conquer’: Ernest Shackleton and Performances of White Male Hegemony.” International Journal of Cultural Studies 8, no. 2: 231–254.

Ford, James D. and Christina Goldhar. 2012. “Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation in Resource Dependent Communities: A Case Study from West Greenland.” Climate Research 54, no. 2: 181.

Ford, James D. and Barry Smit. 2004. “A Framework for Assessing the Vulnerability of Communities in the Canadian Arctic to Risks Associated with Climate Change.” Arctic 57, no. 4: 389–400.

Gabel, Chelsea and Emilie Cameron. 2016. “The Community Readiness Initiative in Kugluktuk, Nunavut: The Challenge of Adapting an Indigenous Community-Based Participatory Framework to a Multi-Stakeholder, Government-Designed Project Environment.” Engaged Scholar Journal: Community-Engaged Research, Teaching, and Learning 2, no. 1: 89–108.

Goldhar, Christina, Arielle Frenette, Crystal Gail Fraser and Julia Christensen. 2021. “Return to Normal Travel and Research May Bring Hazards to Northern, Indigenous Communities.” The Conversation. 2021.

Hall, Rebecca. 2020. “Indigenous/State Relations and the ‘Making’ of Surplus Populations in the Mixed Economy of Northern Canada.” Geoforum, 126: 461-470.

Haraway, Donna. 1988. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” Feminist Studies 14, no. 3: 575–599.

Harvey, David. 2000. “Cosmopolitanism and the Banality of Geographical Evils.” Public Culture 12, no. 2: 529–564.

Hicks, Jack. 2018. “Nunavut: Conceived in Austerity.” In The Public Sector in an Age of Austerity: Perspectives from Canada’s Provinces and Territories, edited by Bryan Evans & Carlo Fanelli, 315–349. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Holmes, Cindy, Sarah Hunt and Amy Piedalue. 2015. “Violence, Colonialism, and Space: Towards a Decolonizing Dialogue.” ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 14, no. 2: 539–570.

Hovelsrud, Grete K. and Barry Smit, eds. 2010. Community Adaptation and Vulnerability in Arctic Regions. Dordrecht: Springer.

Inuit Art Quarterly. 2020. “Jennie Williams.” Inuit Art Quarterly. 2020.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. 2018. “National Inuit Strategy on Research.” Ottawa.

———. 2020. “Inuit Nunangat Research Program.” 2020.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Nunavut Research Institute. 2006. Negotiating Research Relationships with Inuit Communities: A Guide for Researchers. Edited by Scot Nickels, Jamal Shirley & Gita Laidler. Ottawa and Iqaluit.

Kulchyski, Peter and Warren Bernauer. 2014. “Modern Treaties, Extraction, and Imperialism in Canada’s Indigenous North: Two Case Studies.” Studies in Political Economy 93: 3–24.

Laidler, Gita J. 2006. “Inuit and Scientific Perspectives on the Relationship Between Sea Ice and Climate Change: The Ideal Complement?” Climatic Change 78, no. 407: 407–444.

Latour, Bruno. 1993. We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Liboiron, Max. 2021. Pollution Is Colonialism. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Martello, Marybeth Long. 2008. “Arctic Indigenous Peoples as Representations and Representatives of Climate Change.” Social Studies of Science 38, no. 3: 351–375.

Matiu. 2018. “Petikat (Album).”

Morton Ninomiya, Melody E. and Nathaniel J. Pollock. 2016. “Reconciling Community-Based Indigenous Research and Academic Practices: Knowing Principles Is Not Always Enough.” Social Science and Medicine 172: 28–36.

Nadasdy, Paul. 2003. Hunters and Bureaucrats: Power, Knowledge, and Aboriginal-State Relations in the Southwest Yukon. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Nickels, Scot and Cathleen Knotsch. 2012. “Inuit Perspectives on Research Ethics: The Work of Inuit Nipingit.” Études/Inuit/Studies 35, no.1–2: 57–81.

Nunavut Housing Corporation. 2016. “Nunavut Is Facing a Severe Housing Crisis.” Appearance before the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, March 23, 2016.

O’Gorman, Melanie and Manish Pandey. 2015. “Explaining Low High School Attainment in Northern Aboriginal Communities: An Analysis of the Aboriginal Peoples’ Surveys.” Canadian Public Policy 41, no.4: 297–308.

Obed, Natan. 2020. “House of Commons: Evidence, Thursday December 10.”

Peet, Dick. 2000. “Commentary: Thirty Years of Radical Geography.” Environment and Planning A 32: 951–953.

Penney, Jessica and Patricia Johnson-Castle. 2020. “COVID-19 and Inuit Nunangat: Research, Responsibility & Infrastructure Inequality.” Yellowhead Institute.

Pfeifer, Pitseolak. 2018. “From the Credibility Gap to Capacity Building: An Inuit Critique of Canadian Arctic Research.” Northern Public Affairs, no. July: 29–34.

Quijano, Anibal. 2000. “Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America (English Translation).” Nepantla: Views from South 1, no. 3: 533–580.

Sandiford, Mark and Zebedee Nungak. 2006. Qallunaat! Why White People Are Funny. Canada: National Film Board of Canada.

Simpson, Audra. 2007. “On Ethnographic Refusal: Indigeneity, ‘Voice’ and Colonial Citizenship.” Junctures: The Journal for Thematic Dialogue 9: 67–80.

Simpson, Leanne. 2017. As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom Through Radical Resistance. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. 1999. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. London: Zed Books Ltd.

Stevenson, Lisa. 2014. Life Beside Itself: Imagining Care in the Canadian Arctic. Oakland: University of California Press.

Stuhl, Andrew T. 2013. “The Politics of the "New North": Putting History and Geography at Stake in Arctic Futures.” The Polar Journal 3, no. 1: 94–119.

Tuck, Eve. 2009. “Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities.” Harvard Educational Review 79, no.3: 409–428.

Tuck, Eve and K Wayne Yang. 2012. “Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1, no. 1: 1–40.

Watt-Cloutier, Sheila. 2016. The Right to be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet. Toronto: Penguin Canada.

Wolfe, Patrick. 2006. “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native.” Journal of Genocide Research 8, no. 4: 387–409.

Zanotti, Laura, Courtney Carothers, Charlene Apok, Sarah Huang, Jesse Coleman and Charlotte Ambrozek. 2020. “Political Ecology and Decolonial Research: Co-Production with the Inupiat in Utqiagvik.” Journal of Political Ecology 27, no. 1: 43–66.




How to Cite

Goldhar, C., Frenette, A., Pugsley, A., Browne, D., Hackett, K., Madsen, V., … Christensen, J. (2022). Critical Northern Geography: A Theoretical Framework, Research Praxis and Call to Action in our (Post)Pandemic Worlds. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 21(3), 270–283. Retrieved from