Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Northern Regions, Sea Ice, Ice Breaking, Ships, Environmental Violence, Territory


Ice breaking by ships can cause irreparable harm to the ecologies and cultures of northern regions. This chapter revolves around a central question: what are the barriers preventing the development of a legal mechanism to limit this act of environmental violence? The chapter suggests that the central barrier is not so much legal as it is ontological: foundational conceptions of space that underpin Western legal institutions are unable to value the form of water, reducing it instead to an ed space that is used for movement or resource extraction. This chapter demonstrates how a consideration of the environmental violence of ice breaking requires us to challenge underlying ideas about the various surfaces, volumes, structures, and movements of ocean-space that are inherent in Western conceptions of mobility, time, and territory. By looking beyond the ocean’s seemingly formless liquidity, this chapter explores how thinking from an oceanic perspective can challenge the limits of law, and how an inquiry that directly interrogates legal norms and institutions can reveal gaps in our understanding and governance of the ocean.