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Leif Christian Jensen Obtains PhD on Norwegian Discourses of the High North

Leif Christian Jensen(24.01.2013) FNI Senior Research Fellow Leif Christian Jensen has today successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation Norway on a High in the North: A discourse analysis of policy framing.

Jensen's doctoral work focuses on the discourses that frame Norwegian policy in the High North. From a post-structuralist international relations (IR) perspective, Jensen employs discourse analysis to analyse the Norwegian High North initiative, which was launched in 2005 and has shaped Norwegian policy since then.

Dr. Jensen finds the discourses highly relevant for understanding policy and policy-making.

- These discourses influence policy, although not in a causal manner. Rather, the two constitute each other in what is a mutual relationship, he explains.

Drilling for the environment?

One of the discourses identified is the pro-oil production discourse as opposed to the anti-oil production discourse. Jensen shows how the pro-oil discourse has managed to use environmental arguments in favour of drilling in the Arctic, thereby turning the argument of the anti-oil discourse on its head.

- Rather than cautioning against production in the Barents Sea for the sake of the environment, this discourse urged starting as early as possible, because only then could we help the Russians to improve their environmental performance.

Thus the assumption has been that Russia's petroleum industry lacks the will and ability to comply with sound environmental standards - an assumption without foundations in reality, according to Jensen. Moreover, by using environmental concerns as an argument for drilling, pro-oil production advocates manage to defuse the argument of the opposition: that the only way to save the environment is not to drill.

This process, according to discourse analysis, is an example of what he has theoretically conseptualised by introducing the analytical term 'discourse co-optation'. Jensen explains:

- 'Discourse co-optation' as an analytical term essentially describes how a discourse penetrates the heart of its counter-discourse, turns its logic upside-down and then uses it to re-establish hegemony. The discourse then profits from the acquisition of a new, powerful argument; the other is weakened by its loss.

In his doctoral work Jensen has closely analysed more than 5,000 newspaper articles and policy documents, a research process that has resulted in five published articles outlining Norwegian discourses in the High North.

Leif Christian Jensen's PhD project has been funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Defence together with the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, and has been submitted to the University of Tromsø.

Further information:
   About the dissertation
   About Dr. Jensen
   Related news article (in Norwegian)
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