Ellen Ahlness, three-time recipient of a FLAS fellowship in the Inuit language, was awarded a doctorate in Political Science in August 2021. Her dissertation examines the political engagement of the Indigenous Permanent Participants in the Arctic Council. While the Permanent Participants received global attention in 1996 when they became the first Indigenous members of an international organization, Ahlness emphasizes that their influence extends far beyond that pivotal year. The title of Ellen’s dissertation thesis is, Who Matters in the Arctic? The Rise of Permanent Participants in the Arctic Council and International Affairs. Ellen’s committee included Christine Ingebritsen, Scandinavian Studies (chair), Nadine Fabbi, Canadian Studies, and Karen Litfin, political science.
Tracing the engagement of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) and Saami Council through two major Arctic Council projects, her findings suggest that the Inuit and Saami have been successful in shaping the very structure of the Arctic Council and the policies of its member states. Moreover, they have meaningfully shaped discourse on what it means to be an Arctic actor in a way that safeguards Indigenous needs against non-Arctic actors that could otherwise marginalize their voices. Throughout these experiences, ICC Canada was a prolific and innovative international actor, becoming a potential model for other Indigenous organizations seeking to engage more fully on the global stage.
Throughout her work as a FLAS fellow, Ahlness has conducted research in race and ethnic politics. She plans to continue this work through diversity, equity and inclusion research and policy analysis.
Ellen was awarded her first FLAS fellowship in Inuktitut for the 2018-19 academic year. For three consecutive years she studied with both Mick Mallon and Alexina Kublu, both preeminent language instructors, virtually from the UW. Ellen has served as a TA for the Task Force on the Arctic, has participated in many conferences and panels in Arctic studies, and has an impressive publication record in the field.