John Woitkowitz



John Woitkowitz, Magister Artium, MA, PhD

Post-Doctoral Research Associate 2

Worked on Case Study 2: ‘The Open Polar Sea’


John is a historian of the Northern and Arctic regions, researching the history of scientific networks, representational practices, and the construction of Arctic knowledges.


John examines the history of theories of an open polar sea and the ideas of a Land of Eden beyond the Arctic seas. His point of departure is the work of nineteenth-century German cartographer August Heinrich Petermann and his role in the conceptualization of Arctic exploration, the representation of Arctic knowledges, and their influence upon the imagination of the Arctic Ocean across audiences in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The case study traces Petermann’s work across scientific networks and knowledge communities from the sites of collection in the field to colonial centres of knowledge production. Moreover, the study examines Petermann’s impact on the development of polar science, contributing to a new understanding of representations of space in the second half of the nineteenth century and the enduring legacies of his work on conceptions of the region to this day. Finally, researching across multinational archives and other repositories of Arctic knowledges, this study draws new connections between existing locales of Arctic knowledges and those that have traditonally not been conceived as sites of Arctic knowledge production.


In 2018, John earned his PhD at the University of Calgary under the supervision of Dr Stephen J. Randall with a dissertation on the intersection of diplomacy, culture, and Cold War defence politics in the North American Arctic. This examined the impact of cultural constructions of the Arctic on negotiations between the governments of Canada and the United States over the establishment and operation of scientific and defence projects in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago during the 1940s and 1950s. Before he began doctoral studies, John earned his Master of Arts in Diplomatic History at the Ohio State University, US, and a Magister Artium in North American Studies, Modern History, and Latin American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.


Following the completion of his work on the project in summer 2021, John is pursuing his career nearer to his family in Germany.