The Arctic Environmental Humanities Workshop Series

The Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies and the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge are pleased to host the Arctic Environmental Humanities Workshop Series.

As the Arctic gains greater visibility among academics and diverse publics, we see an urgent need for humanities scholars to help shape the current debates and research priorities too often limited to the natural and social sciences. This rise in awareness of Arctic issues coincides with widespread academic initiatives in the emerging interdisciplinary field of environmental humanities. These growing interests in the Arctic and in the environmental humanities are in turn both catalyzed by the climate crisis; the urgency of this crisis is central to, but not exhaustive of, our collective commitment to Arctic environmental humanities (AEH).

We envision this workshop series as a collaborative enterprise that is robustly interdisciplinary and brings together diverse expertise of humanistic scholars, artists, and researchers drawn from international circles. Presentations and conversations will take place in varied formats, all online and freely accessible to all those interested. The perspectives and participation of northern communities and people will be particularly valuable and encouraged.

Upcoming Presentations

September 2021 (Date TBA) | Register to attend

“What Can We Learn from Ignorance? Arctic Energy Frontiers, Environmental Regimes, and Indigenous Rights Movements Since the 1970s”
Prof. Andrew Stuhl

Doug Pimlott was shocked. The University of Toronto zoologist — one of Canada’s leading environmentalists — had just discovered a government secret. In 1973, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs was planning an oil drilling program in the ice-choked Beaufort Sea (Arctic Ocean). What stunned Pimlott was not that the Department would target such a remote and challenging place for oil exploration. After all, the energy situation in North America in 1973 had grown desperate. Rather, it was that the entire discussion of the risks involved — to the delicate marine environment and to thousands of Inuit who relied upon its bounty — had been shielded from public scrutiny. “Nearly all the substantive information on offshore drilling plans is contained in various confidential proposals put forward by the oil industry and in restricted reports by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs,” the scientist wrote. “Why had native communities in the region not been consulted about offshore drilling plans? Why was this new phase of exploration cloaked in secrecy?” As Pimlott searched for answers, Canada’s Cabinet pressed forward. In 1976, they approved two wells for the Beaufort Sea’s outer continental shelf. A year later, they supported long-term drilling there. The world’s northernmost oil frontier had been opened.

In this talk, Prof. Andrew Stuhl will examine the state of knowledge that Pimlott experienced as a constitutive element of energy frontiers, environmental regimes, and struggles for Indigenous rights in the late twentieth-century Arctic. That is, while actors in the oil industry and the Canadian government produced detailed studies about the risks and rewards of drilling in the Beaufort Sea, their circulation was limited — which also produced deliberate, widespread ignorance. Their efforts to maintain a state of limited knowledge blunted resistance from environmentalists and Indigenous rights advocates whose political power was on the rise. These activists attempted to slow or delay oil development by pointing out that oil companies knew very little about the sensitive ecologies and Indigenous claims to land in the Arctic. In response, oil companies designed elaborate consultation campaigns to nurture local support and undercut opposition to oil exploitation. Drawing on recently declassified sources from the Canadian federal government and the oil and gas industry, Prof. Stuhl will explore how studies of ignorance can thus help explain the shape of public interest groups, corporate social responsibility campaigns, oil and gas schemes, research agendas in the natural sciences, and environmental politics in Arctic North America over the last 50 years.

Past Presentations

May 10, 2021

“Cloudberries and Icebreakers: Filming Real and Imagined Journeys in the Russian Arctic”
Ruth Maclennan

March 30, 2021

“Daughters of the Snow”: BBC Radio 4 program featuring Michael Bravo and Adriana Craciun

Listen here

March 2, 2021

“Mediated Arctic: The Poetics and Politics of Contemporary Arctic Geographies”
Johannes Riquet, Liisa-Rávná Finbog, Markku Salmela, and Anna Westerstahl Stenport
The Mediated Arctic Geographies Project (Tampere University, Finland)

January 28, 2021

“Ataramik (Always): A Conversation with Reneltta Arluk”
Reneltta Arluk (Inuvialuit, Dene, Cree)
Director of Indigenous Arts at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity
Director, Akpik Theatre

December 17, 2020

Sumé: The Sound of a Revolution and Greenland Today”
Inuk Silis Høegh
Director of Sumé: The Sound of a Revolution

October 13, 2020

“Arctic Energy Before Petroleum: Or, What Whales Can Tell Us About Writing History”
Bathsheba Demuth
Assistant Professor of History & Environment and Society, Brown University
***Read Chapter 4 (“The Waking Ice”) of Demuth’s 2019 book, Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait: DOWNLOAD HERE

September 29, 2020

“Why We Should Develop Arctic Humanities”
Sverker Sörlin
Professor of Environmental History, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory

September 1, 2020

“The Shaggy Saviour of Northern Norway”
Dolly Jørgensen
Professor of History, University of Stavanger, Norway
Co-editor of Environmental Humanities, 2020-22


Adriana Craciun
Boston University

Michael Bravo
University of Cambridge