Exploring extractive industries in the Arctic: Memorial hosts international workshop

Nov 13th, 2013

A. Keeling

Extractive Industries poster
Exploring extractive industries in the Arctic: Memorial hosts international workshop

With considerable popular and scholarly attention drawn to the future of the Arctic due to climate change, Memorial University hosted an two-day international workshop, organized by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich, that examined the impacts of previous resource booms while turning a critical eye on the promises of the current resource rush. “Extractive Industries and the Arctic: Historical Perspectives on Environmental Change in the Circumpolar World” provided a fertile mix of diverse disciplinary and geographic perspectives on the history and legacies of Arctic development.

Co-ordinated by John Sandlos (Memorial history and geography, and fellow of the Rachel Carson Centre) and Arn Keeling (Memorial geography), the workshop brought together an interdisciplinary group from fields as diverse as environmental history, anthropology, geography and social work. These scholars (a complete list of participants is below) study extractive industries in nations throughout the circumpolar world, including Canada, Russia, Sweden, and Greenland. The workshop included paper sessions, a panel discussion on “Arctic Futures” (featuring a commentary by prominent resource geographer Gavin Bridge), and a public talk on images of Inuit by Frank Tester of the UBC School of Social Work.

Workshop participants found many compelling continuities in the experiences of extractive development through time and space in the Arctic.  At the same time, we found ourselves continually asking what was particularly “Arctic” about our case studies—whether resource development proceeded here in much the same way in other hinterland regions. Other key questions emerging from the discussions included: How have influxes of external capital, migrant labour, and technology interacted with local social and environmental conditions in the Arctic? How do Arctic ecosystems get reimagined as resource frontiers? How are notions of history, heritage, and science used to assert various claims over Arctic resources? The participants look forward to exploring these and other questions as they develop a proposed book project based on the papers presented at the workshop.

In addition to funding and organization by the Rachel Carson Center, this event was made possible by support from: the Network in Canadian History and the Environment (NiCHE), ArcticNet, Resources and Sustainable Development in the Arctic (ReSDA), the Royal Institute, Stockholm, and the Faculty of Arts at Memorial University. Participants included:


Home Institution

Dag Avango

Royal Institute, Sweden

Gavin Bridge

Durham University

Alla Bolotova

Arctic Center, Finland

Richard Powell

University of Oxford

Mark Nuttall

University of Alberta

Paul Josephson

Colby College, Maine

John Thistle

Labrador Institute, Memorial University

Andrea Procter

Labrador Institute, Memorial University

Frank Tester

University of British Columbia

Nancy Langston

Michigan Technological University

John Sandlos

Memorial University

Arn Keeling

Memorial University



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