News Release

REF NO.: 116

SUBJECT: Oil lives here: Upcoming conference to discuss the social and cultural force of oil

DATE: August 19, 2016

Whether you’re commuting to an offshore rig, pumping your car full of gas, tracking the latest global warming reports, or feeling the squeeze of government cuts as the price of oil tumbles, petroleum is an inescapable force of modern life.

Given Newfoundland and Labrador’s reliance on the offshore oil industry, it is more important than ever to discuss how oil affects our everyday lives.That discussion will take place from Aug. 31-Sept. 3, as Memorial University hosts Petrocultures 2016: The Offshore.

Petrocultures 2016 is an international conference addressing the social and cultural force of oil. In keeping with its St. John’s location, Petrocultures 2016 will focus on the North Atlantic offshore. It will bring together scholars, policy makers, industry employees, artists, Indigenous leaders and public advocacy groups from across Canada and beyond.

They will spend four days exploring the culture of oil, our dependence on it and the decisions that must be made about how it will shape our future. These explorations push the energy conversation beyond specific projects and short-term economic questions.

“We urgently need to have a broader and deeper conversation about oil and energy in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Dr. Fiona Polack, co-organizer of the conference. “Petrocultures 2016 is a chance to start that conversation.”

Keynote speakers include:

  • Dr. Barbara Neis, Memorial University professor of sociology with focus on work and mobility,
  • Dr. Helge Ryggvik, historian of the Norwegian oil industry,
  • Dr. Elizabeth Nyman, American political scientist and ocean policy expert, and
  • Dr. Graeme MacDonald, Scottish literary scholar and petroculture researcher.

The conference will also feature free public events:

  • On the Move: Keynote lecture by Dr. Barbara Neis, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 7 p.m., Innovation Hall (IIC-2001) Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation, Memorial University. Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Dr. Neis will talk about the oil work force, its transient nature and how the Fort McMurry experience is felt by oil-dependent workers and families the world over.
  • Let’s Talk About Oil, Thursday, Sept. 1, 7 p.m., Johnson GEO Centre, 175 Signal Hill Road. Featuring a panel of guests drawn from industry, academia, the arts, and Indigenous communities, this forum will spark conversations about oil and our relationship to energy.
  • Screening the Offshore I: The Forgotten Space, Friday, Sept. 2, 7 p.m., The Rooms Theatre. The Forgotten Space (2010) by Allan Sekula and Noël Burch, is an award-winning film about sea as the crucial space of globalization.
  • Screening the Offshore II: Petro-Shorts, Saturday, Sept. 3, 7p.m., The Rooms Theatre. Petro-Shorts offers six contemporary short films by renowned independent artists that focus on oil and energy.

“This conference is for everyone,” said Dr. Polack. “Whether you’re an artist or an engineer, someone who works in the oil industry, or just someone who regularly puts gas in a car, come along."

Those wishing to attend daily lectures can register and view the conference program at www.petrocultures2016.ca.  

Petrocultures 2016 is organized by Dr. Danine Farquharson, interim associate dean of the School of Graduate Studies and associate professor of English, and Dr. Fiona Polack, associate professor of English, along with a team of graduate students.

Petrocultures 2016 is supported by Memorial University, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, The Rooms, the Johnson Geo Centre, and the Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta.

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