The Offshore: Flows of Oil and Knowledge in the Beaufort Sea

diagram of offshore drilling© Government of Canada. Reproduced with the permission of Library and Archives Canada (2016). Source: Library and Archives Canada/Department of Environment fonds/File: 1181-4- 4

This research project explores the history of offshore oil and gas development in the Beaufort Sea (Alaska, Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories) since the late 1960s.  I am interested in applying concepts from historical political ecology and the history of science to analyze how a range of historical actors shaped the future of the Arctic oil frontier–including corporate execs, civil servants, politicians, Inuit activists, scientists and conservationists. One such concept is “ignorance,” or the deliberate production and maintenance of a state of limited knowledge about the ecological risks of offshore oil activity. I draw on records from US and Canadian federal regulatory agencies; correspondence between Inuit organizations and those agencies; and environmental non-governmental organizations like the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee. I also employ digital text analysis methods, often through Voyant Tools.

In summer ’19, I will finish a full-length article in this research theme, “The Offshore: Ignorance and the Opening of an Arctic Oil Frontier, 1969-1977.”  It will be supplemented with an accompanying website showcasing the digital text analysis and methods.