Featured image: Quebec City, Canada in March 2018.
The past month has been busy and regrettably, I haven’t found the time to sit down and write a blog post. I’ve ben traveling a fair bit, going to Université Laval in Quebec City for a largely Francophone conference on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). There, I talked a little bit about how the Arctic, specifically the Northern Sea Route, fits into Beijing’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan. I also just returned from a trip to the opposite end of Acadia down in New Orleans, where I attended the American Association of Geographers’ Annual Meeting. I presented some work on using remote sensing to study development patterns and projects within the BRI region. Perhaps more interestingly to readers of this blog, however, there was also some interesting work presented in the session I was in that related specifically to the Arctic. Chih-Yuan Woon of the National University of Singapore spoke about the “Polar Silk Road,” the term increasingly used in both Chinese and Russian circles to describe the Northern Sea Route and include it within greater plans to rewire Eurasia’s landmass and surrounding oceans.
When I was in Quebec City, I visited the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, which has a fantastic gallery of Inuit sculptures in its Brousseau Inuit Art Collection. I’ll post a bit more about these later, but here is a preview of one of my favorite pieces from an incredibly rich set of detailed and captivating sculptures. Some were made out of material from the Arctic, like caribou antler and narwhal ivory, while others also incorporated commodities from farther away, like Brazilian steatite, also known as soapstone, which is a relatively soft and pliable rock popular with carvers.
Between these travels, I published a book review on environmental historian Andrew Stuhl’s Unfreezing the Arctic: Science, Colonialism, and the Transformation of Inuit Lands in the journal Polar Geography. The first fifty readers can read the review for free. The book is engaging and accessible to non-specialists, so I’d definitely recommend checking out if your local library has a copy or buying it if you have the means. Stuhl examines the history of the cross-border region between northern Alaska and northwest Canada from the mid-1800s to the late 1900s. As I write, “By seamlessly weaving together excerpts from texts such as the letters of nineteenth century explorers, twentieth century high-modernist government reports, and more recent speeches made by Inuvialuit leaders and activists, he illustrates a rich and lively history of a region crisscrossed at sea and on land by a diverse range of individuals. Inuvialuit and Iñupiat hunters and trappers, Sami reindeer herders, San Franciscan whalers, Hudson’s Bay traders, southern scientists, and overweening Canadian and American government officials are just a few of the groups that appear in Stuhl’s layered environmental history of the northwest Arctic.”
Now that I’m back in one place for a couple of weeks, I should have more time to cover the latest developments in the Arctic. This summer, I’ll be heading to the Faroe Islands and to northeast Scandinavia and northwest Russia with the traveling Calotte Academy, so I should have a lot more stories from the ground soon enough.