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Integrating Whaling Studies Through Environmental History: A Roundtable

Sat, April 2, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Westin Seattle Hotel, Cascade 1C

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


This roundtable brings together an eclectic group of U.S., Asian, and Russian historians to explore how the methods and concerns of environmental history are influencing the course of whaling scholarship. By delving deeper into the experiences of ethnically diverse whaling crews, their connections across marine spaces, and their relationships with the animals they pursued, these scholars are pushing the field to ask innovative questions and uncover new relationships that transcend the borders of any one nation-state or related historical field.
Josh Reid’s work focuses on the importance of the marine environment to the Makah Indians and their long history of whale hunting in the Pacific Northwest. Nancy Shoemaker’s research on the role of Native American men in the U.S. whaling fleet informs her current project on indigenous laborers in both the whale and coconut oil industries. Lissa Wadewitz assesses the reasons for whalers’ violent treatment of whales and other marine animals, speculating on the connections between that behavior and whalers’ understandings of evolving racial taxonomies. Noell Wilson, a Japanese historian, studies the role of Japanese workers on American whaling vessels and how the fleet’s geographic move into the Arctic affected race relations on board. This roundtable will be moderated by Ryan Tucker Jones, a Russian historian, who has published extensively on the history of Russian resource extraction practices in the North Pacific.
This combination of scholars thus brings a uniquely multinational and inter-ethnic perspective to the topics of whaling and marine history. We propose to engage our audience in a dialogue regarding the promise of an environmental approach to the history of this important extractive industry and the intersections between issues of race, indigeneity, and environment that were central to how the industry evolved over time.

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