My primary research centres on how culture produces the offshore oil industry. I'm especially interested in how extraction on the Grand Banks, and in the North Atlantic more generally, is figured in sources as varied as public inquiry reports, literary texts, worker photographs, and corporate advertising. My recent publications include an article in the Journal of Canadian Studies about images created by men who worked on the doomed Ocean Ranger rig; a chapter about the politics of energy sources in Newfoundland and Labrador in Alex Marland and Lisa Moore's edited collection The Democracy Cookbook;and an essay on Newfoundland and Labrador as petroculture in Reflections on a Post-Oil Sustainable Newfoundland and Labrador. I recently received seed funding to launch a new project called "Rigs and Islands" which will consider entanglements between these two charasmatic offshore spaces at a time of climate emergency.
In addition to my solo work on depictions of offshore energy, I also collaborate on a project called "Cold Water Oil" with my Memorial colleague, Dr. Danine Farquharson. Danine and I have an essay on offshore oil rigs in Fueling Culture: Politics, History, Energy, edited by Imre Szeman, Jennifer Wenzel and Patricia Yaeger. Working in the energy humanities field has led to our joining the Petrocultures Research Group, and the After Oil initiative at the University of Alberta. I participated in the first "After Oil School" in Edmonton in fall 2015, and in the collaborative writing of the book After Oil. Danine and I also co-organized the third Petrocultures conference, Petrocultures 2016: The Offshore, which took place from 31 August-3 September 2016 at Memorial University in St. John’s. You can learn more about our research on the North Atlantic offshore at our website, Cold Water Oil.
Over the last fifteen years or so, entrenched beliefs about the Indigenous Beothuk people of Newfoundland have begun to come under scrutiny. Demands for a reassessment can be foundin such diverse contexts as art, ethnomusicology, archaeology, literary studies, genetics, and history. In 2018 I published an edited collection with University of Toronto Press which gathers, interrogates and expands upon this innovative thinking. Tracing Ochre: Changing Perspectives on the Beothuk aims to definitively shift established scholarly and public perceptions about the supposedly extinct Beothuk. The book has been described by scholar Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee Nation) as "a major contribution to Indigenous studies in this country."
Tracing Ochre had its roots in an earlier comparative study of the aftermath of colonization in Tasmania and Newfoundland.
I received SSHRC funding to examine images in literature, film, art and popular culture have reflected and shaped perceptions of two women: the Beothuk Shanawdithit, who died in St. John’s, Newfoundland, in 1829, and Truganini, of the Neuonnne, who died in Hobart, Tasmania, in 1876. Both were hastily and incorrectly depicted by the settler cultures that had appropriated their homelands as the last of their respective races. This has had real, political implications for contemporary Indigenous people on the two islands. The persistence of Indigenous communities in both Newfoundland and Tasmania has frequently been obscured by the insistence on Shawnadithit’s and Truganini’s respective statuses as the “last.”
You can access links below to some of the articles that resulted from Not the Last of Her Race.
“Reading Shanawdithit’s Drawings: Transcultural Texts in the North American Colonial World,” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 14.3 (2013).
“Art in the Bush: Romanticist Painting for Indigenous Audiences in Tasmania and Newfoundland.” Nineteenth-Century Contexts 33.4 (2011): 333-351.
“Memory against History: Figuring the Past in Cloud of Bone.” English Studies in Canada 35.4 (2009): 53-69.