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Shifting Stories, Changing Places: Being Caribou and Narratives of Transformational Climate Change in Northwestern North America

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Shifting Stories, Changing Places: Being Caribou and Narratives of Transformational Climate Change in Northwestern North America

Roburn, Shirley (2015) Shifting Stories, Changing Places: Being Caribou and Narratives of Transformational Climate Change in Northwestern North America. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

In April of 2003, Leanne Allison and Karsten Heuer set out on skis, from north of the Gwich’in village of Old Crow in the Canadian Arctic, to follow the Porcupine caribou herd on its annual migration. The goal of their expedition was to tell the story of the caribou, so that policy makers and ordinary people would understand the importance of protecting their calving grounds, which President George W. Bush had vowed to open to oil and gas leasing. This dissertation traces the Being Caribou expedition story, as told through the Being Caribou film, book, children’s book, website, blog posts, slideshows, and speaking presentations, to analyse its impact in promoting calving grounds protection.
The research builds upon established forms of film and media analysis by situating the Being Caribou stories within a thousands of years long relationship between caribou and Gwich’in and Inuvialuit people. Taking this long view brings forward the vital role of northern indigenous communities in shaping all aspects of the Being Caribou journey, from the parks and protected areas Allison and Heuer passed through, to the tenor of the expedition’s media products and outreach.
In the 2004-6 period, the Being Caribou film was systematically used by the Alaska Coalition to build participation and leadership in a broad-based movement to influence crucial Congressional votes on the fate of the Arctic Refuge calving grounds. Through an analysis that combines film and participatory culture research frames with insights from civic engagement literature, this dissertation demonstrates how the storywork of Being Caribou house party and community screenings not only educated individuals about the calving grounds, but moved individuals up an “activist ladder” (Hahn, 2014) of social movement participation. Hundreds of thousands of North Americans who attended Arctic Action Day Being Caribou screenings wrote letters, signed petitions, attended demonstrations, met with their elected officials, and otherwise took leadership to oppose development within the Arctic Refuge. Over time, the Being Caribou film, books, blog posts, slideshows and speaking presentations helped to challenge the dominant values of North American petroculture, growing an ‘ecology of story’ in which the caribou, and their calving grounds, have flourished.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Communication Studies
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Roburn, Shirley
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Communication
Date:July 2015
Thesis Supervisor(s):Van Wyck, Peter C. and Roth, Lorna
Keywords:Climate Change, public storytelling, storytelling, Gwich'in, Being Caribou, petroculture, ecocinema, environmental film, environmental communication, Arctic Refuge, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR
ID Code:980193
Deposited By: SHIRLEY A. ROBURN
Deposited On:27 Oct 2015 19:38
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:50
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