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A Nation of Fur, Fish, and Fuel: Documenting Resource Extraction in Canada


A Nation of Fur, Fish, and Fuel: Documenting Resource Extraction in Canada

Jekanowski, Rachel (2018) A Nation of Fur, Fish, and Fuel: Documenting Resource Extraction in Canada. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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As concerns about the environmental and uneven social impacts of human industry mount, humanities scholarship has sought to re-examine assemblages of energy cultures, Western epistemologies of the nature-culture divide, colonialism, and ecology. Against these considerations, this thesis seeks to historicize natural resource extraction as a localized, national, and imperial phenomenon within twentieth-century capitalism. The project focuses on Canadian moving image production in relation to the country’s historical resource economy and cultural attachment to landscape. Examining a range of private- and public-sector nontheatrical and documentary films released between 1920 and 1985, the thesis theorizes these productions as examples of “resource cinema,” given their entanglements with industrial-scale resource extraction on the level of production, narrative, and discourse. The notion of “entanglement” emerges as a framing concept for the project, expressing the shifting yet intimate relations between cultural production, economy, and environments. This term derives from Anna Tsing’s theorization of environmental-economic entanglements within late capitalism.

Each chapter of this comparative study concentrates on films from a different historical period to trace the changing depictions of the geographies, infrastructures, and social practices entwined with natural resource extraction. These include sponsored films about the Northern fur trade (Chapter 2); petroleum, geology, and mining films in Western Canada (Chapter 3); and films interrogating community, sustainability, and energy futures in the Atlantic offshore oil and fishing industries (Chapter 4). The thesis is also invested in contributing to broader interdisciplinary conversations about media and environments. Each chapter theorizes the ways in which these cinematic histories help constitute geo-biological materials as “natural” resource commodities, as a microcosm of capitalism’s wider engagements with nature. The thesis also argues that fur, petroleum, and fish function concomitantly as fuels, in that they power not only the movement of human and nonhuman bodies, but also cinematic imaginaries and the emergence of social, political, and infrastructural practices. In demonstrating how cinema was used as a communication technology and documentary practice, as well as a resource in itself, the project contributes to the emergent fields of energy and environmental humanities, Canadian cultural studies, and Canadian and settler colonial cinemas.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Jekanowski, Rachel
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Film and Moving Image Studies
Date:June 2018
Thesis Supervisor(s):Dickinson, Kay and Jekanowski, Rachel
Keywords:Natural resource extraction, Canadian cinema, settler cinema, media and environment, settler-Indigenous relations, petroleum, fisheries, fur trade, frontiers, geology, commons, offshore oil, nontheatrical film, industrial film
ID Code:984324
Deposited By: Rachel Webb Jekanowski
Deposited On:31 Oct 2018 17:38
Last Modified:31 Oct 2018 17:38
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