The Power of Place: Modern Ideology and Arctic Ecology in the Bering Straits, 1848-1988


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation is a history of human interactions with the Bering Straits’ marine and terrestrial environments from the 1840s through the Soviet Union’s last years. Like all polar ecologies, biological life in the region is limited by a severe climate and scarce solar energy. This project examines how capitalism’s and communism’s energy-intensive, industrial ideologies interacted with this environment and its indigenous people, the Inupiat, Chukchi, and Yupik. Based on archival research in the US and Russia, it explores how the ideological drive to increase production shared by both countries altered how local peoples used and understood resources, but also how ecological contingency reshaped the ways capitalism and communism were understood and practiced. The dissertation, more broadly, examines how environmental factors shape sovereignty, how energy—from the calories in caribou to crude oil—is critical to politics, and the ability of modern growth-oriented ideologies to contend with non-human actors.