Of islands and whales

In the waters along the Bering Strait, bowhead whales have been known to three kinds of hunters over the past two centuries: Indigenous Yupik and Inupiaq whalers, capitalist commercial whalers, and communist industrial whalers. Each imagined different normative relationships with whales, tied to visions of time, history, and the future—and oriented around visions of deep human connection, or fundamental human separation from ecological context. Are human beings part of an archipelago of life that includes whales, or an island apart? This talk looks to oral histories, logbooks, and personal experiences to see how such ideas shaped interactions between people and whales, and what we can discern of whales' own answers—and what both mean for living on a flourishing planet today.


Bathsheba Demuth

Bathsheba is writer and environmental historian specialising in the lands and seas of the Russian and North American Arctic.

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