Bathsheba Demuth

presents

Floating Coast:
An Environmental History of the Bering Strait

in conversation with JOAN NAVIYUK KANE

Date

Dec
9
Monday
December 9, 2019
7:00 PM

Location

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes environmental historian BATHSHEBA DEMUTH for a discussion of her book, Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait. She will be joined in conversation by poet JOAN NAVIYUK KANE.

About Floating Coast

Whales and walruses, caribou and fox, gold and oil: through the stories of these animals and resources, Bathsheba Demuth reveals how people have turned ecological wealth in a remote region into economic growth and state power for more than 150 years.

The first-ever comprehensive history of Beringia, the Arctic land and waters stretching from Russia to Canada, Floating Coast breaks away from familiar narratives to provide a fresh and fascinating perspective on an overlooked landscape. The unforgiving territory along the Bering Strait had long been home to humans—the Inupiat and Yupik in Alaska, and the Yupik and Chukchi in Russia—before Americans and Europeans arrived with revolutionary ideas for progress. Rapidly, these frigid lands and waters became the site of an ongoing experiment: how, under conditions of extreme scarcity, would the great modern ideologies of capitalism and communism control and manage the resources they craved?

Drawing on her own experience living with and interviewing indigenous people in the region, as well as from archival sources, Demuth shows how the social, the political, and the environmental clashed in this liminal space. Through the lens of the natural world, she views human life and economics as fundamentally about cycles of energy, bringing a fresh and visionary spin to the writing of human history.

Floating Coast is a profoundly resonant tale of the dynamic changes and unforeseen consequences that immense human needs and ambitions have brought, and will continue to bring, to a finite planet.

Praise for Floating Coast

“In Floating Coast, Bathsheba Demuth has written a brilliant hybrid book about one of the most fragile and forgotten of Anthropocene front-line territories, the Bering Strait. Uniting ecology, anthropology, reportage and more, this is a superb work of environmental history, often reminiscent to me of Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams in its combination of rigorous research, intense looking and listening, and its clear ethical vision.” —Robert Macfarlane

“Demuth has now herself written the history she calls for. Floating Coast is a historian’s Moby Dick, a great white whale of a book that spans centuries and links landscapes, living beings, and the flux of time, into a marvelously readable narrative.” —Amitav Ghosh

Floating Coast is an extraordinary piece of history writing, seamlessly weaving together disparate elements. It is astonishingly rich in ethnographic detail, ecological precision, economic circumstance and historical texture.” —Nature

Bathsheba Demuth
Bathsheba Demuth

Bathsheba Demuth

Bathsheba Demuth is an environmental historian at Brown University, where she specializes in the lands and seas of the Russian and North American Arctic. Her interests in northern environments and cultures began when she was 18 and moved to the village of Old Crow in the Yukon, where she spent several years training sled dogs. She has a BA and MA from Brown University, and an MA and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. Her writing has appeared in publications from the American Historical Review to the New Yorker.

Joan Naviyuk Kane
Joan Naviyuk Kane

Joan Naviyuk Kane

Joan Naviyuk Kane is the author of seven collections of poetry and prose, most recently Another Bright Departure (CutBank, 2019). She is the 2019–2020 Hilles Bush Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, was a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry, and a 2009 Whiting Writers’ Award Winner for her 2009 poetry debut, The Cormorant Hunter's Wife. She graduated from Harvard College and received her MFA from Columbia University's School of the Arts.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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