Plan to meet later in the summer…

Click  this link for contact details to be added to mailing list:

Caroline Desbiens’s new book

“Power from the North Territory, Identity, and the Culture of Hydroelectricity in Quebec,”

published by UBC Press: 

About the Book :

In the 1970s, Hydro-Québec declared “We Are Hydro-Québécois.” The publicity campaign slogan symbolized the extent to which hydroelectric development in the North had come to both reflect and fuel French Canada’s aspirations in the South. The slogan helped southerners relate to the province’s northern territory and to accept the exploitation of its resources.

In Power from the North, Caroline Desbiens explores how this culture of hydroelectricity helped shape the material landscape during the first phase of the James Bay hydroelectric project. She analyzes the cultural forces that contributed to the transformation of the La Grande River into a hydroelectric complex. Policy makers and Quebecers did not, she argues, view those who built the dams as mere workers — they saw them as pioneers in a previously uninhabited landscape now inscribed with the codes of culture and spectacle.

This dynamic book reveals that drawing power from the North involves not only the cultural erasure of Aboriginal homelands but also rewriting the region’s history in the language of identity and territoriality. To reverse this trend, Desbiens calls for a truly sustainable resource management, one in which all actors bring an awareness of their own cultural histories and visions of nature, North, and nation to the negotiating table.


About the Author(s)

Caroline Desbiens is a professor of geography at Laval University. She holds the Canada Research Chair in Historical Geography of the North.


Table of Contents

Foreword: Ideas of North / by Graeme Wynn

Introduction: Looking North

Part 1: Power and the North
1 The Nexus of Hydroelectricity in Quebec
2 Discovering a New World: James Bay as Eeyou Istchee

Part 2: Writing the Land
3 Who Shall Convert the Wilderness into a Flourishing Country?
4 From the Roman de la Terre to the Roman des Ressources

Part 3: Rewriting the Land
5 Pioneers
6 Workers
7 Spectators

Conclusion: Ongoing Stories and Powers from the North



“As society struggles to find a balance between economic security and environmental well-being and grapples with the various challenges posed by social and environmental injustices, the freighted implications of popular ideas of the North need to be better understood. Power from the North can and should help with this.”
— from the Foreword by Graeme Wynn

Power from the North is a much-needed reinterpretation of Quebec’s relationship with its north. Desbiens’s sophisticated critique of nationalist, heroic narratives inherent in the earlier James Bay projects argues persuasively that development has been both an aspect of the modern technocratic state and of a troubling legacy of colonialism in Quebec. This timely historical geography speaks directly to this legacy, as well as to current political rhetoric about the North.”
— Hans M. Carlson, author of Home Is the Hunter: The James Bay Cree and Their Land


Sample Chapter

Sample Chapter [PDF]


Related Topics

History > Other
Environmental Studies


Other Ways To Order

In Canada, order your copy of Power from the North from UTP Distribution at:

UTP Distribution
5201 Dufferin Street
Toronto, Ontario
M3H 5T8

Phone orders: 1(800)565-9523 or (416)667-7791
Fax orders: 1(800)221-9985 or (416)667-7832


Ordering information for customers outside Canada

meeting Thursday night April 18th, 2013

 Who Owns the Arctic?


Who Owns the Arctic?  Understanding Sovereignty Disputes in the North

(The below description of book is from D&M Publishers, founded by Jim Douglas and Scott McIntyre.)


A topical and informed primer for the most urgent yet least understood geopolitical issue of our time—Arctic sovereignty

Who actually controls the Northwest Passage? Who owns the trillions of dollars of oil and gas beneath the Arctic Ocean? Which territorial claims will prevail—those of the U.S., Russia, Canada or the Nordic nations—and why? And, in an age of rapid climate change, how do we protect the fragile Arctic environment while seizing the economic opportunities presented by the rapidly melting sea ice?

In the highly readable book Who Owns the Arctic, Michael Byers, a leading Arctic expert and international lawyer explains the sometimes contradictory rules governing the division and protection of the Arctic and the disputes that remain unresolved. What emerges is a vision for the Arctic in which co-operation, not conflict, prevails, and where the sovereignty of individual nations is exercised for the benefit of all.


What do you think of Dr. Byers analysis of the geopolitical situation in the Arcitc?

For more information check out Michael Byers web site


Posted by: | 19th Jun, 2013

Arctic Reading Group Meeting #2

We will meet next Thursday May 23rd:

to discuss a few chapters from  Robert McGhee’s The Last Imaginary Place: A Human History Of The Arctic World.

Robert McGhee. 2005. The Last Imaginary Place: A Human History of the Arctic World.
Robert McGhee’s The Last Imaginary Place is either about the courageous nature of the western mind, or about its sheer lunacy in exploring the dangerous beauty of the arctic regions of our planet. I can’t decide which. Roughly half of this mesmerizing book defines the climate of the arctic regions of the world and the people throughout human history who have chosen to live there. The other half is dedicated to the largely western exploration of the arctic regions, the foolhardy gentlemen who sought a Northwest (or Northeast) passage through the Arctic, and how time and again they sacrificed ships and lives in the romantic quest of a mythical paradise, stores of gold, or easy passageways for international trade.McGhee opens the book with a poetic description of his first attractions to arctic climes and archaeology. He then discusses the ancient Greek search for Ultima Thule, the mythical tropical land thought to be undiscovered in the far northern reaches of the planet. The juxtaposition of icy reality and tropical fantasy emphasizes McGhee’s love for the Arctic, as seen in this quote:

A Disorienting, Dreamlike Strangeness

My early fascination with the Arctic was fed by images of its alien beauty. Like other southerners I saw a land of rock and ice, stripped to its essential stark form by the absence of forests, farmlands and intrusive remains of human endeavour. The perpetual daylight of Arctic summers added to the disorienting, dreamlike strangeness of this land, while the endless darkness and homicidal cold of winter were alluring in their menace (page 34)The book also describes the people who lived and live in Iceland, Greenland, northern Canada and Russia and other regions with arctic climates, how they cope, and how their lives have changed through time and contact with the modern world.

Quixotic Voyages to a Lethal and Alien Environment

The second half of The Last Imaginary Place is a gruelingly painful iteration of failed exploration and death. After a while, after the third or fifth or seventeenth failed voyage seeking a non-existent sea passage through arctic Canada, one is forced to conclude that the people who attempted such quixotic voyages – William Barents, Martin Frobisher, Henry Greene, Jens Munk, Samuel Hearne, John Franklin, and Robert Peary to name a few – were addled with greed for adventure, gold, or great shipping lanes. Again, McGhee puts it best: …[T]he story of Arctic exploration, which has so been cast as a simple tale of individual achievement, is far more than that. It is a narrative spun from the terror of being locked deep in the heart of a lethal and alien environment; the dreadful tedium as months of inactivity drag by in cramped and uncomfortable quarters; the homesickness that would barter life for the sight of a country garden; and the bleak depression that settles on those whose lives have been reduced to an apparently endless sentence of hard labour in a world of wind and ice (p. 132).
The Last Imaginary Place intersperses this narrative with numerous reports of the archaeological evidence of the various human occupations, including the failed voyages, and ample black and white and color photography. McGhee is a fiercely good writer, and The Last Imaginary Place evokes his fascination with the climate, people, and threat of the Earth’s arctic.

“While fracturing events are common, few events sprawl across such a large area or produce cracks as long and wide as those seen here.”

Extensive Ice Fractures in the Beaufort Sea

NASA Earth Observatory images by Jesse Allen using VIIRS day-night band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership. Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Defense. ____________________________________________________________________

“A fracturing event in this area is not unusual because the Beaufort Gyre tends to push ice away from Banks Island and the Canadian Archipelago,” explained Walt Meier of the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC). “Point Barrow can act like a ‘pin point’ where the ice catches and fractures to the north and east.”

In February, however, a series of storms passing over central Alaska exacerbated the fracturing. Strong westerly winds prompted several large pieces of ice to break away in an arc-shaped wave that moved progressively east. By the end of February, large pieces of ice had fractured all the way to the western coast of Banks Island, a distance of about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles).

While fracturing events are common, few events sprawl across such a large area or produce cracks as long and wide as those seen here. The age of the sea ice in this area was one of the key reasons this event became so widespread. “The region is covered almost completely by seasonal or first-year ice—ice that has formed since last September,” said Meier. “This ice is thinner and weaker than the older, multi-year ice, so it responds more readily to winds and is more easily broken up.”


Further Reading

  1. Earth Observatory Arctic sea ice.
  2. Arctic Sea Ice Blog (2013, March 24) Arctic freezing season ends with a loud crack. Accessed March 28, 2013.
  3. Arctic Sea Ice Blog (2013, March 2) The cracks of dawn. Accessed March 28, 2013.


Posted by: | 25th Mar, 2013

Not Frozen in Time Lecture March 26 7pm UBC

Dr. Frank Tester
Tomorrow at 7pm at UBC

For details check out link:

Not Frozen in Time poster




« Newer Posts - Older Posts »


Spam prevention powered by Akismet