January 19, 2018

Shrimp and Petroleum: The Social Ecology of Louisiana’s Offshore Industries by Tyler Priest

Figshrimp and petro logo


This essay examines the intimate historical relationship between two of south Louisiana’s most important industries, shrimping and offshore oil. Analyzing the social, cultural, and labor dimensions of environmental change, the essay argues that petroleum did not undermine the environmental sustainability of shrimping, as many scholars assert, but rather evolved in an intimate and complementary relationship to it. The organization of labor, transportation, and physical space by shrimp and petroleum were mutually reinforcing, the products of a similar social ecology of waterborne


extraction and commerce. The essay also explains how the close bond between shrimp and petroleum found cultural expression in the Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival, long held each Labor Day weekend in Morgan City, Louisiana. Ultimately, the threat to the local survival of these industries came not from oil-driven environmental degradation and resource depletion, as often implied, but from global competition and industry migration.

by Tyler Priest

Full text (HTML) >> Full text (PDF) >> Abstract on Oxford Journals >>

Whale Meat in Early Postwar Japan: Natural Resources and Food Culture by Jakobina Arch


In the face of strong opposition from anti-whaling groups, whale meat consumption became a point of national pride and cultural importance in late twentieth-century Japan. Current efforts to expand inclusion of whale meat in school lunches to preserve Japanese cultural traditions have their roots in the postwar normalization of whale meat as a part of Japanese cuisine. This article focuses on the immediate postwar period of the Allied Occupation of Japan (1945–52) when whales became entangled in state policies dealing with food shortages and democratization. During the Occupation, the distribution of whale meat in school lunches shifted how people should use and think about whales in Japan. Thus policies for maximizing resource use for reconstruction had effects that still reverberate in arguments


about the value of whale meat today. Food shortages both during and after the war were instrumental in promoting widespread consumption by fitting whale meat into a new framework of distribution for a whole new generation of children fed whale at school. As these children grew older, whale meat became normalized as something that Japanese people ate, no matter where in the country they lived. Tracing whale distribution both physically as meat and more intangibly as discourse about whales in a variety of media, from policy to children’s magazines, this article provides new evidence for one of the long-term environmental legacies of the Allied Occupation of Japan.

by Jakobina Arch

Full text (HTML) >> Full text (PDF) >> Abstract on Oxford Journals >>

US to USSR: American Experts, Irrigation, and Cotton in Soviet Central Asia, 1929–32 by Maya Peterson

Wilbur map Petersonx550


In the 1920s and 1930s, thousands of Americans traveled to the Soviet Union to help build the first socialist country in the world. American experts in the Soviet Union offered general scientific and technical advice that was grounded in a seemingly apolitical transnational ideology. And yet development work is inherently political. Using published and unpublished sources from archives and libraries in the United States and the former Soviet Union, this article looks at one particular case of American technical assistance—assistance to Soviet irrigation and cotton-growing schemes in Uzbekistan—to explore the little-known story of American participation in the perpetuation of Russia’s colonial relationship with its Central Asian borderland. By privileging Russian dreams of landscape transformation in Turkestan over local uses of the environment, American experts in the region helped to ensure Central Asians’ dependence on cotton cultivation while assisting in a process of environmental degradation that continues to this day.

by Maya Peterson

Full text (HTML) >> Full text (PDF) >> Abstract on Oxford Journals >>

The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of the Texas Longhorn: An Evolutionary History



This article examines the history of the Texas Longhorn, a cattle breed that emerged in what is today the American Southwest during the nineteenth century. Using the methodologies of evolutionary history and animal studies, this article argues that the Texas Longhorn was both technology and laborer. Longhorns were ideally suited to nineteenth-century ranching, largely because the animals themselves performed much of the labor involved in beef production. Initially celebrated for its ability to endure grueling cattle drives, the breed was later abandoned in favor of more market-friendly breeds. In the twentieth century, however, the Texas Longhorn was rehabilitated as a symbol of Texas history and culture. Yet this memorialization was predicated on a false view of the longhorn as a more natural and premodern breed. By contrasting their earlier contributions to ranching with the breed’s twentieth-century memorialization, this article argues that animals are not simply inputs in our agricultural system, but key agents for creating and operating this system.

by Joshua Specht

Full text (HTML) >> Full text (PDF) >> Abstract on Oxford Journals >>

Floods and Flood-mindedness in Early Colonial Australia



To date, environmental histories of rivers, floods, and settlers in early colonial Australia (1788–1820) have meshed with colonial historiography rather than challenging it. Missing from these studies are problem-oriented questions about the behaviors of rivers and people alike. What were the specific histories and impacts of floods and freshes? How did settlers survive, conceptualize, and understand floods? Why did they stay on the riverbanks, even defying governors’ orders to move to higher ground, when they well knew the river’s destructive power? These are questions we might ask of all humans who live on floodplains. This


article argues and demonstrates that a deep ethnographic and environmental approach can do more than graft new environmental research onto existing historical narratives. It can unlock the radical potential of environmental history to reveal past peoples more fully, more humanly, in a whole new light—in short, to change the way we think about them and their environments.

by Grace Karskens

Full text (HTML) >> Full text (PDF) >> Abstract on Oxford Journals >>

The Engineer as Lobbyist: John R. Freeman and the Hetch Hetchy Dam (1910–13)



The damming of Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite National Park is a watershed event in environmental history, a presumed travesty that brought anguish to John Muir and his many supporters throughout the United States. Exactly how San Francisco won the right to transform the bucolic valley into a reservoir has been little studied up to now, although historians recognize that the East Coast hydraulic engineer John R. Freeman played a critical role in the campaign. This article examines how Freeman created a provocative water supply report that, using a wide range of visual images, successfully promoted the Hetch Hetchy Dam as an improvement to the landscape of California’s High Sierra. As part of this, he emphasized how few people had visited Hetch Hetchy prior to 1912, and he championed the development of roads to make the reservoir and the park


more accessible to tourists. The article highlights how Freeman drew upon his engineering skills to design a high-pressure aqueduct capable of generating 200,000?hp of hydroelectricity, and also how his knowledge of America’s political and social culture proved essential in winning congressional approval for the dam in 1913. Readers familiar with the environmentalist side of the Hetch Hetchy controversy will find this account revealing, especially in how Freeman operated as a political advocate advancing the city’s cause. They will also find important parallels between Freeman’s work as a dam lobbyist and the effort that underlay passage of the National Park Service Act in 1916.

by Donald C. Jackson

Full text (HTML) >> Full text (PDF) >> Abstract on Oxford Journals >>

From Factory Town to Metropolitan Junkyard: Postindustrial Transitions on the Urban Periphery

Hurley Figure 4-550

By Andrew Hurley

The dismantling of America’s manufacturing economy in the 1970s and 1980s left hundreds of beleaguered communities struggling to reclaim something viable from the detritus of an industrial age. Across the nation’s Rust Belt, sharp workforce reductions and plant closings eroded the financial resources of local governments and families alike. Deindustrialization also saddled afflicted localities with the physical remains of industrial production: hulking factory carcasses, decaying rail spurs, and toxic waste dumps. Finding some constructive use for these brownfield sites emerged as one of the most pressing revitalization challenges of the 1990s. Postindustrial recovery proved particularly daunting for former manufacturing enclaves located on the metropolitan fringe—places like Camden, New Jersey;


East St. Louis, Illinois; and Richmond, California. These locales had grown dependent on manufacturing for their sustenance and were among the most devastated by the withdrawal of corporate investment. Their spatial placement within host metropolises, however, endowed them with opportunities for economic redevelopment that more remote centers of industry lacked. This article explores one common but understudied redevelopment response: integration into regional networks of waste handling and disposal. In the final decades of the twentieth century, manufacturing suburbs adapted and expanded a robust infrastructure for moving and transforming materials to accommodate burgeoning volumes of postconsumer garbage and scrap.

Full text (HTML) >> Full text (PDF) >> Abstract on Oxford Journals >>


Revolutions in the Grass: Energy and Food Systems in Continental North America, 1763–1848

Zappia figure3-550

By Natale Zappia

This article draws connections between the political revolutions of the Atlantic World and the equally powerful environmental revolutions occurring in North America between 1763 and 1848. The political-economic transformations that shook coastal cities also reverberated in the reorganization of food production and indirectly grass consumption, revealing deep interconnections between


imperial objectives, continental land use practices, and the emergence of a global food system. Understanding the critical role of nonhuman actors, including grass and herbivores, reveals deeper relationships shared between early modern political, cultural, and environmental history.

Full text (HTML) >> Full text (PDF) >> Abstract on Oxford Journals >>

Fascist Modernist Landscapes: Wheat, Dams, Forests, and the Making of the Portuguese New State

by Tiago Saraiva

Fascist ideology held strong claims about the relationship between national soil and national community. It has been less noticed that this “ideology of the land” materialized in massive state campaigns that led to major environmental changes. This article examines three such campaigns undertaken by the New State, Portugal’s fascist regime—the Wheat Campaign (1929), the Irrigation Plan (1935), and the Afforestation Plan (1938)—to demonstrate the importance of crops, dams, and forests to the institutionalization of fascism. It argues


that paying attention to such topics, typical of environmental historians’ narratives, suggests that instead of characterizing fascist regimes through the paradox of reactionary modernism, in which the ideology of the land constitutes the reactionary element, it is more productive to place intensive environmental management at the core of fascist modernist experiments.

Full text (HTML) >> Full text (PDF) >> Abstract on Oxford Journals >>

Cruising for Pinelands: Knowledge Work in the Wisconsin Lumber Industry, 1870–1900

Kinnear Figure 2-550

by Craig William Kinnear

Timber cruisers, those workers hired to locate and assess the value of trees, blazed the trail for the lumber industry’s expansion across northern Wisconsin between 1870 and 1900. This article demonstrates that, in addition to tough physical labor, timber cruisers did significant cultural work to gather the information needed to expand industrial logging operations. They chatted with those they met on the trail, trading exaggerated stories about the difficulty of travel in the region. From these tall tales, cruisers gleaned local knowledge about the forests. Even as they


shared local environmental knowledge, however, the cruisers kept some information, like the location of valuable pine stands, private. By gathering shared local knowledge and hiding valuable information, cruisers did the “knowledge work” with which capitalists selected the parcels of timberland best suited to industrial logging. That tall tales and outright lies were essential to cruisers’ labor suggests that this unexpected and often exploitative knowledge work was central to late nineteenth-century industrial capitalism.

Full text (HTML) >> Full text (PDF) >> Abstract on Oxford Journals >>