A Deep Map of the Bakken

Over the long weekend, I immersed myself in William Least Heat-Moon’s PrairyErth: (a deep map). (1991). I didn’t know this book until a conversation with a few graduate students this summer after my tortured attempts to explain my tourist guide to the Bakken project. I wasn’t particularly familiar with the term “deep map,” but as I explored PrairyErth, I came to realize that Heat-Moon’s project with this work, which explores a single county in Kansas, was fundamentally similar to what I wanted to do with my tourist guide. The biggest difference was that Heat-Moon was a kind of story-teller, ethnographer, and oral historians where my speciality was in things.

So, the base map for the deep map that I want to prepare for the Bakken is the tourist guide (which should appear next year from NDUS Press). It provides a route through the space of the Bakken which runs across US Route 2 before turning south at 13-Mile Corner to trace US Route 85. This inverted L forms the main artery of the Bakken both from its origins around Tioga to its current heart in William and McKenzie Counties. Our anchors are the towns of Ray, Stanley, Tinga, Williston, and Watford City, but we recognize that the Bakken is also made of places like the abandoned town of Wheelock, the depopulated township of Manitou, the area called Johnson’s Corner, and the numerous nameless agglomerations of tanks, unit yards, mobile workforce housing, and gas plants. This is the framework for a deep map.

When we submitted the original draft of the guide to new Heritage Guide series editor at the NDSU Press, he suggested that we add more people to our work. I begrudgingly did this, thinking all the while, that tourist guides aren’t really about people but about places, monuments, and stories. If people do appear, they’re past people or individuals who make short cameos (like the kindly priest who has the keys to the historic church or the vivacious merchant who will offer you tea while you browse his wares). Complicating matters more is that our guide is not about a landscape forged in the distant past but about a dynamic contemporary space. In other words, historic personages who populate traditional tourist guides played a relatively small role in our work because our primary focus was on the present. While I don’t regret the decision of inserting a few people in our guide, I think the object-oriented approach to our guide limits how one can encounter the Bakken landscape.  

Heat-Moon’s deep map is, in contrast, all about people. Most short chapters, even those with a rather more empirical bent, focus on the people from Chase County, Kansas. In fact, he uses the ugly word “countians” so many times that I am almost comfortable with it. For the Bakken, we have hundreds of pages of transcribed interviews that could populate our deep map and we received a small grant from the University of North Dakota to publish these interviews next year.

Heat-Moon’s deep map is more than just people, though. He uses people to tell the geological, the historical, the political, the cultural and the economic story of the county’s various landscapes and places. We’re fortunate for western North Dakota to have not only an outstanding (and new) geological history, but also have an intriguing (and growing) body of literature about the region and some solid historical treatments of the places. 

As I continue to turn the idea of a deep map over in my head, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that guide to the Bakken is just a beginning for a deep map. 

Thomas McGrath and North Dakota Quarterly

This November is the centennial of Tom McGrath’s birth. He is perhaps North Dakota’s most globally recognized poet and perhaps no author is more closely associated with North Dakota Quarterly than Thomas McGrath.

So NDQ has posted its archive of works on McGrath with a new introduction by Dale Jacobson, a leading McGrath scholar. Here’s what I wrote:

In recent years, his work as a definitive poet of the Northern Plains and the American West has received renewed interest and attention. Charlotte Mandel’s recent essay in Poets’ Quarterly captures the scope and tone of McGrath’s work as well as any. McGrath’s biography at the Poetry Foundation demonstrates his deep roots in the American heartland, in a dreamlike reality, and in the pages of North Dakota Quarterly.

In recognition of McGrath’s 100th birthday, we asked McGrath scholar Dale Jacobson to share his thoughts on the poet and to frame McGrath’s work in North Dakota Quarterly. Jacobson’s essay is below and links to McGrath’s contributions to the Quarterly follow.

Go check it out here.

If you find yourself needing more McGrath (and frankly, who doesn’t need more) and are in town, go check out our reading of McGrath poetry on November 20th:

Ndq mcgrath flyer

Me in the Media: Outrage and the Bakken

It’s been a hectic week here in North Dakotaland. So hectic, in fact, that I don’t have time to write about myself. The self-promotion machine has run up against the oppressive reality of … life and books and outrage!

Fortunately, when I’m too busy to promote myself, other people do pick up the slack.

I was really excited to see this article by Megan Gannon in the MIT-based UnDark Magazine. She discusses the North Dakota Man Camp Project in the context of other – frankly more established and well-known – archaeological projects that focused on the contemporary world. It’s a real honor to be discussed next to the seminal work of Bill Rathje, Larry Zimmerman, and Jason DeLeón. 

The Grand Forks Herald has a short piece on the NDUS Arts and Humanities Outrage Summit that begins tomorrow. Check it out here.

Finally, on Tuesday, North Dakota Quarterly re-published my little article on the historical context for Elwyn Robinson’s History of North Dakota. It’s a nice little piece that ties together Robinson’s career as a teacher and a leader in the Department of History with his crowning achievement. 

Lots going on this week!

NDUS Arts and Humanities Outrage Summit

We have the final program ready for the NDUS Arts and Humanities Outrage Summit. It includes a sweet cover designed by Donovan Witmer. Here’s a draft of my very brief opening remarks

The hashtag is #NDUSOutrage (which oddly enough hasn’t been used lately)!

Outrage Program Cover

Here’s the program. 

8:00 – 8:30
Welcome
Lecture Bowl

Bill Caraher
Associate Professor, Department of History, UND

Mark Kennedy
President, UND 

9:00-10:00 AM          
Panel
The Art of Outrage
Badlands Room 

Light and Darkness: Tragedy and the Use of Light in Public Art
Patrick Luber, UND

Quick Response to Outrage
Jenni Lou Russi, VCSU           

8:30-10:00 AM          
Panel
Historical Outrage
Lecture Bowl 

Public Outrage (Re)shaping Settler Commemoration
Cynthia C. Prescott, UND

From Outrage to Change: A Historical Overview of the Black Campus Movement: 1960-1980
Daniel Cooley, UND

Outrage in Historical Perpsective
Eric Burin, UND           

8:30-10:00 AM
Panel
Music Therapy Suspension: Shock, Denial, Outrage, Bargaining, Depression, but not Acceptance
River Valley Room           

Music Therapy: An essential allied health profession
Anita Gadberry, UND

Music Therapy in the Evolution of the UND Music Department
Gary Towne, UND

The Impact of the Suspension of Music Therapy on UND
James Popejoy, UND

The Suspension of the UND Music Therapy Program: A Case Study of Flawed Process
Katherine Norman Dearden           

10:15-11:30     
Musical Performance
Ball Room

Fiery Red
Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962)

Luminus
Piano Trio (MSU)

Jon Rumney, violin, MSU
Erik Anderson, cello, MSU
Dianna Anderson, piano, MSU 

String Quartet No. 8
II. Allegro molto
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) 

MSU String Quartet
Jon Rumney, violin (filling in for Will Schilling)
Nikisa Gentry, violin
Nina Coster, viola
Rebecca Randash, cello 

10:15-11:45     
Panel
Literary Outrage
River Valley Room 

The Monkey Smokes a Cigarette, or, Yelling at Your Television
Brian Schill UND

Medieval Zorn, Modern Outrage: The Narrative Aspects of Discontent.
Shawn R. Boyd, UND

Dog-Woman on a Slow Burn: Translating “Jeans Prose” by Billjana Jovanovic
John K. Cox, NDSU

The Outrage of the Disabled Body
Andrew J. Harnish, UND           

11:45-1:30
Lunch and Keynote:
Ballroom

Opening Remarks
Debbie Storrs, Dean, UND College of Arts and Sciences 

If You Are Not Mad, You’re Not Paying Attention” Outrage as Performance, Industry and Politics in Contemporary America
Mark Jendrysik, UND  

1:30-2:45
Roundtable
Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline: A Dialogue at the University of North Dakota
Lecture Bowl 

Rebecca Weaver-Hightower, UND
Cody Hall, Alumni UND
Chase Iron Eyes, Alumni UND
James Grijalva, UND
Jaynie Parrish, UND
Mark Trahant, UND 

1:30-2:45
Panel
The Outrage of History: The Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism in Modern Discourse
River Valley Room 

The Black Peter Discussion: the limits of tolerance in the Netherlands
Ernst Pijning, MSU

North V. South: The Legacy of the ‘African Holocaust’ in Ghana
Ty M. Reese, UND

Undermining Outrage: Native Participants in the Conquest of Mexico
Bradley T. Benton, NDSU           

3:00-4:30
Round-Table
How about a Third Place? A Panel Discussion about Downtown Real Estate and Building Community
Lecture Bowl

David R. Haeselin, UND
Sheila M. Liming, UND
Sheryl O. O’Donnell, UND
Bret Weber, UND           

3:00-4:00
Performance
River Valley Room

Entransed: The Making of a Transnational Woman
Monika Browne, VCSU

3:00-5:00
2016 North Dakota Arts & Humanities Faculty & Student Exhibition Reception
Colonel Eugene E. Myers Art Gallery (Hughes Fine Art Center)

Oil Patch Patina

I generally don’t blog about a book until I’m done reading it, but I am pretty excited about Shannon Lee Dawdy’s recent book, Patina: A Profane Archaeology (Chicago 2015). There are some good reviews on the interwebs for anyone interested in getting a broader sense of the book.

What drew me into this book was Dawdy’s exploration of the concept of patina in the first chapter or so. In New Orleans, patina has long described the slightly thread-worn, faded, and polished character of the city. The patina is maintained, Dawdy argues intentionally and after Katrina, an additional and significant layer of “Katrina Patina” has linked places and objects explicitly to the storm and recovery.

These ideas fascinated me on two levels. First – and most whimsically – I’ve been interested in the conversations around vintage watch collecting. What’s drawn me to these conversations is the combination of technical details (and remarkable craft) and signs of wear. It appears, for example, that collectors have rather strict criteria for the development of patina on the watch. For example, evidence for interventions – such as polishing or re-applying lume to the face – are generally seen as negative, but the gradual fading of the face and the lume, particularly if it is uniform and reveals colors or patterns less visible in the original colors and design of the watch. The more interesting and uniform the patina, the more appealing (and generally pricey) they watch. For example here and here and here.

What drew me to Dawdy’s book, other than recommendations from some trusted colleagues, is that she thinks about the tension between the past and present in New Orleans, in a way reminiscent of Michael Herzfeld’s treatment Rhethmenos on Crete. I have started to wonder a bit about how things will play out in the Bakken oil patch now that it has well and truly entered the bust cycle. My experience out west is that the Bakken towns had accumulated patina during the boom. The signs of habitual wear, in Dawdy’s definition, mark the roads, buildings, and landscapes of the Bakken leaving it with a patina that lacked the romance of the old New Orleans, but is clearly visible. The worn boot scrapers at hotel and restaurant doors, the rutted roads, and the bruised and burnished tables and bars at local watering holes all carry forward evidence for the boom. This Oil Patch Patina becomes the persistent reminder of the cycle of boom and bust and the wear exerted on communities, objects, and buildings during the boom lingers on as the resources to overwrite the patinated landscape dissipates with the end of the boom. 

Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline

It seems like quite a few of my colleagues have been following with interest the Dakota Access Pipeline crisis and the protest initiated by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that has quickly garnered international attention. The issues at stake involve North Dakota’s mercurial petroleum economy, the challenge of extracting, moving, and using oil without damaging the environment, the need to recognize and understand a range of cultural sensitivities, and the role of archaeology in managing material cultural resources of the entire community (not just when its convenient or when it fulfills one’s cultural explanation).

Needless to say, I feel profoundly unqualified to address any of these issues much less their complex intersection that gave rise to the Cannon Ball protest camp. Fortunately, my colleague Sharon Carson, over at North Dakota Quarterly, compiled a wide range of links that provide a range of (largely sympathetic) perspectives on both the Cannon Ball protest camp and the larger DAPL crisis. 

So go read her post today and surf around the links that she provided!

Greece and the Bakken

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been reading things on the current situation in Greece. Most of it is written by scholars. I blame Kostis Kourelis for this and Richard Rothaus. They introduced me to the fine work of Heath Cabot who has written on both the ongoing financial and refugee crisis in Greece. I’ve enjoyed surfing around in two of the three books that Panos Leventis reviewed in the Journal of Architectural Education.

I’ve found the treatment of graffiti in Greece in Remapping ‘Crisis’: A Guide to Athens intriguing and the discussion of the privatization of public space especially relevant in my community of Grand Forks and consonant with some my experiences in Bakken. While our experiences in western North Dakota have generally been positive, some of my colleagues were once stopped by private security on a public road as they photographed a flare at night. The incident de-escalated fairly quickly, and while the presence of private security in the Bakken is understandable, the confrontation on a public road did demonstrate the growing reach of private concerns to public land and concerns. Similar concerns appear in the open publication City-Scapes: Athens and Beyond. I particularly enjoyed the treatment of flows which embraced the movements of humans and infrastructure. This offers a more sophisticated and obvious  treatment of what I was trying to do with my tourist guide to the Bakken. Between roads, rail, and pipelines, the Bakken is defined by flows of oil, people, and trains.

Yannis Hamilakis interest in the refugee crisis and the archaeology of forced and undocumented migration has fueled not only a forum in the Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, but also conferences and panels both in Greece and abroad. While the significance of this work to the lives of the refugees remains unclear,  there is no doubt that the efforts by Hamilakis and colleagues are arming scholars and hopefully policy makers with a new set of both archaeology tools and data to address real world problems.

The quality and intensity of the academic conversations about the Greek refugee and financial crisis has been remarkable. The recent events surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline (recently summarized in the New Yorker, but getting heavy local and national media coverage) demonstrate that extractive industries here in the North Dakota continue to impact the state even after the most recent boom has subsided. For example, anyone thinking about the recent boom and the current crisis could do worse than reading Sebastian Braun’s contribution to our Bakken Goes Boom or buying a copy of Trout, Broby, and Houston (eds.) Fracture. Braun reminds us that “All the booms and frontiers on the plains have one thing in common: water is the key resource.” While his article focused on the twin challenges of fracking and wastewater disposal, he is clearly aware that it’s not merely the consumption of water but also the risk of contamination that locates water in the same category as air when assessing the impact of extractive industries on a global scale. As a result, the DAPL protest can’t be just about local water, Native American rights, or even North Dakota politics – any more than the Greek financial or refugee crisis is about Europe or Greece. These situations are global concerns that cut across national boundaries and highlight a wide range of political, environment, and ultimately human failings. Hopefully, scholarly attention on these situations will continue to provide a useful – if modest – counterweight to corporate publicity machines, media hype, and political rhetoric. Whether the work of scholars actually matters, remains uncertain.

Traveling North Dakota

Maybe it’s the waning days of summer or my plans to head back west to check out the Bakken (or maybe that I just finished revising my tourist guide to the Bakken), but for somer reason I’ve been thinking a good bit about travel in North Dakota.

The most famous guide to North Dakota likely remains the WPA funded, North Dakota: A Guide to the Northern Prairie State (Fargo 1938). 

When I was pulling together articles on Hemingway from North Dakota Quarterly, however, I stumbled upon two articles fueled my thinking about travel in North Dakota.

The first is by James E. Boyle, who was an economist at the University of North Dakota before making his name in agricultural economics at Cornell. He traveled the state for 30 days in the spring of 1916 and published some of his findings on that trip in the 1916 NDQ (which were reprinted in 1996). Among the more striking (and perhaps immediately relevant) observations is that on his trip he stayed mostly in farm houses, but during his trip they only stayed in three “American homes.” He described a landscape of almost evenly placed houses, barbed-wired fences, wheat fields, creameries, decent roads, and prosperity: “The farmer with brains and good health is more prosperous than his city brother of similar attainments.”

The second article is by Anne Rathke and it’s titled “The Image of North Dakota in Recent Travel Literature,” and it appeared in NDQ 56 (1988). For Rathke, recent means about 50 years and her article starts with John Gunther’s 1947 Inside the USA and tracks references to North Dakota through William Least Heat Moon’s 1982 Blue Highways. The image presented by Rathke is far from the kind of rustic, prairie idyll that one might expect. Instead, she shows how the North Dakota experience is complex and fueled the imagination of a generation of travelers who perhaps expected little more than an empty block on the map.

 

Dynamic Photographs (with poop)

After reading Y. Hamilakis’s and F. Ifantidis’s Camera Kalaureia (2016), I got to thinking how I could be a bit more vivid and dynamic with the photographs that I use to document, illustrate, and analyze my work. This is particularly significant for our work in the Bakken oil patch where we relied heavily on photographic documentation. As I note in my brief notes on Camera Kalaureia, the photographs in that volume move the viewers eye and invite close inspection. They are remarkably vivid.

While I certainly don’t have the “camera skillz” necessary to take these kinds of photographs consistently and tend to resort to a kind of documentary mode of photography, I began to play with using triptychs to demonstrate ranges of behavior or exempla of a particular phenomenon. The use of three images juxtaposes similar phenomena in a more engaging way and asks the viewer to consider the 

Here are two that I’ve prepared for an article that we’re revising for a Journal of Contemporary Archaeology forum.  

Fig 4

This image shows different types of architectural elaboration at a Bakken RV park ranging from a well manicured lawn and fenced yard to the a construction of a shell surrounding a small RV. 

Fig 5

This images captures various stages of abandonment in workforce housing sites in the Bakken. I think it’s fairly self-explanatory, but the last image to the right shows stuff left behind by squatters.