Settling the Boom

The Sites and Subjects of Bakken Oil

2022

Mary E. Thomas and Bruce Braun, Editors

Examines how settler colonial and sexist infrastructures and narratives order a resource boom

Settling the Boom studies how the disruptive forces of an oil boom in the northern Great Plains are contained through the extension of settler temporalities, reassertions of heteropatriarchy, and the tethering of life to the volatility of oil and its cruel optimisms. The collection reveals the results of sustained research in Williston, North Dakota, the epicenter of the “Bakken Boom.”

Over the past decade, new oil plays have unsettled U.S. energy landscapes and imaginaries. Settling the Boom studies how the disruptive forces of an oil boom in the northern Great Plains are contained through the extension of settler temporalities, reassertions of heteropatriarchy, and the tethering of life to the volatility of oil and its cruel optimisms.

This collection reveals the results of sustained research in Williston, North Dakota, the epicenter of the “Bakken Boom.” While the boom brought a rapid influx of capital and workers, the book questions simple timelines of before and after. Instead, Settling the Boom demonstrates how the unsettling forces of an oil play resolve through normative narratives and material and affective infrastructures that support settler colonialism’s violent extension and its gendered orders of time and space. Considering a wide range of evidence, from urban and regional policy, interviews with city officials, media, photography, and film, these essays analyze the ongoing material, aesthetic, and narrative ways of life and land in the Bakken.

Contributors: Morgan Adamson, Macalester College; Kai Bosworth, Virginia Commonwealth U; Thomas S. Davis, Ohio State U; Jessica Lehman, Durham U.

Cover alt text: Grid of nine wooden cubbyholes. Center has title and editor names. Surrounding ones hold mix of worn, dirty materials from a drilling site.

Mary E. Thomas is associate professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at The Ohio State University. She is coauthor of Urban Geography: A Critical Introduction and author of Multicultural Girlhood: Racism, Sexuality, and the Conflicted Spaces of Urban Education.

Bruce Braun is professor of geography at the University of Minnesota. He is coeditor of Political Matter: Technoscience, Democracy, and Public Life and author of The Intemperate Rainforest: Nature, Culture, and Power on Canada’s West Coast, both from Minnesota.

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