Boomtown: the cultural logics of energy production in late liberalism

The oil boom in Williston, North Dakota has captured the attention and imagination of national and global media, becoming one of the most widely reported place-specific stories of the past decade. Featured in countless magazines, news stories, and photo-essays, and the location for a new reality TV show, the oil boom has become as much a site of cultural and ideological production as one of oil production. Part of a larger book project on the boom entitled "Fractured life: Geosocial Formations at the End of the World", the work covered by this proposal focuses on documentary photography and film about the boom, such as Alec Soth's photographs in the NY Times, Jesse Moss's documentary film The Overnighters, and Todd Melby's interactive online documentary Rough Ride.

I am particularly interested in narrative investments in the boom and the role of the boom in mediating national fears and anxieties in an age of economic insecurity, uncertain climate futures, geopolitical upheaval, and intersecting anxieties around migration, gender, race and sexuality. While the work follows from, and is motivated by, the disjuncture between everyday life in the oil boom and its representation in national and global media and film, the point of the project is not locate the 'truth' of the oil boom but rather to attend to its cultural logics, its psychic and affective dimensions, and how accounts of the boom are deployed in public life and popular culture. The work therefore aims to further our understanding of American life and labor in late liberalism.

Key Dates


AHD Chair Position: Application now open


Annual Faculty Award: Application period begins


Special Events: Round 1 Application Period Begins