water color painting of a blue whale against a blue background

The Ethical Choices of Whales

Bowheads, Hunters, and Mutual Adaptations in the Bering Strait 1848-1968
Nov 19, 4:30 PM
Library Lecture Room
Free and open to the public

Bowhead whales have been known by three distinct groups of hunters along the Bering Strait over the past two centuries: indigenous Yupik and Inupiaq whalers, capitalist commercial whalers, and communist industrial whalers. In this talk, Bathsheba Demuth looks at how bowhead whales became known through the conditions under which they were killed, and examines the cosmologies these three kinds of whaling practitioners composed around the animals they hunted. How were whales, particularly bowheads, imagined and treated? What kinds of emotional relationships were possible or considered ethical between humans and whales? Did whales make ethical judgments about their hunters? The talk closes by asking what including whale behavior in our analysis of human-whale interactions provokes in our historical understanding of nonhuman actions in human narratives of the past.

Professor Demuth is an environmental historian at Brown University specializing in the history of energy and past climates. She  She has lived in and studied Arctic communities across Eurasia and North America and is the author of Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait (2019).

This is the second event in the newly formed the Chief Arvol Looking Horse and Class of 1956 Distinguished Speaker Series on the North American West. The newly formed Faculty Group on the North American West, sponsored by the Newhouse Center for the Humanities, is committed to reviving a longstanding interest in Native American history, culture, and social issues that was once prominent here at Wellesley College.

For more information, please contact:

Professor Elena Creef, ecreef@wellesley.edu

Generously supported by:

the Speaker Series for the American West Program Gift