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 Featured Title
Do Glaciers Listen?
Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters, and Social Imagination
Julie Cruikshank  

$97.00 Hardcover
Release Date: 5/18/2005
ISBN: 9780774811866    

$36.95 Paperback
Release Date: 1/1/2006
ISBN: 9780774811873    

328 Pages


About the Book

• Winner, 2012 Lifetime Achievement Clio Award for the North, Canadian Historical Association
• Winner, 2007 Clio Award - Northern Region, Canadian Historical Association
• Winner, 2006 Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing, Society for Humanistic Anthropology
• Winner, 2006 Julian Steward Award, American Anthropological Association
• Winner, 2005 K.D. Srivastava Prize for Excellence in Scholarly Publishing

Do Glaciers Listen? explores the conflicting depictions of glaciers to show how natural and cultural histories are objectively entangled in the Mount Saint Elias ranges. This rugged area, where Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory now meet, underwent significant geophysical change in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which coincided with dramatic social upheaval resulting from European exploration and increased travel and trade among Aboriginal peoples.

European visitors brought with them varying conceptions of nature as sublime, as spiritual, or as a resource for human progress. They saw glaciers as inanimate, subject to empirical investigation and measurement. Aboriginal oral histories, conversely, described glaciers as sentient, animate, and quick to respond to human behaviour. In each case, however, the experiences and ideas surrounding glaciers were incorporated into interpretations of social relations.

Focusing on these contrasting views during the late stages of the Little Ice Age (1550-1900), Cruikshank demonstrates how local knowledge is produced, rather than discovered, through colonial encounters, and how it often conjoins social and biophysical processes. She then traces how the divergent views weave through contemporary debates about cultural meanings as well as current discussions about protected areas, parks, and the new World Heritage site. Readers interested in anthropology and Native and northern studies will find this a fascinating read and a rich addition to circumpolar literature.

About the Author(s)

Julie Cruikshank is professor emerita in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of British Columbia. She is the author of Life Lived Like a Story (winner of the 1992 Macdonald Prize); Reading Voices; and The Social Life of Stories.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: The Stubborn Particularities of Voice

Part 1: Matters of Locality
1. Memories of the Little Ice Age
2. Constructing Life Stories: Glaciers as Social Spaces
3. Listening for Different Stories

Part 2: Practices of Exploration
4. Two Centuries of Stories from Lituya Bay: Nature, Culture, and La Pérouse
5. Bringing Icy Regions Home: John Muir in Alaska
6 . Edward James Glave, the Alsek, and the Congo

Part 3: Scientific Research in Sentient Places
7. Mapping Boundaries: From Stories to Borders
8. Melting Glaciers and Emerging Histories



Do Glaciers Listen? is an exploration of nature and culture in encounter that builds upon Julie Cruikshank’s deep and unrivalled knowledge of indigenous tradition. It focuses on an area that is, by most people’s reckoning, ‘off the beaten track’ and probably thus, by extension, unpropitious space for such an inquiry. But this is its triumph. It brings liminal space to the very centre of several important concerns of contemporary scholarship.
-- Graeme Wynn, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia

Perhaps the crucial word in the title is “Listen.” The reader must listen carefully to the words as spoken by others in this beautifully crafted book. Do Glaciers Listen? is a fascinating read. Cruikshank’s discussion of how encounters shape and create perceptions of the world, and how layers of meaning are forced onto landscapes by peoples is thoroughly thought provoking. This book is highly recommended for scientitst, anthropologists, historians, and everyone with an interest in the social construction of landscapes.
-- Susan Rowley, Canadian Polar Commission, Meridian, Fall/Winter 2005

Cruikshank’s book is sophisticated, rigorous, and exciting. Its pages brim with nuanced takes on epistemology, sensitive descriptions of ice, and rigorous analyses of cultural interactions. This is indeed a tour de force in interdisciplinary studies.
— Eric G. Wilson, American Historical Review, June 2006

[Cruikshank’s] book is a vital contribution to today’s scientific and popular debates about how best to respect nature and preserve wilderness. Reading Do Glaciers Listen? is a thrilling and sobering experience. Cruikshank combines splendid scholarship and majestic descriptions in a cross-disciplinary tour-de-force. Readers will come away with a new appreciation of the meaning of glaciers.
—Adrienne Mayor, Journal of Folklore Research, April 19 2007

…one of the greatest strengths of this book is that it is rich in detail … the book makes an important contribution to northern anthropology as well as to environmental history and colonial encounters.
—Anne Henshaw, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 13, no. 1

Narrative, encounter, and locality come alive in this exquisitely written account about the sentient quality of glaciers. For the Tlingit and Athapaskan storytellers of the Pacific Northwest whose stories lie at the core of this text and for anthropologist Julie Cruikshank who authored it, glaciers are not inanimate entities but instead activerly shape the physical and cultural environments through which they move.

There can be no doubt Do Glaciers Listen? Is an important piece of scholarship. In line with much recent cultural theory, Cruikshank denaturalizes the imagined divide between nature and culture.

This book is exceptional for its style, prose, the quality of research and , perhaps most of all, for the passion the author brings to her subject. I strongly recommend this text to scholars working at the nexus of nature and culture.
-Andrew Baldwin,Environmental History Journal, Volume 12, Number 4, October 2007

This fascinating book weaves together a study of memory, oral history and transformations through a series of encounters between people and glaciers in the region where the Saint Elias Mountains and the Alsek River converge in the southwest Yukon Territory and Alaska. …The book is well-suited for an upper-division undergraduate course or graduate seminar in any of these fields of study, as well as an excellent example of the insights that can be gained from carrying out long-term ethnographic field re- search in a particular locality and considering how human and "nature" relationships are constructed from multiple perspectives.
- Rebecca K. Zarger, University of South Florida, Journal of Ecological Anthropology, Vol. 11, 2007

Cruikshank’s work provides a rich examination of how cultural and material worlds are intertwined and inseparable. As such, it is a valuable resource for archaeologists interested in socio-cultural phenomena from any part of the world, although it will be of particular interest to those working in northern North America or other colonial contexts. […] Cruikshank, herself a gifted narrator, brings her accomplished skills as an ethnographer, editor, and listener to the task of presenting knowledge and understanding of life in the mountainous landscape of the north Pacific coast.
- Andrew Martindale, University of British Columbia, Canadian Journal of Archaeology, 32, 2008

Sample Chapter


Related Topics

Aboriginal Studies
Northern Studies/Arctic Studies

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