Accepted Paper:

Knowing the Land: Ontologies and Landscapes in Northern Saskatchewan  


Emily Simmonds (York University)

Paper short abstract:

Emphasizing the unequal social relations that power global energy markets, this paper brings the material-social entanglements of Canada’s national electric grid and flourishing uranium market into conversation with the colonial tenure land system and neoliberal development policies.

Paper long abstract:

Canada is one of the world's largest producers and exporters of the uranium ore required to power nuclear fission technologies. Currently, all of this is ore is sourced from the Athabasca Basin region located in northern Saskatchewan, which is the ancestral home of the Dene, and Cree, First Nation communities. While the mines employ many members of these communities, and provide much of the local infrastructure, including community roads, churches and recreational facilities, they are also a source of anxiety that instills, in some residents, a profound sense of alienation from their ancestral landscapes. Foregrounding the ways in which the environmental impacts of energy markets are constituted and made knowable through experience, I explore how a sense of place, at a First Nations reserve in the region, is disrupted and reworked by mining. In so doing, I privilege local residents' response and accounts of how mining alters the landscapes and the environment. Ultimately, I suggest that energy production zones are not simply passive outcomes of energy markets but are active sites where substances and phenomena, like uranium ore, are simultaneously political and historical projects, and entities with unique material influences on the social relations of their production.

Panel T124
Energy Beyond Crisis: Energetic Bodies, Ecologies, and Economies