PhD Oral Exam - Patricia H. Audette-Longo, Communication Studies
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
This thesis explores how First Nations and Métis peoples in northern Alberta and northern British Columbia create and negotiate media in connection to industrial bitumen development and oil pipeline proposals. It follows previous communication studies of Indigenous media making and media representations, and adds to the growing fields of the environmental humanities and petroculture studies. The term oil sands entanglements is offered as a conceptual framework for situating Indigenous and non-Indigenous engagements with oil and understanding how communities are affectively and economically tied to ongoing development.
With a focus on media practice over content, this thesis is an alternative media study that undertakes media analysis, ethnographic study, interviews, social media mapping and archival research. It is organized into two parts: the 2014 Tar Sands Healing Walk and the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal. The thesis concludes by elaborating oil sands entanglements as multi-directional, located in many places, and imbued with settler-colonial and extractivist politics. It closes with a brief discussion of emergent Indigenous networks that take oil pipelines as a starting-point for advocating fossil fuel divestment and resisting further development. This effort, and other avenues toward disentanglement, demand further media study, particularly as processes of communication. They also exemplify the potentially activist ethic of oil sands entanglement: as a framework, it is not meant to merely survey or map out connections, but to account for what oil and oil sands do in communities, and how this can foster change.