The Effects of Off-shore Drilling on Barrow, Alaska

michael berger in alaska

Michael Berger '14 went to Barrow, Alaska, on a Stefansson Fellowship to study the effects of off-shore oil drilling on the community. 

by Michael Berger '14, Stefansson Research Fellowship, Barrow, Alaska

My research focused on how the Barrow, Alaska community could stand to benefit from offshore oil drilling that could happen over the next several decades. I looked at how political and corporate institutions such as the North Slope Borough and the Arctic Slope
Regional Corporation are acting as players in securing benefits from the drilling.

I had to first understand the cultural and political framework and history of oil in the North Slope, including understanding the Inupiat people. This type of social science research is incredibly self-driven. There was no one telling me where to go, whom to talk to, which leads to follow and which to let drop.

Among other things, my time in Barrow allowed me to consider the role of the social scientist. In a world where knowledge is both temporally and spatially distributed, the role of the social scientist is not to generate new knowledge, but instead to learn from a situation in one place and time and share it in a different place and time period, and to find patterns or similarities between situations across both space and time.

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