Signature Seminar Preview Lecture to Focus on Extractions

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How do we balance our needs and desires for oil, gas, timber and other resources with the environmental and social impacts of extraction? How do race, class, and gender affect who benefits or is harmed by extractive practices? And who owns the land anyway?

Associate Professor Toni Jensen will answer these questions and delve into their local, regional and national implications in her public preview lecture, “Extractions,” available online via Zoom on Monday, March 28 at 5:15 p.m.

Jensen’s presentation previews her Fall 2022 Honors College Signature Seminar, Extractions. Please fill this out Online Interest Form gain access to the lecture.


Too often, discussions like the one Jensen hopes to lead focus on the voices of people outside the affected communities.

“I’m looking at this from a marginalized position,” said Jensen, who is a Métis and has spent time with the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in Standing Rock. “Who is affected when frackers or the oil and gas or timber industries decide to come onto reservation land? Or are you coming to a small town? Who is affected and who has a say? Who can say no?”

Designed to introduce students to the human costs of the extractive industry, the course will look at our world’s demand for raw materials, energy and human capital in the context of the climate crisis. Students in the class will explore the practices and concepts of extraction through political, environmental, and socio-economic approaches.


In addition to examining what happens when the extractive industry arrives in a place, Jensen stressed the importance of considering who will be harmed once the extractive industry has left.

“We will dive deep into the lives of people affected by oil and gas exploration, mining, forestry and commercial agriculture and food production,” she said.

Students on the course will work toward a multi-layered knowledge of these industries and the people and places most affected by them — including “workers and landowners, corporate executives and pipeline protesters, politicians and climate scientists alike.”

Although much of the course will explore science and technology and the literal process of fracking, Jensen said much of the course takes into account the narratives of the people involved.

“What stories are being told as the processes unfold? What is in the newspapers and what are people writing in literature? And later, what do film and television have to say?”

Jensen said she’s most interested in community stories, which too often involve crime.

“For example, when fracking was taking place in small towns in North Dakota, sexual assault women had to be escorted to their cars at night by male co-workers,” she said. “All kinds of horrible things happened. That’s the hidden cost of all this — literally happening. You get a new elementary school, you get brand new buildings, you get shiny new infrastructure. But what happens to the women who work in the hotels? What happens to women who are night clerks in grocery stores?”

Jensen will also ask the students to think about what will happen to the hotels in these cities “once the boom bursts”.

“When we think about our oil and gas needs, we don’t talk about them very often in this country,” she said.


Students will also “rigorously question” early concepts of land ownership, including the infamous phrase “obvious destiny” that led to a culture of expansion across the North American continent.

“It sounds so grand and so glorious and so prosperous. And yet people are already living in the country,” said Jensen. “More broadly, this will be an exploration of place and who gets to call it theirs. Anytime you’re involved with extractions and extractive industries, that’s really what it’s all about.”

Despite the fact that the course will be an academic exploration, Jensen said she doesn’t try to separate the emotional aspects.

“Anytime you’re dealing with people’s land and their families and things that go back through history and generations, there’s going to be an emotional connection,” she said. “That’s what makes an interesting learning environment – ​​not to mistakenly separate our feelings from socio-economic issues. When you make that separation, it becomes a purely academic discourse about other people. I think the harder it is to break up, the better it is for all of us because then we will live our lives more consciously.”


Jensen is the author of Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Landa treatise in essays on gun violence, land and tribal life (Ballantine 2020) and a collection of short stories, From the hilltop. She received a National Endowment for the Arts Literature non-fiction grant in 2020 and a Sustainable Arts Foundation grant in 2019.

Jensen’s essays have been published in journals such as Orion, catapult and ecotone. She is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Indigenous Studies at U of A and also teaches in the Low-Residency MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

Jensen received his PhD from Texas Tech University and has received grants from the Lannan Foundation, Sowell Family Foundation, Norcroft Foundation, UCross, Hedgebrook, and the Virginia Faulkner Fund. She is Metis.


Extractions is one of three Honors College signature seminars planned for Fall 2022. Other topics to be explored include Climate Change: A Human Storytaught by Ben Vining, an assistant professor of anthropology, and False Beliefstaught by Tiffany Murphy, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Director of the Criminal Practice Clinic at the U of A School of Law.

Deans of each college may nominate professors to participate in this program and those selected to teach become Dean’s Fellows in the Honors College.

Honors students must apply to attend and those selected will be made Dean-signed Scholars. The application is made online at the Signature Seminar website. Deadline for applications is Thursday, 31.

About Honors College: Founded in 2002, the University of Arkansas Honors College brings together high-performing students and the university’s top professors to share transformative learning experiences. Each year, Honors College awards up to 90 undergraduate scholarships that provide $72,000 and more than $1 million in research and study abroad grants over a four-year period. Honors College is nationally recognized for the high standard of admissions undergraduates and graduates. Honors students enjoy small, in-depth courses, and programs are offered in all disciplines tailored to students’ academic interests, while encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration.

About the University of Arkansas: As the flagship Arkansas institution, the U of A offers internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A more than contributes $2.2 billion for the Arkansas economy by providing new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity, and by providing training in professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation ranks the U of A in the top 3% of US colleges and universities for research activity. US News & World Report ranks the U of A among the best public universities in the country. See how the U of A works to create a better world Research news from Arkansas.

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