University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Scott Polar Research Institute - HCEP (Histories, Cultures, Environments and Politics) Research Seminars > Utopian Ambitions in the High Arctic at Resolute Bay

Utopian Ambitions in the High Arctic at Resolute Bay

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Professor Richard Powell.

This is a story about two utopian ambitions pursued by the Canadian government targeting groups of Inuit. In 1953-55, officials embarked on a scheme to seed the High Arctic with small new Inuit communities in an effort to project sovereignty where there was no permanent population. A decade later, the government enlisted a Quaker-schooled British/Swedish architect, Ralph Erskine (1914-2005), who had just completed his designs for a new Cambridge college, Clare Hall, and the massive Byker housing estate in Newcastle upon Tyne, to create a bold, modernist urban plan for the new High Arctic community of Resolute Bay on Cornwallis Island. The social and political implications of these events were to have a long-lasting impact on both the Inuit community and how others perceived the government’s actions, leading to a series of human rights investigations. Drawing on fieldwork the speaker conducted in the community with the original Inuit relocatees and their offspring, and two interviews he held with Ralph Erskine in Stockholm, this talk will focus on the plans’ novelty and controversial outcomes.

Professor Alan Marcus, a cultural historian and filmmaker, holds a Chair in Creative and Cultural Practice at the University of Aberdeen. His prior research on this topic has been published in Out in the Cold (1992), Relocating Eden (1995), Architecture and the Canadian Fabric (2011) and articles in Polar Record and Visual Anthropology.

This talk is part of the Scott Polar Research Institute - HCEP (Histories, Cultures, Environments and Politics) Research Seminars series.

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