What’s New in Humanities? (Spring Term)


Course description

Whale City: Victoria’s Relations with Marine Mammals

Jason Colby, PhD, Department of History, UVic

Friday, March 1: 12:30 to 1:45 pm

They have become part of our identity.  In local streets, shop windows, and activist pamphlets, whales and other marine mammals are symbols of Victoria’s tourist industry, indigenous heritage, and environmental values.  Yet just a few decades ago, residents of this city viewed cetaceans and pinnipeds as either resources or pests.  Why did views of marine mammals change so quickly on the West Coast, and what role did Victoria play in that process?  Join UVic historian Jason Colby on a journey through the city’s changing relationship with marine mammals, from the whaling and sealing vessels that frequented the Inner Harbour in the late nineteenth century to the emergence of whale-watching and oil pipeline politics.  Drawing from the exciting field of marine environmental history, this presentation will explore our city’s impact on local marine mammals, with lessons for a sustainable future. 

Jason Colby was born in Victoria and grew up in the Seattle area of Washington State.  During his high school and undergraduate years, he worked as a commercial fisherman in Alaska and on fish farms in Puget Sound.  He also studied overseas in Central America.  Before entering graduate school, he taught history and English in Taiwan, worked at a land-use law firm in Seattle, and travelled throughout the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.  He earned his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2005 and taught at the University of Texas at El Paso before coming to the University of Victoria in 2007.  He teaches and writes on modern U.S. history, with particular interests in international relations and environmental history.  His first book, The Business of Empire: United Fruit, Race, and U.S. Expansion in Central America explores race, U.S. imperial expansion, and corporate power in Central America. His second book, Orca: How We Came to Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator,  examines the transformation of human relations with killer whales from the 1960s to the present, and its impact on environmental politics in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

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