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Does the environment and history of Antarctica make it a natural space for alternative histories?

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Abstract:

This paper examines the interplay between the construction of Antarctica as an extreme, frontier environment and of 'alternative histories' concerning the continent. First, I follow Adrian Howkins in recognizing that personal experience provides disproportionate authority to describe the Antarctic environment, in historical as well as contemporary terms. The logistical and financial difficulty of obtaining that personal experience limits the group of those able to make such claims, as does the lack of analogues to other regions of the earth - even the Arctic. This is reinforced by the tendency of historians, scientists, explorers, and others describing Antarctica through texts to use the exceptionality of the continent's environment to emphasize the exceptionality of activities there. Second, I explore how these conditions have opened space for imagining alternative understandings of the continent's past, most notoriously through Nazi survival myths and the sometimes related claims of secret UFO bases. In addition to providing fertile ground for armchair writers, whose level of experience with the Antarctic is equivalent to that of practically all their readers, a small number of individuals with personal experience have also constructed such narratives - most notably the Chilean diplomat Miguel Serrano (1917-2009). I conclude by asking how environmental historians can link their work to literary and sociological studies of alternative historical systems premised upon environmental exceptionalism.
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Association:
Name: ASEH Conference – San Francisco
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http://aseh.net


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p680620_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Roberts, Peder. "Does the environment and history of Antarctica make it a natural space for alternative histories?" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Conference – San Francisco, Parc 55 Wyndham Hotel, San Francisco, California, <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p680620_index.html>

APA Citation:

Roberts, P. "Does the environment and history of Antarctica make it a natural space for alternative histories?" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Conference – San Francisco, Parc 55 Wyndham Hotel, San Francisco, California <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p680620_index.html

Publication Type: Panel Paper
Abstract: This paper examines the interplay between the construction of Antarctica as an extreme, frontier environment and of 'alternative histories' concerning the continent. First, I follow Adrian Howkins in recognizing that personal experience provides disproportionate authority to describe the Antarctic environment, in historical as well as contemporary terms. The logistical and financial difficulty of obtaining that personal experience limits the group of those able to make such claims, as does the lack of analogues to other regions of the earth - even the Arctic. This is reinforced by the tendency of historians, scientists, explorers, and others describing Antarctica through texts to use the exceptionality of the continent's environment to emphasize the exceptionality of activities there. Second, I explore how these conditions have opened space for imagining alternative understandings of the continent's past, most notoriously through Nazi survival myths and the sometimes related claims of secret UFO bases. In addition to providing fertile ground for armchair writers, whose level of experience with the Antarctic is equivalent to that of practically all their readers, a small number of individuals with personal experience have also constructed such narratives - most notably the Chilean diplomat Miguel Serrano (1917-2009). I conclude by asking how environmental historians can link their work to literary and sociological studies of alternative historical systems premised upon environmental exceptionalism.


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