Anthropology professor Amanda Poole presented a paper at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in San Francisco on November 15, 2012.
In "Envisioning Engagement: Fostering Community Dialogue on Fracking through Participatory Film," Poole presented the lessons learned from an ethnographic field school in Indiana County conducted during Summer 2012. The goal was to engage students and community members in the use of visual media to foster dialogue about varied perceptions about quality of life at the early stages of the natural gas boom.
The paper was presented in a session titled "Energy, Environment, Engagement: Anthropological Encounters with Hydraulic Fracturing."
Recent ethnographic research in communities deeply impacted by the onset of the fracking industry in northeastern PA has suggested that new dialogues are emerging about the nature and meaning of place-attachment and quality of life, particularly in the face of sweeping social and environmental changes and the kinds of community trauma engendered by this process (Perry 2012). Indiana County, in western PA, is just beginning to see a boom in hydraulic fracturing for natural gas; the leasing process, both pervasive and opaque, embodies the promises and dangers of re-industrialization in a region that has been described as an “energy colony,” where the legacy of coal colors the water and shapes the relationship of people to place. This paper examines the lessons learned from an ethnographic field school in Indiana County conducted during Summer 2012 with the goal of engaging students and community members in the use of visual media to foster dialogue about varied perceptions about quality of life at the early stages of a process of re-industrialization. This paper will draw from primary video footage in order to explore questions about the role of ethnographic and collaborative filmmaking by students and community members as a tool to potentially: reveal conflicting community responses to shifts in a regional culture of energy; address the power differentials of social science vis à vis the fracking industry; and draw from local projects to fill gaps in data related to the social, cultural, and somatic experiences of people impacted by fracking in their communities.