I know very little (if anything) about the history of Louisiana or the history of oil, but for some reason I am drawn to this story on the website of Louisiana State University. I first learned about it through Randall Stephens’s post at Religion in American History (RiAH).
The story describes the work of Michael Pasquier, a professor of religion at LSU who is documenting the cultural impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the people living in Lousiana’s coastal communities. I have never met Pasquier, but we are both contributors to RiAH. I also know that he just published a book entitled Fathers on the Frontier: French Missionaries and the Roman Catholic Priesthood in the United States, 1789-1870.
According to the LSU article, Pasquier is heading up a project called “Standard Lives: Visualizing the Culture of Oil in Louisiana.” The project, in Pasquier’s words, takes “a long and unbiased look at Louisiana’s relationship with the oil industry, and by extension, its effects on everyday lives of refinery and offshore workers, as well as the businessmen, teachers, farmers, fisherman, mariners, homemakers and others with direct and indirect ties to petroleum-based services.”
I am drawn to this story for two related reasons:
First, I am impressed by the range of Pasquier’s interests and the way he is defining his vocation as an academic. The move from a monograph on Catholic priests to a study of oil in Louisiana is an unusual one, especially for a scholar of American religion. (Although both projects do deal with Louisiana). But Pasquier appears to be a young scholar who refuses to be defined by the narrow limitations of academic life in a research university.
Second, I think Pasquier’s case is yet another example, which I hope will inspire my students and other students, of the way history can be used to serve a local community. For the past couple of years I have been challenging my students, their parents, and the readers of this blog to think outside the box when it comes to using their history degree in the world. Pasquier show us one more way to do this.
Tom Van Dyke says
“…my collaborators and I are combining ethnographic fieldwork, archival research, geospatial analysis and design speculation to understand how people live on land and with water in environmentally threatened areas.”
Don't these people ever have trouble keeping a straight face?
John Fea says
I'm not following you, Tom.
John Fea says
This comment has been removed by the author.