Jonathan Peyton

2022-2023 Chair in Arctic Studies
Headshot of Jonathan Peyton


Jonathan Peyton teaches environmental, historical and cultural geography at the University of Manitoba. His research focuses on the social, ecological and economic effects of megaprojects in the Canadian North – hydroelectric projects, extractive economies and large-scale infrastructure developments. His book, Unbuilt Environments: Tracing Postwar Development on Northwest British Columbia (UBC Press 2017), analyzes five cases of imagined, abandoned or half-built development schemes – mines, dams, railways, roads and energy projects – to argue that even failed development dreams produce lasting material and discursive effects on the landscape and in the minds of stakeholders. Other work has analyzed archival photos of resource encounters, scientific education films, animals in the Klondyke gold rush, the development of northern conservation regimes, resource and imperial aesthetics in Vancouver’s restaurant culture, Indigenous resistance to resource schemes, resource policy and the environmental subject, and changing resource cultures in the prairies.

The UW Fulbright Canada Chair in Arctic Studies will be used to pursue research on the early years of oil and gas economies in the offshore Arctic in the 1970s and 80s. This work assesses the productive capacity of unrealized development plans, as new regions are opened up to the politics of extraction, as scientists and technicians itemize the qualities of resources, and as communities respond to new plans for how to use the natural features in which they live. Specific projects will focus on Arctic oil spill research (with a focus on film and bacteria), Arctic pipeline dreams of the 19790s, and the speculative futures of infrastructure design.