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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Framing and Identity in the Gwich’in Campaign against Oil Development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge


The debate over oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has attracted a great deal of attention nationally and internationally throughout the past decade. The Gwich’in Tribe played a very important role, and their campaign is of particular interest because of the introduction of the climate justice framework into the enduring campaign which weathered several shifts in political and popular sentiment. The framework’s wide appeal to a diverse audience may increase campaign strength by attracting and uniting a range of actors, issues, perspectives, skills, tactics, and resources. A culture-oriented approach is used to examine the roles of framing and identity formation in the construction of community images, communities of interest, and social networks. This initial analysis is based solely on written material about the case. It is suggested that creation of a particular community image may be vital to bolstering the community members’ self-identity while promoting individual and collective wellness as well as enhancing campaign sustainability; however, the role of intervening actors needs further examination. The role of this paper is to promote discussion of the role this case had in influencing the climate justice framework, and vice versa.

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