Department of Ethnic Studies - College of Letters and Science - University of California, Berkeley

People / Graduate Students


Jen Rose Smith

Native American and Indigenous Studies, Alaska Native Studies, Northern and Arctic Studies, Critical Human Geography, Native American Literature, Science and Technology Studies


More info:

Bio & Research Interests

My dissertation Indeterminate Natures: Race and Indigeneity in Ice-Geographies analyzes colonialism in relation to ice in Alaska and the Arctic. I argue that ice and Arctic climate as a non-normative terrain shaped how race and indigeneity came to be conceptualized in culture, geological and anthropological sciences, and concretized in law. For example, at the time of the Alaska Purchase in 1867 racial origins of the territory’s inhabitants were under scrutiny by legislators and anthropologists, as were the geographical boundaries of Alaska due to unstable measurements of ice-landscapes. This resulted in a legal indeterminacy for Alaska Native subjects—who were not legally recognized as indigenous people with claims to land until 1931. I contend that this occurred explicitly in what I term ice-geographies to foreground how ice has been marshalled within disputes over legal status and dispossession, and continues to shape ongoing social and political conflicts. Over five chapters I use methods of cultural analysis, archival research, and grounded fieldwork to examine legislation, scientific expeditions, cartography, photographs, letters, poetry, and embodied knowledges. Indeterminate Natures in its research site, methods, and materials pushes inquiries regarding racialization, indigeneity, and colonialism to critically consider ice. Moreover, it posits that climate change cannot be analyzed without an attendance to a racialized and indigenous Arctic.

I am an Eyak, Alaska Native Ph.D. candidate in the department of Ethnic Studies. I received a Master's degree from the same department, and I hold a BA in English Literature and the Environment from the University of Alaska, Southeast. My research is funded by the Ford Foundation predoctoral and dissertation fellowships, the UC Berkeley Chancellor's Fellowship, the Center for Race and Gender, and the Center for Research on Native American Issues. ‚Äč

For more information:
Photo credit: Cheyenne Tex


Thomas Biolsi, Jake Kosek, Beth Piatote
Shari Huhndorf