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Boom or bust narratives sought

Participants+write+in+a+workshop+sponsored+by+the+%22Boom+or+Bust%22+grant.+
Participants write in a workshop sponsored by the

Participants write in a workshop sponsored by the "Boom or Bust" grant.

Participants write in a workshop sponsored by the "Boom or Bust" grant.

Kelsie Clifton, Features Writer and Columnist

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University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB) Associate Professor Dr. Rebecca Babcock, William and Ordelle Watts Professor and Chair of the Department of Literature and Languages; along with UTPB Associate Professor, Dr. Jason Lagapa, were recently awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study the culture of energy production in the Permian Basin for $83,799. The aim is to get firsthand information in order to share West Texans’ personal experiences on a website for research and to get firsthand stories on the record.

Babcock, Lagapa and UTPB lecturer, Kristen Figgins, originally applied for the grant last summer titled, “Boom or Bust: A Collection and Study of Energy Narratives.” According to the Midland Reporter-Telegram newspaper, Figgins shared that the planned writing workshop, book club, speaker series programs and the website will complement UTPB’s other energy offerings.

“When Rebecca, Jason and I started talking about this grant, one of the things we discussed was that UTPB already has a lot of wonderful programs that support the energy industry, like the engineering and geology programs. But one of the things we thought we could add to this discussion was the more humanistic side, about how people in the area are really affected by the energy industry,” the Odessa-native said. “Our grant was designed around allowing the people of West Texas to share their experiences and have discussions about what it’s like to live in a boom-and-bust town,” she stated.

Babcock believes that it is important to help promote understanding of the Permian basin energy and economic resources because we are all someway involved in the boom or bust economy.

“All of us who live and work here in the Permian Basin, whether or not we work directly for oil companies, are involved in the boom or bust economy. Oil and energy production and consumption impact all our lives,” she said. “While the focus in the past has been on the STEM fields, on geology, chemistry, and engineering to name a few, we wanted to look at the humanistic side. By reading and writing narratives we can connect our experiences to those of others over time and space leading to a greater understanding of what we are going through and its meaning.”

Babcock and Lagapa will serve as co-directors of the grant and with Figgins, program coordinator, they will execute several initiatives, including writing workshops, book clubs, and a speaker series to help promote understanding Permian Basin’s energy and economic resources from a humanistic perspective.

Figgins reportedly expressed that the community was overdue for a project like this and believes that even if they haven’t gone through the rise and fall of the last boom, we can relate on the impact it has on everyone.

“I’ve lived in Odessa all my life, and it’s such a unique experience to live in a boom town and see it go through booms and busts,” she explained. “Seeing us go through this last boom and seeing the price of oil rise and fall has made us all more aware of the kind of impact it has on everyone, whether you’re somebody who works in the industry who gains or loses a job based on the price of oil, or someone who notices how much traffic there is on 42nd Street and how many now-hiring signs there are at restaurants.”

Boom or Bust: A Collection and Study of Energy Narratives, according to the news release, will pay particular attention to economic growth cycles and downturns and the toll such volatility has on the local residents while exploring the cultural importance of petroleum to this local region and to the nation as a whole.

Figgins believes that people sometimes feel as if they’re expected to have an academic conversation due to the event’s connection with an institution of higher learning but encourages people attending to feel comfortable speaking out and attending the book clubs and events.

“We want to hear people’s voices, and we want to hear from a wide variety of people,” Figgins expressed.

Babcock shared that the conversation will be free and no one has to be concerned about being put under pressure.

“This book is about an early oil strike in Southern California and it focuses on the experience of Bunny, the son of the oil man who sympathizes with the struggles of the oil workers. The book was published in 1927 and many of the issues are relevant and timely today. The movie There Will Be Blood was based on this book. Refreshments will be served and the conversation will be very free and easy and no one will be put on the spot,” she informed.

 

The book club series is based on Upton Sinclair’s book, Oil! The dates and locations for this event are:

March, 2 at the Ellen Noel Museum in Odessa at 7 p.m.

March 4 at the Train Car in Big Spring at 10 a.m.

March, 4 at the Barnes and Noble in Midland at 3 p.m.

 

For more information you can contact Kristin Figgins at 552-3292. As well as like their page, Boom or Bust, on facebook  https://www.facebook.com/boomorbustutpb/ and follow them on twitter at http://twitter.com/bust_boom

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