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Grant to focus on, record boom and bust narratives

%22Boom+and+Bust%22+participants+attend+the+book+club+in+the+Ellen+Noel+Art+Museum+of+Odessa.+

"Boom and Bust" participants attend the book club in the Ellen Noel Art Museum of Odessa.

"Boom and Bust" participants attend the book club in the Ellen Noel Art Museum of Odessa.

Kelsie Clifton, Features Writer and Columnist

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William and Ordelle Watts Professor and Chair of the Department of Literature and Languages. Dr. Rebecca Babcock, and Associate Professor, Dr. Jason Lagapa were recently awarded an $83,799 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study the culture of energy production in the Permian Basin. The aim is to get firsthand narratives of West Texan’s personal experiences on a website for research and to get the stories on the record.

Dr. Babcock, Dr. Lagapa and 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, Figgins stated that the planned writing workshop, book club, speaker series programs and the website will complement The University of Texas of the Permian Basin’s other energy offerings.

“When Rebecca, Jason and I started talking about this grant, one of the things we discussed was 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 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 fluctuating 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 anyone who has gone through the rise and fall of the last boom, 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, per the 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.

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.

The first non-fiction writing workshop was February 22 at the UTPB Mesa building where those who attended had the opportunity to write memoirs

Courtesy of Kandice Hargreaves
Dr. Jason Lagapa, a co-grant recipient listens to attendees at the March 2 “Boom or Bust” event at the Ellen Noel Art Museum in Odessa. The series continues March 22.

or personal essays about living in the Permian Basin and their experiences in the boom and bust periods.

The book club series began, March 2, 2017, and is based on Upton Sinclair’s book, Oil! In the book, Sinclair wrote a novel around the oil scandals of the Harding administration which provided a detailed picture of the development of the oil industry in Southern California.

“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 were served.

The dates and locations for this event were:

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.

 

The next writing workshop will be on March 22 and the next book clubs are April 6 and 8.

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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