RIT Scholar Earns National Award for Environmental History Book

Christine Keiner’s ‘The Oyster Question’ honored by Organization of American Historians

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Christine Keiner

The Oyster Question, a recently published history of Maryland’s iconic oyster industry, was a finalist for the Organization of American Historians’ Frederick Jackson Turner Prize.

The book, written by Christine Keiner, an associate professor of science, technology and society at Rochester Institute of Technology, and published by the University of Georgia Press, was cited for its unique insights and analysis of a central historical example of the impact of environmental policy on the political, economic and cultural fabric of society. Keiner received an honorable mention at the organization’s annual meeting, April 10, in Washington, D.C.

The organization’s awards citation notes that “The Oyster Question is an imaginative environmental history that combines politics, science, and the work of watermen. By considering the limits of social science research in relationship to one state’s unique legislative practices, Keiner makes a compelling argument for viewing natural resource struggles from multiple, locally situated perspectives.”

The Oyster Question applies perspectives of environmental, agricultural, political and social history to chronicle the decisions that enabled the Maryland Chesapeake oyster industry to survive as a regulated commons in an increasingly industrialized and privatized world economic system.

“Rather than epitomizing the ‘tragedy of the commons’ thesis, the Maryland oyster fishery has served as a positive, if imperfect, model for a world undergoing increased corporate control of natural resources,” Keiner says. “Through this book I hope to provide answers as to how and why this industry managed to survive for so long to help improve future environmental management and resource policymaking both for the Chesapeake area and the nation as a whole.”

The Organization of American Historians was founded in 1907 and is the central academic society for American historians. The Frederick Jackson Turner Prize is given annually to new authors writing in significant areas of American history.