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Ice Bear: The Cultural History of an Arctic Icon

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Ice Bear

The Cultural History of an Arctic Icon

By Michael Engelhard

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Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Other Information: 145 colour illustrations, 1 maps, 25 black & white illustrations, 170 illus., 145 in color, 1 map
Published In: United States, 28 October 2016
Prime Arctic predator and nomad of the sea ice and tundra, the polar bear endures as a source of wonder, terror, and fascination. Humans have seen it as spirit guide and fanged enemy, as trade good and moral metaphor, as food source and symbol of ecological crisis. Eight thousand years of artifacts attest to its charisma, and to the fraught relationships between our two species. In the White Bear, we acknowledge the magic of wildness: it is both genuinely itself and a screen for our imagination. Ice Bear traces and illuminates this intertwined history. From Inuit shamans to Jean Harlow lounging on a bearskin rug, from the cubs trained to pull sleds toward the North Pole to cuddly superstar Knut, it all comes to life in these pages. With meticulous research and more than 160 illustrations, the author brings into focus this powerful and elusive animal. Doing so, he delves into the stories we tell about Nature-and about ourselves-hoping for a future in which such tales still matter.

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Ice Bear acknowledges the magic of wildness: it is both genuinely itself and a screen for our imagination.

Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsPolar Bear-Human Time Line Map: Territories of Northern Peoples and Polar Bear Range 1. A Beast for the Ages2. The Life and Death of a Superstar 3. The Bear as Early Commodity 4. Object of Scientific Curiosity 5. From White Terror to Trophy of Modernity 6. Zoo Bear and Circus Bear7. Honored Guest and Ten-Legged Menace 8. A Taste of the Wild 9. The Transformative Bear10. Helper and Protector 11. Lover, Super-Male, Mate 12. Archetype, Role Model, Eco Ambassador 13. Another Seaside AttractionNotes Associations and Websites Selected Bibliography Index

About the Author

Michael Engelhard works as a wilderness guide in Arctic Alaska and holds an MA in cultural anthropology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. His books include Where the Rain Children Sleep: A Sacred Geography of the Colorado Plateau, the anthology Wild Moments: Adventures with Animals of the North, and a recent essay collection, American Wild: Explorations from the Grand Canyon to the Arctic Ocean. His writing has also appeared in Sierra, Outside, Audubon, National Wildlife, National Parks, High Country News, and the San Francisco Chronicle.


A fascinating subject, dealt with and analysed with all the nuance and caution required. Engelhard is a wonderful storyteller; his writing is engaging, and the knowledge he displays is remarkable. -- Genevieve Pigeon * The Goose * Beautifully illustrated. -- Tim Flannery * New Statesman * What has been missing to date has been a thorough review of the cultural associations between humans and polar bears. That gap has now been filled by Michael Engelhard's detailed treatment of the connection between humans and polar bears in Ice Bear. . . . This book should be in the library of all who share this interest and want to know more about this Arctic icon. -- Marty Obbard * International Bear News * [A] fascinating cultural history of polar bruins in the human imagination. . . richly illustrated with documentary photos and museum work. -- Florangela Davila * Seattle Magazine * A compelling chronicle of our fraught relationship with the polar bear. . . . The illustrations throughout the book are beautiful and colorful-especially so for a bear that is basically white except for its claws and nose. . . . Engelhard has written an interesting and wide-ranging review of just how humans think about the ice bear. -- Mark J. Palmer * Earth Island Journal * Today, polar bears have become corporate mascots, symbols of a changing climate, and sought-after trophies both dead and, as the subjects of photos, alive. But in Ice Bear, Engelhard tries to throw off the sentimentality that marks most modern writing about polar bears in order to focus on their real significance in human culture. It's a book that has as much to say about humans as it does about its subject, and it explores that niche well in an entertaining style. -- James Thompson * Hakai Magazine * [A] beautifully illustrated, hugely engaging book. . . . For all its nightmare-haunting power, however, the aspect of the polar bear that really makes it an icon of the age is its vulnerability . . . . Another merit of the book is the author's willingness to track these themes to their origins. -- Mark Cocker * The Spectator * Eminently readable. This work is expertly researched. -- Susan Sommer * Alaska Magazine * Engelhard, a Fairbanks resident, is trained as a cultural anthropologist and works as a wilderness guide in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The combination makes him uniquely qualified to have authored this fascinating and extensively illustrated exploration of humanity's deeply complicated relationship with an animal he is well acquainted with. -- David A. James * Alaska Dispatch News * The product of Engelhard's exhaustive research is an eclectic, comprehensive, compelling, and very readable cultural iconography elevated to a level of art form by the inclusion of well-chosen and often stunning illustrations on almost every page. Ice Bear is a visual National Geographic with real verbal punch! -- Marilyn Gates * New York Journal of Books * Engelhard is a first-rate guide and very capable writer; Ice Bear makes fascinating reading - although grimly ironic, since the future of the polar bear in the wild has never looked bleaker. -- Steve Donoghue * Open Letters Monthly * 'Iconic' is the marketing cliche of our times, applied as unthinkingly to wildlife as it is to biscuits. But here, Michael Engelhard digs deeper, tracing how the polar bear came to occupy its place in contemporary culture and, in the process, suggesting what the mechanics of iconography say about us. -- Mike Unwin * BBC Wildlife Magazine * Essayist and wilderness guide Engelhard examines the intertwined history of polar bears and humans in this fascinating look at how we have interpreted the species. . . . Of particular interest now as polar ice melts. -- Nancy Bent * Booklist * Engelhard's thought-provoking iconography explores in depth the multitude of cultural roles played by the polar bear. -- David Fox * Anchorage Press * Engelhard's writing has the sort of calm authority that reminds me often of Barry Lopez. -- David Knowles * EarthLines *

EAN: 9780295999227
ISBN: 0295999225
Publisher: University of Washington Press
Dimensions: 25.15 x 20.57 x 2.03 centimetres (0.70 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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