This paper interrogates one aspect of new western history: the way it theorizes and represents western landscapes - landscapes like Butte's, which so complely represent the history and geography of the nebulous region called the West. First, some of the political aims of new western history, for new western history's theorizations of landscape cannot be understood outside its political goals, are explored. The author suggests that new western history's representations of landscape are inextricably bound with a particular 'way of seeing' the landscape that understands it to be something always already there, something simply to be encountered (rather than actively constructed). The author argues that that way of seeing contradicts the political aims of new western history, and so turns to an analysis of what is seen as one lacuna in new western history's approach to landscape: a failure adequately to understand the relations of production that shape any landscape. A clearer sense of the role of labour in producing and transforming nature, and thus in making landscapes, is a fruitful way of achieving new western history's political aims. The paper concludes with an examination of a wonderful start along these lines: Richard White's recent discussion of the relations of space and labour that have gone into making the 'organic machine' that is the Columbia River basin.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Political Science and International Relations