Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Reading Nature(s)

The assembly of a reading list is always an exercise of cut-and-paste: titles appear, go away, re-appear and, often, repeat the dance. In generating a list for three smarty-pants graduate students on "Environmental History", the dance was a little more hectic than usual because I wanted to see if I could unsettle some assumptions they might have had about the field. I am not sure I have accomplished this, yet, but I think we might be on the way.

This list below, and I apologize for what seems to be odd formatting, owes much to my own experiences teaching a full-year survey course in environmental history, reading seminars with graduate students, and my own archival adventures in the last couple of years. It is also inspired by an M.A. Thesis I examined by a one-time history student, Matt Dyce, now studying in UBC's geography department. It makes no pretense to be "definitive" nor "complete" nor, I hasten to add, terribly responsible to what is a rather explosive field of scholarship. It is what it is.

1. With, Through, From, Against, and Always In, Nature
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education (Grove Press, 1991)

2. Historiographical Interventions
J.R. McNeil, “Observations on the Nature and Culture of Environmental History,”
History and Theory 42, 4 (2003), 5-43
Richard White, “From Wilderness to Hybrid Landscapes: The Cultural Turn in
Environmental History,” Historian 66, 3 (2004), 557-564
Stephen Mosley, “Common Ground: Integrating Social and Environmental History,”
Journal of Social History 39, 3 (2006), 915-933
Lynne Heasley, “Reflections on Walking Contested Land: Doing Environmental History
in West Africa and the United States,” Environmental History 10, 3 (2005), 510-531
Karen Asdal, “The Problematic Nature of Nature: The Post-Constructivist Challenge to
Environmental History,” History and Theory 52, 4 (2003), 60-74

3. Culture / Nature and Environmentalisms (2 weeks)
William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature”
Paul Sutter, Driven Wild: How the Fight Against Automobiles Launched the Modern
Wilderness Movement (University of Washington Press, 2002), Chapters 1-3, 6-7
Ramachandra Guha, How Much Should a Person Consume? Environmentalism in India
and the United States (University of California Press, 2006), Chapters 3, 6, 7, 9

4. Conservation, State Formation, and Citizenship (2 weeks)
Karl Jacoby, Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden
History of American Conservation (University of California Press, 2001), Introduction,
Chapters 1-3, and Epilogue
Adam Rome. “ ‘Political Hermaphodites: Gender and Environmental Reform in
Progressive America,” Environmental History 11, 3 (2006), 440-463
Jennifer Read, "Let us Heed the Voice of Youth: Laundry Detergents, Phosphates, and the
Emergence of the Environmental Movement in Ontario,” Journal of the Canadian
Historical Association (1996), 227-250
Tina Loo, States of Nature: Conserving Canada’s Wildlife in the Twentieth Century
(UBC Press, 2006), Chapters 3, 4, 5, 7

5. Joy Parr’s Sensed Environmental History
Joy Parr, “Smells Like? Sources of Uncertainty in the History of the Great Lakes
Environment,” Environmental History, 11, 2 (2006), 269-299
Joy Parr, “A Working Knowledge of the Insensible? Radiation Protection in Nuclear
Power Generating Stations, 1962-1992,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 48,
4 (2006), 820-851
Joy Parr, “Notes for a More Sensuous History of Twentieth-Century Canada: The
Timely, the Tacit, and the Material Body,” Canadian Historical Review, 82, 4 (2001),

6. Christophers Sellers’ Embodied and ‘Known’ Environmental History
Christopher Sellers, “Body, Place, and State: The Makings of an ‘Environmentalist’
Imaginary in the Post-World War II U.S.,” Radical History Review 74 (1999), 31-64
Christopher Sellers, “The Dearth of the Clinic: Lead, Air, and Agency in Twentieth-
Century America,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 58, 3 (2003),
NOTE: Read the following two essays together as an imagined pair of studies on
Christopher Sellers, “The Artificial Nature of Fluoridated Water: Between Nations,
Knowledge, and Material Flows,” Osiris, 2nd series, 19 (2004), 182-200
Joy Parr, “Local Water Diversely Known: Walkerton, 2000 and After,” Environment and
Planning D: Society and Space 23 (2005)

7. Body, Health, and Nature (2 weeks)
Greg Mitman, “In Search of Health: Landscape and Disease in Environmental History,”
Environmental History 10, 2 (2005), 184-210
Courtney Bolton Valencius, The Health of the Country: How American Settlers
Understood Themselves and Their Land (Basic Books), Introduction, Chapters 2, 5, 6, 8
Linda Nash, Inescapable Ecologies: A History of Environment, Disease, and Knowledge
(University of California Press, 2006), Chapters 2,3,4,5

8. Children, Childhood, and Camp (or, A Week of Alliteration)
Xiaobei Chen, “ ‘Cultivating Children as You Would Valuable Plants’: The Gardening
Governmentality of Child Saving, Toronto, Canada, 1880s-1920s.” Journal of Historical
Sociology 16, 4 (2003), 460-486
Michael Smith, “ ‘The Ego Ideal of the Good Camper and the Nature of Summer Camp,”
Environmental History 11, 1 (2006), 70-101
Sharon Wall, “Totem Poles, Teepees, and Token Traditions: ‘Playing Indian’ at Ontario
Summer Camps, 1920-1955,” Canadian Historical Review 86, 3 (2005): 513-544
Abigail A. Van Slyck, “Kitchen Technologies and Mealtime Rituals: Interpreting the
Food Axis at American Summer Camps, 1890-1950,” Technology and Culture 43, 4
(2002), 668-692
Leslie Paris, “The Adventures of Peanut and Bo: Summer Camps and Early Twentieth-
Century American Girlhood,” Journal of Women’s History 12, 4 (2001), 47-76

9. Sights / Sites of Nature
Re-read William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness”
Carolyn Merchant, “Reinventing Eden: Western Culture as Recovery Narrative,” in
William Cronon, ed., Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature (W.W. Norton,
1995), 132-159
Selections from Lori Pauli, “Seeing the Big Picture” in Pauli, ed., Manufactured
Landscapes: The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky (National Gallery of Canada / Yale
University Press, 2003)
In our meeting, we will watch and then discuss the film Manufactured Landscapes based
on the work of Edward Burtynsky