Postwestern Cultures

Postwestern Horizons gener al editor William R. Handley University of Southern California series editors José Aranda Rice University Melody Graulich Utah State University Thomas King University of Guelph Rachel Lee University of California, Los Angeles Nathaniel Lewis Saint Michael’s College Stephen Tatum University of Utah

Postwestern

Cultures
Literature, Theory, Space

Edited by Susan Kollin

UNIVERSIT Y OF NEBR ASK A PRESS LINCOLN AND LONDON

Publication of this book was assisted by a grant from Montana State University. © 2007 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska All rights reserved Manufactured in the United States of America ∞ Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Postwestern cultures: literature, theory, space / edited by Susan Kollin. p. cm.—(Postwestern horizons) Includes bibliographical references. isbn 978-0-8032-1114-8 (cloth: alk. paper) isbn 978-0-8032-6044-3 (pbk.: alk. paper) 1. American literature—West (U.S.)— History and criticism. 2. American literature—History and criticism. 3. West (U.S.)—In literature. 4. Popular culture in literature. 5. Ecology in literature. 6. Homosexuality in literature. 7. Multiculturalism in literature. I. Kollin, Susan. ps271.p57 2007 810.9 978 2 22 2007011384 Set in Quadraat by Bob Reitz. Designed by R. W. Boeche.

Contents
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Postwestern Studies, Dead or Alive ix Susan Kollin Part 1: Newer New Wests 1. Spectrality and the Postregional Interface 3 Stephen Tatum 2. Everyday Regionalisms in Contemporary Critical Practice Krista Comer 3. Critical Regionalism, Thirdspace, and John Brinckerhoff Jackson’s Western Cultural Landscapes Neil Campbell 4. Architecture and the Virtual West in William Gibson’s San Francisco 82 Michael Beehler Part 2: Nature and Culture 5. What’s Authentic about Western Literature? And, More to the Point, What’s Literary? 97 Lee Clark Mitchell 6. Some Questions about Sexless Nature Writing David Oates 115 30

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7. Backpacking and the Ultralight Solution Capper Nichols 8. Survival, Alaska Style Susan Kollin 143

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Part 3: Contested Wests 9. Scheduling Idealism in Laramie, Wyoming Beth Loffreda 159

10. Frontier Mythology, Children’s Literature, and Japanese American Incarceration 172 John Streamas 11. I’m Just a Lonesome Korean Cowgirl; or, Adoption and National Identity 186 Melody Graulich 12. Cultivating Otowi Bridge Audrey Goodman 206

13. The Romance of Ranching; or, Selling Place-Based Fantasies in and of the West 223 Nancy Cook References 245

Contributors 265

Acknowledgments
Over the years I have been fortunate to discuss postwestern studies with a number of colleagues; thanks especially to Robert Bennett, Rachel Bryson, Nancy Cook, Melody Graulich, Capper Nichols, and Steve Tatum for keeping me on track. For their financial and emotional support of this book I am grateful to Sara Jayne Steen, former Dean of the College of Letters and Science at Montana State University; and Michael Beehler, former Chair of the English Department. A Research Enhancement Award from Montana State University’s College of Letters and Science and a Scholarship and Creativity Award from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research also enabled me to finish this project. I am likewise indebted to Michael Becker, computer guru and patient proofreader, who played a key role in making sure the manuscript was completed on time; and to Jonathan Lawrence for his care and attention during the copyediting process. Ladette Randolph, my editor at the University of Nebraska Press, has been great to work with and always “gets it.” My appreciation to her for her endless humor, patience, and wisdom in the production of this book. In his pedagogy, parenting, and professional life, my philosopher/film scholar husband, Dan Flory, has been doing his best to help usher in the post-patriarchy. I could not have finished this project without his support and willingness to discuss western film and culture at all hours of the day and night. With much gratitude, I dedicate this book to him.

Introduction
Postwestern Studies, Dead or Alive susan kollin

The region seems to be an indestructible entity that transcends and survives history to remain everlastingly the same. . . . [I]f regionalism is the nostalgia for a past state, it is also the certainty of the survival of that past. . . . The past becomes a place . . . that we can bring back, ideally, in our understandable present as a moral prescription. Roberto Dainotto, “‘All the Regions Do Smilingly Revolt’: The Literature of Place and Region” Artists and critics must find a way to care about both the distant and the local—to analyze regional communities without losing sight of the larger global community that requires and enables the production of regions. Hsuan L. Hsu, “Literature and Regional Production”

In May 2006 at a press conference with British prime minister Tony Blair, President George W. Bush offered a surprising confession to news reporters when he admitted his political mistake in using “tough talk” shortly after 9/11. At issue for the president was his choice of language, particularly the western vernacular of bounty hunting epitomized by that “old poster out West,” which he recalled in outlining his plans for capturing Osama bin Laden “dead or alive.” “I learned some lessons about expressing myself,” the president explained, especially about the need to adopt a more “sophisticated manner” in his speeches on terrorism.1 For those of us studying and teaching

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in the field of western American culture, the president’s unexpected attention to the power of words—to the political consequences of rhetoric and imagery—reminds us of precisely what is at stake in our intellectual labors. What does it mean for critical regional studies when the popular idioms that have often defined the American West in narrowly conceived ways are called into question in such a public manner? Is it a sign of our postwestern moment that the president himself sees the limits of frontier discourses and recognizes the urgency of reframing his political language? Many of us remember how the president’s earlier post-9/11 speeches set off a maelstrom of national and international criticism that blasted America’s new “Lone Ranger foreign policy,” its “cowboy diplomacy,” and the administration’s reliance on Old West–style “frontier justice.” As part of the political fallout, student antiwar demonstrators carried signs reminding the president, “It’s the Middle East, not the Wild West.”2 Yet if social commentators, international political leaders, and antiwar protesters were outraged at the rhetorical framing of U.S. foreign policy in the post-9/11 period, in many ways the administration’s use of Wild West imagery should have come as no surprise. Campaigning for the nation’s highest office both times as an earthy, no-nonsense Texas rancher, the president traded on some of the most enduring images of American national identity. Indeed, the allure of the Old West with its promises of personal freedom and collective renewal has proven to be a central means for political self-fashioning for a long line of U.S. presidents. For scholars in the field, such uses of western American imagery in political discourse are a powerful reminder of how particular images and sentiments associated with the West move well beyond the confines of regional boundaries to provide explanatory power for the nation as a whole. Such moments remind us how important it is to continue carefully assessing and evaluating the political burdens placed on western spaces in national discourse. The field of critical regional studies offers important tools for examining the deployment of such regional imagery, and in doing so it insists that we remain aware of how the spatial meanings and identi-

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ties surrounding regions may indeed be powerful constructs that are not in any way self-evident or predetermined. Cultural critic Hsuan L. Hsu, for instance, calls for a fluid and flexible understanding of regions, suggesting that they “may administer or fix social and economic relations in a given area, but they are themselves produced or transformed in relation to—and often in the service of—larger dominant spaces.”3 National and transnational concerns always inflect the meanings regions are given and the uses to which they are put. Hsu thus argues for an understanding of regions as both “productive” and “continually produced,” not bounded eternally to a set geography, but “dynamic and flexible . . . neither isolated nor fixed . . . their constitutive and necessary interactions with other scales suggest that space, in its various and contradictory relations, can be as dialectical as time.”4 This collection of new essays on postwestern cultures likewise insists that we understand the region not as a closed or bounded space but as a continually changing and evolving entity in both content and form. The larger aim of this study is to examine a particularly contested space—the American West—and the highly charged and continually shifting meanings that have become associated with it. To say that the West is a multiply inflected terrain whose identity is always in flux and revision is to recognize that the political uses of western American iconography discussed above do not lay claim to all the possible meanings associated with the region. Indeed, the essays in this collection testify otherwise by examining a wide range of regional practices and forms of signification and by drawing on a variety of critical approaches, including global studies, feminist theory, cultural studies, environmental criticism, cultural geography, queer studies, and critical race theory. As an emerging critical approach, postwestern studies work against a narrowly conceived regionalism, one that restricts western cultures of the past and present to some predetermined entity with static borders and boundaries. Postwestern studies instead involve a critical reassessment of those very restrictions, whether they be theoretical, geographical, or political. In working against totalizing approaches

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that posit “one West, one frontier, or one borderland,” critic Blake Allmendinger explains: All of us recognize a West whose history is represented by certain dates and hard facts; whose literary history is embodied by a canon of literature; whose images are communally recognized, shared, and experienced; whose geographic identity is sketched as a series of immobile boundary lines. But at the same time, each of us makes up the West for ourselves. We interpret historical facts, individually experience works of fiction and film, and transgress those seemingly immobile boundary lines in peculiar, often quite profound ways. . . . Today, although the West may be settled, its meanings and boundaries remain unfixed and unsealed.5 As Allmendinger points out, while past approaches and previous concepts of the West continue to circulate and inform the present, new understandings and experiences are currently reshaping cultural production in the region. Postwestern studies date back at least to the early 1970s before the postmodern turn in the humanities, when scholars such as Philip French called attention to a number of new films that were critically restructuring the Western. For French, these “post-western” Westerns marked a decided shift in the genre’s usual sentiments and allegiances. Influenced by the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, the new crop of movies tended to locate in the genre’s “all-American” figures “some less attractive traits: patriotism masking xenophobia, ignorance masquerading as intuitive common-sense, mindless aggression concealed beneath virility, arrogance disguised as style.”6 What French saw as “post-western” Westerns were texts that developed new interpretations of the West’s past and that provided viewers different viewpoints and loyalties from the usual fare. In the 1990s Frieda Knobloch offered another take on postwestern studies, calling for scholarship that could be “mobilize[d] . . . not only in the service of a ‘new western history,’ but more importantly in the service of—in anticipation of—a postwestern history.” For Kno-

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bloch, the promise of postwestern studies carried great potential and possibility but had not yet been fully realized as a lived experience. Indeed, for Knobloch, the term postwestern, “as in ‘United States out of North America,’” functioned as a “particularly succinct indigenist, anti-imperialist, and antistatist demand, for which no ‘West’ as such, cultural or geographical, exists.”7 By arguing that a postwestern condition is still being anticipated rather than realized, Knobloch calls attention to the greater difficulties involved in “posting” the West. Much of this problem stems from how, in dominant national discourse, the American West has been imagined and celebrated largely for its status as “pre”—for its position as a pre-lapsarian, pre-social, and pre-modern space. To some extent, this thinking has spilled over into studies of the American West, so that like the very spaces of an idealized western geography, some literary and cultural scholarship about the region has adopted a pre- or even anti-theoretical stance, as if regional studies could offer a similar retreat or refuge from a dehumanizing culture, whether it be modernism, industrialism, or the domain of critical theory in the contemporary academy.8 The heated debates that have ensued among western literary scholars and the history crowd, to give just one instance, indicate that Knobloch’s anticipation of a postwestern scholarship in the academy is still more a dream than a reality.9 It is important to remember, too, that such a realization will necessarily result in quite diverse and varied responses. As geographer Trevor Barnes has noted in another context, “no single body of ‘post’prefixed approaches” exists in the academy today, and “significant dissimilarities and disagreements” continue to divide critics. Nevertheless, “‘post’-prefixed” scholarship as a whole tends to be motivated by a common concern, namely, a “desire to interrupt the Enlightenment project in various ways and to strive toward an alternative.” Overwhelmingly, such scholarship rejects rationalist responses that seek to impose order on a world that “eschew[s] both closure and regimented structure.”10 In this vein, Stephen Tatum describes the emergence of what he calls “postfrontier horizons,” a new critical landscape in literary and cultural studies. For Tatum, postfrontier

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scholarship examines “subaltern voices and alternate histories, and like its New Western History counterparts, has contested Turner’s frontier thesis and its key term.” Tatum goes on to explain how this scholarship avoids the closure and rigid structure that Turner offered and instead explores “how places or region need to be regarded not only as geopolitical and geological territories or physical landscapes, but also as sites produced by the circulation of peoples, of technologies and commodities, and of cultural artifacts, including of course images, stories, and myths. So instead of Turner’s concept of the westward-moving frontier as a line of demarcation conceptually grounded by East/West and savage/civilized binaries, contemporary critics are more likely to view the frontier as an intercultural contact zone.”11 When President Bush outlined his plans for national security in the post–9/11 period using unmistakable codes of the Old West revenge tale, he did so with the assumption that Americans and the rest of the world knew the conventions and plot turns of the region’s master narrative—the upstanding cowboy saving the frontier community from savagery and lawlessness in order to ensure a future of freedom. The international response that followed the press conference, however, indicated not just a widespread familiarity with the Wild West narrative but a vocal and passionate rejection of its terms. With its black-and-white certainty of right and wrong, the Old West morality conjured up by the administration’s statements and actions held little currency or explanatory capital for many of the world’s citizens. Even as this discourse was widely rejected, however, some observers noted that popular national sentiment following 9/11 may have helped spark a new cycle of the Western, following an era in which the form seemed to be undergoing a revisionist turn. bbc reporter Ryan Dilley, for instance, remarked about how tempting it is to look at the nation’s efforts at self-reflection following 9/11 to explain the “flurry” of new Westerns. “Could it be that America at war (and at odds with many former allies) is looking back to its heroic wild west past for inspiration and comfort?” he asked.12 Other writers made

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similar observations, noting that producers may be capitalizing on the frontier fascination of the current administration by providing new “tough-talking Westerns.” As one insider explained, “the timing is really good for shows that take on right and wrong and kick some bad-guy butt.”13 While it may be too early to predict what will happen with the Western in the near future, one television show, hbo’s Deadwood series, has already staked out a position in this terrain. Rather than endorsing the current administration’s view of the nation’s western past, Deadwood offers a critical take on what that world allegedly offered. Choosing a politically loaded historical moment—the summer months of 1876 shortly following Custer’s defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn—Deadwood interrogates western regional sensibility during a time of crisis in American confidence. There are no clear-cut heroes in this show; instead, we are given what Philip French defined as a “post-western” Western. For French, such films operated as thinly veiled allegories about the nation as a whole, which in Deadwood appear as the Euro-American settlers understand their presence in the region to be an encroachment on Indian land and a direct violation of the Laramie Treaty. Drawing on elements of the classic mining tale with settlers in and around Deadwood prospecting for gold in the Black Hills, the show adopts a kind of New West sensibility concerning hyperdevelopment, as the struggle to rid the frontier of all impediments to economic enterprise becomes a central theme of the series.14 The two main saloonkeepers, for instance, do the dirty business of fighting off competition for their establishments’ customers, prostitutes, and growing drug trade. Among the show’s characters, multicultural awareness appears in chronic short supply as various ethnic slurs are regularly exchanged between the townspeople. The show also features other less-than-desirable characters, including doped-up poker players, a glassy-eyed minister, a serial killer who murders prostitutes, and a sadistic businessman who will do anything to stay top dog. Although the language in the show may commit many of Mark Twain’s literary offenses, and the profanities used by the characters

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may not achieve historical accuracy, Deadwood’s scriptwriters offer other lessons by staging connections between our current political era and the historical moment in which the show is set. Here we are given battles over gold instead of oil, and broken Indian treaties in the place of un violations. We are shown a muzzled press, religious fundamentalism, rampant capitalism, and the social and environmental costs of hyperdevelopment. Another text that has recently deployed regional imagery—but again for a different purpose—is Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling novel, The Kite Runner, which tells the story of a young man’s coming-of-age in Afghanistan, his turbulent friendship with another Afghani boy, and his later exile in California. At one point the narrator comments on the cultural capital accrued in owning American jeans or “cowboy pants” that signified wealth in Afghanistan.15 The two boys watch The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly at a local theater, a film that eventually unseats The Magnificent Seven as their favorite Western. The narrator’s friend, Hassan, is later thrilled to receive a leather cowboy hat, a replica of the one Clint Eastwood wore in the spaghetti Westerns.16 At another point, Amir recalls his childhood in Kabul: We saw our first Western together, Rio Bravo with John Wayne, at the Cinema Park, across the street from my favorite bookstore. I remember begging Baba to take us to Iran so we could meet John Wayne. Baba burst out in gales of his deep-throated laughter—a sound not unlike a truck engine revving up—and, when he could talk again, explained to us the concept of voice dubbing. Hassan and I were stunned. Dazed. John Wayne didn’t really speak Farsi and he wasn’t Iranian! He was American, just like the friendly, longhaired men and women we always saw hanging around in Kabul, dressed in their tattered, brightly colored shirts. We saw Rio Bravo three times, but we saw our favorite Western, The Magnificent Seven, thirteen times. With each viewing, we cried at the end when the Mexican kids buried Charles Bronson— who, as it turned out, wasn’t Iranian either.17

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Referenced here is a spaghetti Western made by Italian film director Sergio Leone, who based his own character on a figure from a Japanese samurai film. The novel also features young filmgoers in Kabul mistaking the famous cowboy actor John Wayne as an Iranian hero, thus providing us with a glimpse of the complexities involved in transnational rearticulations of the American West. Just as novelists, filmmakers, and political speechwriters do not deploy the western American past for the same purposes, so scholars have recognized the varied cultural work performed by western regionalism. As some critics have warned, regionalism has the potential to offer an acritical turn to the past, a retreat from modernity and multiculturalism, which thus calls for a rigorous examination of its failure to decenter national metanarratives. As Hsu explains, “For readers, tourists, and politicians alike, the region often serves as a focus of nostalgia and a privileged site of geographical feeling. Both the architects of gated suburban communities and progressive cultural critics represent the local as the scale of familiarity, loyalty, and authentic experience, in contrast with the merely imagined community of the nation and the passionless economic space of globalization.”18 Hsu goes on to argue, however, that regionalism should be assessed not solely as a nostalgic response to nationalism but also as an effect and product of that very nationalism, indeed, as being constituted by but likewise producing the larger national and global spaces in which it dwells. Hsu explains: “The relation between literature and regional production involves not only the production of literature about regions but also the ways in which literary works produce, reimagine, and actively restructure regional identities in the minds and hearts of their readers; moreover, this latter process of regional transformation always occurs in relation to larger-scale phenomena such as migrant flows, transportational networks, and international commerce.”19 A study of western regionalism ultimately requires us to travel critically in many directions, between past and present and between regions and nations. Such travels move us back and forth in time and between the local and the global, providing us with a view that is akin to what Tom Lutz describes as the “cosmopolitan

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vistas” of critical regionalism. As Lutz explains, in combining local and global concerns, “a central issue [of regionalism] has been the relation of different groups to ongoing technological, economic, and social change, or, in other words, the relation of the region to the rest of the world.”20 Of course, too, there is much more to western American studies than the popular Western. As the contributors to this volume clearly indicate, cultural production about the West includes many other stories about and experiences in the region that also need to be engaged. Thus, the authors in this collection address a number of topics, from gender and power in the youth subculture of surfing to the cultural production of Gen X and cyberpunk writers, from the uses of frontier rhetoric in narratives about Japanese American internment camps to the emerging agricultural tourism in the New West, from the consumer culture of nature advocacy to the formation of regional identities in the context of transnational adoption, from examinations of vernacular or abandoned western landscapes through the theories of geographer J. B. Jackson to the problems of defining what’s “real” about western American literature, and from the cultures of silence in Laramie following Matt Shepard’s murder to the promises and possibilities of queering western nature writing. Ultimately, the essays collected here offer a complicated reassessment of cultural production throughout the region. In doing so, the contributors aim to realize a postwestern critical sensibility that opens up potential lines of inquiry and expands the western archive to include new voices and experiences that have not received adequate scholarly attention. Notes
1. For an astute commentary on the speech see Philip Gourevitch’s “Comment: Just Watching” in New Yorker, June 12, 2006, 49–50. For a transcript of the news conference, see the National Public Radio website at http://www.npr .org/templates/story/story/php/storyID=5433122 (accessed June 26, 2006). 2. See, e.g., Tom Barry, “Frontier Justice: From tr to Bush,” Counterpunch, November 15, 2002, 1; and “Students Cut Class to Protest War,” CBS News Online, March 5, 2003, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/03/05/iraq/ main542856.shtml (accessed August 9, 2006).

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3. Hsu, “Literature and Regional Production,” 38. 4. Hsu, “Literature and Regional Production,” 37–38. 5. Allmendinger and Matsumoto, introduction, 2–4. 6. French, Westerns, 142. 7. Knobloch, Cultures of Wilderness, ix. 8. I borrow here from Dana Phillips, whose remarks about ecocriticism apply to certain instances of western American criticism; see his Truth of Ecology, 4. 9. Forrest G. Robinson offers various insights about these debates, particularly concerning the theoretical divides that separate literary critics and new western historians. See “Clio Bereft of Calliope” and “We Should Talk.” 10. Barnes, Logics of Dislocation, 8–9, v. 11. Tatum, “Postfrontier Horizons,” 460–61. 12. Ryan Dilley, “Is It High Noon for the Western?” BBC News Online, September 25, 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk–news/magazine/3132746. stm (accessed August 9, 2006). 13. Paul Bedard with Betsy Streisand and Richard J. Newman, “‘West Wing’ into ‘Gunsmoke,’” U.S. News and World Report, 131, no. 14 (2001): 4. See also Walter Metz, “‘Mother Needs You’: Kevin Costner’s Open Range and the Melodramatics of the American Western,” forthcoming in A Family Affair, ed. Murray Pomerance (London: Wallflower Press). 14. See French’s discussion of McCabe and Mrs. Miller for various influences on Deadwood (Westerns, 161). 15. Hosseini, The Kite Runner, 69. 16. Hosseini, The Kite Runner, 44. 17. Hosseini, The Kite Runner, 26. 18. Hsu, “Literature and Regional Production,” 36. 19. Hsu, “Literature and Regional Production,” 36–37. 20. T. Lutz, Cosmopolitan Vistas, 15.

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Newer New Wests

1. Spectrality and the Postregional Interface
stephen tatum

From media, entertainment, and telecommunications to artificial life, neuroscience, and electronic money, virtual technologies are transforming what was once called “reality.” At the precise moment that critical analysis is imperative, interpretive strategies that have proved extremely effective for the past several decades no longer seem adequate. Mark C. Taylor, Hiding Susan said that the unifying theme amid all this Gappiness is, of course, the computer spreadsheet and the bar-coded inventory. “A jaded cosmopolite in the Upper West Side buys an Armpit, Nebraska-style worker’s shirt (in ‘oatmeal’) and Gap computers” (doubtless buried deep within a deactivated norad command center somewhere in the Rockies) “instantaneously spew out the message to Asian garment manufacturers, ‘Armpit worker shirts are hot.’ Likewise, an agrarian soul out there in Armpit, pining away for a touch of life away from the silo, buys an oxford cloth button-down shirt at the local Gap, and computerized Gap-funded looms in Asia retool for the preppie revival.” Douglas Coupland, Microserfs Globalization and the (Post)Region For the past decade cultural critics in a variety of academic disciplines and fields have been identifying and theorizing about the several economic and social trends associated with a globalizing world-system’s restructuring of the economic landscape. Predominant in this

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discourse about globalization and its multinational corporate diffusion of urban-industrial capitalism across the various geopolitical boundaries associated with states, regions, and nations are tropes of flow, circulation, and migration. On one level, such tropes discursively highlight the rather intensified, speeded-up movement of investment capital and commodities, of information and technology, of images, and, of course, of animal and human populations in the global economy that—as the above quote from Douglas Coupland’s novel Microserfs suggests—binds together the fates of individuals in Asia, New York City, and Armpit, Nebraska. On another level, however, certain theorists deploy the tropes of flow, circulation, and migration not only to describe a major trend associated with globalization but also to diagnose a major consequence of globalization’s economic restructuring of the landscape. As a result of new information technologies, the breakdown of trade barriers, and the disciplining of labor unions through the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs in a networked global economy, there results—to quote Manuel Castells—“the separation between functional flows and historically determined places as two disjointed spheres of the human experience. People live in places, power rules through flows.”1 Keeping in mind this theorized disjuncture between the space of flows and the space of lived places, we can think of the global, macroeconomic forces striving to integrate industrial production, commercial trade, and financial investment with new technological paradigms as overlaying or doubling and, as Castells for one argues, even “ruling,” which is to say redrawing and determining the contour lines of the local, the regional, and even the national maps. Consider, for instance, the mob of Hereford- and Angus-cross steers and feeder cows on the ground in the feedlot at Wilderado, a few miles west of Amarillo, Texas, on I-40. Born, weaned, and for a time raised on ranches in west Texas, the Oklahoma panhandle, eastern New Mexico, and southeastern Colorado, such cattle are trucked to Wilderado to be fattened for an eventual sale at auction and then a trip to the slaughterhouse. When the wind is from the west, as it often is on the Texas high plains, the stench of the cattle’s urine and excrement,

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this matter mounded into artificial hills in the open space between the feeding troughs, is highly noticeable to the east, drifting past the “Cadillac Ranch” earth sculpture and on through Amarillo neighborhoods. Still, as is the case with other feedlots (and slaughterhouses) across the high plains, the feeder cattle on the ground at Wilderado represent but a subset of an intricate, integrated global system of beef production, marketing, and distribution. This system is enabled by certain trade agreements (gatt, nafta), by the flexibility of transnational capital, and by the mobility of the largely immigrant labor force staffing the feedlots and packing plants and trucking companies typically owned by multinational agribusiness corporations. It is a system whose feedlots and slaughterhouses are typically located in close proximity not only to supplies of grain but also to the interstate highway system that enables the cattle to be trucked efficiently from ranch, to feedlot, to slaughterhouse, and then to retail stores and to coastal ports for the export market. It is a system enabled by container shipping technology at these distant ports to which the highways lead, and it is an integrated system in that the same container shipping and interstate transportation corridors can be and are used to import as well as to export frozen beef. In short, there is the actual steer living on the ground and gorging on the hormone-laced feed at this place called Wilderado, and there is this actual steer’s spectral or virtual double, the “world steer,” an entirely fictive but nevertheless real bovine creature produced by the flow of the global commodity futures market—an abstract creature, in short, whose shifting exchange value overdetermines the actual steers and feeder cows on the ground and fouling the space of local places in, say, Texas, Nebraska, Australia, and Argentina. It is precisely because the flows of technology, capital, and animal and human bodies coalesce to produce such abstract economic phenomena as “the world steer” that, some critics conclude, the hegemony of the nation-state has been and is being severely challenged in a globalizing world-system. As Arif Dirlik argues, for example, “the new pathways for the development of capital cut across

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national boundaries and intrude on national economic sovereignty, which renders irrelevant the notion of a national market or a national economic unit and undermines national sovereignty from within by fragmenting the national economy.”2 Indeed, “the new pathways for the development of capital” existing today suggest to Edward Soja that “in many ways the most interesting developments arising from globalization and postfordist economic restructuring can be found in the ‘in-between’ spaces, the new geographies of power emerging between the national and global and the national and local scales.” On the one hand, Soja notes, one of “the new geographies of power” exists between the national and global scale in the form of such “supra-state regionalisms” as the European Union; on the other hand, between the national and local economic scales there is a new geography of power associated with what he calls “city-region states” like Los Angeles, Chicago, or Atlanta.3 Given “the new pathways for the development of capital” and the “new geographies of power” associated with globalization, the challenge for critical cultural studies becomes identifying and theorizing newer critical paradigms that will improve our understanding of the relationship between the “new geographies” created by the spaces of transnational flows and local or regional cultural economies. In short, we need to cultivate “postnational and transnational ways of knowing,” new interpretive strategies for being in a world where various, disjunctive flows increasingly overdetermine and shape lives and the imaginations of those living in specific places.4 It logically follows that efforts by critics to identify the relevant topics, methods, and theoretical perspectives for a properly “postnational” or “transnational” American cultural studies ought to be extended as well to the regional or local scale of critical analysis—regardless of whether that scale be conceived, to use Soja’s terminology, as transnationalism from above (supra-state regionalism) or transnationalism from below (city-state regionalism). Whether or not one specifically chooses to examine, say, the emergence of the spectral “world steer” that supersedes steers who live in actual places, or the abstract economic calculus of “labor units” that supersedes those

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laboring bodies in local fields and factories, or the global dissemination of a western American regional imaginary through the film, television, and tourist industries—regardless of the specific focus or example, at some juncture the critic would do well to consider a series of larger questions. In the context of the social, political, economic, and cultural transformations wrought by the now-dominant globalizing world-system, for example, what are the consequences for critical thinking of the concept of the regional (or the local)? If, as Soja argues, it is possible for a regional cultural economy to continue to exist amid the circuits of global capital, what are its emergent features? What major themes, forms, images, and rhetorical figures begin to define an emergent, postregional cultural style? In what ways might this emergent cultural style or structure of sensibility and sentiment register, diagnose, and perhaps even critique globalization’s restructuring of the economic landscape into a space of flows? Such questions gain a certain urgency at the beginning of a new millennium precisely because various economists, sociologists, political scientists, and cultural geographers have been stressing since the mid-1990s how the regional and the local are, at bottom, entwined with, if not even produced by, the diverse economic, political, and social forces of globalization. “What does seem clear,” Mike Featherstone argues, “is that it is not helpful to regard the global and local as dichotomies separated in space and time; rather, it would seem that the processes of globalization and localization are inextricably bound together in the current phase.”5 From this dialectical perspective, the neologism “glocalization,” as well as my example of the “world steer” that haunts the steers on the ground around the world, illustrates how the global is always being localized and the local is always being globalized. With Featherstone’s comment in mind, however, there is a twofold point to make here. First, we need to recognize how the spaces created by various global flows effectively collapse the older binaries of global/local or center/periphery so that the geopolitical American West with its particular history, climate, and physical topography is not, cannot be, and should not be regarded, much less celebrated, as a secure refuge or enclave both

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immune from and oppositional to the general impact of globalization. Second, “glocalization” not only connotes a process whereby global, macroeconomic forces insinuate themselves into and “shape” specific local geographies. It also suggests the alternative position that regional, geographically differentiated market production and consumption can insinuate themselves into and shape a global economy’s space of flows. In 1983 the architect and theorist Kenneth Frampton called for a “critical regionalism” whose prevailing aesthetic in the built environment and whose cultural productions would oppose what he viewed as the globalizing world-system’s increasing homogenization and abstraction of lived space—a process, as the narrator in Coupland’s novel Microserfs notes, orchestrated by such corporate giants as Gap, Nike, Microsoft, Disney, and McDonald’s.6 However, given the apparent “triumph” of globalization’s restructuring of the landscape since Frampton’s groundbreaking essay appeared, it would seem fair to ask now whether such an alternative or oppositional “critical regionalism” has emerged, or indeed even can emerge and gain purchase. Perhaps, in other words, multinational corporate capitalism’s intensified marketing of cultural difference—what Dirlik calls the corporate “guerilla marketing” of local difference—in its relentless search for superprofits means that the regional and local cultural productions are, inevitably, complicit with globalization rather than providing evidence, say, of an alternative or oppositional “critical regionalism” or “critical localism” advocated by Frampton.7 If so, then the critical question and task, to quote Masao Miyoshi, becomes “how then to balance the transnationalization of economy and politics with the survival of local culture and history—without mummifying them with tourism and in museums.”8 Now, this framing question not only follows on the undeniable evidence of a hypermobile, global capital’s cannibalizing of local or regional “difference” through tourism and museums and historical theme parks, much less through its print and visual media discourse about “authentic” local or regional cuisines and folkways. The global economy is bound up with and indeed exploits the regional and local

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cultural economy in at least three other ways. For one thing, as critics like Soja and Arjun Appadurai stress, the “regional,” conceptually speaking, must be understood now less as a specific geographical locale or empirical reality. That is, the “regional” in an emergent global economy of flows should be regarded more as a liminal, discursive terrain, a cultural imaginary produced at the point where the circulation of media imagery, the movement of transnational capital, and the voluntary or forced migrations of peoples intersect with a particular geographic locale. To use Appadurai’s terminology, the regional or local gets produced by the disjunctive, varied flow of transnational capital investment, this creating a particular “finanscape”; of human populations (tourists, immigrants, refugees, exiles, guest workers) migrating to particular lived places organized by the flows of capital investment, this flow creating a place’s distinctive “ethnoscape”; and of imagery about a place circulated by an integrated global media (film, television, and the internet), thus creating a distinctive “mediascape.”9 The intersection of these building blocks with a particular geographical locale, Appadurai theorizes, produces an “imagined world,” or what we might call a particular “regional imaginary.” With Appadurai’s theoretical framework, at least two points need to be made as we consider the impact of global flows on the regional cultural economy. One is that at any given moment in any given place multiple imagined worlds will coexist. Like the relationship between actual cattle on the ground and the fictive, marketplace creation called the “world steer,” the signifier “Wyoming” overlays the geopolitical boundaries of the state with, for instance, the state tourism board’s circulation of an extant Old West cowboy culture’s iconography (as part of its promotion of the dude ranch and ski industries); the aesthetic-recreational landscape of the Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks; and the contemporary “finanscape” largely dominated by the shift of capital and people away from rural towns, farms, and ranches and toward the detritus of businesses and related industries that service the open-pit coal mines and Wyoming oil patch. The second point is that if we think of the region as a discursive, imagined construct produced by disjunctive flows, then neither the multiple

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regional imaginaries nor their audiences are bound to specific times and spaces. Because “people, machinery, money, images, and ideas now follow increasingly nonisomorphic paths,” it is no longer feasible to demand a one-to-one, or isomorphic, relation between a local or regional culture and a particular topography.10 Moreover, precisely because the various flows of capital, technology, imagery, and peoples in the global economy are disjunctive, regions and localities effectively are pitted against each other in the global economic competition for investments, jobs, and tourist dollars. Thus, as Soja notes in Postmodern Geographies, the global economy promotes uneven regional development not only between regions (e.g., Sun Belt versus Rust Belt in the United States) but also within regions. The 2000 U.S. Census, for instance, revealed the profound economic gap between those western states geared to newer hightech economies (California, Washington) and those still wedded to an older “finanscape” based on ranching and the extraction of timber, coal, oil, and natural gas (Wyoming, Montana). Finally, amid all the interdisciplinary discourse about how globalization triggers capital flight, plant closures, and the outsourcing of jobs, as well as the disciplining of labor unions through the development of labor-saving technologies, Soja further shows how the global economy’s uneven regional development produces new territorial divisions of labor and labor markets. In the American West, deindustrialization in the form of plant and mine and sawmill closures and capital flight, accompanied by selective, local reindustrialization based on new information technologies, have fostered, among other things, an increasing polarization of occupations and classes. Such economic restructuring of the regional landscape is registered materially in the spatial divide between, for example, suburban or edge city research campuses or parks with skilled, highly educated workers who perform computer, biotech, and medical research and development, and the so-called unskilled, “surplus” labor force composed largely of legal (and illegal) immigrants and minority, working-class women who staff a minimum-wage “service” economy primarily in the downtown hotel and entertainment zones.11

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To summarize to this point: the contemporary restructuring of the economic, sociocultural, and political landscape by a global economy is evident in the hypermobility of capital across geopolitical boundaries, by uneven regional development both above and below the national scale, and by emerging spatial divisions of labor which themselves register an increasing polarization of occupations and classes. As a result of these trends, theorists like Soja and Appadurai claim that the “regional” or “local” scale has become fully rearticulated with rather than against transnational economic (and political) developments. From the perspective of disciplines like sociology, political economy, and geography, then, the regional or the local now connotes less a specific locale and political unit and more a postindustrial nodal point where the global flows of capital, commodities, peoples, and images intersect. Conceptually speaking, in other words, in the increasingly postindustrial environment governed by global flows of data, electronic technologies, and imagery, regional and local cultural economies have become “deterritorialized,” unmoored from specific physical sites. To put the transformation we are living through another way: at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, when local color or “western” regional cultural productions emerged in the context of industrialization, a center-periphery model for the most part theoretically grounded the regional concept. This model essentially juxtaposed a metropolitan industrial and commercial center or core against an agricultural and resource-supply periphery (i.e., the region). In this model, which basically represents a form of the nation-state’s internal colonialism, the American West served as an agrarian subsidy zone, a source of raw materials and mineral wealth, and a reservoir of cheap labor. To be sure, in some respects the contemporary American West still supplies agricultural products, raw materials, and labor to metropolitan centers. Even so, the major trends associated with the development and expansion of a global economy of flows—particularly the rearticulation of the region with transnational markets and the deindustrialization of the older metropolitan core back east—trouble this center-periphery model, includ-

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ing its cultural corollary, the one-to-one relation between place and culture. Now, the center-periphery model associated with the era of colonialism and industrialization is homologous with the architecture of Fordist assembly-line production: centralized authority, hierarchical organization, and serial production and distribution. By contrast, the architecture of our contemporary postindustrial technoculture increasingly centered on data networks, electronic technologies, and robotic logic is largely decentralized, laterally organized, and proceeds by parallel rather than serial processing and distribution.12 Think here of workplace environments with several networked computer servers rather than a central mainframe computer; think here of robots on production lines independently controlled by microchip processors wired to personal computers; and, to shift from organizational architecture to workforce demographics, think here of how the new professional managerial class members laboring in the advanced technological infrastructure at Silicon Valley and other research parks located in close proximity to major research universities in the urban West do not inhabit specific, local places so much as they “belong to a cross-border culture in many ways embedded in a global network of local places—particularly international financial centers among which people, information, and capital circulate regularly.”13 “A global network of local places”: instead of being identified by means of a specific physical topography, or solely as a resource subsidy zone for a metropolitan center, the regional and local in a globalizing world-system should be regarded both as (1) a discursive site, an imagined world produced by the conjunction of mediascapes, ethnoscapes, and the migrations and territorial divisions of labor; and as (2) a network of strategic, interurban commercial and financial centers whose networks of power deterritorialize traditional local, national, and regional spaces. From this perspective, western American regionalism has been superseded by a “postregional” and largely postindustrial global economy whose nodal points on a networked grid are Houston, Denver, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Seattle, the San Francisco Bay area, Mexico City, and Los Angeles. These “city-regions,”

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to use Soja’s term, are not only linked with each other as nodal points on a grid of flows (e.g., the tourist grid linking Los Angeles with Las Vegas and the Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Grand Canyon National Park circuit) but are also linked with the current capitals of the main trading blocs in the global economy: New York, London, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. The technological developments driving the postindustrial environment and the disarticulation of the regional concept from the space of places were from the beginning, and are now, associated with the military, aerospace, and entertainment industries in the American West. Virtual-reality machines such as head-mounted displays and flight simulators emerged from nasa’s Ames Research Center for advanced supercomputing in Mountain View, California. The secretive “Skunk Works” advanced development program of Lockheed Martin pioneered the Stealth fighter jets and bombers that were produced and tested in Palmdale, California. The advanced digital effects technology associated with cinema and computer gaming, as well as the animatronics associated with theme parks and the entertainment industry in California and Nevada, have been and are being developed by the West’s networked “city-regions.” My point here is not to argue for the American West’s importance over other regions’ research and development sites but rather to suggest that the electronic and transportation networks, the virtual technologies, and the flow of images from the entertainment industry sector compose a postregional grid networking Palmdale with Area 51 in Nevada; the Bay Area’s Pixar and Industrial Light and Magic with southern California’s Walt Disney Corporation; and Hollywood with the Las Vegas (and Reno) gaming and entertainment industry. From this perspective, in the postregional American West, the flows of capital, technology, people, and imagery all come together at a nodal point called “Las Vegas.” Indeed, as a character in Coupland’s Microserfs speculates, casino-hotels like the mgm Grand in Las Vegas, whose “theme” basically deploys Hollywood’s Wizard of Oz fantasy to tourists and convention-goers, epitomize “the Detroit of the postindustrial economy.”14 Whether or not one focuses on the entertainment, recreational, and transportation grid that effectively

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carves out a postregional space of flows linking Los Angeles and Las Vegas, though, the crucial point to emphasize is this: the conceptual transformation of the traditional geopolitical space of the regional into a “global network of local places” highlights how we need to rethink (and reorganize) the “spatial hierarchies that are usually taken as given, such as local < national < global.”15 With all the global flows of people, images, technology, and capital coming together in local places like Las Vegas, the spatial hierarchies need to be reframed this way: local/regional > national > global. Or, to paraphrase Robert Venturi and Denis Scott Brown, there are things we can still learn from Las Vegas. Spectrality and the Postregional West There was mist floating on the ground above the soccer fields outside the central buildings. I thought about the email and Bill and all of that, and I had this weird feeling—of how the presence of Bill floats about the Campus, semi-visible, at all times, kind of like the dead grandfather in the Family Circus cartoons. Bill is a moral force, a spectral force, a force that shapes, a force that molds. A force with thick, thick glasses. Douglas Coupland, Microserfs As Gayatri Spivak has argued in an essay focusing in part on the economic fate of subaltern working women in the developing world’s southern regions, it is not the terrain of the much-discussed postmodern metropolis celebrated by such theorists as Fredric Jameson but rather the rural “where changes seen upon urban-built space are the most visible.”16 Indeed, she suggests, “it is entirely possible that the real terrain of globalization is the spectralization of the so-called rural.” The “so-called rural” variously connotes what Spivak identifies throughout the essay as the terrain of the local, the regional, the aboriginal or indigene, and the ecological. All these synonyms for the “rural” are as relevant to the “real terrain” of the American West, with its maquiladores and factory farms and tribal lands and toxic landscapes and suburban edge cities, as they are to, say, the “real terrain” of

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Bangladesh or Indonesia in the so-called developing world’s densely populated Southern Hemisphere. The other key word in her comment, “spectralization,” represents her shorthand way of describing globalization’s transformation of this “so-called rural”—“so-called” here because that very transformation has eroded the boundary between the global metropolis and the rural or local region. By using the term “spectralization” Spivak also wants to stress an intensified process of abstraction, the dematerialization of peoples and things that operates across the restructured landscape of multinational corporate capitalism. For in a globalizing world-system, she notes, the world’s banks and investment houses relentlessly transform actual, laboring bodies in the “so-called rural” zones of production into the abstract, more spectral realm of so-called “labor power” or “labor units.” Furthermore, with the term “spectralization,” Spivak is interested in how actual physical topographies are transformed into virtual or simulated landscapes of grids and points, of circuits and networks through which capital, laboring bodies, images, and commodities flow. So, for example, a geopolitical region’s distinctive topography might get “spectralized” as simulated maps identifying a network of electronic battlefields or power-line transmission grids, banking and investment routes, air travel and highway transportation hubs and nodes, illegal drug manufacturing and distribution/ consumption points. And finally, “spectralization” for Spivak additionally connotes both the familiar Marxian concern about the transfer of use value into exchange value and the pulsing, ghostly flow of immaterial capital and intellectual property through the electronic portals of a “postindustrial economy’s” satellite, digital, and computer technologies. I refer to Spivak’s essay for two reasons: first, it implicitly suggests yet another way to consider the identity and the place of the (post)regional in the emergent postindustrial economy; and second, it introduces both a theme (the process of abstraction or “spectralization”) and a trope or image (the spectral) that defines one major contour line identifying the intersection of an emergent “postregional” literary and cultural imaginary with the global economy of flows.

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More specifically, by combining Spivak’s location of the “real terrain” of globalization in the “so-called rural” with Appadurai’s stress on the disjunctive global flows of images, peoples, and capital, I want to suggest that any emergent “postregional” western American culture ought to be thought of as a spectral, rather deterritorialized space imaginatively located somewhere “in between” a specific geographic reality, the residual traces of the visual images and written narratives associated with the mythic Wild West, and the emergent regional imaginaries associated with both the new “wired,” technoculture West and that of “Greater Mexico.”17 In addition, again following the leads of Spivak’s and Soja’s arguments, I want to stress how the discursive terrain of this deterritorialized, postregional cultural imaginary materializes as a particular type of interface between distinctive geographical realities, finanscapes, and emergent types and divisions of labor. Thus, as the “non-isomorphic paths” or flows of people, machinery, capital, and images overrun or surpass geopolitical boundaries, we should be alert to how postregional cultural economies of representation are bound up with the way embodied “laboring populations” are brought “into the lower-class sectors and spaces of relatively wealthy societies” that traffic in information and investment capital.18 Given the matrix of economics, labor and class relations, and migratory labor populations in the contemporary American West, it seems to me entirely plausible for Susan Kollin, for example, to suggest that “discussions about the western range and struggles for Indian sovereignty and land rights will be concerns that shape the region for a long time ahead,” and furthermore, that “these [political, economic, and legal] debates and issues will remain themes that structure the next generation of western American literature for some time to come.”19 Whether or not Kollin’s prediction about the future shape of western American literature is on target, a regional cultural imaginary preoccupied with “the western range” and the fate of its mining and pastoral industries in relation to American Indian tribal sovereignty claims might well inflect the “spectral” along the lines of laid out by James Welch’s Winter in the Blood or filmmaker Jim

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Jarmusch’s Dead Man: as a ceaseless haunting of the present by the contagious residue of a violent past. What interests me here, however, is how on the scale of the “so-called rural”—“the real terrain of globalization,” as Spivak insists—there has been and is another class or territorial division of labor that warrants critical concern. It is a type of labor that indexes the new global capitalism, and one whose territorial division or class stratification bears precisely on how certain embodied workers are brought into and positioned in relatively wealthy societies. It is, furthermore, an emergent type of labor whose particular inflection of the trope of the spectral offers still another set of themes, images, and characters potentially defining an emergent “postregional” western American literature “for some time to come.” If one defines the (post)region in a globalizing world-system through the particular way flowing “laboring populations” interface with “the spaces of relatively wealthy societies,” then clearly the new territorial divisions of labor associated with the contemporary American West’s commercial sectors, tourist and entertainment zones, university research parks, and corporate campuses suggest another key interface to analyze. I am referring here to that omnipresent contemporary interface between embodied human (and animal) subjects and computer and digital technology and robotic logic. In the new postindustrial environment governed by electronic technology and data networks, in other words, the key interface requiring innovative interpretive strategies is that of a prosthesis between humans and technology or machines. And though ghosts or Navajo skinwalkers may well haunt technological prosthesis and cybernetics in our contemporary moment, this particular interface manifests spectrality as a theme, metaphor, and principle through the flickering images and languages pulsing on the surfaces of the electronic screens, monitors, and displays of computers, on cellular devices, and other miniaturized technologies and programmed machines and virtual environments powered by electricity generated from coal or water in the West. We might call this interface produced by “spectralization” the emergent dream of “becoming electronic,” one which of course

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starkly contrasts to the perennial western American cultural dream of becoming “authentic” by reverting to the aboriginal or the animal primitive or the ecological or natural. This kind of “spectralization,” grounded by its human-machine interface and its attendant dream of becoming electronic, is manifested in or by, to make a short list for starters, the artificial limbs and organs and the cloning experiments developed in the postindustrial economy’s western biotech and medical research labs; by the computer-generated simulations of weather patterns and traffic patterns and even of nuclear accidents at test sites in the West; by the electronic tracking devices and surveillance cameras and satellites developed for parolees, and illegal immigrants, and endangered animals across the geopolitical West; by the robots on the floors of the region’s manufacturing sector; and by the animatronics and computer-simulated effects in the entertainment sectors located largely, though not exclusively, in California and Nevada. With this kind of interface (human-machine) and this version of the spectral (visual displays on screens and monitors) in mind, perhaps the forensic lab detailed in the television series C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation (set in Las Vegas) or the computerized slot machines in Indian country and Nevada casinos that return to gamblers paper receipts or coupons (instead of actual coins) most compellingly illustrate how Spivak’s “spectralization of the so-called rural” has begun to saturate the postregional American West’s cultural economy.20 The Electronic Geography of Hope Karla lost it and started to cry, and then, well, I started to cry. And then Dad, and then, well, everybody, and at the center of it all was Mom, part woman/part machine, emanating blue Macintosh light. Douglas Coupland, Microserfs I am suggesting, then, that one way of understanding the ongoing, global economic restructuring of capital and the cultural economy is through what Spivak calls “spectralization,” and furthermore, that this economic process of “spectralization” in a global postindustrial

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economy of flows manifests itself in at least two ways: first, in changing conceptualizations of the regional cultural economy (the deterritorialized, discursive space of “postregional” imagined worlds); and second, by such tropes in this emergent regional cultural imaginary as the interface and the spectral, these emerging as theme, image, and metaphor in recent literature, film and television, and music productions using the physical settings, history, and cultural iconography associated with the American West. To begin to illustrate how the intersection of emergent types and divisions of labor, technological prosthesis, and the trope of spectrality define an emergent postregional western American cultural imaginary, I want here to explore the concluding scenes of Vancouver writer and artist Douglas Coupland’s 1995 novel Microserfs. Coupland’s novel treats the shifting career fortunes and personal lives of a group of Generation X computer programmers whose lives, for the most part, move between their work, their homes or apartments, and their local Costco store, and whose computer programmer jobs, in the overall course of the narrative, compel them to migrate from Microsoft in the Seattle area to a startup software company named Oop! in California’s Silicon Valley. The narration proceeds as a series of fragmented journal entries by a character named Daniel Underwood, a self-confessed “hair-trigger geek” who is haunted by memories of his dead brother Jed and who begins writing late at night “to try to see patterns in [his] life”—to try to understand what root problem occasions both his insomnia and his career and relationship anxieties, “and then, hopefully, [to] solve it.”21 Set in the environs of three of the American West’s “city-regions,” its postmodern aesthetic saturated with popular culture trivia, brand names, and the idioms of advertising, and thematically concerned with such issues as the human-machine interface in the computer age, Microserfs both thematically and formally indexes the various economic, social, and cultural forces reshaping the regional landscape. Near the novel’s conclusion, in a chapter titled “Transhumanity”—a neologism that itself gestures toward Coupland’s interface that troubles the human/machine binary—the Oop! gang of com-

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puter programmers and software designers, all clad in their “Riot Nerd” gear, travel to Las Vegas to market their fledgling startup company and its new software product at the annual Consumer Electronics Show.22 Their abiding hope is that their combined efforts at the convention will attract new investors to help launch their software design into production and retail sales, and, as a result, help them realize their collective ambition to rise from the status of laboring “microserf ” to the rather exalted status of “Cyberlord” (personified in the novel by “Bill,” a character Coupland bases on Bill Gates, real-life chairman of the Microsoft Corporation). As their crucial Las Vegas working adventure unfolds, Underwood at one point describes a satellite video transmission of uber-Cyberlord Bill’s facial image to the various television screens and computer monitors set up throughout a cavernous Las Vegas convention center filled with software designers, computer technicians, graphic artists, journalists, and retail salespersons. Seeing Bill’s face, framed with thick glasses, and hearing Bill’s voice launching some new software product by means of a video transmission from an undisclosed remote location off the convention premises, Underwood observes how everyone is “riveted” to Bill’s virtual image, “not listening to what he’s saying but instead trying to figure out what was his . . . secret.”23 What Underwood for one has already figured out is this: Bill’s ultimate “secret,” and the source of his power, is that his face “shows nothing.” Not “nothing” in the sense of James Bond’s charismatic “coolness,” but rather “nothing” as in the expression of a “nothingness,” which is “maybe the core of the nerd dream: the core of power and money that lies at the center of the storm of technology, that doesn’t have to express emotion or charisma, because emotion can’t be converted into lines of code.”24 Though brief, this moment near the novel’s end is worth extended critical attention. For one thing, there is its setting in Las Vegas, whose casino-hotels and entertainment and tourism industry represent “the Detroit of the postindustrial economy.” For another thing, there is in this vignette the predominance of the video image itself— in this instance a simulated image of a blank, expressionless face projected onto television screens and computer monitors through-

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out the convention space. Not just any face, of course, but the face of “the Bill,” one whose overall blank “nothing” gaze at the video camera represents, to Underwood’s eyes, the panoptic, mesmerizing “spectral force” of this reigning, postindustrial Wizard of Oz.25 Third, Underwood’s figurative language to describe Bill’s on-screen virtual image is also quite revealing. For to get at the “secret” of the Bill’s projected image, and more particularly the “secret” of his blank or “nothing” face, Underwood resorts to a familiar analogy drawn from the natural world: as if the Bill were himself like a hurricane-force wind, his face and blank look constitute the “eye” at the center of “the storm of technology.” Taken together, the image of video technology and surveillance, the transformation of a human face into a simulacra of low-affect blankness, and the metaphorical transposition of nature into technology through the “eye of the storm” trope concisely illustrate one version of what Spivak calls the “spectralization” associated with the new global capitalism. These various elements also condense both the spatial logic and the utopian dream attendant upon becoming electronic through technological prosthesis. Like the mise-en-scène of the television show C.S.I., the prevalence of video screens and computer monitors and cameras both inside and outside the Las Vegas convention center marks, on one level, the ubiquitous, invisible, and dominant presence of technology in a surveillance culture. But there is more to be noticed here, for the narrator-character Underwood’s metaphorical substitution of technology and the ubiquitous video image for nature’s eye of the hurricane also exemplifies what art critic Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe has called contemporary capitalism’s “posthuman technological sublime.”26 As Gilbert-Rolfe argues, in its properly “posthuman” form such characteristic features of the sublime mode as limitlessness and inscrutability are now “found not in the presence of the forest but in the presentness simulated by the computer, not in the temporality of nature but in the simultaneity of the electronic.”27 As illustrated by Underwood’s interpretation of the Bill’s blank, “nothing” expression as embodying the “core of the nerd dream,” the contemporary posthuman techno-sublime “does not seek to overcome the body by

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simulating the natural. . . . [It] seeks instead to obviate the body. Or to redefine it as a face attached to a [electronic] pulse” (emphasis added).28 An image of a human body first reduced to a face and then further reduced to an “eye” whose gaze is enabled by an electronic pulse, Bill’s inscrutable spectral image manifests the techno-sublime’s utopian dream in which the organic becomes the modular and interchangeable and limitlessly reproduced image. In Microserfs this utopian dream associated with contemporary technoculture capitalism is manifested not only by the Bill’s virtual image but also by the novel’s allusions to other examples of modular, interchangeable, and homogeneous things and spaces: Legos, highway engineering design books, Gap clothing, farm-raised catfish, and the “clean rooms” of research and production labs. On still another level, Underwood’s interpretation of the “nothing” or the “nothingness” communicated by the Bill’s televised image interestingly redefines the idea of blankness itself. That is, in traditional terms an expressionless, blank facial expression might be thought of as signifying potentiality—as representing an absence in the present that, in due course, will become transformed into a presence, as is the case, for example, with a blank, primed canvas that, traditionally speaking, signifies an artist’s future activity of concealing the blank canvas with a brush loaded with pigment. However, the blankness Underwood attributes to Bill’s compelling spectral image represents, by contrast, an active signifier already signifying activity in the presentness of the present. As suggested by Gilbert-Rolfe’s contrast between “the temporality of nature” and “the simultaneity of the electronic,” advanced communication technologies enable the instantaneous or simultaneous circuit of both transmission and reception of the image. Unlike the blankness of the primed canvas, a blankness implying both temporal duration and spatial depth, the immediate transmission and reception of Bill’s virtual image transforms his blank “face” into the charged, virtual interface between Bill’s image and the viewers’ faces “riveted” to the surface of the screen. If we further consider how Bill’s “nothing,” blank expression on the surface of the screen is not only hypervisible but also hypermobile

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(infinitely reproducible, limited only by the number of monitors available to display it), then we can also understand how Underwood’s narration of this scene establishes a semantic link between “the spectral force” of Bill’s expressionless neutrality and, in the novel’s larger narrative, the analogous, generic blankness associated with the lines of computer “language” and the universal bar code (undoubtedly the most visible modular and interchangeable units in the globalizing world-system today). Through such semantic and imagistic links, in short, the novel imagines the contemporary techno-sublime’s version of spectrality as a condition of the “blank” face/interface. This “blank” face/interface is not only transparently mobile (as are lines of computer code or universal bar codes) but also (like the theory of Legos referenced throughout the novel) essentially placeless or context-free—an idealized, homogeneous space analogous to that of the identical “clean rooms” where silicon computer chips are produced around the world. And in the end, if not from the beginning, it is this very hypermobility—the intensified and instantaneous flow of forms of capital and images and peoples across various geopolitical borders—that constitutes the working dream of what theorists variously call a post-Fordist or postindustrial restructuring spawned by the new global capitalism. (And as anyone who has ever tried to cash a check or use an atm machine or get a credit report knows, capital’s enhanced flexibility and hypermobility is enabled by its “spectralization,” its transformation into and instantaneous electronic transmission as an immaterial, virtual reality that can haunt real terrains in the form of refusal of credit, or identity theft, or accounting fraud.) All told, then, amid its postmodernist aesthetic experimentation and its familiar plot of career ambition and of both love and family lost and then found, Microserfs remaps the American West as a postregional, consumer electronic interface where certain residual cultural factors (traditional sexual roles, Generation X and other subcultural idioms, nostalgia for spirituality), dominant cultural factors (lifestyles based on consumption patterns; television and motion picture viewing; shopping mall experiences; computer and video technology), and emergent cultural factors (computer interface with

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consumers; robotics) commingle on the spectral surface of video displays and computer monitors. Furthermore, amid the triangular movement of the novel’s main characters between the Seattle area, California’s Silicon Valley, and the Las Vegas consumer electronics show, Microserfs registers through its setting, plot threads, characters, images, and themes both the uneven regional development and the emergent spatial divisions of labor following on (high) technocapitalism’s restructuring of the American West as a deterritorialized space of cultural imagery and information flows “attached to an electronic pulse.” Though the novel grounds its rather traditional official bildungsroman plot on the narrator-character Underwood’s family romance and developing intimacy with a fellow microserf named Karla, this plot is haunted both by the specter of his brother’s death and by his primal anxieties about proletarianization. And this latter anxiety, elaborated on one register by the fate of Underwood’s father, fired from his job because he did not survive the new “storm of technology,” leavens the novel’s playful linguistic surface and subtly discloses how both the Oop! research and software development and the dominant class culture of leisure and consumption spectacularly centered in Las Vegas are underwritten by the tourist and convention economy serviced by low-skilled, low-wage earners drawn largely from “Greater Mexico.” Through the themes and formal features of Coupland’s novel, then, we can begin to understand how postmodern and postindustrial regions in general, and the American West in particular, are not and cannot be enclaves insulated or isolated from the “spectralization” associated with new global capitalism. Indeed, this novel’s investment in spectrality as image (video projections on screens and monitors), metaphor (machines and minds haunted by ghosts), and theme (the interface of humans and machines; the moral and ethical meanings of technological prosthesis) offers compelling evidence for how “spectralization” in the cultural sphere parallels the “spectralization of the rural” that Spivak has defined as the engine driving globalization in the economic sphere.29 But what ultimately interests me about Microserfs in this context is how Coupland’s creative vision

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of “postregional spectrality” centers, at the end, on a technological prosthesis between human consciousness and a computer’s subconscious “ghost in the machine” that crosses the “frontier between words and skin; speech and flesh.”30 In Coupland’s vision, Siegfried and Roy’s particular combination of science, animatronics, and plastic surgery ultimately does not realize the emergent posthuman techno-sublime in the new “wired” West symbolized by Las Vegas. Rather, it is embodied by Underwood’s librarian mother, who—in the wake of a stroke that afflicts her while Underwood attends the Las Vegas electronics show—eventually regains her “voice,” and hence her subjectivity, when the leader of the Oop! software team hooks her up to a Macintosh computer so that her fingers are connected to a keypad, so a circuit is completed between her brain’s neurons and the machine’s silicon processor on the surface of a screen: “Mom, part woman/part machine, emanating blue Macintosh light.”31 The regional paradigm associated with an industrial mode of production in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was primarily bound up, as Bill Brown has argued in A Sense of Things, with material artifacts—material “things.” Regional and local color literary production, museum curatorial practice, and anthropological endeavors all essentially promoted what Brown calls a “poetics of attachment,” which is to say a kind of synecdochal magic where part-objects (e.g., Navajo rugs) were construed as expressing the “whole” of a culture. Whether one considers the fetishization of tools, manner of dress, dialect speech, and foodways in fictions or museum displays of that era, things were effectively (re)vitalized by being viewed through visual and verbal tableaux of people engaged in occupational tasks. As I mentioned above, because in this older industrial paradigm a metropolitan, industrial, and commercial center is juxtaposed to the geographical region as peripheral subsidy zone or resource for raw materials and reservoir of cheap labor, regionalism and “local color” primarily was rooted in resistance to the homogenizing of cultural traditions and the triumph of abstract space in a modernizing industrial society. In the older regional cultural economy, it presumably became important to possess material objects, to see and hold the

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traces or record of the past, as if the point of a Jim Burden palpating the rusted remnant of a conquistadore’s spur in Willa Cather’s My Ántonia was literally to possess a repudiated or repressed or forgotten past through a material presence that would promote an affective experience legitimating or authenticating one’s reality and real life in an increasingly weightless present. But approximately a century after the moment of Austin, Wister, Remington, and Roosevelt, in the postindustrial mode of global techno-capitalism, the “rural” or the local and regional become “socalled,” in Spivak’s words. “So-called” because the local and regional exist now as a mutable, discursive constructions or cultural imaginaries; “so-called” also because the local and regional cultural economies are entirely saturated by capital, technology, peoples, and the inventory of imagery circulating throughout a globalized world. As the final scenes in Microserfs disclose, one result of the disarticulation and reorganization of the regional cultural economy from specific places is that things themselves have become “spectralized.” So the Bill’s human presence gets reconfigured as a spectral “face attached to an electronic pulse”; so Daniel Underwood’s “Mom” emerges from her stroke as a hand attached to a computer keyboard, a “part woman/part machine” cyborg whose visual display’s pulsing blue text dissolves the oppositions between human and machine, inside and outside, mind and body, and virtual and real. On the last page of Microserfs the presiding image is of Underwood and his girlfriend, his parents, and the rest of the Oop! gang sitting or lying around a swimming pool in the dark night, their handheld flashlights and portable lasers shining, “cutting the weather, extending ourselves into the sky, into the end of the universe with precision technology running so fine.”32 Whereas Jean Baudrillard once upon a time theorized robotic humans so entranced by and with technology that culture became defined as hypervisible and hyperabundant communication without community, Coupland’s utopian dream of becoming electronic dramatizes an alternative postregional and posthuman “geography of hope” in the American West (to use Wallace Stegner’s famous phrase). On the one hand, Coupland’s electronic

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“geography of hope,” primarily through its scattered intertextual allusions to “frontier” myths and imagery, discloses how the “city-regions” of the postindustrial American West are fully interdependent with the flows of a deterritorialized, global economy. And yet on the other hand, in contrast to the Bill’s “nothing” face, the Oop! gang— through its dialogues about whether (or how) machines have souls; its fumbling attempts at intimacy; its critique of Legos—seeks to cultivate sensory experiences and meaningful affective relations within an increasingly programmed everyday drift. As the final scene of the novel suggests, the Oop! gang gathered around the swimming pool under a dark western sky and “extending [themselves] into the sky, into the end of the universe,” their flashlight beams representing a kind of miniaturized version of the Luxor casino’s vertical white light, projects not only an embodied sense of being together but a momentary realization of the hope that through technological interfaces one can become “transhuman,” can “extend” oneself literally as well as imaginatively beyond the constraints of class, sex, gender, race, and ethnicity. In Coupland’s vision, in other words, social restoration and spiritual renewal in a “global network of local places” starts with altering human consciousness—starts with an emergent occupational neo-tribe interfacing with the electronic frontier.33 Notes
1. Castells, The Informational City, 349. 2. Dirlik, “The Global in the Local,” 31. 3. Soja, Postmetropolis, 205, 208. 4. The phrase “postnational and transnational ways of knowing” is from Lipsitz, American Studies in a Moment of Danger, 301. For more on the calls for and examples of newer critical paradigms in American cultural studies, see Rowe, The New American Studies; and Pease and Wiegman, The Futures of American Studies. 5. Featherstone, “Localism, Globalism, and Cultural Identity,” 47. 6. Frampton, “Towards a Critical Regionalism.” 7. “Critical localism” is Arif Dirlik’s term for “the local as a site of resistance and liberation,” not a “localism” that is exploited by global capital. “The Global in the Local,” 38–42.

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8. Miyoshi, “A Borderless World?” 95. 9. Appadurai, Modernity at Large, 33–35. 10. Appadurai, Modernity at Large, 37. 11. Soja, Postmodern Geographies, esp. chap. 7 (pp. 157–89). Also useful is Storper, The Regional World. 12. I am indebted to Mark C. Taylor’s Hiding (293–305) for this contrast between the organized architectures of a center-periphery and contemporary technoculture model. 13. Sassen, “Spatialities and Temporalities,” 226. 14. Coupland, Microserfs, 337. 15. Sassen, “Spatialities and Temporalities,” 226. 16. Spivak, “From Haverstock Hill Flat,” 29. 17. The phrase “Greater Mexico” comes from Limón, American Encounters, 3. It is Limón’s term for an imagined community of Mexicans and people of Mexican descent existing “beyond Laredo and from either side [of the border], with all their commonalities and differences.” Both the regional imaginary of the “wired,” high-technoculture West and that of “Greater Mexico” illustrate how the flows of people, technology, capital, and images erode geopolitical boundaries and the isomorphic concept of culture and place. 18. Appadurai, Modernity at Large, 37. 19. Kollin, “Wister and the ‘New West,’” 252. 20. In this context we could also consider such texts as the 2004 Disneyproduced film Hidalgo, which features, near its end, the appearance in the Arabian desert of the ghosts of an Indian family massacred at Wounded Knee; director Ron Howard’s The Missing (2004), his remake of the classic 1956 John Ford film The Searchers, in which kidnappers are led by an Indian “witch” with supernatural powers; or Sherman Alexie’s 1996 novel Indian Killer, which explores issues of cross-cultural adoption, tribal extinction and survival, and the politics of identity in a narrative focusing on a mysterious serial killer who haunts the Seattle area. 21. Coupland, Microserfs, 4, 5. 22. Coupland, Microserfs, 338. 23. Coupland, Microserfs, 355. 24. Coupland, Microserfs, 355. 25. Coupland, Microserfs, 3. 26. Gilbert-Rolfe, Beauty and the Contemporary Sublime, 118. 27. Gilbert-Rolfe, Beauty and the Contemporary Sublime, 80. 28. Gilbert-Rolfe, Beauty and the Contemporary Sublime, 113.

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29. In addition to Coupland’s trademark popular-culture allusions (including the use of brand-name products), the novel’s many references to games and its plot’s overall stress on the competition for investments, hightech employees, and ownership of intellectual property indirectly register another contemporary sociocultural and economic context. This is the rise to the foreground in the commercial sector of so-called game theory and strategic analysis, as exemplified by such books as Michael Porter’s Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors (New York: Free Press, 1980). 30. Coupland, Microserfs, 364. 31. Coupland, Microserfs, 369. 32. Coupland, Microserfs, 371. 33. See Featherstone, “Localism, Globalism, and Cultural Identity,” 66–67, for more on the emergence of postmodern neo-tribalism and its ambivalent relationship to global marketing.

2. Everyday Regionalisms in Contemporary Critical Practice
krista comer

At issue here is the circulation of images of westernness in various global consumer marketplaces—in particular, images of surfer “girls” that include women. The case is for a gender-inflected critical practice able to accommodate new global performances of the western local. I am aiming for a demonstration of one kind of new critical regionalism, one discussion of “postwests” or (in Mike Davis fashion) future Wests already certainly here. I proceed in this way to recognize how older western social identities (like the mountain man/pioneer/ cowboy) take on new meanings (i.e., surfers/surfer girls) alongside the emergence of new forms of identity, sociality, commerce, and politics. To make clear the multiple genealogies underwriting this kind of project and a postwestern critical enterprise more generally, I lay out in an extended introduction what I see as the two overlapping traditions informing a volume of collected essays such as this one—the New Western History (and the dialogue of western literature and critics with it) as well as the “spatial turn” in critical theory. Ultimately, I urge western studies to embrace expansive, flexible interdisciplinary methodologies, since the kinds of western meaningmaking processes occurring today in so many parts of the world will entirely exceed processes conventionally delimited by “the literary.” I also advocate serious and respectful attention to young peoples’ commercial cultures, since within them so many newcomers come into regular contact with the everyday regionalisms they understand to be western. In the early 1990s, before the stock market soared or the implications of the fall of the Berlin Wall became clearer—that is, before

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the undeniable arrival of “the global” in all facets of daily American life—the New Western History was at the height of its popular visibility. As a discourse of national reckoning with a less-than-triumphal or mythic western past, the New Western History found a ready public. Sign-in books at the 1991 watershed Smithsonian exhibit The West as America indicated that museum visitors approved the language of “conquest” to describe this past by a ratio of two to one, a shift in public consciousness surprisingly in time with New Western History’s civil-rights-inspired political values.1 Western literary texts—by writers from Ivan Doig to Maxine Hong Kingston to Leslie Marmon Silko to Rudolfo Anaya—participated notably in this popular reassessment of the western past. Indeed, historians often found themselves featured in mass media alongside writers, together representing something like a “New West.” In the shadow of this media-showered public history project, mentioned on nobody’s A-list of “people to consult,” the so-called New Western Criticism came to be. Critics put themselves repeatedly into conversation with historians about the literary West and its centuryand-a-half commentary on the matter of conquest, arguing that the two fields had much common cause to make.2 But the effort across disciplines was usually one-sided.3 As the 1990s stretched on, the arrival of the global became ever more explicit and everyday. Academic as well as popular history and literary discussions in the United States moved self-consciously away from “the national” as the challenge of thinking both postnationally and transnationally (two ways to conceive of the global) took center stage. For lots of reasons, among them the changing status of “the national,” the New Western History faded from public prominence, as did luminary western writers themselves. Not so, however, with western literary studies. Belatedly, and thanks in part to the New Western History’s and western writers’ successes at producing “the American West” as a viable public intellectual project for the late 1980s and early 1990s, the New Western Criticism found newly receptive audiences, among scholars if not the general public. Prominent and promising scholars in the field were for the first time featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education; review es-

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says about the field were commissioned (Forrest Robinson for American Literary History, Stephen Tatum for Modern Fiction Studies).4 The field could be said to be flourishing. Evidence of this growing, transformed field is to be found in many sources: a new presence of West-related criticism in national scholarly journals;5 in the publication of various critical books that in topic and method or execution suggest a paradigm shift in the field at large;6 by the fact that we “inside” the field now speak with some confidence to those “outside” the field of a “New Western Criticism” or even, perhaps most interestingly, of “critical regionalism.”7 The present volume of essays obviously aims to explicate and advance the last goal in particular. As an epistemological project, western critical regionalism has partially recuperated “the regional” as not inevitably productive of conservative nationalisms, masculine or white authority, or essentialist/authentic definitions of place (all of these features of midcentury regionalisms). If, since the founding of western literary criticism in the mid-1960s, its strengths have included its deep historicism, its confrontation with high and low cultural divides, its wrestling with western masculinity, and its identification of region and space as categories of analysis able to intrude in novel ways upon operations of power, more recently, and rapidly, the field’s center has shifted. Today, gender and racial difference motivate some of the field’s most innovative rearticulations. Theoretical inquiry is sustained more systematically, cutting across well-known topics like popular culture and the West’s relationship to it, like the relationship between regionalism and nationalism but now including postnationalism, like the status of historical narrative and the intimacies between “the literary” and “the historical.” Critics show a much more sophisticated sense of what Nat Lewis (following Baudrillard) calls western literature’s role in the production of the real, the authentic.8 We may even have been freed to focus at last on “the literary,” if by that is meant freedom in critical practice to release the literary West from the hold of the “real” historical West, and therefore to enter discussions of representation. The field’s current struggles have to do with the partiality of the

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recuperation successes, and here let us take the Western Literature Association (wla) as a loose “real time” or “live” barometer of the field on the ground. Explicitly I mean that, in this matter of recuperation, the performance of new social relationships and understandings between people (not just the production of improved ideas) is very much part of the recuperative equation—having the potential to inspire or disappoint larger social engagement. In terms of nonwhite ethnic studies, in my view wla is best at borderlands studies. It is most challenged (as is the American Studies Association and U.S. academia at large) when it comes to Native American studies and the explosive challenges posed by its epistemologies, multilingualism, its relationship to nationalism and definitions of modernity. Related to the challenge of the indigenous is that posed by Asian/Pacific Islander studies and people, as my own recent work on global surf culture has taught me. That last social geography is not yet much on the map of university-based western critical imaginations. Finally, feminist western literary and cultural studies remains in its infancy, in spite of key inspirational texts in the field and the leadership of wla by feminist scholars. This state of affairs was brought clearly home in the processes that saw to publication the two review essays I mentioned earlier (those commissioned by Modern Fiction Studies and American Literary History). Editors of each journal, apparently on the alert to a new critical trend and wishing to showcase it, forwarded to reviewers texts demonstrative of either the most stereotypical sense of the West, such as “frontier” texts, or texts exclusively by male scholars and often about masculinity.9 Fortunately, in both cases, reviewers wrote capaciously grounded field surveys. Still, concern is warranted about how the New Western Criticism and its evolution will be represented, especially how feminist genealogies will figure as acknowledged resources for rethinking western cultural landscapes, especially when it comes to masculinity. Critics need to actively educate nonspecialists about what might seem less obvious genealogies forwarding this new West. Without that kind of careful, principled record keeping, the risk of replicating a mythic white-male center runs strong.

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Taking our struggles as growing pains rather than failures, our ongoing large disjunctions across the field’s various constituencies have to do (for me) with how it is that critics aim to conceptualize “place,” what knowledges we understand ourselves to be producing and for whom, and with what kinds of political and social effects. How do we talk about “place” when, as Ursula Heise recently remarked, the vocabularies of “‘authentic belonging,’ the ‘spirit of place,’ ‘rootedness,’ and ‘dwelling’” have been persuasively criticized for their essentialist assumptions, their potential politics of exclusion, and their neglect of the mobility of the local?10 At the same time, again drawing on Heise, critical rhetorics much celebrated during the 1990s—nomadology, hybridity, migration, exile, border crossing, traveling cultures—have also been critiqued extensively and persuasively. So how do we talk about “place” now? What methods of scholarly practice will critics ultimately stand behind from our various institutional locations of the future? Questions such as these clearly locate the field debates and theoretical impulse of the New Western Criticism within the broader “spatial turn” in critical theory, a trend emerging across the humanities and social sciences since the late 1970s. Various new spatial keywords— ”regionalism,” “regionalization,” “territorial complexes,” “deterritorialized publics,” “borderlands,” “glocalisms,” “the transregional”— have come to the fore of critical theory because they seem especially well suited to an analysis of present-day global economic restructuring. They map, according to Christopher Connery, “the materiality of new capitalist spaces,” and insist (in Arjun Appadurai’s formulation) on more process-based geographies than aggregate-trait geographies—a reworking of the Eurocentric social geography of area studies toward postcolonial remappings of the global political.11 Attention to regional (versus exclusively nation-based) political economy is one of the more novel ways to theorize new economic structures of production, labor, global migration, and culture. In one of the first usages of the rhetoric of “critical” regionalism, geographer Edward Soja sees its analytic powers as able to “synthesize the urban and global.”12 But any number of thinkers—from sociology, anthropol-

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ogy, global studies, critical Asian studies, urban studies—might be brought to bear to answer this challenge of reconceptualizing “the local” or “place” and then working, through it, to formulate theories of newer global communities and relations (and vice versa).13 A revamped “regional” perspective might be understood, then, to underwrite American studies in its postnational or critical American studies phase. Critical western regionalism would seem to offer fresh and untapped thinking for contemporary academic discourse about how to theorize place, space, subjectivity, and transregional social formations. Two crucial influences have carried a revamped western regionalism to the fore. The first, the New Western History, is obviously if sometimes contentiously acknowledged, and the dialogue between western criticism and history is direct, if one-way. But most of us (including myself ) seem just now to be “catching up” to the location of our own work in the larger spatial turn in critical theory, an unawareness no doubt owing to a similar delayed recognition of the importance of these topics to the larger field of American studies, which as an organization, in its 2005 annual meeting, finally put the American Studies Association in explicit conversation with “Space and Place in American Cultures.” As I see it, if the New Western History has been one “local” (meaning quasi-national) discursive context facilitating the emergence of the New Western Criticism, another more internationally driven and cross-disciplinary (but not history-based) resource comes out of critical genealogies making up the spatial turn. Critical western regionalism, in this guise, speaks through a changed vocabulary or countervocabulary of westernness; its keywords are “borders,” “the urban,” “postmodernity,” “migration,” “indigeneity,” “mestizaje,” “globalization,” “desire,” “women” (though not usually feminism), “the simulacra,” “the global/local.” Surfing Transregional Circuits of the New World Order I’m not sure whether I speak to the choir when I assert that the dominant cultural work of western narratives today, both in the U.S. and global marketplace, is to exploit ideas about and images of the Amer-

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ican West in order to sell products and political positions. That is, what we might presently want to call “regional identity” more than ever travels the circuits of global capitalism, suggesting to viewers and to consumers of durable and nondurable goods that however diffuse it might be, they are engaged in the production of some kind of “western meaning.” The products might include obvious ones like trucks or cigarettes or less obvious structures of feeling attached to them like “the authentic” or, the historical staple of Westerns, “the masculine real.” Signs of “western” might also carry the power of state sponsorship—as in the case of President Bush’s retreats to Crawford Ranch, invocation of the mythical line at the Alamo to separate cowards from heroes in the war on terror, and the posting of Old West–style “Wanted” lists after 9/11. The concern here is how we map these circuits of meaning, chart their political implications. How do we make sense of what Matt Herman wonderfully calls “everyday regionalisms,” the structures of feeling and doing that get articulated through the performance of regional vernaculars?14 How are we to understand, in Lawrence Buell’s terms, “complex forms of affiliation involving identification with particular places that at the same time generate and authorize a translocal, transregional, transnational sense of collective belonging and purpose”?15 In the case of the Bush example, nineteenth-century meanings of righteous western expansion have been reinvigorated and put in the service of current political agendas. These redeployments of western iconography and popular memory have displaced “the West” of the New Western History, permitting multiple current wars to be waged in defense of the values of “Western civilization.” Surfing, I submit, is very much in play in this historical moment as both a western American and a global signifying system. For instance, I would notice how familiar a western profile the surfer cuts across many media. Think about classic “Old Western” visual themes like that of the lone male and white figure framed against a redemptive/unpeopled (read depopulated) western landscape. It can be pioneer surveying open land, cowboy riding into the cinematic distance, proud Marlboro man atop his horse, or solitary surfer against sea-

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scape at sunset. These are related visual economies, mutually constitutive. Surfers are the most recent enactments of an older, familiar western cast of characters—whether mountain man, gold miner, settler, cowboy-rancher. (I will deal shortly with the legacy for surfer girls of the settler woman.) As visuals, most of these have traveled the world for nearly two hundred years, producing profit and various knowledges about the American, the real, the Other, the masculine, the sublime, the bohemian, the “edge.” The implicit plot formula rehearsed by this older figure is what is important, and the fact that surfers as contemporary heroes at the same time tell a new twenty-firstcentury tale. This tale, I believe, charts a critical (if ambivalent) response to current ideologies of consumerism. It forwards a renovated form of white masculinity that the subculture of surfing has been fine-tuning since the late 1950s. It privileges forms of rigorous global outdoor sport/pleasure, like surfing, as collective performances of a new kind of transnational politics. Surf culture is very Green these days (and global in its Greenness), very intergenerational. It is also, especially in commercial culture, “girl friendly.” I’m suggesting that new social formations of global westernness are under construction. In Appadurian terms, they constitute imaginative “staging grounds for action, and not only for escape.”16 As discourse about both the American West and Western civilization, I would put surfing in some kind of complicated cosmopolitan and secular contest with Bush’s Christian cowboy diplomacies. With regard to racial formation, the subculture’s renovation of white masculinity has sent surfers in global pursuit of “the perfect wave” for half a century, establishing an international or diasporic surfing public along the way, and with it, many a postcolonial conundrum. These, again, to critics of the West, should be partly familiar dilemmas. The white western protagonist often simultaneously co-opts features of indigeneity (he “goes native”) even as he bordercrosses as critique of normative wasp discourse. He comes to compromise the very thing/person/image he admired and needed in order to formulate different visions of manhood. Surfing’s love affair with Hawaiian native manhood and islander “Aloha” spirit (and women)

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is no exception; neither is surf culture’s (and southern California’s) unconscious claim upon Greater Mexico and its structures of everyday feeling and doing. Any “new” or critical regionalism will not forget to ask after the implications of these last points for the traditional West’s “others.” By the same token, I would not dismiss as simple appropriation these border-crossing efforts; it makes no sense to condemn people for the contradictions they face even while the responses they chart in efforts to address contradiction must be held to account. The fact remains that surfers in the postwar (post-1945) period have been in search of much more than perfect waves; they have been after fundamentally better ways of everyday living, including living more interracial and flexibly masculine lives. The double duty that surfers perform in contemporary culture— invoking a familiar iconographic past in order to comment and intervene on a changed present—is nowhere more tangible than in the figure of the surfer girl. Her high-profile presence in global surf discourse suggests that older formulas are being updated and made relevant not only to an age of cyberspace and global economic restructuring but to girl power in all its implications. If the trope of singular figure in contest with the depopulated wild is one we might read as typically productive of individualist, imperial, masculinist national subjectivity, now put in place instead the figure of the youthful female surfer. Her appearance as the subject, not object, of these masculinist visual economies suggests that even wilderness (“extreme”) landscapes—the ultimate proving ground of the national masculine past—are open to young female navigation. Heir not only to the pioneer/cowboy’s rugged individualism but to the pioneer woman’s/cowgirl’s scrappy toughness, the girl who can surf knows historic opportunity when she sees it and takes pride in being no man’s fragile flower. As I have archived in the book project from which this essay draws, images of surfer girls in American popular culture since the mid-1990s have gone from occasional and exotic visual anomalies to being mainstay representational figures of global twenty-first-century womanhood. That is, approximately in the same period when the New Western History faded from public view and President Bush’s

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version of the West ascended to national prominence, a competing vision of the West—embodied by the surfer and surfer girl and underwritten by a notoriously antiauthoritarian subculture—massively proliferated. The clear-eyed, super-fit, level-headed female surfer stood as poster child for all that young women might become in the twenty-first century. If it were not for the fact that metaphors of surfing circulate today in cultural contexts that have nothing to do with sand and swells and seagulls, the story of surfing would begin and end relatively locally. But such is not the case. Since the end of the cold war, the values and language associated with surf culture have articulated some of the most consequential changes in global economic and social life. Most far-reachingly, people all over the world now “surf ” the internet: we don’t swim it, fly it, or use some other verb to express the “doing” of it. “Surfing” has emerged as the metaphor of choice to describe users’ experiences of new world-transforming media.17 Like most master metaphors, this one has been normalized, come to seem natural, nearly overnight. To interrupt the normalization process, I ask why the metaphor of “surfing the web” caught on in so many languages during the 1990s, instead of some alternative metaphor. What is it about surfing, surf culture and history, that captured that decade’s popular imagination and collective longings? And what does any of this have to do with actual women surfers, representations of surfer girls, or girl power? As a topic for critical regionalism, I think it is fairly clear that there would be no glamour or cultural power to rhetorics of “surfing” without all the simultaneous western regional meanings that have attached to it in the United States and the historical ability of “America’s West” to signal a global colonial discourse about Western civilization. Surfing’s global status as metaphor depends upon a renewable western (including Californian) regional identity. I have taken up the vexed status of California and its western credentials elsewhere, and I wish to reiterate that in that debate I come out on the side of California as very much part of the West. From the early gold strikes to the post-1945 period, it is hard to imagine a migration destination more indicative of western allure than California,

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and after the first Gidget movie appeared in 1958, one more associated with landscapes of idealized youth, “all-American kids,” and fresh starts: that is, the West again as America. The Beach Blanket movies (set in motion by Gidget) and the furious cinematic response of the subculture to Hollywood’s popularized versions of surfing produced a rich supply of postwar western/Californian heroes and anti-heroes, often blending “the Californian” with “the Hawaiian.” Although subcultural production of manhood in particular differed from Hollywood formulas, both visualized the surfer girl—perhaps most memorably in the person of blond, perky Sandra Dee, the original Gidget. My point here is that this surfer girl, this “California girl” of Beach Boys fame, herself became eventually available as a vaguely western icon, traveling the world with a certain reputation. Underneath the sun-touched streaky-blond California “look,” she remains a rough-and-tumble cowgirl, able to do what it takes in masculinist cultural landscapes—this time not the range or ranch but the lineup offshore where surfers wait for waves. Keeping in mind the image of the California girl and representations of “liberated femininity” in global consumer culture and girlpower target markets, I want to move this discussion to a new form of fashion advertising recently birthed by surf-industry heavyweight Quiksilver Corporation. In 2003, Quiksilver began to promote its girl’s wear logo (Roxy Girl) through corporate-hired literature. In terms of the political economy producing this literary product, consider that Quiksilver has, since 1986, been trading on the New York Stock Exchange to the tune of an average $600 million annual gross sales. Around the world Quiksilver exercises an immeasurable influence on surf culture, competitive surfing events, and the style of surfing, not to mention various local non-U.S. economies that gear up for the infusion of U.S. dollars these events import. The female logo, Roxy, since it has little appreciable competition, to an even greater degree influences women’s surfing. In addition to manufacturing surf apparel and accessories, Roxy underwrites major amateur as well as professional women’s surfing events around the world, and Roxy’s own “team riders” are none other than the world’s best female

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surfers, most notably five-time world champion Lisa Anderson, sixtime champion Layne Beachley, as well as younger up-and-coming champions like Chelsea Georgeson and Sofia Mulanovich.18 (All of these young women but Mulanovich have the “Cali girl” look, even if Beachley and Georgeson are Australians.) Since surfing has usually had something of a bad-boy image and parents of teenage girls flee from anything predatory when it comes to their daughters, Quiksilver hit upon the idea to expand its market share by revising the Roxy Girl image so it might suggest “nice sporty girls who also read.” In October 2003 the first novel in a new series for young adult females debuted under the name Luna Bay: A Roxy Girl Series, with the Roxy pro rider Veronica Kay (the quintessential California girl) shown surfing on the novel’s cover. Subsequent novels generally featured a good read about surfer-related themes while displaying the Roxy logo on bookjacket covers and offering Roxy clothing products and other prizes (one was surf sessions with the pros) as part of contests the publisher (HarperEntertainment) ran.19 Like most advertising campaigns it was a short-lived phenomenon, but over about eighteen months a half dozen novels were distributed while several others were in press, and on the Roxy website one could find a book club, just above a link entitled “be a model!”20 Site visitors could join the book clubs or discuss books, and a Roxy editor responded to girls’ comments. Discussions always included the girls’ hometowns, which showed a remarkable internationalism: Australia, Puerto Rice, England, Fiji, South Africa, Japan, as well as less predictable parts of the United States (Midwest, New Jersey). Marketing ploy or not, these global addresses are not random. The international women’s surfing pro tour (sponsored, remember, by Roxy) stops in surfing communities in all of the non-U.S. nations but England. Indeed, these pro-tour events and local surf communities make up some of the transregional hot spots or Appadurian “finanscapes” of global surfing economies. In terms of the novels’ story lines, each one takes up the newest adventure in the lives of five best girlfriends who also are competitive surfers. They live in a fictional beachside town in southern Cali-

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fornia, somewhere (I would put it) between Los Angeles and San Diego. The girlfriends themselves represent classic types of surfers: hard-core short-board “shredders,” big-wave surfers, longboarders, soul surfers, and one, the central protagonist, who combines these types. Importantly, the social base of their friendships is a small business—a surf shop run by the central protagonist’s parents. So readers’ introductions into the everyday structure of surfers’ lives come at least as much through water scenes as through “hip commerce”: the cool surf shop, where the girls are employed as camp counselors for summer surf camps. The economy of contemporary surf culture—its local shops, instructional camps, international competitive circuit, product-endorsement opportunities for celebrity/competitive surfers, provision of “desirable” modeling work for young women (modeling their sport, not their bodies)—mediates young women’s relationships to surfing, to one another, to adult authority and institutions, and to globalization, since the business of surfing in this series clearly is global. Significantly, the series features the presence of a three-time world champion as the mother of the central protagonist, a kind of second-wave (blond though graying) feminist role model for all the young women in her social orbit, and in whose footsteps the daughter tries, with a great deal of anxiety, to walk. Though again short-lived, the series captured many of the defining tensions in girls’ surf culture at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Consider, for example, the series’ generational profile and its address to a global youth market. Luna Bay is aimed at nine- to twelveyear-olds, and while promotional materials note the series’ “surfer themes,” the overarching thematics of the texts have to do with their sense of issues current to Generation Y (born between 1980 and 2000) as they intersect with very generalized “surfer girl” challenges.21 In an age of popular moral panics in the United States about self-loathing “Ophelias” and competitive “queen bees”—panics largely about U.S. Gen Y female youth—this new Roxy girl is one whose mental health is stable, guaranteed by sports activities.22 None of these Roxy girls are “mean girls.” They back one another when the going gets tough, and they bring each other back to sisterly sanity when anyone

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gets too boy-distracted. While protagonists sometimes enjoy the encouragement of male peers, if they do not, the new surfer girl “rips” (surfs aggressively) anyway, cheered on by her girlfriends. For her, no surf spot is too heavy, no hard-core male locals scene too hostile. All the while the new surfer girl respects her femininity—she does not denounce “girl-ness,” insisting it be valued, taken seriously. She is not a “tomboy”; she does not secretly wish to have been born a boy. In keeping with so much Gen Y discourse about body issues, the body coding of this new surfer girl is both conventionally idealized and a critique of sexist body prescriptions. A central textual drama is girls’ navigation of beauty culture such that they are not inevitably reinscribed by it in ways that dramatize internalized sexism. Girls are fit, strong; they feel good about their strength and what it permits them to do in the water. At the same time, the cultural imperative of “athletic hetero-sexy” keeps them ever anxious that their shoulders, stomachs, legs, hair, and so forth will mark them as too athletic, too this or not enough that. In the characters’ relationships to food, readers have some feeling for the middle-class health norms governing the series. At the same time, for example, one character’s glee about airplane food demonstrates the novelty for her of a first experience aboard any airplane, a glee revelatory of lower-than-middle-class roots. In an effort to narrativize the very mixed-class makeup and complicated class allegiances of surf communities globally, the series tries to break through the numbness of much young-adult literature to the topic of class. The inscription of racial coding upon bodies is also in keeping with typical Gen Y visual economies: these are tales that represent bonds between often mixed-race young women. The series’ central protagonist is blond, and through blondness readers understand that she is white. Her name, Luna, is given by her parents for its Spanish meaning and to link her to the place they live, Luna Bay (a Spanish place-name). Two others of the crew also are white, Rae and Cricket. Another of the surfer girls, Kanani, is mixed race by birth, Hawaiian and white. She is adopted however, and her adoptive parents are white. Isobel is dark haired, and somewhat clichéd Spanish dialogue

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illustrates and celebrates “Hispanic family values,” setting her up as Mexican American. But racial difference (versus something like “cultural difference”) is not finally defined as topical. Navigating the sexism of the larger cultural moment unites these girls. To fight it, they band together. There is no suggestion that race would meaningfully divide them. What is youthfully feminist about these tales is the bravado that animates girl culture, its willingness to identify as well as resist overt sexism, and to show girl-gang loyalty in the face of pressures for young women to destructively compete with one another. The Luna Bay series, then, is in broad dialogue with popular culture’s representation of Gen Y girls and their gangs and crews. Consider, for instance, the Hollywood blockbuster film Blue Crush (and the cinema of girl power underwriting it)23 and two reality tv shows, wb’s Boarding House and mtv’s Surf Girls. For well over a decade, feminist images and rhetorics have been incorporated into the ideological center of consumer culture and its dialogue with female purchasing power. Girls’ principal schooling in “feminist ideals” often comes directly and exclusively through promotional materials surrounding teen market products. Male-female power struggles figure explicitly in Luna Bay, and girls note it as such and battle it as such. Although the word “sexism” never appears, these girls are not its innocent or complicit victims. Insofar as racial diversity is the norm of most popular youth Gen Y story lines, and “cross-cultural respect” is the constant and given narrative informing “diversity” in mainstream U.S. popular youth culture, we might say that notions of tolerance have been aggressively incorporated into youth markets. White-nonwhite tensions simply do not figure in Luna Bay. The reason they do not, I would argue, has to do with the fact that “race” does not figure, as a word or concept. Moments of “difference,” even as they are explicitly encoded upon girls’ bodies as racial (blond hair; thick, dark hair), always get read as “cultural.” Not surprisingly, then, there is no sense that there ever was or could presently be something like white advantage. (Silences such as this one make it more possible to overlook the fact that the blond

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people of the text own the surf shop and center the dramatic and economic structure of the tales. I will say more about such silences in my conclusion.) Border crossing and “mixedness” is at the center of this female narrative, suggesting that some new white racial formation is being staged. California as a region seems a “natural” site for the demographics (white/Mexican/Asian/Pacific Islander) generating this structure of feeling; one then projected globally through the California girl. The parent company of Roxy, Quiksilver, represents to potential investors its corporate strength in exactly these teen markets, quoting on its website the impressive fact that the teenage market has over $200 billion of discretionary spending power each year in the United States alone! Girl “power” in this vein has very much to do with purchasing power, across race. At the same time, “tolerance” has never been so lucrative, or so necessary to continued profitability. A number of coming-of-age stories are working in this series—that of second- and third-wave feminism, of Gen Y American girls, of girlfriendly surf culture as a liberalized or updated version of masculinist surf history. There is also the coming-of-age of the discursive formation of “surfing the web,” whose rhetorics and cultural logics are a preferred way of understanding first worlders’ sense of the new world order. In terms of theorizing these very contemporary comingof-age narratives, I would locate them in the context of a formal convention—the bildungsroman of the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century—which played a specific historical role: that of representing and narrativizing a nascent capitalist modernity. As Franco Moretti argues, such a task was accomplished by inventing “youth” as a modern social location capable of articulating tensions between more “traditional” social contracts and the individualism that modernity occasioned.24 These tensions of course are clearly, if not exclusively, male-biased and Eurocentric, meaning the social compact has always constrained women’s individual liberties far more than it has men’s, and “maturity,” as Rosemary George shows, often means coming home to Westernized conclusions and geographies.25 In terms of gender life cycle, the apprenticeship or bildungsroman plot traditionally assumes its protagonist’s ultimate claims upon a skill or trade, and especially a

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modern, western, social location, in excess of marriage and/or parenthood. Travel abroad—to the colonies perhaps—and sexual initiation aid the journey—for men. By contrast, women’s unchaperoned travel or sexual experience destroys successful resolution: female major life “choice” is that of partner and/or motherhood.26 But clearly, the women’s liberation movement in the United States has altered all of these foregone conclusions, and the biographies and coming-of-age stories of contemporary surfers suggest that the (male) life-cycle options of the classic bildungsroman might now be open to women. Such is the implicit claim made by the Roxy Girl series. We have in them a credible support network for female comingof-age—a female world-champ mentor, a group of accomplished and motivating peers, injunction to travel and (with definite constraints) gain sexual knowledge, and a larger global context (that of a transnational surf economy) approving their efforts. Still, if possibilities have opened for female development, the series simultaneously reads as a contemporary version of the older tradition of what Nancy Armstrong calls the conduct book.27 It is clear what “good girls” ought to do as they negotiate this demanding moment in global female history: they should compete, achieve, support one another in similar goals, take care with their appearance (but not somehow too much care), and marry. They should enact “cultural sensitivity,” since so many people will be racially mixed. In other words, that which is required now, for successful contemporary girlhood, is somehow implicitly gender-liberated and racially (“culturally”) tolerant. Girls will not merely hope for female public accomplishment in addition to fulfilling the role of wife (and eventually mother) in family life; these roles are new social mandates. As Nancy Armstrong argues, courtesy literature is implicated, along with the novel, in the feminization of culture beginning in the late eighteenth century and constitutive of the making of the middle class. It is my sense that echoes of this history operate now as a global consumer middle class is being formed. If in the nineteenth century bourgeois “civilized” womankind was under intense construction, in this moment bourgeois American girlhood is under construction.

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The terms of “successful” girlhood are prescriptively professionalist, and it is understood that competitive professionalism, not some dialogue with feminism, facilitates liberated femininity. It is far less clear what factors are to underwrite tolerance, beyond the fact that blurred boundaries between the “us” and the “them” have made “pure” racial categories an increasingly dated racial formation. The Roxy Girl texts, like surfer-girl discourse more generally, are part of an attempt to manage this new icon. The genealogy of such an icon’s evolution and circulation, I am suggesting, is one approach to a new critical regionalism. Before I turn to the essay’s final section, let me make my challenges to critical regionalism more explicit. As some readers may anticipate, I would situate my discussion of global girl power within a larger impulse to clarify what Signs recently called (in a special issue devoted to the topic) the “gender of globalization.”28 Gender has too rarely been an important analytic of the “big books” on globalization (Harvey, Soja, Appadurai, Jameson), prompting much feminist puzzlement and dissent. Carla Freeman asks why—when feminism so persuasively demonstrates the centrality of gender to all networks of production, consumption, and distribution—we get so much gender-neutral macroanalysis of the structure and history of new economic forms alongside microanalyses of women’s “fit” into them as (supposedly) gender-free workers or nationals.29 That is, if university feminism has been thoroughly changed by critical regionalisms of the postcolonial variety (i.e., Said, Spivak, Mohanty), has critical regionalism been transformed by feminism? Clearly, for me the answer is “not really.” Can anyone imagine a “serious” project that puts girl power and discourses of play at the center of global studies or contemporary world history? The skepticisms facing such a project are very revealing, and it is to them and it that I now turn. Legacies of Endless Summer One of the more interesting facets of the girl-power phenomenon is its availability to females who are no longer girls—that is, to mature women, usually baby boomers. As a final gesture toward postwest-

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ern critical horizons and methods, I report briefly on ethnographic work I have done in Sayulita, a fishing village on the Pacific coastline of Mexico, about forty-five minutes north of Puerto Vallarta by car. I went to Sayulita to study a women’s surf camp, Las Olas, which advertises itself as a “reverse finishing school” that makes “girls out of women.” In what ways, I wondered, is such a reversal appealing? I also wanted to assess female surf culture’s embrace of the discourse of “the surfari,” since the number of women making global surf treks has, until recently, been very small and the increase owes in part to female-only surf expeditions and the new girl-friendly face of contemporary surfing businesses. The goal took on a different urgency after terrorist attacks by Al Queda in Bali, in October 2003, targeted a nightclub very well known on the international professional surfing circuit to be a surfers’ hangout. Of the nearly two hundred people who died in Bali (346 wounded), many were there for surf holiday. The ethnographic thesis is that surf tourism for women (in the instance of Sayulita, mainly U.S. white women) is a case study in international and postnational female subject formation. Surfing international waters, and servicing those who do so, is one way some women as laborers and consumers articulate what it means to occupy the world as global citizens. I understand the “surfer as tourist” as a complicated phenomenon, since surfers, whether at their home breaks or away, are as much “toured upon” as those who tour, meaning that surfers are always a form of spectacle, a situation triply true for female surfers. So I am working from a model of tourism that does not castigate tourists themselves but rather examines that middle ground where local and global touristic forces come together.30 I am interested in the fact that global citizenry seems to be realized for the consumers through the categories of “play,” “travel,” and “the female body” as they come in contact with both surfing men, local “others,” and the world’s oceans. I have been tracking the role of play in the history of contemporary U.S. women’s liberation in particular, asking, are certain forms of intense play/sport, like surfing, implicitly politicizing or consciousness-changing activities? Since second-wave American feminism in-

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herits from both wasp and U.S. leftist cultures an aversion to this kind of “frivolity,” and since younger women’s tendency toward play today often is met with bitter second-wave disappointment, I am all the more interested in the relationship of American second wavers to the concept and activity of play, and I am also challenged as I try to make sense of groups of women for whom women’s liberation means something about the female body’s ability to play hard, play rough, to play for keeps, as though one’s life depends on it. I have been repeatedly challenged by skeptical colleagues about whether or not this kind of broadly understood athleticism can be considered feminist. What shall we understand from this persistent line of questioning? Shall it be determined in advance what counts as feminist? These questions bring us back to the problems of defining “the political” that underlie, I believe, so much dismissal of subcultural and countercultural movements as protopolitical, too personal and not enough political, nostalgic, and so forth. The local population of Sayulita is about three thousand (nonresident population today about two thousand). Sayulita is a town whose character, local economy, and real property ownership profile has thoroughly shifted in the last fifteen years, but especially the last five, by the appearance of tourists and tourist dollars, both coming mainly from the United States. To the extent that there is any money in Sayulita today, it comes no longer from family fishing economies but from service businesses related to tourism and nonresidents—food, lodging, curios, and sport activities. Surfing is the principal tourist attraction, since Suyalita’s natural resources include a pretty consistent reef break. It supports beginners—the current cash cow of the surf industry—at the same time the town itself is simple enough that more seasoned surfers, who like their travels rustic, make the trek as lesson givers, sports experts, water professionals, surf-shop staff, tourists (including surfing parents on holiday with their surfing children), and, of course, more capitalized business owners, like the snowboarder-turned-surfer who founded Las Olas, Bev Sanders. Hers is the principal surf business in town. In the context of surf camps currently in international opera-

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tion—upwards of one thousand across the globe—Las Olas is more the norm than the exception in its overall philosophy of surfing and its understanding of gender relations. To the degree that these surf camps overtly theorize the status of women, and the women’s camps and businesses often do, they do so in classic (meaning essentialist) ecofeminist terms. Women are “instinctive caretakers,” the mission statement of Las Olas asserts. “Empower us and the whole world benefits.” The strategy or path to empowerment lies in play and the link between girlhood and play. “Our strength can be discovered by the little girl inside who just loves to play in the waves.” By providing an opportunity for women to develop a “friendship with the ocean,” Las Olas hopes to facilitate a new connection to the waves and to foster a sense of the ocean as “a living breathing thing.” Taking her lead from the third-wave ecofeminist Julia Butterfly Hill, a recurrent visitor to Las Olas, Sanders sees human connection to the natural world as a precursor to environmentalist activism. That relationship, she believes, “enables women to speak up for what we believe in, the rights of our families and communities, or on behalf of an abused ocean or forest.” Sanders’s ecofeminist successes in her hometown of Benicia, above San Francisco, suggest the political efficacy (especially in U.S. contexts) of her mission statement. The footprint she leaves in Mexico is a more complicated matter. Ethnographic work with the “older women” of the camp (over forty-five) suggests that their play, inside and out of the surf, is in very interesting dialogue with contemporary discourses about girl power. The first camp I visited included a group of some twenty-five campers, about a dozen of whom were women from the Bay Area who call themselves “the Hot Flashes.” These women play sports together at home, support one another’s families (most are parents, and many are single parents), and traveled to Sayulita in honor of one woman’s fiftieth birthday. It was their occupancy of public space that I found most notable, for their group behavior had the unselfconscious effect of taking over and dominating local restaurants, the beach break, and the camp culture in general. In their unselfconsciousness they acted very often like U.S. teenage girls. Through performances like public

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loud singing mini-skits (“California Girls” a song of choice), done in costume, or parodies in nightclubs of sexualized dancing, these women used their voices and their bodies (and most of them were large) to engage in outrageous violations of decorous female public behavior. They reported it all to be in the name of play, of having fun. In many ways the Hot Flashes embodied the freedom that Bev Sanders imagines girls possess. As a group they became fine examples of reverse finishing school experience, taking for themselves the prerogatives that usually fall to men in public spaces, and in so doing, opening up a much larger space for the whole group of women surfers to play and be powerful as girls/women. As a critical perspective from which to enter discussions of globalization and transregionalisms, how are we to analyze this kind of “girl culture”? From a female surf history perspective, one of the things going on at Las Olas is the meeting up, on Mexican soil, of various newcomers to surfing. These are typically U.S. beginners who, in Mexico, encounter for the first time representatives from much older and established northern as well as southern California surfing communities. The representatives of these developed communities are quite aware that if people travel to Sayulita to learn to surf today, seasoned surfers have been trekking south of the border since the 1950s: to Baja or San Felipe, and then later to Puerto Escondido (also known as “the Mexican Pipeline”). What ultimately is being passed on at a surf camp like Las Olas, and in most surf camps, is not just surf skill (how to paddle and stand up) but a sense of the geographical imagination and history of surf culture, and at Las Olas, female surf culture. Experienced surfers (including the teachers of Las Olas) have been schooled over the course of their subcultural lives in what we might call the ethos of Endless Summer (1966), the subculture’s first and still premier canonical film. Endless Summer represents the initial attempt to visualize the global by what turned out to be a very influential group of young southern California white surfers—the first to represent the culture to itself as subculture. The film crystallized in people’s minds a very specific structure of feeling having to do with surfing, music, and certain “California-ish” cultural and social mores—and

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then it transferred that “California feeling” to a series of related global places that eventually cohered in the 1970s and 1980s into a global surfing circuit and public culture. (These places would count among them the international surf spots noted in the Luna Bay series.) As scholars across the humanities and social sciences now routinely assert, globalization always works from some “home” or local place. For American surfers “home” has most often meant not only a home break where one surfs as a local, but simultaneously “inside” of the subculture’s movies, magazines, and more recently, videos. If surfing is a water sport or activity, and hence produces “place connections” to specific surf breaks, surf culture is always also a “lifestyle,” relying upon onshore community and infrastructure. Hence connections to surf breaks translate into specific kinds of connections to the towns, cities, or ecosystems in which surf breaks are located. The process of place-affinity I am working with, then, is quite local at the same time the “local” occurs across quasi-organized larger global and transregional networks that (in the case of surfing) are economic, military, cultural, technological, gendered, generational, and touristic. While space does not permit me to fully unpack this claim, the argument has to do with the international landscapes on which California surfers historically enacted new forms of white Protestant masculinity—landscapes both imaginative and real. The best known of these of course is Hawaii and its Aloha spirit, central both to Endless Summer and to surf culture’s evolving global imagination and political unconscious. “California-ish” structures of feeling seemed relatively compatible with the non-urgent or decelerated everyday pace associated with Hawaii, and Polynesia more generally. But how did California itself get associated with decelerations or “relaxed lifestyle” except through the fact of its earlier Califorñio identity and history? Known for grand fiestas, outdoor sport and play, generosity of friendship, the culture of the colonial Mexican/Califorñio elite informs the core of that California-ish structure of feeling so dear to and palpable in Endless Summer (and seemingly so endangered by postwar California crowding, migration, suburban sprawl). And yet also so invisible and overlooked: Mexico never appears in Endless Summer.

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What I would like to do toward a conclusion is to return to the Las Olas example and think about the kinds of geographical imaginations and histories of surf culture being taught and enacted there. I am interested in the political implications of place claims and the impact of surf culture upon various specific “homes” it has claimed over the last fifty years. What kinds of new social or imaginative formations (again invoking Appadurai) are to be found in subcultures that articulate global circulation through colonial rhetorics like “surfari”? How do such formations evidence “globalization from below”? What does it mean to put female actors deliberately at the center of our discussion alongside the broader question of the gender of globalization? In their travels in and out of Mexican spaces, women tourists and surf trainers are active U.S. citizens (presenting passports, trading U.S. dollars) at the same time they are participating in a much older regional imaginary that longtime Californians know intimately if unconsciously: that implied by “Greater Mexico.” They have a feeling for a different way of conceiving this region, not as one defined by geopolitical boundaries like the border, but as one unified by both surf breaks and longer-standing cultural, regional, and linguistic continuities. While an argument of this kind about contemporary tourist travel and play must foreground the class and racial and national privileges assumed by outrageous behaviors in foreign contexts, I want to insist that other cultural transactions are also happening—ones in which the status of whiteness, a reckoning with whiteness and its histories, is always part of what is being dramatized and negotiated. If Mexico as a cultural geography is “foreign,” it is also “home,” not only to Californians, but especially to California surfers—and this is an important point given that the history of surfing usually comes so undiluted from Hawaii. Transnational travels between a set of related places—today between Sayulita, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and points south like San Diego—invoke “other” prior regional and cultural and racial memories: that of the California that was and remains Mexico. That of the Mexico that was and remains Native America. At the heart of most “local” or regional cultural geographies is border

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crossing and its histories. In the famous formulation of James Clifford, there are no “roots” without “routes.” I am still figuring out and therefore have not emphasized here the complicated implications of this kind of travel for Mexican nationals, especially the townswomen, whose social mobility is relatively more constrained. Certainly, there is everything to be said about the long history of colonial contact that peoples of the Mexican coast know well, and which predates by centuries the arrival of surfing in Sayulita and certainly shapes the reception of it. Given the primitivist discourse that hangs over a place like Sayulita, it is important to go on record that the tradition of “natives” watching “us” is hardly innocent of history. In recent times, local women have been witness, over the seven years Las Olas has been operative, to probably fifteen hundred to two thousand mostly American white women, up and down the streets of Sayulita. How do they understand females who travel without children or men, who bear muscles in tank tops as they move these heavy longboards atop their heads, who are comparatively rich and middle-age? Who, indeed, is the “postnational subject” of this critical regionalist ethnography, and what “related series of places” might the townswomen identify as meaningful to them? These questions guide the final research currently under way for the larger book project. Here I wish to return to my claim that today American girlhood is under intense scrutiny and construction, and surf discourse, including surf camps like Las Olas, is part of an effort to maneuver this new iconic figure. Although the figure varies (sometimes Polynesian, sometimes South American, sometimes dark-haired American), the backbone figure is the blond California girl. The Beach Boys song now surfs global circuits and has become a sustaining mythos of commercial culture. To the forces that can manage “her” will go considerable spoils—particularly if she performs well in nondomestic markets. Increasingly, the surfer girl’s emotional profile and body image is one of the more often exported figures of normative young American femininity—poised to become a significant new player in a global marketplace selling gender identities and ideals in a relent-

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less bid for new buyers and larger market share. As a figure for the world’s women to emulate and for the world’s men to desire, this ideal should not be dismissed as a form of “cultural lite,” because that is exactly how the politics operating through her will fail to attract and sustain critical attention. If she is an ideal in dominant visual economies, she is also a figure who will discipline women whose bodies and social values are far afield from the norms seemingly signaled through her, whether they be normative body type, age, race, or worker (professional) status, and that body’s coding of other social categories like secularity/religiosity, sexuality, maternity, national identity, and language. The genealogy of such an icon and its circulation, I have suggested, is one approach to a new critical regionalism, necessarily requiring a larger set of theoretical tools and methods than those devoted exclusively to textuality. The places and local sites it will study will be likely linked in new and novel ways. The explicit or implicit appearance in this essay of women on the ground in various parts of the world—whether Japanese girls reading Roxy Girl novels in English, to middle-age women activist/business owners like Bev Saunders of Las Olas/Benicia, to garment workers who make Roxy T-shirts, to pro surfers, to “Hot Flash” women on holiday, to the women servicing surf destinations around the globe—is the consequence of a more varied set of research tools. The everyday regionalisms they enact and reproduce are keys to the largest metanarratives governing this moment in global history: stories about the West and the rest, new technology and (one way to think about surfing) new diasporas of connection—through oceanic sport—for women. The international perspective on labor relations between consumers and workers brings into final focus my earlier observation that, in the Luna Bay series, it is white surfers, or blond California girls, at the center of surf culture’s political and cultural economy. Regarding the series’ multicultural dealings in “diversity,” I will note in conclusion that one historically underrepresented U.S. minority is absent from its California landscapes: African Americans. Were they more present in surf culture (as black surfers are, for example, in the new

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South Africa), it would be much harder to stage this racial discourse with no explicit reference to race. Generally, people can think of little else in regard to anyone of African origin. The point is that the “Mexican/Californian/Hawaiian” transregional racial nexus—embodied in surfers and in the California girl—is apparently a much easier one to quiet or assimilate on the topic of race. Such quieting might encourage readers to overlook the fact that Luna’s family owns the surf shop that is the structural center of this surfing world—putting the blond mother/daughter pair, two generations of California girls, at the center of this mixed-race frame. It is noteworthy that an identical racial palette (blond star with supporting cast of Latina/Hawaiian characters) can be found in Blue Crush. How much has changed, in the western drama, if white people still occupy the role of center, and mixed-race people provide “alternative” racial landscapes while also bringing up the supporting-cast rear? I wish to close in the heart of postcolonial conundrum, since the above final questions locate even the most ecofriendly, “girl-friendly,” or racially integrated surf industries precisely there. Having said that, I would not end on a note of resignation. There is no heavy sigh here at the phrase “postcolonial conundrum.” It is the hopefulness of surf subculture more generally that I would deploy as a strategic politic for the present, the investment in living alternative lives hopefully, yes as critique, but not stuck in the idiom of critique. Some might call this a gesture of nostalgia, or maybe a reinscription of imperial landscapes of western optimism, but I don’t see it that way. While all of the worries about “appropriation” and so forth absolutely apply to the kind of arguments I am making about alternative whitenesses, I nonetheless claim in this project that the countercultural experiences and knowledges that surf history generally authorized articulated the hopes that white Protestants in particular might commit themselves to lives not so identified with “productivity” and “respectability” (including professional success). California, as regional and social space, somehow stages these hopes. Thus it is possible to hold simultaneously true that surfing is a global public culture dedicated to cosmopolitan bor-

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der crossing, Green globalism, and alternative whitenesses even as it is true that blond imagery and real-time middle-age American and Australian men control the subcultural narrative and its considerable profits. Still, the subculture was founded on ambivalences about white masculinity as expressed through principles of outrage at colonial, racial injury and alliance with the Hawaiian native peoples. The communal pleasure ethics that surfing performed for them remain important present-day guides to how and why to revolutionize the overloaded Protestant work ethics that over-drive first-world lives, communities, and relations to nonhuman nature. Notes
I wish to acknowledge George Lipsitz for his very generous bibliographic advice as well as his thoughtful response to an earlier version of this essay. 1. Santigian, “Revisions and Resistance.” 2. The most notable example is F. G. Robinson, New Western History. 3. An exception is Matsumoto and Blake Allmendinger, Over the Edge. 4. F. G. Robinson, “We Should Talk”; Tatum, “Postfrontier Horizons.” 5. Elliot, “Coyote Comes to Norton”; LeMenager, “Trading Stories”; Allmendinger, “The Plow and the Pen”; R. M. Irwin, “Ramona and Postnationalist American Studies”; Gonzales, “The Warp of Whiteness”; and Villa and Sánchez, “Los Angeles and the Future of Urban Cities.” 6. Comer, Landscapes of the New West; Allen, Blood Narrative; Handley, Marriage, Violence, and the Nation; Handley and Lewis, True West; Kollin, Nature’s State; Goodman, Translating Southwestern Landscapes. 7. Davis, City of Quartz; Limón, American Encounters; Saldívar, Border Matters; Lowe, Immigrant Acts. 8. Lewis, Unsettling the Literary West. 9. The texts to which I refer are Handley’s Marriage, Violence, and the Nation and Johnson’s Black Masculinity and the Frontier Myth. On no grounds do I wish to object to these texts; indeed, Handley’s book is very important to my sense of theorizing historical narrative. 10. Ursula Heise, e-mail to author, November 14, 2005. 11. Connery, “The Oceanic Feeling,” 286; Appadurai, “Grassroots Globalization,” 7. 12. Soja quoted in Connery, “The Oceanic Feeling,” 286.

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13. Appadurai, Modernity at Large; R. Wilson and Dissanayake, Global/Local; Canclini, Hybrid Cultures; Jameson and Miyoshi, Cultures of Globalization; Kaplan, Questions of Travel. 14. Herman, “Literature, Growth, and Criticism,” 67. 15. Lawrence Buell, e-mail to author, January 18, 2005. Also see L. Buell, Future of Environmental Criticism. 16. Appadurai, Modernity at Large, 7. 17. I am grateful to P. David Marshall for this language, which I first heard in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, at the 2000 meeting of the Australian Cultural Studies Association. 18. Roxy’s home page can be found at http://www.usa.quiksilver.com. 19. Bettijane Levine, “Riding Wave of Fashion-Fiction Marketing,” Houston Chronicle, April 22, 2003, 3e. 20. The novels are Lantz, Luna Bay #1, Luna Bay #2, Luna Bay #3, Luna Bay #4, Luna Bay #5, Luna Bay #6; and Dubowski, Luna Bay #7. 21. Of course, all of these generational formulations are potentially facile demarcations, as demographers should readily admit. The better discussions of their explanatory usefulness, to my mind, can be found in Howe and Strauss, 13th Gen; Acland, “Fresh Contacts”; and Austin and Willard, introduction. 22. Key popular texts contributing to the moral panic include the following: on the discourse about “Ophelia,” Pipher, Reviving Ophelia; on girls and body issues, Brumburg, The Body Project; and on “mean girls” and female competition, Wiseman, Queen Bees and Wannabes. 23. For an extended discussion see Comer, “Wanting to Be Lisa,” 252. 24. Moretti, Way of the World. 25. George, “But That Was in Another Country.” 26. Fraiman, Unbecoming Women. 27. See Fraiman, Unbecoming Women, 14. 28. Signs: Journal of Women and Culture in Society 26 (2001). 29. Freeman, “Is Local: Global as Feminine: Masculine?” 30. See Wrobel, Seeing and Being Seen.

3. Critical Regionalism, Thirdspace, and John Brinckerhoff Jackson’s Western Cultural Landscapes
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The best place to find new landscapes is in the West. John Brinckerhoff Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape The thirst of the American tourist for Romance is insatiable, and the West is where he prefers to look for it. John Brinckerhoff Jackson, Landscape in Sight There’s nothing more unsettling than the continual movement of something that seems fixed. Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations

Near the end of Postmodern Geographies (1989), Edward Soja argues for the benefits of “critical regional studies” as an approach to the changing relations among the urban, the national, and the global, claiming it operates with openness, flexibility, and an “inclination to try new combinations of ideas rather than fall back to old categorical dualities.”1 In the final two chapters of that book he develops a “critical regional” approach to the analysis of Los Angeles that he later extended in both Thirdspace (1996) and Postmetropolis (2000). My purpose in this essay is to examine how Soja’s theory of “thirdspace” might help to uncover the critical regionalist credentials of an earlier, largely unrecognized figure, John Brinckerhoff Jackson. The concept of

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“thirdspace” has different histories, but it is most notably explicated in Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real and Imagined Places, where Soja traces the term’s various uses across cultural and social studies.2 His aim is to make the reader “think differently about the meanings and significances of space and those related concepts . . . place, location, locality, landscape, environment, home, city, region, territory, and geography.”3 This is, and always has been, a central concern of western studies, too—rethinking western “spatiality” as nature and human nature in interaction and dialogue—always a complex, “real-and-imagined” spatiality, as Soja is quick to remind us. The American West as “region” and “idea” is heavily weighted with myth, national narrative, and cultural legacy and is without doubt the most real and imagined of American and global spaces. Thirdspace is a means of rethinking space in a transdisciplinary manner, demonstrating “a growing awareness of the simultaneity and interwoven complexity of the social, the historical, and the spatial, their inseparability and interdependence.”4 Soja’s “radical postmodernism” rejects the “either/or choice” perspective and recognizes instead a “both/and also logic” encouraging new combinations alongside the mixing and hybridizing of thought and idea. It becomes an “invitation to enter a space of extraordinary openness, a place of critical exchange where the geographical imagination can be expanded to encompass a multiplicity of perspectives” (emphasis added).5 Thus the “spatial imaginary” (such as that of the West) is opened up by this process of “critical exchange” and interrogation, unfixed from its binary position, such as East/West, real/imagined, or old/new, through the intervention of a third perspective “interjecting an-Other set of choices” blurring such distinctions.6 Soja calls this “critical thirding” whereby the two original positions are not dismissed but subjected to a creative and critical process of restructuring that allows for a more sensitive and complicated understanding of “expanded” space. Hence the assumed binary that “firstspace” is real, as in the material culture of the roadscape, and that “secondspace” is imagined, as in the creative responses to that roadscape in film or literature, is interrupted, “restructured” by the concept of a

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“thirdspace” that is both real and imagined, deliberately moving between the two. Our experience of space, as in the American West, is a combination and mixture of these effects, an elaborate and perpetual “crossing” between. Borrowing heavily from Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (1974) and Michel Foucault’s “Of Other Spaces” (1985–86), Soja is concerned with what he terms a “trialectics”—perceived, conceived, and lived space—which equates to spatial practice (the material expression of social relations within a space—a motel lobby, for example, where multiple activities might occur and interact—business, social, sexual); representations of space (conceptual abstractions that inform the configurations of space, such as geometry or the grid); and representational space (as imagined).7 For Lefebvre such divisions were not separable, but rather an “interweaving incantation” through which to comprehend the complex “uses” of space and to recognize their overlapping status.8 It was a spatial response to the “late 1960s,” according to Soja, as people searched for alternative models for understanding society and saw spatial interaction as a relatively unexamined concept. Precisely because of this attention to multiplicity, to “other” spaces, and to their complex interrelations, thirdspace has also emerged as a concept useful to postcolonial critics like Homi Bhabha, seeking a means to express hybridity as a process of identity and nation formation.9 In his 1990 interview “The Third Space,” for example, Bhabha speaks of hybridity as “the third space which enables other positions to emerge . . . [it] displaces the histories that constitute it, and sets up new structures of authority, new political initiatives, which are inadequately understood through received wisdom.” Importantly for Bhabha, such hybridity “bears the traces of those feelings and practices which inform it, just like a translation,” and give rise to “a new area of negotiation of meaning and representation.”10 Such definitions view cultural space as dynamic, a complex mix of traces, translations, and negotiations that resists any simplistic conceptualization of how we relate to, organize, imagine, and use space. Out of these clusters of ideas and possibilities Soja formed his concept of thirdspace.

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Although the American West is an immensely complicated and multiple cultural space, it has too often been defined by similar binary and reductionist thinking, expressing the region uncritically as myth and reality, true and false, utopia and dystopia, rural and urban, when, in fact, it has always existed as a blurred, contested zone: both region and more than region, as imagined dreamspace as well as real, material space. Western studies have long sought to challenge such binary approaches by questioning defining texts like Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis, or by taking popular culture seriously, or by exploring the “hidden histories” of race and gender and engaging with the complexities of border studies. Without doubt Soja’s thirdspace helps us to theorize these developments, linking western studies with many key movements in critical, cultural studies, but also, and in some ways even more importantly, linking these concepts back to earlier American predecessors. In his history of thirdspace, Soja fails to look closer to home and to go back beyond the “late 1960s” to the work of another cultural geographer, John Brinckerhoff Jackson, who, although born in France in 1909 and influenced by French geographers Deffontaines, de la Blache, Demangeon, and le Lannou, was an American who lived and worked for much of his life in the American West—in New Mexico and California, specifically.11 By working with and through critical regionalism and the concept of thirdspace, I would like to reassess Jackson’s significance to western studies in three ways: as a trailblazer of new thinking and transdisciplinary approaches, whose definition of culture opened up academic thought and practice before British cultural studies;12 as a writer whose work within (primarily) western cultural geography prefigures the more fashionable theoretical ideas made famous in Soja’s book;13 and as a self-professed “outsider” whose perspectives provide an important approach to those interested in a more globalized and transnational concept of western studies for the twenty-first century. Jackson was a deliberately provocative and opinionated man whose essays range in tone from questioning and confrontational to ironic and intentionally obscure. In 1951, in his first editorial for his journal

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Landscape, he wrote, “Beyond the last street light, out where the familiar asphalt ends, a whole country waits to be discovered. . . . A rich and beautiful book is always open before us. We have but to learn to read it.”14 His attentiveness to local, everyday detail and his unwillingness to engage in academic jargon might make his work unfashionable today, but it should in no way detract from its significance and value. Jackson always understood that space was ideological and that in analyzing its uses, meanings, and designs one could understand the wider political climate of the age. Through the semiotics of the highway, the small town, the trailer park, and overlooked everyday events, Jackson began to construct a very different and revealing commentary on America, and most often on the American New West, focusing upon a vernacular landscape defined as “temporary, utilitarian, unorthodox” with no desire to “express universal principles,” but rather as “contingent; it responds to environmental influences— social as well as natural—and alters as those influences alter.”15 His work engages constantly in a Soja-like “restructuring” of established thought and principle, “interjecting” some “Other” into fixed, universalized, and “binary” landscapes, and above all, I would suggest, through launching revisionist approaches to definitions of the American West from “outside” perspectives. This vernacular landscape of “in-between” (between official, established, and recognized spaces) is, in part, a practical exploration of thirdspace—or what he himself termed “Landscape Three”—as we shall see later. By deliberately selecting “spaces that have no documentation,” Jackson undertook a radical approach to cultural analysis that contrasted established, official, and dominant geographical views with the “other spaces of a humbler, less permanent, less conspicuous sort,” or what he also called “minor and local episodes.”16 Jackson excavated a secret history of the West from the 1950s onward, looking at the overlooked, while New Western History only began to adopt some of these approaches for its own purposes in the late 1980s.17 Donald Worster has defined New Western History as putting the West “back into the world community, with no illusions of moral uniqueness,” and “restor[ing] to memory all those unsmiling

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aspects that Turner wanted to leave out . . . a history beyond myth.”18 Indeed, just as New Western History took the Turner thesis as its starting point for a revision of a more subtle and complex reading of the West, Jackson looked beyond and behind the simplified overlays of cultural landscape, like the grid system, to produce a richer and fuller comprehension of western space. To this end, his invocation of the “minor and local” relates his project in some respects with that of Deleuze and Guattari, who defined “minor literature” as “deterritorializing” because it used its language to displace or question dominant, normalized, and official “territory.” Their spatial, geopolitical metaphors lend themselves to parallels with the scope and purpose of Jackson’s efforts to rethink how cultural landscapes are perceived and used in the contemporary world. Inside the dominant “language” of landscape studies (in Jackson’s case), with its attention to officially sanctioned spaces, high architecture, and universal aesthetic determinants, there exists another “minor” (or local, regional, vernacular) language “within the heart of what is called great (or established) literature” that is articulated through “[w]riting like a dog digging a hole, a rat digging its burrow . . . finding . . . his own patois, his own third world, his own desert” in opposition to the dominant/official language that, sounding rather like the rhetoric of westward expansionism, colonizes a territory “along river valleys or train tracks; it spreads like a patch of oil.”19 In his most repeated example, Deleuze cites Proust, who believed that writers “invent a new language within language, a foreign language, as it were. They bring to light new grammatical or syntactic powers. They force language outside its customary furrows, they make it delirious.”20 This “other,” foreign language (which is always more than mere words) “communicates with its own outside” and so gets “beyond” all the “furrows” of accepted and “taken-for-granted” cultural frameworks, becoming “the outside of language.”21 Jackson, as the upper-class, European-educated American whose ideas seem to “shadow” the fashionable worlds of the academy, saw himself as a kind of outsider, as Grady Clay has written: “Buried as he forced himself to become in his Western-Pioneer-Frontier explorations, he

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seemed always to carry with him the judgemental baggage of the Outsider.”22 From the “outside” of accepted academic frameworks, traditions, and language, Jackson created his own “minor” literature of cultural landscape studies, a story from below, from the roadside, from the small town and urban center that assembled an alternative iconography of the West resembling Deleuze and Guattari’s, one that “brings together extracts . . . presents samples from all ages, all lands, and all nations . . . a collection of heterogeneous parts: an infinite patchwork, or an endless wall of dry stones (a cemented wall, or pieces of a puzzle, would reconstitute a totality). The world as a sampling: the samples (‘specimens’) are singularities, remarkable and nontotalizable parts extracted from a series of ordinary parts.”23 Here is a “proto-postmodern” vision of the West as a complex network of “sampled” cultures, forms, and ideas without the imposed metanarratives of the frontier, Anglo-Saxon authority, nationhood, or the geographical grid, a vision at whose heart lie “singularities” and “minor scenes . . . more important than any consideration of the whole.”24 Thus Jackson’s writing on roadscapes—that is, the highway and all the spaces and activities on either side of the road—celebrates, in language reminiscent of postmodernism, its singular and transient styles as “conspicuous . . . exotic . . . lavish . . . [with] an indiscriminate borrowing and imitating” understanding its “festive purpose” to intervene and unsettle the conformist strictures of overblown modernism.25 Similarly, predating Foucault’s work of the 1970s on alternative histories and “subjugated knowledges,” Jackson’s new geohistory is precisely “a complex system of distinct and multiple elements, unable to be mastered by the powers of synthesis,” consciously working at the margins of accepted practice, giving voice to everyday artifacts and the structures of a dynamic and changing social landscape with “a history of its own.”26 Jackson defined his methodology as seeing “out of the corner of my eye” to record a mobile and evolutionary world to set against the “forces of stability” that constituted what he terms the rigidified “political landscape” epitomized ultimately by the trope of the grid.27 Jackson’s work, however, sees beyond the grid, “burrows”

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below its dominant patterns of control and regulation, confronting readers with alternative, contradictory, and challenging perspectives; to borrow an image from one of his own essays, his work navigates a kind of “stranger’s path” into unexpected, unrecorded spaces “beneath the surface,” bringing in “new life” through being in “touch with the outside world.”28 The significance of the Jeffersonian grid system of land division and surveying that still dominates the structure and organization of the American West cannot be underestimated in Jackson’s work. Like Wilbur Zelinsky, Jackson reacted to its “remorseless rectangularity” as a material manifestation of spatial discipline and territorial control, and as a metaphorical conceptualization of a particular way of thinking within boundaries.29 Jackson’s work opposes and challenges such impositions, seeing the grid as “too rigid,” “a web of inefficient, arbitrary boundary lines which handicap social or economic action” and “strangle” and “impoverish” the lives of those contained and defined by it.30 Here was, according to Jackson, an organizing principle whose deadly grip became, ironically, even the norm for cemetery design.31 For Jackson, the grid’s effects are as much political and ideological as geographical, “imprinted at the moment of conception on every American child” and constructing a spatial, national narrative: “It is this grid, not the eagle or the stars and stripes, which is our true national emblem,” representing an “over-powering,” “all-pervading sameness,” and “ignoring all inherent differences.”32 It was an apparently innocent method of land division that Jackson defined ideologically as a metaphor for territoriality, social control, imaginative reduction, and standardization.33 One of Jackson’s students, John Stilgoe, wrote in 1982 that “the grid objectified national, not regional order,”34 an order that Jackson defined in terms redolent of Foucault and Deleuze and Guattari: “we had to discipline those meandering, unpredictable roads and paths and alleys and trails which had proliferated since the beginning of history and which, like a web of roots [rhizomes?], always threatened to heave up and ruin even the most carefully planned landscape of spaces.” The “anarchic instinct” (that Jackson celebrated) opposed the dominant

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spatial narrative epitomized by the grid’s “disciplining” of the land with “monotony,” a process Jackson recognized mirrored in America’s cold-war cultural politics, itself threatening a more mobile, differentiated, and democratic national identity.35 In Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus, published in French in 1980 (the same year Jackson published The Necessity for Ruins), they distinguish between “smooth space” and “striated space,” with the former defined as “vectorial, projective, or topological . . . occupied without being counted” and the latter as state space “counted in order to be occupied.” The striated state space is “gridded,” and movement within it confined and limited by preset patterns, whereas “smooth space” is nomadic and open-ended, rich with connections and offshoots that intervene and traverse controlled spaces.36 Very much in the spirit of postwar radicalism, Jackson’s critique of a gridded western landscape, or “territorial space,” rapidly emerging in the Sun Belt was linked to a rampant Taylorism/Fordism in which industrialization was defined by “standardization . . . training, supervision, and production planning,” and whose “production” of spatial values translated into a wider ideological framework that Jackson saw mapped most clearly (and also potentially countered) in the West.37 To counter such “official” (gridded/striated) space, Jackson reinscribes it with the unrecorded and the overlooked vernacular, with “in between” thirdspaces—truck stops, highway strips, and trailer parks—that bring into the grid those excluded, hybrid elements to “reframe” or break out from its “inflexibility,” altering perceptions by acknowledging the “imperceptible” and challenging the logic of regular, “linear” landscapes with irregular, “folded” spaces of “affect” and “sensation” (to borrow terms from Deleuze). For example, in “The Accessible Landscape” Jackson discusses the parking lot as a “beautiful and exciting” “transitional zone” existing between privatized and public space, providing a “vernacular impulse toward accessibility and freedom of movement.” It was functional, versatile, and represented “a new ordering of [common] space” that brought “classes together” outside of their increasingly “defensible private territories” and presented a “more immediate relationship between various ele-

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ments in our society: consumer and producer, public and private, the street and the dwelling.”38 Like Deleuze, who wrote his book on the baroque in 1988, Jackson often commented on his admiration for baroque forms over modernist geometry and shared some of his fascination with its “folds”: “the Baroque trait twists and turns its folds, pushing them to infinity, fold over fold, one upon the other,” wrote Deleuze.39 Jackson’s recognition of the “real vitality” of roadside architecture in the West, “creating a dream environment” out of extravagant forms of lights and signs, is compared to the baroque and its “capacity to transform.”40 As John Rajchman puts it: “Rather the fold creates a different kind of ‘flow’—the flow of an energy that the bounded spaces [like the grid] seems to be impeding, that is spilling over into its surroundings, interrupting the calm narrative of its context and so opening new readings in it.”41 Jackson’s “interruptive” mappings of “baroque” western spaces transform perceptions of “normal,” accepted landscapes and interfere with the “calm narratives” of official history and the boosterist myth-making of State space that he termed in 1954 “the old reliable line of goods.”42 As Kathleen Stewart puts it, such “cultural productions that constitute an ‘America’ of sorts are frozen into essentialized ‘objects’ with fixed identities; a prefab landscape of abstract ‘values’ puts an end to the story of ‘America’ before it begins.” Stewart’s book (about southwestern West Virginia) uses an approach similar to that of Jackson’s work (although she does not refer to Jackson at all) by claiming a new narrative space, another thirdspace—“a space on the side of the road” (her book’s title)—through which to create “the site of an opening or reopening into the story of America.” As in Jackson’s work, this is her “reframing” process, her assault on the material and metaphorical “grid” that contains the stories to be told and the representations to be projected onto the national “screen” in order to refigure space as open, dynamic, and “becoming” rather than fixed and closed.43 Her concerns, like Jackson’s, are to explore “minoritized spaces” and provide “a kind of back talk to ‘America’s’ mythic claims to realism, progress, and order” and to demonstrate and use “a gap in the order of myth itself.”44

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Some thirty years before postcolonial critic Homi Bhabha’s work on thirdspace as hybridity, Jackson recognized the hybrid potentiality (or “anarchic instinct”) of the haphazard evolution of roadside spaces intervening in the dominant gridded forms, the “essential” metanarratives of the West, and with it recognized the need for a “critical thirding” to unsettle such dominant spatial imaginary. As Bhabha put it, with particular parallels to the significance of the West within the American cultural imagination, “Such an intervention quite properly challenges our sense of the historical identity of culture as a homogenizing, unifying force, authenticated by the originary Past, kept alive in the national tradition of the People.”45 In a 1980 essay, “Learning about Landscapes,” Jackson argues against seeing landscapes as essential, a habit too common to the western tradition, refusing to see them “as profound expressions of ethnic or racial traits. . . [which] created a special breed of men and women with common psychological and physical characteristics . . . rooted in the land . . . [and providing] a cultural heritage that must at all costs be preserved intact.”46 Such a narrow and simplistic link between roots, land, and national identity reminded Jackson of the fascist ideology he had experienced during World War II, with its call to an “ancestral landscape” which he felt “did enormous damage.”47 In breaking this link between rootedness and exceptionalist, imperial identity, Jackson asserted instead a new multilayered, folded landscape (and identity) of mobility, ambivalence, and hybridity—a complex thirdspace constantly capable of appropriating, translating, recombining, and creating things anew “in-between” fixed states. Prefiguring postcolonial and poststructuralist theories of Deleuze and Guattari, Clifford, Bhabha, Gilroy, Hall, Massey, Urry, and others concerned with rethinking identity and place as formed as much by “routes” of mobility as by settlement and rootedness, Jackson sought the “balance between the forces of stability and those of mobility,” between roots and routes (or striated space and smooth space).48 In this he was an early example of a critical regionalist, a term first coined by Lefaivre and Tzonis in 1981, later made famous by Kenneth Frampton in 1986, and invoked, as we have seen, by Soja in 1989. Its

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stated purpose was to “reframe regionalism” in order to break down this sentimental, nostalgic vision and to reassert its more radical potential.49 To do this, Lefaivre and Tzonis, in their 2003 book Critical Regionalism, invoke Americans Lewis Mumford and John Brinckerhoff Jackson, whose writings they claim “value the singular” and aim “at sustaining diversity while benefiting from universality.”50 Jackson had first read and been influenced by Mumford around 1928 at the University of Wisconsin, and Mumford later contributed to Landscape magazine. Like Jackson, he critiqued the International Style of architecture, preferring “regional” alternatives from the San Francisco Bay Region School of Architecture, praising their “from the ground up” approach rather than an elitist “top-down,” imposed one. One phrase in particular suggests a strong link to Jackson, as Mumford attacked the gridlike hold of modernism, with its regularized patterns and “striated space,” and praised instead reframed regionalism’s ability to “liberate us from the tyranny of the rectangular form.”51 Traditional regionalism, however, was for both writers a “blind reaction” to modernism and technology, an “aversion from what is” rather than “an impulse toward what may be,” and they felt the need to be critical of both, preferring instead an “infused [regionalism] with a notion of relativity,” regarding it as “engagement with the global, universalizing world rather than by an attitude of resistance,” becoming “a constant process of negotiation between the local and the global on the many different issues that traditionally made up regionalism.”52 Mumford’s preference is for reciprocity, seeing culture as a contact zone, where the “regional” “has contributed something of value to the universal movement . . . without forfeiting its . . . characteristics [and] can absorb something in return . . . a continuous give and take.”53 Ultimately, Mumford saw regionalism as critically engaged with the wider world: [E]very regional culture necessarily has a universal side to it. It is steadily open to influences that come from other parts of the world, and from other cultures, separated from the local region in space or time or both together. It would be use-

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ful if we formed the habit of never using the word regional without mentally adding to it the idea of the universal—remembering the constant contact and interchange between the local scene and the wide world that lies beyond it. To make the best use of local resources, we must often seek help from people or ideas or technical methods that originate elsewhere. . . . As with a human being, every culture must both be itself and transcend itself; it must make most of its limitations and must pass beyond them; it must be open to fresh experience and yet it must maintain its integrity. (emphasis added)54 Thus, more than forty years before Mary Louise Pratt, Mumford articulated regions as complex contact zones whose many overlapping elements were all to be considered as crucial to the dynamic formations of multicultural space and place like that he envisioned for Honolulu: “a significant experiment in the hybridization of cultures which perhaps will mark the future of human society; it is a miniature experimental station.”55 Lefaivre argues that Mumford’s preferred approach, like Jackson’s in my analysis, is one of “engagement and inbetweening,” bringing together ideas from “inside” and “outside” traditions and styles in negotiated dialogue to create a “multi-dimensional, multifunctional, interdisciplinary approach . . . involving identity, sustainability, memory, community in a globalizing, post-colonial and fragmented world” better suited to the postwar experience.56 Jackson too argued against space as “monofunctional” in houses as well as in society as a whole, preferring shared uses that defined space through “use” rather than absolute and regulated function.57 Jackson wrote, “the values we stress are stability and permanence and the putting down of roots and holding on,” but there is another “tradition of mobility and short-term occupancy” that is equally powerful, particularly in the West. Between extreme opposite positions—of “roots” and “routes”—Jackson sought out an alternative space of “constant contact and interchange between the local scene and the wide world,” or what he called his “Landscape Three,” created in dialogue with earlier versions of a static, rooted community

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(“homogenous and dedicated to a single purpose”) and a vernacular, local one (“mixing all kinds of spaces and uses together”).58 Like Mumford (and Deleuze and Guattari), Jackson knew that “the two spaces in fact exist only in mixture: smooth space is constantly being translated, transversed into a striated space; striated space is constantly being reversed, returned to a smooth space.”59 Jackson saw a “danger” in “having two distinct sublandscapes, one dedicated to stability and place, the other dedicated to mobility,” for as I have argued throughout, he saw the necessity of both folded into the creation of “living, pulsating, infinitely complicated organisms which man has made over and over again.”60 Rather than a simple regionalism “clinging to obsolete forms and attitude” as a denial of process and history, Jackson’s New West had to be a reframed, critical regionalism, a third landscape “creating a new nature, a new beauty” out of the hybridized, diasporic space of crossing between the two, where there exists, according to Victor Burgin, a third space, “neither within nor without; it was an experience of being between the two, a ‘between’ formed only in the simultaneous presence of the two.”61 This “space between,” echoing Stewart’s “space on the side of the road,” was most evident for Jackson in western roadscapes where messy contradictions—what he called “ambidexterity”—combined private and public, work and play, in a carnival of creativity and contact that expressed a hybrid spatiality mirroring his own hope for an America of “shared interests and mutual help” with an infinite capacity for regenerative energy and for “a new kind of history, a new, more responsive social order, and ultimately a new landscape.”62 Against the increasing standardization, corporatization, and McDonaldization of the highway “strip”—“being conveyed through a complex, well-ordered, admirable world” at “uniform speed”—Jackson held on to the “immense potential” and “vitality” of a “mixed public” interacting in transient, heteroglossic, “new centers of sociability”: “a jumbled reminder of all current enthusiasms—atomic energy, space travel, Acapulco, folk singing, computers, Danish contemporary, health foods, hot-rod racing, and so on.”63 This hybrid roadscape was a powerful agent in Jackson’s new sense of, and hope

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for, (western) cultural identity, for it “prescribes no traditional behavior,” but along with the automobile, suggested a potential, if utopian, diasporic “meeting place” of “almost complete freedom” where the New West’s “self-definition” is as plural as its varied landforms and where his twin enemies of “exclusiveness” and the “overemphasis on competition and control” might be held at bay.64 This is a mobile thirdspace (or what Deleuze calls “becoming”) confronting the essentialist tendencies of a rooted sense of place where “land was the object men could best use in their search for identity” with an “existential” perspective “without absolutes, without prototypes, devoted to change and mobility.” As early as 1957, Jackson’s work is scattered with words like “exchange,” “trans-shipment,” and “contact,” emphasizing the West as a potential space of interaction and encounter where the “uniformity of taste and income and interests” is countered by “this ceaseless influx of new wants, new ideas, new manners, new strength.” Jackson’s vernacular, unofficial, anarchic roadscapes, studied in their pre-corporatized variety, test and expand the monotonous grid (and its inherent ideology), spilling out in real and imagined directions denying notions of metanarratival discipline and control favoring “fragments of the whole—studies of micro-ecosystems, isolated structures and spaces of little significance.”65 These are deeply political ideas about class, control, and social organization sited in the various struggles over the use and representation of land.66 Jackson wrote that by “political” he meant “those spaces and structures [like the grid] designed to impose or preserve a unity and order on the land, or in keeping with a long-range, large-scale plan” (emphasis added).67 His work continually argues against such essentialist absolutism in favor of what Michel de Certeau would later call “making do” or practice—that is, how people use and affect space.68 In “The House in the Vernacular Landscape” (1990), Jackson asserted that vernacular space “has no inherent [fixed] identity, it is simply defined by the way it is used,” as distinct from “the middleclass or established concept,” in which “each space is unique and can in fact affect the activity taking place within it.”69 Jackson contrasted

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the growing tendency toward corporatized, “planned, specialized organization” defined by “inertia” and its inclination toward the “sterilizing of our roadsides” and the containment of both individual and community, with his preference for “fluid, undifferentiated spaces” and renewed, dynamic public spaces through which alternative values could be expressed and exchanged in an atmosphere of “gaiety and brilliance” in a “community where the streets are still common property, still part of the living space of every citizen.”70 Unsurprisingly, Jackson’s ideal example of a kind of hybrid, democratic thirdspace was a western one—Santa Fe in 1954—“gregarious . . . hostile to . . . regulation” and full of “color and vitality.” Such utopian spaces, Jackson believed, opposed the sterility of the grid and of more “regulated” communities and landscapes and made possible forms of “transitional,” mobile space: an “existential landscape, without absolutes, without prototypes, devoted to change and mobility and the free confrontation of men.” In this vein, Jackson described landscape as a growing, evolving language with “obscure and undecipherable origins . . . the slow creation of all elements in society . . . clinging to obsolescent forms, inventing new ones . . . the field of perpetual conflict and compromise between what is established by authority and what the vernacular insists upon preferring.”71 Always ahead of his time, Jackson understood the global and the transnational relations inherent in the West, writing, for example, in 1954 of how the “Great social and economic forces, as remote in origin and as irresistible as the wind that blows incessantly from the west, helped form the human landscape of the region.” This desire to bring the Outside into the frame, in every sense, locates Jackson’s work as both critical regionalist and decidedly “post-Western,” seeing the “shared [third] spaces” of the region as constructed by a set of complex discourses interrelated with global, transnational issues and representations.72 His work is not, to borrow a phrase from Deleuze and Guattari, about “the revival of regionalisms,” for how would that “serve a worldwide, transnational technocracy”? For a minor language and literature must “travel,” become “vehicular,” as they put it, and follow “creative lines of escape.” The “regionalizing

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or ghettoizing” of a minor language has a limited political purpose, as in the tradition of the “local” within the American West, since it should always relate, at some level, with the global. The goal is, as Deleuze and Guattari put it, “to make use of the polylingualism of one’s own language, to make a minor or intensive use of it, to oppose the oppressed quality of this language to its oppressive quality.” Hence, the minoritarian (or regionalist-vernacular) impulse in this sense opposes reductionism or the “one single dream” and its “state . . . official language” that “masters the signifier” and instead “create[s] the opposite dream . . . a becoming-minor.”73 This vital process of turning the “inside” and the “local” outward is not nationally defined but rather transnational in the same way that the West is not only consumed and produced by westerners but a globalized “language” whose “polylingualism” extends outside the United States through its various rhizomatic sproutings in other places and cultures. Thus the rupturing minor language of a “critical regionalist” like Jackson is always, by implication, transnational, intervening in the closed “single dream” of a particular, nostalgic, or official version of the West, like the mythic landscapes of Ansel Adams (“That school of ‘timeless’ photography”), interrogating and opening it up in new and challenging ways.74 This “method of the rhizome,” as Deleuze and Guattari term it, acts by “decentering [language] onto other dimensions and other registers” so as to keep it open, with “the idea perhaps com[ing] first from outside” as a kind of “stammering”: “To be a foreigner, but in one’s own tongue, not only when speaking in a language other than one’s own. To be bilingual, multilingual, but in one and the same language, without even a dialect or patois. To be a bastard, a half-breed.” Jackson’s “stammering” cultural geography disrupts the accepted norms of critical “language” about landscape, “illegitimizing” the official, sanctioned stories and myths, “uprooting them from their state as constants” providing the “cutting edge of deterritorialization,” pushing language “toward the limit of its elements, forms, or notions, toward a near side or a beyond of language.”75 Few, other than Jackson, would, for example, define parking lots and used-car

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lots as a “delight and inspiration,” offering forms of “variety . . . essential to our well-being” and integral to the productive undoing of established landscapes.76 In deliberately and consistently unsettling normalized thinking and countering it with an askance view of cultural landscape, Jackson always looked “beyond” a defined West, both as local, vernacular culture and as national narrative, seeing its place within a wider transnational economy and increasingly global world system. Denise Scott Brown, whose work with Robert Venturi was directly and dramatically influenced by Jackson, certainly recognized this, believing that “cross-cultural crossfires” in his work were not to be “solved” but “lived with,” “using its tension to foster creativity. . . . This . . . is what Brinck did. The skewed view—the view from the marginal position—can produce useful insights and an unusual vision.”77 Jackson’s influence is clear in Scott Brown and Venturi’s Learning from Las Vegas, a work that takes seriously a western vernacular landscape and its relations with wider economic and cultural forces. From Jackson’s “stammering” or “skewed” cultural architecture of the New West we follow the “stranger’s path” finding new ways of looking at accepted narratives, spatial or otherwise, differently, to question and challenge received wisdom, and to disrupt overly rigid systems of order (the inflexible grid). The “practice of outside” cultivated by Jackson is a tool (as I argue elsewhere)78 to get at the inside and alter it, to open up the discursive West and look into its spaces differently, enabling reflexiveness, greater understanding of its relationships to others, and its role— both real and imagined—within a wider global community. The grid, in other words, spills out further than the West, further than America. In rethinking this “architecture” one might pay more attention, as Jackson did, to the “in-between space” (thirdspace) as a mobile space of contact, translation, and negotiation in order to, as Bhabha put it, “open the way to conceptualizing an international culture, based not on the exoticism of multiculturalism or the diversity of cultures, but on the inscription and articulation of culture’s hybridity.”79 In his early rejection of essentialism and rooted identity, and in his insistent

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excavation of the mobile, the marginalized, and the everyday, Jackson demonstrated a refreshingly open and outward-looking perspective that folded the regional West into a globalizing outside space. For living is, ultimately, he wrote, “a dialog, not a monolog. . . . Existence means shared existence. We are all increasingly dependent on the presence of our fellow men—not necessarily on their approval.”80 It is only in mapping and “exploring this Third Space,” as Bhabha says, and as Jackson’s work consistently shows in his rethinking of western cultural landscapes, that “we may elude the politics of polarity and emerge as others of our selves.”81 In one startling description based on Jackson’s favorite pastime of motorbiking, he conveys an ideal, experiential relationship that tells us much, finally, about his critical method and its aim of transformation: “In short, the traditional perspective, the traditional way of seeing and experiencing the world is abandoned; in its stead we become active participants, the shifting focus of a moving, abstract world; our nerves and muscles are all of them brought into play. To the perceptive individual, there can be an almost mystical quality to the experience; his identity seems for the moment to be transmuted.”82 Notes
1. Soja, Postmodern Geographies, 189. 2. Soja spells the concept as one word, “thirdspace,” and I will follow this convention. However, other critics, such as Homi Bhabha, use “third space,” and I have used this only when quoting Bhabha directly. 3. Soja, Thirdspace, 1. 4. Soja, Thirdspace, 3 5. Soja, Thirdspace, 5. 6. Soja, Thirdspace, 5. 7. I am grateful to Victor Burgin’s In/Different Spaces, 26–28, for a discussion of Lefebvre’s and Soja’s work. 8. Quoted in Soja, Thirdspace, 10. 9. Soja also discusses the work of bell hooks; see Thirdspace, 12–13. 10. Bhabha, “Interview with Homi Bhabha,” 211. 11. A key figure here is Paul Vidal de la Blache (1845–1918), who founded Annales de Geographie and was committed to intensive regional geography,

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believing that the physical environment and human activity were intimately connected and that one should study the “genre de vie” (a way of living) in all its elements. Such thinking was immensely influential on Jackson. 12. Richard Hoggart’s The Use of Literacy (1957) and Raymond Williams’s Culture and Society (1958) are seen as British cultural studies’ inaugural texts, but Jackson’s journal Landscape was launched in 1951. However, Jackson’s work responded to earlier European work in France in the 1930s and later via the British Independent Group (itself responding to U.S. popular culture). These circuits of exchange and influence are vital to understanding Jackson and his inevitable resistance to any essentialist label. He studies America— the West—but without an inwardness. 13. For example, Jackson wrote specifically on Santa Fe, New Mexico, Optimo City (an invented western space), Chihuahua, and many other western landscapes. 14. Quoted in Wilson and Groth, Everyday America, 9. 15. Jackson, Landscape in Sight, 246. 16. Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, xi; Jackson, Landscape in Sight, 160. 17. Jackson was known both to the “founder” of New Western History, Patricia Nelson Limerick, and to her architect-husband, Jeffrey, and both have written about him. Patricia Limerick refers to Jackson as a “personal trainer, who takes us through calisthenics that trick us into revealing unexpected reservoirs of stamina and agility and who gives us a chance to rethink the rules of the game” (quoted in Wilson and Groth, Everyday America, 36). 18. Worster, Under Western Skies, 12. 19. Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka, 18; Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 7. Of course, the word vernacular carries with it the sense of a language that is native and local, but like Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the “minor,” Jackson’s use of the vernacular is wider and more complex. 20. Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, lv. 21. Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, lv. 22. Clay, “From Crossing the American Grain,” 19. 23. Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, 57. 24. Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, 57. 25. Jackson, Landscapes, 68. 26. Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, 161; Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, 85. Jackson had read Foucault, quoting him, for example, in The Necessity for Ruins, 5–6.

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27. Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, xiii, x. 28. Jackson, Landscape in Sight, 26; Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, 141. 29. Zelinsky cited in Van Noy, Surveying the Interior, 15. Jackson discusses territoriality at some length in “The Accessible Landscape” (Landscape in Sight, 69–71). 30. Jackson, Landscapes, 142. 31. Jackson, Landscape in Sight, 167. 32. Jackson, A Sense of Time, 153, 154. 33. I have assembled an array of ideas about the grid from many different sources all relevant to this discussion. See, for example, Van Noy, Surveying the Interior; and Fox, who calls the grid “the national nervous system” (The Void, the Grid and the Sign, 95). Fox refers to Jackson’s work in his book (see 128–29). The notion of the grid is a theme I develop at length in the longer book from which this section comes (The Rhizomatic West, forthcoming from the University of Nebraska Press). 34. Stilgoe quoted in Van Noy, Surveying the Interior, 16. 35. Jackson, A Sense of Time, 6, 4, 6. As I argued in “‘Much Unseen Is Also Here,’” Jackson’s work has to be seen as related to the Beat and counterculture of the 1950s and 1960s, particularly their questioning of the centripetal forces of consensus, suburbia, consumerism, and containment. 36. Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 361–62, xiii. 37. Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, 67, 119; Jackson, Landscape in Sight, 260, 263–64. See Antonio Gramsci’s work on Fordism and hegemony in Selections from the Prison Notebooks. 38. Jackson, Landscape in Sight, 73–77. 39. See Jackson, Landscape in Sight, xiv. Another connection from Jackson to Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown is through a shared interest in the baroque (see Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction, 13). Deleuze, The Fold, 3. 40. Jackson, Landscapes, 66. 41. Rajchman, Constructions, 26. 42. Jackson, Landscape in Sight, 352. 43. Stewart, Side of the Road, 3. Again the idea of “becoming” is borrowed from Deleuze and Guattari. 44. Stewart, Side of the Road, 3. 45. Bhabha, Location of Culture, 37. 46. Jackson, The Necessity for Ruins, 11. 47. Jackson, The Necessity for Ruins, 11.

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48. Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, xii. 49. Tzonis and Lefaivre, “The Grid and the Pathway”; Lefaivre and Tzonis, Critical Regionalism, 19; Frampton, “Towards a Critical Regionalism.” 50. Lefaivre and Tzonis, Critical Regionalism, 20. 51. Lefaivre and Tzonis, “Lewis Mumford’s Regionalism,” 3. 52. Lefaivre and Tzonis, Critical Regionalism, 34; Lefaivre and Tzonis, “Lewis Mumford’s Regionalism,” 2. 53. Mumford, Roots of Contemporary American Architecture, xi. 54. Quoted in Lefaivre and Tzonis, Critical Regionalism, 39. 55. Mumford quoted in Lefaivre and Tzonis, Critical Regionalism, 39. Mary Louise Pratt, in Imperial Eyes, defined the concept of “contact zones.” 56. Lefaivre and Tzonis, Critical Regionalism, 39. 57. Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, 64–65. 58. Jackson, Landscape in Sight, 223; Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, 152–55. 59. Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 474. 60. Jackson, Landscape in Sight, 291. 61. Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, 154, 155; Burgin, In/Different Spaces, 185. 62. Jackson, Landscapes, 58; Groth and Bressi, Understanding Ordinary Landscapes, 153; Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, 157. 63. Jackson, Landscape in Sight, 207–8; Jackson, Landscapes, 149, 149–50. In this respect Jackson has something in common with Paul Virilio’s exploration of how speed and acceleration in the modern world rob humanity of its contacts with life. 64. Jackson, Landscapes, 149–50; Jackson, Landscape in Sight, 77. 65. Jackson, Landscapes, 150, 9; Jackson, Landscape in Sight, 23–27, 69. Susan Naremore Maher’s article “Deep Mapping the Great Plains” was a provocative source for some of these ideas. William Least Heat-Moon, whom Maher discusses, mentions Jackson some seven times in his “From the Commonplace Book” section of PrairyErth. 66. Jackson is often criticized as nonpolitical (see Walker, “Unseen and Disbelieved”). Although I would agree that he does not consider issues of race and gender in the manner of recent cultural studies, he is very aware, as I argue here, of the presence of class, political control, and forms of spatial “apartheid.” Jackson is not, as Walker states, “too respectful” (172), but he is more observant and astute in his ideological analysis than is often credited. His recognition of poverty as a major factor in spatiality is an important

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breakthrough (see “To Pity the Plumage”) and ties his ideas in with those of Michael Harrington (see Campbell, “‘Much Unseen Is Also Here’”). 67. Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, 150. 68. Certeau, Practice of Everyday Life. 69. Jackson, “House in the Vernacular Landscape,” 368. 70. Jackson, Landscapes, 72, 138, 143; Jackson, “House in the Vernacular Landscape,” 368; Jackson, Landscapes, 72, 111. Again I see Jackson as working ahead of urbanist Mike Davis, whose work on public space can be seen prefigured in many of these essays and ideas. 71. Jackson, Landscapes, 111, 9; Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, 148. 72. Jackson, Landscape in Sight, 162, 77. 73. Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka, 24, 25, 26, 27. 74. Jackson’s own photography reveals a man recording vernacular, hybrid western space in a similar way to the work of the New Topographics exhibition of 1975 (I examine this in the forthcoming book The Rhizomatic West). Jackson, A Sense of Time, 180. 75. Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 8, 98. 76. Jackson, Landscape in Sight, 69. 77. Brown, “Learning from Brinck,” 56. 78. The “practice of outside” and many of the ideas sketched in this essay are discussed at length in my forthcoming book The Rhizomatic West (University of Nebraska Press) and linked to “associated” western outsiders such as Robert Frank, Reyner Banham, and Sergio Leone and theorized via Bakhtin, Deleuze and Guattari, and Elizabeth Grosz. 79. Bhabha, Location of Culture, 38. 80. Jackson, Landscapes, 147. 81. Bhabha, Location of Culture, 38–39. 82. Jackson, Landscape in Sight, 205.

4. Architecture and the Virtual West in William Gibson’s San Francisco
michael beehler

Yamazaki stared at Transamerica’s upright thorn, bandaged with the brace they’d applied after the Little Grande [earthquake]. . . . Modernity was ending. Here, on the bridge, it long since had. William Gibson, Virtual Light

Modernity is on its last legs in the New West of 2005 San Francisco and Los Angeles—or at least that’s the way it is envisioned by William Gibson in Virtual Light, the first of his “bridge trilogy” series of nearfuture novels (the last two being Idoru and All Tomorrow’s Parties). In Gibson’s postwestern future there are many casualties of the earthquakes that have devastated both Tokyo and San Francisco, not the least of which is that jewel of architectural modernism, the Transamerica Pyramid, the “upright thorn” that Berry Rydell, the novel’s main character, describes as the “big spiky” thing that is “more modern” than any other San Francisco building.1 The Little Grande earthquake dealt it a serious blow, and it’s now held up only by a prosthetic appendage, a “truss-thing” or “brace” that keeps it from falling down.2 This pyramid-with-a-crutch is an apt image of the closure of modernism’s architectural and cultural project as it plays itself out in the postdisaster, cyberpunk West figured by Virtual Light, which builds on the questions of virtuality and futurity only hinted at in its title. These questions are as old as the pyramids or, at least, as old as the gridded abstractions that have historically dominated Western spatial thinking, abstractions reified in the prosthetically assisted

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pyramid of modernism. Speaking about Hegel, architectural theorist Bernard Tschumi notes that, for the old philosopher (we might ask, was he ever lame? did he ever need crutches?), the pyramid was the “ultimate model of reason.”3 So it is only fitting that Gibson’s novel takes the spatial embodiment of Hegel’s precious architectural figure as its own model of modernity on its last legs. Tschumi goes on to point out that, with Hegel’s bracing assistance, the architect has been historically understood as “the person who conceives the form of the building without manipulating materials himself,” and so architecture comes to understand itself as a “cosa mentale . . . the forms conceived by the architect ensur[ing] the domination of the idea over matter.”4 Fittingly, the West Coast is the locale for Gibson’s exploration of the last gasps of this domination. The logic of the pyramid, the logic that now needs all the help it can get just to remain standing, is the modernist logic in which reason, form, abstraction, and mental constructs are seen as dominating over the material physicality or the spatial praxes architects associate with a building’s unprogrammable use. It is also the historical logic in which the West has been conceptualized and, consequently, programmed and managed. But “modernity,” Gibson writes, “was ending,” and his novel traces the trajectory of modernity’s sun as it sets both in the West as a spatial location and on the West as a cosa mentale.5 But this modernity is not going down without a fight. The whole cultural background against which the novel’s plot moves—involving stolen virtual-reality glasses, the raging aids epidemic ended only by the blood of a prostitute, and a real estate scheme to regrid post–Little Grande San Francisco into a totally programmed, corporatized space (the city as complete cosa mentale or “total story,” as Neil Campbell puts it)—is filled with reactionary, prosthetic protective devices, making the environment of both SoCal and NoCal (now two separate states) look like a last-ditch anti-matter, anti-social, and anti-body project.6 From the ubiquitous anti-viroid face masks worn by nearly everyone and the nanotech contraceptive device worn by the lawyer Karen Mendelsohn, to the gated communities and “stealth houses” (expensive houses that protect themselves by being “dug in

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beneath something that looked almost, but not quite, like a bombedout drycleaning plant”), 2005 California is a paranoid environment whose primary goal is self-protection via the control of every spatial, bodily border and every digital interface.7 Gibson acknowledges that his vision of a fortress California comes from the “Fortress L.A.” chapter of Mike Davis’s City of Quartz, in which Davis reads the public, built environment of Los Angeles as being literally “turned inside out, in the service of ‘security’ and profit.”8 And given the current battles over immigration being played out in the West by such vigilante and fence-building groups as the Orange County Republican Party and the Minutemen, Virtual Light’s paranoid future West turns out to be scarily prescient (a recent op-ed by Gustavo Arellano in the Los Angeles Times notes that “Orange County is the Mexican-bashing capital of the United States”).9 Gibson’s decrepit pyramid is the architectural apotheosis of this contemporary white (and particularly southern Californian and southwestern) anxiety about the undocumented immigrant and the unprogrammable other, and of its ever more desperately protectionist political prosthetics. That’s why the “virtual light” (vl) glasses whose theft moves the novel’s plot are the ideal figure of modernism’s fantasy of a dematerialized western reality programmed by the dominating idea, for nothing is more a cosa mentale than the virtual-reality images produced by these glasses. Bypassing the interface of the eye itself, vl glasses “work on [the] optic nerves direct[ly],” allowing the wearer to experience a digitally conceived and ultimately controllable world.10 It is only appropriate that the first use of these glasses in the novel is for viewing pornography—a dematerialized experience that does without the dangerous messiness of the body—and that the story’s complications are set up by a courier who, carrying two sets of vl glasses—one for his own pleasure and one showing the gridded, corporatized future of a rebuilt San Francisco-to-come—has the ones with the building project stolen by the bike courier Chevette Washington. The significance of this confusion of glasses is clear: safe sex can be had via the cosa mentale of virtual light, and a safe future can be guaranteed by the completion of a real estate project (a kind of

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Manifest Destiny for developers) that programs the West Coast into the abstract image of a corporate ideal, which is pornographic in its own way. Each gives us a vision of the modernist project in full flower, as each ensures—or at least embodies the modernist wish for—the domination of the idea over matter, or of the surveyor’s grid over the space of the West. The developer’s scheme represented in the vl glasses involves the construction of megastructures in downtown San Francisco, buildings “bigger than anything, a stone regular grid of them, marching in from the hills. Each one maybe four blocks at the base, rising straight and featureless,” all under the watchful eye of the ironically named Sunflower Corporation.11 “They’re going to rebuild San Francisco,” the glasses courier explains. “From the ground up, basically. Like they’re doing to Tokyo. They’ll start by layering a grid of seventeen complexes into the existing infrastructure. Eighty-story office/residential, retail/residence in the base.”12 The goal here is the development of a totally planned future built environment for San Francisco, one with no lines of flight, no risk, and no “slack,” and one in which every interface between buildings and the people who inhabit them is completely programmed and managed. These buildings are designed to be absolutely “self-sufficient,” and because they will “eat their own sewage,” like the pornographic vl glasses they too reflect the modernist anti-matter and white, western anti-immigrant fantasy of the impermeable border.13 The whole project, in fact, models this fantasy, because the glasses that bear this image of a totally designed future are a key component in the scheme to make some people really rich: if they can see this future, they will know what San Francisco properties to buy in advance of the rebuilding. For the developers who share in the pornography of this visionary corporate future, the real San Francisco of matter (buildings, dirt, bodies, etc.) dematerializes into the capitalist abstraction of real estate and its future into a totally programmed, anticorporeal corporatization of reality: into, that is to say, a virtual future. Thus the scheme is particularly well named. Labeled the Sunflower Project, it recalls Ginsberg’s romantic nostalgia for a nature lost among the locomotive debris of a 1950s San Francisco,

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and promises an ironic reflowering of the post-quake city with shiteating buildings that, like flowers, seem to grow themselves. But beneath its romantic trope, the Sunflower Project is in fact the corporate redeployment of the heliotropic fantasy in which the idea, the cosa mentale that is the Platonic (or, additionally, the Hegelian) sun, obliterates every living space that stands in its path, including—and especially— any future that doesn’t get with the program. Philosopher and architectural theorist Elizabeth Grosz has explored this fantasy and the virtual reality (vr) technologies that are its expression. In Architecture from the Outside, she explains the gendered appeal of vr’s anticorporeal, heliotropic fantasies. “vr,” she notes in a chapter on “Lived Spatiality,” “promises fulfillment of the age-old (male) fantasy of disembodied self-containment . . . [and] autogenesis.”14 As I have already suggested, Gibson’s shit-eating buildings are the architectural exemplars of this male fantasy—one with clear ties to western myths of independence and radical individualism—but what is even more significant about Grosz’s argument is the way in which she, like Gibson with his vl glasses, associates vr with a kind of pornography of mastery and control. What vr offers, she writes, is the “fantasy of a 1960s style polysexuality, with none of the nasty consequences: a high without drugs or the hangover, sex without pregnancy or disease, pleasure without the body. This,” she concludes, “is the fantasy only of a male body, the anticipation of pleasure or sex that is so corporeally self-distancing that mastery over distance itself becomes the turn-on.”15 In every way, then, the virtual, as deployed in the fantasies of vr and vl, displaces and replaces the real in an act of power that overpowers every other reality, including the otherness of female and, even, male corporeality, and hence it functions as a modernist instrument of domination par excellence. And in Virtual Light, it is an other West as the site of the future itself—the other San Francisco that stands as a spatial and architectural invitation to the unprogrammable or unanticipatable to-come, and that invites the future per se—that is threatened by the dematerializing, virtual fantasies of the Sunflower Corporation, which promise a final mastery over both the temporality and the corporeality of San Francisco’s physical body.

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This threat to the other West of the ( future as) other is for Gibson the legacy of modernity in the West. But the body—and, oddly enough, a specifically unprotected and diseased body—turns out to be the only thing that can save a humanity savaged by the aids epidemic (“You still don’t remember,” the sage Skinner tells the Japanese chronicler Yamazaki, “what it felt like, watching them [bodies] pile up like that”).16 One of the subplots of Virtual Light involves James Delmore Shapely, a thirty-one-year-old prostitute who “had been hiv-positive for twelve years” but whose strain of the virus was nonpathogenic.17 Once this fact becomes known to the aids industry “in the early months of the new century,” researcher Dr. Kim Kutnik gets Shapely released from prison, initiates a project to inject Shapely’s blood into terminally ill aids patients, and, startlingly, uncovers “clinical data suggesting that unprotected sex with Shapely had apparently reversed the symptoms of several of her [Kutnik’s] patients.”18 The result, of course, is that Shapely, the “illiterate prostitute,” becomes the “splendid source” whose blood, eucharistically distributed and shared out (“that piece of him in everybody now”), rescues humanity from this decimating plague.19 The male, modernist fantasy of an idealized, perfectly protected self-containment—a racist and secure-the-borders-at-all-costs dream if there ever was one—is thus perforated by the needles bearing Shapely’s blood, for it is only through the risk of opening itself to the blood of an other—first through a sexual contact without any prosthetics of protection and then through the injections themselves—that humanity is rescued, that the “course of darkness is reversed,” and that, in fact, the future has a chance at all.20 None of this happens, however, without the armed resistance of the purists, the anti-body protectionists figured here by “fundamentalist Christians” violently opposed to such an apparently defiling eucharist.21 A group of seven “armed fundamentalists, members of a white racist sect,” finally murders Shapely at the Salt Lake City airport, only to be caught and put into prison, where, ironically, two of their members die of aids while “steadfastly refusing the viral strain patented in Shapely’s name.”22 In this counterstory to both today’s Minutemen and the novel’s Sunflower Project, then, it is the unprotected body laid open

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to its outside, exposed to what comes to it from beyond its own skin, that lives on only by risking contamination with an other’s blood. Recounting Shapely’s story, the novel rejects the fantastic vr cul-de-sac of individual and national autonomy and self-containment: the closed circle in which one eats one’s own shit. This corporeal paradigm of the open interface—what Jean-Luc Nancy might call le partage des corps, or the ex-scripted corpus—finds its built analog in Virtual Light’s other key architectural figure: the Oakland Bay Bridge, which stands in sharp contrast to the prosthetically supported pyramid and to its decrepit modernist fantasy. Gibson emphasizes that, on the post-quake bridge, modernity had ended, its anti-matter program overwhelmed by “another reality, intent upon its own agenda.”23 For although the bridge still stands—it survived the Little Grande relatively intact—its “steel bones [and] stranded tendons” now form the webwork supporting a kind of thirdspace, a guerrilla architecture of ad hoc structures built “piecemeal, to no set plan, employing every imaginable technique and material.” No programming organizes this “amorphous,” parasitic, and “startlingly organic . . . secondary construction,” this “accretion of dreams” made up of “tattoo parlors, dimly lit stalls stacked with decaying magazines, sellers of fireworks, of cut bait, betting shops, sushi bars, unlicensed pawnbrokers, herbalists, barbers, bars.”24 Instead of the glistening, coherently abstract forms of the modernist pyramid, there is, on the bridge, a “patchwork carnival of scavenged surfaces,” a “formless mass of stuff” culled from other building projects and put to uses for which it was never intended, uses neither foreseen nor managed by any architectural program.25 Neil Campbell has associated the bridge with Foucault’s definition of “heterotopia,” arguing that its “ramshackle, free-form democracy has all the characteristics of a vision of the urban New West as potential heterotopic space,” and indeed that seems to be the case, since no cosa mentale, no “underlying structure,” dominates this other West of the ( future as) other that is the bridge’s bricolage-space, which grows not according to some corporate or vr plan but only through a random but highly energetic and productive sort of accretion and use.26

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The bridge, then, unlike either the pyramid or the Sunflower megastructures, exposes itself to the indefiniteness of an unanticipatable future, an in-coming other for which it makes (a) space but which it does not program. “Things accumulated there,” Yamazaki observes, “around some armature of original purpose, until a point of crisis had been attained and a new program had emerged. But what was that program?” he asks (a question the novel leaves suspended; hanging, as it were, in midair).27 The bridge retains its definitive, modernist program but lives on beyond its limits in a carnivalizing excess of labyrinthine, secondary structures that simply attach themselves to it, as though it were some kind of magnetic attractor welcoming this undesigned stuff that just happens. For Tschumi, this paradox of definite program plus undefinable excess, of the “Pyramid of concepts and the Labyrinth of [sensual, lived] experience, of immaterial architecture as a concept [vr or space] and of material architecture as a presence [event or, as Tschumi likes to say, ‘violence’],” constitutes the very nature of architecture itself and is the source of its double pleasure, a hybrid space we can also associate with the postwestern critical regionalism of a Soja or a Campbell.28 Unlike the vr pornography of a masturbatory modernist architecture, architecture in this double sense—involving both “mental constructs and sensuality,” blueprinted space and unpredictable event—is for Tschumi the “ultimate erotic object, because an architectural act, brought to the level of excess” and taking place at the “possible/impossible junction of concepts and experience,” is the “only way to reveal both the traces of history and its own immediate experiential truth.” The bridge’s secondary structures are the built forms of this erotic “pleasure of excess,” a pleasure embodied here by a suspension bridge that suspends the future as virtual reality by maintaining the irreducible suspense of an always in-coming futurity.29 Taking a cue from Hart Crane’s Brooklyn Bridge, Gibson’s Bay Bridge is a poetic object that sings “when the wind’s just right” and that hums “like a muffled harp” in whose song Yamazaki hears “some message of vast, obscure”—and, ultimately, undefinable— “moment,” a song that marks this site’s open readiness for whatever

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is coming, a song addressed to the future as a kind of promissory note.30 Thus the bridge is a specifically chor-al site. Like the “event of architecture” Edward Casey describes in The Fate of Place, the bridge “gives place (donne lieu), gives room for things to happen,”31 just like the chora of the Timaeus, which, in Derrida’s reading, is Plato’s figure for “place as interval,” a place that takes place in “the very excess of spac-ing out,” or “by the very promise of giving place” to what will take place by coming to it from some unprogrammable future.32 The sun of modernity sets on the far side of this choral bridge, on which lies the promise of a new and suspended western spatiality, an other spatiality of the ( future) other. Tschumi has himself sought to build such a choral site, not in the American West of San Francisco but on “125 acres of industrial land in northeastern Paris.”33 His Parc de la Villette, variously described as an “avant garde Disney Land,” an exemplar of “deconstructive” architecture, and an “Urban Park for the 21st Century,” is made up of “35 red folies, sport and recreation areas, playgrounds, a science and technology museum, and a music center.”34 Tschumi overtly associates the Parc with a kind of madness, a figure he derives from Maurice Blanchot: a madness that “serves as a constant point of reference . . . because it appears to illustrate a characteristic situation at the end of the twentieth century—that of disjunctions and dissociations between use, form, and social values.”35 Also figured by the other spatiality of Gibson’s bridge, this mad (or erotic) disjunction between form and function, between architecture as defined space and architecture as unprogrammable event, is not necessarily a negative situation. Tschumi envisions his park, and especially its thirty-five red folies, in exactly the same terms as Gibson sees the Bay Bridge: as a kind of welcoming accumulator for or invitation to what will happen in and on it; to, that is to say, happenstance itself, or to the event-ful-ness that constitutes architecture per se. “The aim,” he writes, “is to free the built folie from its historical connotations and to place it on a broader and more abstract plane, as an autonomous object that, in the future [emphasis added], will be able to receive new meanings.”36 Rejecting the “ideological a priori of the masterplans of the past”—masterplans that,

1. Folie r4 from Event-Cities 2 by Bernard Tschumi. Folies are like mirrors: you project your own fantasies on them. © 2000 by MIT Press.

in Gibson’s novel, are reiterated as the virtual future imaged by the vl glasses—Tschumi’s folies, like the Bay Bridge, serve as anchoring “points of intensity” for future events, places of “new investment” where “the grafts of transference can take hold”: places that, through their disjunctive force or their “programmatic instability,” promise themselves to future uses and make places for those unspecified uses to take place and attach themselves (see fig. 1).37 The madness of this “transgressive architecture” thus lies in its uselessness to any present program, a uselessness that constitutes its perpetual promise to the future.38 And this uselessness fits precisely Tschumi’s characterization of architecture’s survivability: “Architecture seems to survive only when it saves its nature by negating the form that society expects of it . . . there has never been any reason to doubt the necessity of architecture, for the necessity of architecture is its non-necessity. It is useless, but radically so.”39 Radically transgressive because radically useless, radically useless because perpetually promised to the future, the Bay Bridge and the Parc take place as architecture because they are both a little mad about what remains, indefinitely, to come. They embody what we might well call an architecture a folie and, more accurately for Gibson, a specifically

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new western spatiality that, by suspending the purposefulness of the abstract program and the determining grid, lives on in suspense. In Virtual Light this mad promise goes by the name “Thomasson,” the term Yamazaki uses to characterize the Bay Bridge, San Francisco, and the new urban West, and, finally, America itself. As Yamazaki explains it (and Gibson is here citing a real historical event), “Thomasson” was first coined by Japanese “writer and artisan Gempei Akasegawa” in an effort to “describe certain useless and inexplicable moments, pointless yet curiously artlike features of the urban landscape.”40 For reasons that are murky but certainly provocative, Akasegawa uses the name of Gary Thomasson to mark these useless but intensely promising moments and artifacts. According to Yamazaki, “Thomasson was an American baseball player, very handsome, very powerful. He went to the Yomiyuri Giants in 1982, for a large sum of money. Then it was discovered he could not hit the ball.”41 (In fact, Thomasson’s overall batting average in nine seasons in Major League Baseball was a mediocre .249.) When Yamazaki looks at the Bay Bridge—at its disjunctive “magic” and its mad “singularity”—he sees that, “in all the world, surely, there was no more magnificent Thomasson.”42 Yamazaki never saw Tschumi’s folies, but it seems clear that they too are exemplary Thomassons. Like the Bay Bridge, the folies’ mad promise “undoes the pretensions of the systematic and the total,” and as such it functions as the “ultimate explosion of permanent presence.”43 And, finally, this promise functions as an intense irruption of an other virtuality, which this architecture a folie solicits not as the preprogramming of every future by the fantasies of vr but as the mad excess— the unprogrammable futurity—of the present itself. This is the idea of virtuality Grosz opposes to the seductions of virtual reality, and one she believes has much to offer an architectural profession limited by its own pyramidal project or by its modernist dreams of domination. “What,” she asks, does the thought of “virtuality, rather than virtual reality, offer to architecture?” Her answer illuminates both Gibson’s bridge and Tschumi’s Parc, for according to Grosz, virtuality offers “The idea of an indeterminate, unspecified future, open-endedness,

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the preeminence of futurity over the present and the past, the promise not of simulation . . . but of (temporal) displacement, not simply deferral but endless openness.”44 Virtuality thus “resides in the real (as the oxymoron ‘virtual reality’ implies)” almost like the saving impurity of Shapely’s nonpathogenic virus resides in the bodies of Virtual Light: as, that is, the excess in corporeal reality that enables it to sur-vive or keep living to the extent that it transgresses itself, such that it remains disjunctively “open to the future, open to potentialities other than those now actualized.” This is Gibson’s virtual West, his counterstory to the dominating, modernist fantasies of virtual reality and the abstract grid. It is for Grosz only by virtue of this virtual excess in the real, this real excess of virtuality, that the real has a chance to “expand itself,” to live on beyond itself, in different ways, in the future, and so she concludes that “the virtual poses no threat to the real because it is a mode of production and enhancement of the real: an augmentation, a supplementation, and a transformation of the real by and through its negotiation with virtuality.”45 Gibson certainly never read Grosz—and Tschumi built his Parc long before Architecture from the Outside was published—but the Bay Bridge’s other spatiality and the Parc’s architecture a folie invite the chance of a “new West” and of an other future—of, that is to say, a virtual West as the ( future) other, or as the other(‘s) future—by closing the programmed fantasies of virtual reality and by opening the unspecified reality of virtuality. Notes
1. Gibson, Virtual Light, 115. 2. Gibson, Virtual Light, 115, 144. 3. Tschumi, Architecture and Disjunction, 38. 4. Tschumi, Architecture and Disjunction, 38. 5. Gibson, Virtual Light, 97. 6. Campbell, Cultures of the American New West, 160. 7. Gibson, Virtual Light, 14. 8. Davis, City of Quartz, 240. 9. Gustavo Arellano, “O.C. Can You Say . . . ‘anti-Mexican’?” Los Angeles Times, May 8, 2006. 10. Gibson, Virtual Light, 122.

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11. Gibson, Virtual Light, 144. 12. Gibson, Virtual Light, 250–51. 13. Gibson, Virtual Light, 251. 14. Grosz, Architecture from the Outside, 42, 43. 15. Grosz, Architecture from the Outside, 46. 16. Gibson, Virtual Light, 259. 17. Gibson, Virtual Light, 207. 18. Gibson, Virtual Light, 209. 19. Gibson, Virtual Light, 258, 259. 20. Gibson, Virtual Light, 323. 21. Gibson, Virtual Light, 209. 22. Gibson, Virtual Light, 323. 23. Gibson, Virtual Light, 62. 24. Gibson, Virtual Light, 62–63. 25. Gibson, Virtual Light, 63, 178. 26. Campbell, Cultures of the American New West, 161; Gibson, Virtual Light, 126. 27. Gibson, Virtual Light, 64. 28. Tschumi, Architecture and Disjunction, 47. 29. Tschumi, Architecture and Disjunction, 71. 30. Gibson, Virtual Light, 44, 159. 31. Casey, The Fate of Place, 313. 32. Derrida and Eisenman, Choral Works, 108; Casey, The Fate of Place, 320. 33. McGill School of Architecture, http://www.arch.mcgill.ca/prof.mellin/ arch671/winter2000/sdarali/precedents/villette.htm. 34. Deconstructive Architecture, http://www.pixcentrix.co.uk/pomo/arch/ arch.htm; Tschumi, Event-Cities 2, 053; Parc de la Villette, http://www.archidose.org/Feb99/020199.htm. 35. Tschumi, Architecture, 175. 36. Tschumi, Architecture, 174. 37. Tschumi, Event-Cities 2, 053; Tschumi, Architecture, 178, 179, 203. 38. Tschumi, Event-Cities 2, 063. 39. Tschumi, Architecture, 46. 40. Gibson, Virtual Light, 64. 41. Gibson, Virtual Light, 64. 42. Gibson, Virtual Light, 63. 43. Casey, The Fate of Place, 316, 317. 44. Grosz, Architecture from the Outside, 88. 45. Grosz, Architecture from the Outside, 90.

Nature and Culture d

5. What’s Authentic about Western Literature? And, More to the Point, What’s Literary?
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Outsider status has long been a vexed issue in western American studies, and not simply because of churning demographics out West, where, as Nancy Cook observes, “authenticity continues to be claimed to assert ‘insider’ status for ‘outsiders’ and to keep newer ‘outsiders’ at bay or powerless.”1 The issue has less to do with priority of arrival than with standards of judgment and thus (among other things) with the kind of literature people value. This literary effect is clearest with the genre most characteristically regional, cowboy Westerns, which share with other popular genres (spy thrillers, detective novels) a deep investment in assumed authenticity, requiring footnotes be strung around like barbed wire to verify unlikely locales, outrageous garb, and improbable activities all within the realm of the actual, the authentic. Ever since James Fenimore Cooper, writers have duly obliged. The phony allure of such assumed historical authenticity has been exposed by a handful of masterful Westerns, even as they celebrate that allure’s venerable hold on tradition—a legacy of faux authenticity that often trumps history itself (or as Maxwell Scott exhorts in John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “Print the legend!”).2 Ford’s films in fact offer the perfect example, created by the son of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, just as do the western stories of Stephen Crane, hailing from Port Jervis, New Jersey. Given two such accomplished non-western artists of the West, one wonders why the West still demands literary authenticity so much more stridently than either the South or the North. After all, southerners once held fiercely to a plantation myth, even though that belief did not directly affect resident literary judgments. Northerners

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once endorsed the ideal of a melting-pot nation, though that is only a marginal theme in northern fiction. Why does the West continue to cherish authenticity as an essential standard in judging texts, fictional and otherwise, as if one needed to earn a readership with truth, achieve literary authority with accuracy, and merit by birth the right to authenticity? Moreover, as the reference to Cooper suggests, this is hardly a recent phenomenon, even if the New Western History has lent it luster by self-consciously demolishing myths in order to clear the historical landscape for more “authentic” experiences actually lived by westerners. In the effort to weaken the iron grip of Frederick Jackson Turner, the trio of Patricia Limerick, Richard White, and Donald Worster have resorted to a customary tactic among historians who want to dislodge one of their own: rejecting Turner’s account as history, praising it instead as literature. Yet at a moment when literature professors as well have tried ignoring Turner, it is surprising to see how deeply in his shadow we continue to lie. For central to his thesis is an authenticity of frontier experience that transforms one into a genuine American, by which he means “westerner.” And it is that alleged standard that continues to shape our judgment of literary texts, requiring them to be historically accurate, written by those in the know. It’s time to break the stranglehold historians have placed on western literature, if only to recover certain distinct literary pleasures. That is the goal of a recent collection of essays edited by William Handley and Nathaniel Lewis, True West: Authenticity and the American West, which offers a twin-barreled assault on historical “truth” and “authenticity,” implicitly taking to task such esteemed critics as Wallace Stegner, Ivan Doig, and William Kittredge in order to reveal them as better imaginative writers than their own critical perspective allows. What unites these younger scholars is the idea that regional literature need not be constrained by provincial considerations, either of history or of place. For when authenticity trumps verbal play, when it discounts narrative ploys and literary delight itself, then literature as literature fails. And the converse only confirms the point: that when western literature becomes more remarkable as literature, claims

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of regional authenticity fall by the boards (not as incorrect, but as largely irrelevant). Still, such claims continue, nowhere more forcefully than in the Montana novelist Ralph Beer’s creed that a writer must be rooted in a particular place: “You’d better know the place, and you’d better know the people who live there, and you’d better have some commitment to that place and those people or else what you write is not going to bear up under time or scrutiny. It will ultimately be rejected not only by the people who inhabit that place but by other wise readers as well.”3 Beer’s demand for firsthand knowledge effectively outlaws the writerly imagination that would talk the talk without the proverbial, prerequisite walk. This demand is meant understandably as a rebuke to that long line of eastern writers who have successfully imposed their myth of the West onto a landscape never seen. Yet it sounds uncomfortably like the prologue to Huckleberry Finn, where Mark Twain promises to prosecute, banish, and shoot any reader of a certain critical bent. Perhaps all regionalism encourages this bent, though the West’s colorful landscapes and diverse peoples only exacerbate the situation, with literature and by extension painting, sculpture, and other representational arts necessarily parasitic on what they represent. Because the region always exceeds its representations, we are invariably caught “between the aspiring text and the more perfect form of the West itself,” as Nathaniel Lewis observes; it is a competition that cannot be won, since “the reality is always thought to be more stunning than the painting or book, than memory or anticipation.”4 When authenticity is the gold standard, then literature as literature becomes absorbed by other disciplines: geography, say, or history, or sociology. And even those who agree that much western literature is neither authentic nor well written (popular Westerns, say) cannot ensure that good writing will emerge by simply excluding the inauthentic. Still, that is often the pressure even native western authors feel—to return to the actual, the physical, the lived experience—since as Nancy Cook once again observes, “Many contemporary western writers are judged less by their imaginations than by their ability to be lyrically

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descriptive. We still seem to want our western writers to be native informants.”5 That desire is what makes the adjective “realistic” such a ubiquitous sales pitch in Amazon.com’s list of encomiums. So strong is the pressure for regional writing to embrace landscapes, beautiful or sublime, that we can be nonplussed by a writer who simply defies the convention. Richard Ford was once asked whether landscape “contribute[s], in any way, to human action”—a question Turner took for granted, of course, as have many regional writers, western and non-western. “Well, I suppose it does, in one way or another,” Ford slyly riposted. “If it’s cold where you live, then you tend to stay in a lot and get cabin fever. . . . But I think, more commonly that we say it contributes in our attempts to explain our lives to ourselves: why this happened, why we feel this way, why we’re having this problem. The drama is in us, not the mountain range to the west of here. I think landscape is inert, and that we attribute to it qualities, strengths that we say affect our lives. If our explanations persuade us and others, then the relationship to landscape which we’ve advanced becomes true.” Ford’s point is that landscape descriptions are tautological, invoked to confirm qualities we have already attributed to them (think for starters of the melodramatic nineteenth-century landscape paintings of Albert Bierstadt and Frederick Edwin Church). In the effort to break the tautology, Ford denies any imputed value to nature at all, either grandeur or menace: “what I want to do is write something new and not sentimental, something that owes itself more to the imagination than to a responsibility to a place.” It’s not that he denies the promise of lyric description, but that too often that promise is unredeemed: “So these guys who look at the mountains and want to write descriptions of the mountains, what I think is: Hell, go to the mountains! Forget about writing pictures of them. If you want to write pictures of them, make it interesting word for word. . . . That’s why I don’t have a lot of word-pictures in my stories. I don’t have the patience to write them.”6 It’s worth recalling that Ford is a southerner, whose temporary residence in Montana hardly confirmed the authenticity of his vision. And though Stegner would probably have agreed with Ford’s point,

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it is interesting that as a westerner Stegner lined up with Beer in affirming regional writers’ need to be deeply rooted. In 1987, shortly after Ford’s story collection appeared, Stegner made a pointed dismissal of it in those terms: “There have been a lot of migrants. What’s his name—I can’t remember any names this morning—Rock Springs. He paid no attention to the local history or geography. He had gold mines outside of Rock Springs, Wyoming, and things like that. He didn’t give a damn—after all Keats said Cortez. The locals who do give a damn about history and geography and want it straight thought he was a kind of carpetbagger writing southern stories about Montana.”7 Here the authenticity issue achieves an inadvertent clarity, since Stegner starts with censure of Ford for certain alleged geographic blunders, only to end by comparing his efforts with Keats’s first great sonnet: “Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes / He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men / Look’d at each other with a wild surmise— / Silent, upon a peak in Darien.” Keats’s mistaking Cortez for Balboa hardly diminishes these closing lines, a conclusion Stegner seems to intend as a surprisingly generous gesture to Ford. After all, the animadverting “locals” alluded to by Stegner comprise only a tiny fraction of even western readers, as Stegner well knew, who are substantially more urban than those in the East. In short, despite Stegner’s aversion to textual errors, cunning inauthenticity always trumps flat-footed truth. By the same token, notwithstanding Ford’s distaste for word pictures, it’s worth holding onto the possibility of landscape description. The most cogent reminder of this lies in the paired epigraphs to a Loren Estleman Western: the first, Mark Twain’s “No weather will be found in this book. This is an attempt to pull a book through without weather”; the second, Hemingway’s “Remember to get the weather in your god damned book—weather is very important.”8 These mutually exclusive injunctions for and against the Weather Channel register a healthily broad range of novelistic agendas. But keep in mind that even when weather is included, it’s always fictional weather, storms brewed out of verbal cold fronts, halcyon days concocted from a narrative brew, and not some meteorological log for a real locale. It’s part of a mise-en-

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scène in which, as Ivan Doig so memorably subtitled his memoir, the landscape displays configurations “of a western mind.”9 Documentary realism offers a misleading standard for judging anything other than straightforward chronicle. Literary truth is not geographic truth, after all, but serves a larger metonymic, often psychological role. And the sense of place we cherish in fiction thus offers more than mere lyrical delight in landscape. Take one of my favorite fictional places, Tom Outland’s discovery of Mesa Verde. Willa Cather’s prose evokes a landscape of “silence and stillness and repose,” but even more compellingly it embodies youthful fervor in intellectual horizons expanded, a stunning revelation of what life might be because of what it once was.10 Or take Stegner’s account of coming-of-age in the Saskatchewan prairies of Wolf Willow, which conjures out of the land’s desolate beauty the lineaments of his developing western ethos, his acquired sense of personal restraint and poeticism in a land so spare and open that it always “mark[s] the sparrow’s fall.”11 In neither of these instances do we fidget over authorial authenticity—after all, Cather the southwestern tourist does just fine. What compels us primarily in both is the artist’s inimitable skill at taking native materials and transforming them, without necessarily having lived within them. Yet my mention of Stegner’s affection for the landscape of childhood prompts the question of another kind of authenticity: the nostalgia for a historical past always supplanted by transformations that have made one into a writer capable of experiencing, and representing, that nostalgia. Turner pronounced the frontier’s significance as primarily its passing, a theme reiterated in accounts that tout western history as measure of all that is lost. Yet if cowboy Westerns flagrantly evoke this nostalgia for a simple mythic past, the irony is that those who dismiss the genre as inauthentic rely on the selfsame vision of an irreclaimable world. The argument is simply that that lost world must be recalled more accurately, more authentically, by those who remember. “Looking backward is one of our main hobbies here in the American West, as we age,” Kittredge has proclaimed.12 Underlying this admission is the belief that credible narratives can

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only be written by those who have lived the history, like Kittredge. Yet it is his stylistic command that lends authority to reminiscences of Oregon ranch life, not the other way around. He compels attention not through the stark authenticity of his recollections, dictated ham-handedly by memory, but rather from a creative sensibility that shapes the past, even invents it, into persuasive narrative form. Stegner expresses the idea suggestively, with a wonderfully playful twist, in Wolf Willow: “I am afflicted with the sense of how many whom I have known are dead, and how little evidence I have that I myself have lived what I remember”—then adding, “I half suspect that I am remembering not what happened but something I have written.”13 That suspicion looms larger the more one moves away from a dry historical record—the yellowing chronicles of the past, the spare testimonials of participants—toward the self-sustaining, self-consuming verbal artifacts we value as literature. In that latter realm, historical assertions share the same valence as landscape descriptions, defining the emotional terrain in which characters create themselves, in which dialogue is shaped, in which plots are woven out of selected events. History, from this perspective, is the handmaiden of literature, not the other way around. And that turn from verifiable past to felt present, from ascertainable fact to verbal construction, signals a revival of myth in the hold that tradition has on consciousness. Even Stegner confessed to this, describing the kind of distinctively western figure he felt he was: “A wild man from the West, I have always done my honest best to live up to what tradition says I should be. I have always tried to look like Gary Cooper and talk like the Virginian. I have endeavored to be morally upright, courteous to women.”14 Again, it’s hard to make out Stegner’s tone: whether a tongue-in-cheek joshing of the eastern reader with frontier clichés or a heartfelt celebration of genuine western identity. Either way—and despite Stegner’s belief that his character emerges from an intersection of western history and landscape—nothing but the hoary traditions of that region suggest this characterization is any truer in the West than elsewhere. Still, it does seem that western fiction more often draws on just such mythic endorsements, as Stephen Crane and John Ford ob-

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served, with legend becoming fact in ways that needed to be tested with due suspicion. And the scholarly cries of inauthenticity that have regularly greeted cowboy Westerns over the years (right down to Brokeback Mountain) have arisen in dismay that the historical record was being traduced. The larger—if implicit—assumption behind that dismay is that history’s documentary status must ever legitimate fictional claims, giving a thumbs-up to novels as authentic texts. In fact, the relationship between history and literature will vex western studies so long as truth is associated with narrow notions of historical pattern rather than literary insight. And to the extent that literary critics buy into this logic, western literature becomes a pale imitation not only of the actual West but of its recorded history. Style and narrative inventiveness are first to fall by the wayside, but even subject matter limps along, victim of narrow conceptions of what constitutes the “authentic.” Perhaps the best place to renegotiate the concept is with the most truly authentic western subject, the Native American, who has long been displaced from history, treated as invisible or vanishing, too toxic a presence for immigrants eager to claim authenticity for themselves. Yet paradoxically, Native American writing offers the most interesting challenge to an authorized western voice, in its rejection of the role of anthropological native informant that anchors a supposedly authentic vision. N. Scott Momaday started it off with his breakthrough novel of 1968, House Made of Dawn, which shatters two central rules of authenticity. Momaday is writing, so Louis Owens notes, “about Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico as an outsider while assuming insider privilege. He is also writing a novel that is replete, in fact bulging at the seams, with the easily recognizable techniques and tropes of modernist American literature. In short, Momaday borrowed a tribal culture other than his own as his subject, and he appropriated modernist fiction as his dominant paradigm.”15 In the thirtyfive years since Momaday’s assault on conventional notions, Native American literature has embraced possibilities he entertained, possibilities anticipated in eastern literature long before. No one questions Crane’s Red Badge of Courage as inauthentic, after all, because he

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had not experienced war firsthand. But the question does persist with “this phantom artifact called ‘Indian,’” as Owens observes: “Why, we must ask, are the rules different for authors who write about Native Americans, whether those authors are of Native American descent or not? Do we disqualify a McNickle, a Momaday, a Hogan, a Querry, a Louis, a King, a Walters, an Owens, or a Dorris because each—although he or she may be of Native American ancestry to one degree or another—has written about a tribal culture that does not happen to be part of that particular author’s tribal heritage?”16 The answer, of course, is no we don’t, since we do not esteem the fiction of these remarkable writers on the basis of their status as native informants, or at least we shouldn’t. Fiction operates by other rules, other assumptions, that tend to be occluded when the issue of authenticity arises. Fictional authenticity, in fact, is either an oxymoron or a tautology—either a negation in terms that leaves the text up for grabs or a text only authenticated by its author’s identity (as westerner, as Indian, as figure authorized to write an insider’s account). And it is more often as tautology than oxymoron that novels in the West are judged, by garnering a presumed historical value that lends them an unearned literary cachet. This habit of thought was laid bare most notoriously after the appearance in 1976 of The Education of Little Tree, Forrest Carter’s autobiography as a Cherokee in the Tennessee mountains.17 The book, widely praised, became a runaway best-seller for its “wisdom about ‘growing up,’ about the Indian, about the earth, and about the relationship of man and the earth” (as the paperback cover blithely intones). In 1991 it garnered the Abby Award from the American Booksellers Association, continuing as number one on the New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction. That same year, it was discovered that Forrest Carter was really Asa Carter, the white-supremacist speechwriter for George Wallace, who authored Wallace’s notorious vow, “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” The guru of new-age environmentalists was actually a gun-toting member of the Ku Klux Klan, having taken the name “Forrest” not for its environmental resonance but because the original kkk had been founded by the slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest. All this is

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grist for the mill, reviving the question of whether such information changes the way we read Little Tree even as fiction. The point is that Little Tree should have failed not for its lack of authorial authenticity, either as nonfiction or fiction, but for being so slapdash, maudlin, and banal; history denies its claim to attention far less than literary standards do. In fact, we should never require authors, either novelists or historians, to show their credentials as Native Americans or women or gays before they imagine a life or a culture; if we did, much of the literature we love would disappear, from Shakespeare to Stephen Crane. Keats coined the phrase “negative capability” precisely to identify Shakespeare’s ability to inhabit lived experience so entirely alien to his own, and it should not surprise us to learn that Crane admitted similarly to an editor: “After all, I cannot help vanishing and disappearing and dissolving. It is my foremost trait.”18 Fictional insight has nothing to do with a fixed perspective authorized by personal history; it emerges from a nuanced sensibility capable of projecting lives into an imagined world that hangs narratively together. And that can be done by anyone anywhere with enough intelligence and vision, alive to the possibilities of performance. “What, then, of the vexed concept of authenticity?” inquires Henry Louis Gates in mulling over Little Tree and what its authorship implies: “To borrow from Samuel Goldwyn’s theory of sincerity, authenticity remains essential: once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”19 In fact, Gates’s wry conclusion is shared by many of the younger scholars in True West, who repeatedly reject a logic of historical certitude in preference for more playful, imaginative constructions. Philip J. Deloria’s work on “playing Indian” becomes, ironically, a historical model for the ways in which both white and Native identity have long been performed rather than simply inherited.20 We create authenticity, with more or less imaginative verve, and then display it for outsiders and newcomers. The question to ask at this point, then, in the absence of traditional standards of authenticity, is how do we go about judging that creation? What, to revert to the second half of my title, is distinctively literary about western literature? The answer should be apparent everywhere, so ubiquitous as to

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make it hard to generalize. It is the lure of good writing so eloquently evoked by William Kittredge (paradoxically, the passionate defender of authenticity) in recalling his grandfather dying in an old-folks home in Eugene, as he listened to a woman “across the hall chant her litany of childhood, telling herself that she was somebody and still real. It was always precisely the same story, word by particular word.” Kittredge’s interest in the woman’s account was initially aroused by historical considerations, but only sustained by literary ones: “I wondered then how much of it was actual, lifting from some deep archive in her memory, and now I wonder how much of it was pure sweet invention, occasioned by the act of storytelling and by the generative, associative power of language.”21 That standard of “sweet invention” binds all who admire literature, and the closer we hew to it the less authenticity seems to the point. It’s not that accuracy of geography or correctness of history are trivial considerations, but that we come to realize how diverse perspectives are and how fully aesthetic strategies create the world we presume precedes them. Following Gates, we might agree that if a writer can “fake it” well, more power to him or her, more fun for us. Thus Stegner is simply wrong to claim that Bret Harte’s flaw, like Louis L’Amour’s, was his ignorance of the West—this, in contrast to Willa Cather, whose novels he finds more “authentic”: “She knew what she was talking about. She’d grown up through it. She had it in her bones and her blood.”22 On the contrary, Cather’s experience of New Mexico, setting for two of her finest novels, was fleeting at best. What we realize instead is that the problem of Harte and L’Amour—and it is a problem—is simply that they don’t write particularly well; Cather does. Yet what does “well” mean here? Once we realize that authenticity matters less than literary achievement, or even that authenticity can be earned through aesthetic practice, we still need to clarify what constitutes achievement. And that leads us not in one direction, but many—as many as the diverse voices and styles that have emerged in recent years. Consider that memorable, wildly idiosyncratic opening ploy: “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly

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fishing.” Even Norman Maclean’s memoir, which seems historically accurate, ends with his rueful admission to his father, “I like to tell stories that are true,” to which his father responds, “After you have finished your true stories sometime, why don’t you make up a story and the people to go with it? Only then will you understand what happened and why.” As he adds, “It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us.”23 That wise gesture informs not only Maclean’s own effort to “reach out” to his long-dead brother Paul but also all other memorable texts of western literature. As Bill Handley observes of Cather, who wrote half a century before Maclean, her fiction “tells the truth not so much about real places and people, but the more telling truth about the need for fictions of them.”24 That “need for fictions” about our experience has often enough resulted out West in a mythic vision (ranchers and farmers, six-guns and spurs) that has long been viewed as thin gruel. But the inadequacy of that myth should not cast doubt on other inauthentic fictional claims; after all, the best way to undo myths that deaden us imaginatively is to create more adequate, less predictable fictions of our lives. Becoming more authentic is not the trick; we need simply to become more ingenious and creative. Everyone has his or her own cherished example, but consider these two masterful western artists, or perhaps I should say artists of the West, since it’s hard to know how to label such inauthentic figures. I invoke these practitioners—one a novelist, the other a film director—in part to delight in the unrecognized familiar, since they appear nowhere in most people’s catalogs of western American art, though they are by most lights exemplary figures. And to sustain the surprise, let me offer an example from the first without identifying him: Now and then, in the vastness of those plains, huge trees would advance toward us to cluster self-consciously by the roadside and provide a bit of humanitarian shade above a picnic table, with sun flecks, flattened paper cups, samaras and discarded ice-cream sticks littering the brown ground. . . . I would stare at the honest brightness of the gasoline

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paraphernalia against the splendid green of oaks, or at a distant hill scrambling out—scarred but still untamed—from the wilderness of agriculture that was trying to swallow it. . . . And as we pushed westward, patches of what the garageman called “sage brush” appeared, and then the mysterious outlines of table-like hills, and then red bluffs ink-blotted with junipers, and then a mountain range, dun grading into blue, and blue into dream, and the desert would meet us with a steady gale, dust, gray thorn bushes, and hideous bits of tissue paper mimicking pale flowers among the prickles of wind-tortured withered stalks all along the highway; in the middle of which there sometimes stood simple cows, immobilized in a position (tail left, white eyelashes right) cutting across all human rules of traffic. Nabokov: the cadences of that indefatigable butterfly collector and Colorado tourist are beyond mistaking. Hardly an authentic westerner—not even an authentic American—he achieves in the second half of Lolita one of the most brilliant evocations of the West in the past half-century.25 At a minimum, his tongue-in-cheek taxonomies of motels, hitchhikers, national monuments, roadside attractions, and western landscapes suggest that the first requirement for western writing is not a pedigreed voice but a curious, open eye. Indeed, my most recent rereading of the novel coincided with a reading of Lewis and Clark’s Journal, written a century and a half earlier, arousing delighted wonder at a landscape capable of eliciting such diverse accounts of travels that take the same time to complete (nearly three years). Lewis and Clark heroically survive the land through which they pass, while Humbert Humbert’s westward hegira is presented as a bizarrely dissociated narrative in which landscape is meant to distract us from his contemptible efforts. Yet in both accounts, promise lies just beyond the next bend, immediately over the next ridge. Indeed, Nabokov intuitively grasps a central truth about the West, that it is a landscape of transit, of passage, invariably pitched between disappointment in

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the just-experienced and hope invested in the nearest horizon. If that rhythm informs Humbert’s relations with Lolita, it is given emblematic shape in the West through which they travel as he tries to be descriptively adequate to a multiplicity and exorbitance that had earlier astonished Lewis and Clark. Perhaps unsurprisingly, recent natives have resented the wry digs at western culture: the descriptions of the “Functional motel,” for instance, with its “repetitious names—all those Sunset Motels, U-Beam Cottages, Hillcrest Courts, Pine View Courts, Mountain View Courts, Skyline Courts, Park Plaza Courts,” and so on.26 Yet these and other litanies were composed affectionately by Nabokov, who took strong umbrage at those who misread them as expressing either animus or scorn. The immense variety of the western landscape and the excess of mobile American culture were so irrepressible that they defied not only authorial efforts but any readers hoping to escape bludgeoning by the force of words. My second example comes from a medium that would seem to revive authenticity as an ideal, if only because cinema displays actual scenery on the wide screen so spectacularly. Cinematic Westerns have shown ad nauseam how film’s mise-en-scène reveals both character and event through a prism of assumptions about a recognizably nationalized landscape. Those assumptions have been deftly skewered by Peter Handke in his novel Short Letter, Long Farewell, when a painter’s wife explains: We all of us here learned to see in terms of historical pictures. A landscape had meaning only if something historical had happened in it. A giant oak tree in itself wasn’t a picture: it became a picture only in association with something else, for instance, if the Mormons had camped under it on their way to the Great Salt Lake. Everything we’ve seen since we were children had stories connected with it, and all those stories were heroic. So what we see in the landscape isn’t nature, but the deeds of the men who took possession of America, and at the same time a call to be worthy of such deeds. We were brought up to look at nature with a moral

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awe. Every view of a canyon might just as well have a sentence from the Constitution under it.27 Caricature this may be, but it nicely captures one strain of “nature’s nation” that extends from Lewis and Clark’s Adamic gestures heading West—repeatedly naming sites to memorialize history—through Turner’s conjoining of the continental landscape and American character. That idea, that America’s western landscape is actually imbued with a national ethos, undergirds my second example, Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959). The film begins its transit cross-country from skyscrapered Park Avenue and ends in a moonlit scramble over Mount Rushmore. We are led from glass-walled midtown up the Hudson to Chicago, then to a dread-filled crop-dusting over Illinois fields, in turn to the glass-walled National Park headquarters in South Dakota: a circle westward that leads ineluctably toward the stone faces that would seem to parody a nationalized landscape, were they not actually there. As Cary Grant and Eva Marie-Saint clamber over the busts of our most esteemed presidents, in escape from alien spies bent on their destruction, we realize they are guided by a government agency as blind and unprincipled as its foes. The idealism that earlier artists had registered figuratively, through sublime western mountains, is held up for scrutiny as a literal gesture in Hitchcock’s wry measure of the distance America has fallen writ large on those mountains themselves, in the sightless eyes of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. Once again, like Nabokov, a non-western, non-American artist has revivified a “true West” that involves, as always, refashioning western materials into the perfect emblem of his imaginative vision. Yet if an authentic “true West” is always created, never simply found, the creation still seems to center in landscape description, which may well point to a problem for any regional literature. The issue is not whether western literature must avoid landscapes, as if it could (Richard Ford notwithstanding); it is rather that place seems a relatively negligible feature for drawing a literature together, con-

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demning writers to think of themselves first and foremost in regional terms. After all, few of us deem Faulkner or James, Cather or Fitzgerald as primarily regional writers, rather than modernist innovators, even though place plays an important role in all their work. In fact, region becomes a problem only when we think of it as identity—something Stegner continued to mull over throughout his career. Richard Etulain once observed to him, “I’ve always thought it intriguing that Jackson Pollock came from Buffalo, Wyoming,” to which Stegner responded: “Well, isn’t it intriguing also that Hemingway went back to die in Ketchum, Idaho, about five miles from Hailey, Idaho, where Ezra Pound was born? That’s a curious concatenation, that two of the greatest figures of modernism in contemporary literature should either have come from or ended up in a little jerk town on the Big Wood River. It’s a strange accident.”28 Strange, perhaps, but no stranger than that a Louisianan like Richard Ford or a New Yorker like Barry Lopez should find, like Crane and Cather before them, that it’s always possible to become western, at least as imaginative residents. The question then is really “What is a western writer?” And it is Stegner again who confronts the implications: “Is Joan Didion a western writer? Is Tom McGuane? Is Evan Connell? Is Alice Adams or Ernest Gaines or Robert Stone? Generally, the moment we segregate a writer and put the tag ‘western’ on him, we have implicitly downgraded him into some secondary category. If he’s a writer we truly admire, we more often than not forget the regional limitation and think of him simply as a contemporary American writer.”29 Here is where discussion becomes engaging, if only because the rules involved in “true admiration” are never clear. For once we simply open things up, loosen the borders, drop authenticity and realism as standards of exclusion, we are, as Nathaniel Lewis says, “left with a remarkably heterogeneous and ‘disorganized’ group of writers.”30 Once we no longer have conventional guides of genuine landscape or accurate history, we are compelled to discriminate among Louise Erdrich and Frank Bergon, Cormac McCarthy and Leslie Silko, Ivan Doig and Mary Clearman Blew, and on and on, in terms apparent only in their remarkable narrative inventiveness, their fresh use of language. In

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early stages of canon formation a certain regionalism might be a good thing, lending a collective spirit of engagement and pride to those with similar interests in giving voice to experiences hitherto silenced, unimagined, too quickly forgotten. But it’s obvious from the names just mentioned that we no longer need to maintain such scaffolding for the structure of western literature, which can clearly stand on its own, comparable in merit to anything written today. Authenticity simply falls out of the equation. After all, no one cares whether Keats got it right with Cortez; he wrote one of the great literary sonnets of the nineteenth century. To answer the question of my title, then, is to recognize that aesthetic pyrotechnics should interest us, and teasing out the many forms that interest takes will keep us gainfully employed as scholars, critics, and writers for many years to come. Of course, the paradox of such reorientation away from authenticity toward the literary is that we do away with region altogether, making the West simply another place. It might be “the last best place,” as William Kittredge and Annick Smith title their anthology, but once we’re in the middle of that writing we care only that it transform us for reasons that don’t begin with M. for Montana.31 It is when we start thinking of Kittredge’s West in the same ways we think of Faulkner’s South or James’s London or Hemingway’s Paris, as literary places primarily, that the idea of a western literary association will become at once less exclusively authentic and more exclusively literary. The historians might look askance, but their gesture itself will tell us we’re right, since we will have reclaimed the best reason for bringing us together in the first place. Notes
1. Cook, “The Only Real Indians,” 143. 2. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (dir. John Ford, Paramount, 1962); for further discussion see Sandweiss, Print the Legend. 3. Quoted in Morris, Talking up a Storm, 20. 4. Lewis, Unsettling the Literary West, 7–8. 5. Cook, “The Only Real Indians,” 147. 6. Quoted in Morris, Talking up a Storm, 109, 113, 114.

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7. Stegner, Conversations, xviii. 8. Estleman, Bloody Season. 9. Doig, This House of Sky. 10. Cather, The Professor’s House, 180. 11. Stegner, Wolf Willow, 8. 12. Kittredge, Owning It All, 6. 13. Stegner, Wolf Willow, 15, 17. 14. Stegner, Marking the Sparrow’s Fall, 97. 15. Owens, Mixedblood Messages, 157. 16. Owens, Mixedblood Messages, 17. 17. Carter, The Education of Little Tree. 18. Quoted in Baym et al., Norton Anthology of American Literature, 711. 19. Henry Louis Gates Jr., “‘Authenticity,’ or the Lesson of Little Tree,” New York Times Book Review, November 24, 1991, 30. 20. Deloria, Playing Indian. 21. Kittredge, Owning It All, 70. 22. Stegner, Conversations, 133. 23. Maclean, A River Runs through It, 161. 24. Handley, “Willa Cather,” 79. 25. Nabokov, The Annotated Lolita, 153. 26. Nabokov, The Annotated Lolita, 146. 27. Handke, Short Letter, Long Farewell, 101. 28. Stegner, Conversations, 191. 29. Stegner, Conversations, 137. 30. Lewis, Unsettling the Literary West, 18. 31. Kittredge and Smith, The Last Best Place.

6. Some Questions about Sexless Nature Writing
david oates

All sexuality is subject to a hermeneutics of suspicion. Lee Edelman, “Homographesis” You do not surmount Nature by denying its prime claim of sexuality. Harold Bloom, The Visionary Company My paradigm would thus have us interrogating language . . . for the complex intersections of human encounters and human encounters with the environment. Annette Kolodny, “Letting Go Our Grand Obsessions”

I would like to ask some questions about sexless nature writing. Why does so much of the traditional canon of (male) nature writing, both American and British, ignore sex, evade gender, and erase their corollary experiences of affection and domestic connectedness? What is the relation of the apparently unmentionable narratives of sexuality (particularly male sexuality and its struggles over gender) to our highly public narratives of nature? Having worked as a “nature writer” for some decades now, I have come to wonder about my own surprising complicity in these strange silences and evasions, especially in my earlier years as a writer. Eventually, I began telling the suppressed stories of affections, griefs, and lusts that traveled into the wilderness with me—of how I simultaneously claimed and avoided my gender status through the modality of

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the wilderness—but only after several books in which I pretended that my experience of nature was as chaste as a child’s. What was gained— for me as for so many before me—by removing such questions from the picture? And what picture of nature was it that we came to believe in through this genre of nature writing that helped define the conservationist, environmentalist, and preservationist movements? I see a sex- and gender-avoiding habit that goes through the biggest names of American nature writing—Thoreau, Muir, Abbey. When this American way of seeing nature is triangulated with certain canonical English nature lyrics (by Wordsworth and Hopkins), the full gender catastrophe is revealed: the distress lurking beneath the privileges of patriarchy, at the roots of the nature-writing institution. Here is what I see there. First, that the vigorous blanking out of these parts of human experience (the sexual and the domestic) to create something called “nature” reveals a profound gender anxiety at work. Second, that the redefining of the “masculine” (principally by opposition to the “homosexual”) was taking place precisely when the definition of nature-as-wilderness was being formed by that father of the modern environmental movement, John Muir—and that this is no coincidence. And third, that far from merely exploding or sneering at the blind spots and denials of these our ancestral nature writers, we ought equally to be appreciating them: by seeing that these surely desperate omissions may have performed a vital function of freeing both the writers and the “nature” they wrote about from the oppressions of gender relations as then defined. “Desperate” because, after all, they removed so much of what gives life its zest—indeed, exactly that which produces and reproduces life itself. We ought to assess such sacrifices soberly, to see what they purchased. We all have heard the now-famous fact that Thoreau so glaringly omitted from his otherwise so detailed account in Walden: that he dined with his mother or with the Emersons several nights a week while rusticating at the Pond. Candles, tablecloths, women. Domestic comforts. Imagine! And most of us have caught up with the fact of Thoreau’s sexual orientation, strongly same-sex but equally strongly suppressed, corralled, silenced. These familiar facts no longer awaken titters of gossip and exposure, thank goodness.1

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But they do raise the question, right here at the foundation of American nature writing: Why must sexuality and domesticity be suppressed in order to achieve this state of mind and literature called “nature writing”? And this question leads to many others that I will raise here but not try to answer: What is the relationship (if any) of Thoreau’s alternative sexuality to the program or the production of nature writing? Does his gayness point to something interesting and essential, or is it merely tangential? What leverage do these suppressions gain Thoreau—what power relations do they set up—do they afford the writer some sort of privilege or ownership over that valuable commodity “nature”? Or, perhaps, over the reader? Too many questions. So let us instead bracket the core question of sexless nature writing by jumping from Thoreau to the mid-twentieth century, where Edward Abbey’s amazing classic Desert Solitaire pulls some of the same moves. Abbey’s account is as cleansed of sexual doings or mentionings as Walden is. Even though Abby takes great pains to establish a burly, two-fisted persona, with cojones the size of grapefruits, actual sex never gets into the story. Why would this hot-tempered macho Abbey end up repeating the tactics of Thoreau, that fey, chilly, over-refined loner? Why is actual sex a non-topic for the both of them? Desert Solitaire describes in splendid detail Abbey’s two six-month summer seasons as a park ranger in the red-rock wilderness of Arches National Monument. It’s full of lone-wolf meditations and Jesus-like (or Thoreau-like) solitudes. But what Abbey does not bother to tell his readers is that, for the whole second summer, his wife and child were actually there with him in that hot, dinky government trailer.2 Poor Rita, a talented painter, a personality as strong as her husband’s. Poor Joshua, newborn, firstborn, but not important enough to bother mentioning! It’s a suppression more remarkable than Thoreau’s. But why? Why can’t a wife and a child—or dinners at the Emersons’—be part of the canonical American nature-writing situation? One answer is a straightforward one, the sort of thing I investigate at length in Paradise Wild: the habitual Euro-American construct of nature as Eden-wilderness, the great untouched where the presence

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of anything human causes wilderness to lose its virginity, and where certainly the presence of domestic culture and connectedness would only intensify the human contamination. The poet Tom Lynch suggests that the desert meant “emptiness” to Abbey—that Abbey constructed the desert as a space without past, without stories or history, pretty much as the “old paradigm” always did. Domesticity would be its opposite. In contrast, Abbey emphasized “individualistic freedom pursued in an empty desert space.” “[T]he absence of family from Desert Solitaire is, I think, essential to Abbey’s conception of the value of his experience,” writes Lynch. “Abbey portrays this journey into the natural world as an escape from domestic responsibility, a severing of the bloody cord binding him to home and wife.”3 Lynch sees what many readers notice: that Abbey is trapped in an unexamined hyperindividualism. Above all, Abbey wants the wilderness to be a theater for individualistic freedom.4 Only two mentions of his wife occur in the book, both belittling to Rita and to women. It’s Abbey’s lone-wolf routine: no girls allowed in “the wilderness.” Only rugged macho solitaires, living free out beyond the reach of rules. It is not hard to contrast this urban myth of nature with the actualities of folks who really live (or lived) in these places. Donald Worster remarks on the complex body of rules, stories, and knowledges by which truly indigenous people make a life. “They have not tried to ‘live free’ of nature or of the group,” he concludes.5 Lynch concludes that Abbey remained “essentially adolescent” in his ideas of escape and anarchic individualism.6 Desert Solitaire plays out the old, tired nature story that Annette Kolodny has analyzed: the exclusion of “real flesh-and-blood women” from the fantasized West—a point made in a broader way by Barbara Ehrenreich’s 1983 book The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment.7 But I wish to add a more appreciative hypothesis about sexless nature writing, namely, that maybe this is the best one can do when trapped in the either-or of dominance-based sex roles. Maybe simply to obviate those roles is a kind of solution. It’s an awful exigency, but it gains Abbey a space in which, free of the need to swagger, he can actually start acting like a human for a while. And this is certainly

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why we continue to read Desert Solitaire: because, in parts, it comes to a marvelous and tender receptiveness in the presence of nature, a spirit one might almost describe (incorrectly) as feminine, or as, simply, more fully human. Among its other escapes, then, nature provides Abbey a paradoxical escape from machismo, in which he, of course, nevertheless remains quite trapped. The price of these escapes is very high, for Abbey has predefined “nature” as the place where he cannot belong. He calls it “the heart’s true home,” but of course home is where stories accumulate, where history and habitation and other people are. So he is locked out of the nature-home he longs for, even as he finds the individualistic playing field he equally longs for. This leads me to the following formulation: until sex roles and gender theory are changed, nature writing cannot change. It remains locked in this peculiar set of denials. What we recognize as “nature writing” seems predicated on a squinting kind of vision, an adjustment of the eyes to edit out of the “natural” experience anything that looks too sexy or too domestic. Thoreau, Abbey—one suppressed sissy, one macho shithead—same basic approach. Same theory of nature. And behind it, same theory of gender (men dominant). To gain access to responsiveness, to subject themselves to nature, they must de-gender the situation—and themselves. With Thoreau and Abbey as the frame, we come to the writer at the center of the picture: John Muir. Muir’s career seems to me to be the formative moment for both modern nature writing and the environmental movement: the intense, narrow passage through which the tidal currents of sex, gender definition, and nature definition had to squeeze. Muir began writing in his journals in the 1860s. His first periodical piece appeared in 1871, and he continued writing books and articles until his death in 1914. In 1890 he published two articles advocating for a Yosemite Valley preserve in the magazine Century; the park was created by Congress before the end of the year. The events of 1890 established Muir as the graybeard prophet of the wilderness gospel, selling books to a mostly urban audience and founding the Sierra Club as its expression in politics.

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Muir’s productive life falls exactly into the charged period that gender scholars have identified as the time in which American and British definitions of masculinity were reformulated, named, and hardened into rigid binary structures. Herbert Sussman jokes that the middle decades of the nineteenth century in England were plagued with what might be called the “condition of manliness” question.8 He argues that the industrial, urban, democratizing age had eroded the formerly secure class-based definitions of maleness; in consequence, the Victorians struggled quite publicly to establish in what, exactly, the masculine consisted. Eve Sedgwick extends the period of gender flux and redefinition to 1910,9 but she picks up this story especially at its moment of greatest intensity, what we will recognize as that great Muir Yosemite years of 1890 and 1891: “a particular historical moment . . . from which a modern homosexual identity and a modern problematic of sexual orientation can be said to date.”10 The year 1891 brings the publication of Dorian Gray and Billy Budd. Four years later, Oscar Wilde’s trial would culminate the moment when our culture’s “chronic, now endemic crisis of homo/heterosexual definition, indicatively male” became not merely visible but scandalous and unavoidable.11 What is male? What is faux male, and what is real male? How does maleness relate to nature? In these questions, so sharply focused in the early 1890s, American nature writing is deeply and consequentially entangled at exactly the moment of Muir’s national emergence. Sedgwick argues that during this period the terms defining masculinity became (and have remained) deeply self-contradictory, loaded with double binds and open secrets.12 In a nutshell, the hetero becomes defined as the not-homo, but knowledge of what is or is not homo is simultaneously proscribed (since “it takes one to know one”) and indispensable.13 And since the question is how to define the masculine, the real subject (in a patriarchal culture) is power. As Foucault insists, power is not just located in official institutions but embodied in our ways of thinking and being.14 Hence, the foundational insight for Sedgwick and other gender theorists, which I happily follow, is that we will

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find the riptides of gender definition pulling and tugging in places that are far from the ostensibly sexual: we will find “no space in the culture exempt from the potent incoherencies of homo/heterosexual definition.”15 Irigary declares outright that “homosexuality is the law that regulates the sociocultural order.”16 And in our present case, the difficult question will be how a male nature writer can subject himself to nature yet still retain his privileged maleness. In his very earliest work—what was eventually published as The Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf—Muir, as a young botanical vagabond, has to face down a blacksmith who challenges his masculinity. “These are hard times, and real work is required of every man. . . . Picking up blossoms doesn’t seem to be a man’s work at all in any kind of times.”17 Muir responds with a Bible verse, and the blacksmith is satisfied. But the question is not settled. And to avoid it, Muir took the same route we have already seen marked out from Thoreau to Abbey: defining nature as a space cleansed of the human, opposite to “culture” and thus necessarily devoid of both sex and domestic affection. Hence, though Muir married Louie Strentzel at the age of forty, produced children, and by all evidence had a warm and successful domestic life, neither Louie nor the children ever warranted mentioning in his many books of naturewandering and nature-evangelizing. It is as if they do not exist. In this degendered space, Muir finds himself blissfully free. He can adopt an elevated emotionality and sentimentality of language that one might consider surprising from a heterosexual mountaineer, and a Victorian to boot! (Muir was born a British subject in 1838.) Yet he can also record feats of manly derring-do and stiff-upper-lip endurance. He can have his gendering both ways, or neither; the reader finds him both manly and, one might say, trans-manly. To focus these gender tactics down to one example, let us take a look at a letter Muir wrote around 1870, just as he was settling in to his new “home” in the Sierras. It is directed to his close friend Mrs. Jeanne Carr, who has simply asked when he would be “coming down” from the mountains to see her in Oakland. The question awakens him to a half-humorous, deadly serious frenzy. He datelines the letter

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“Squirrelville, Sequoia Co.” in “Nut Time,” and goes so far as to actually write it in Sequoia sap! This thing is hard to excerpt, it vibrates with such electricity and certainty. But here’s the beginning: Dear Mrs. Carr: Do behold the King in his glory, King Sequoia! Behold! Behold! seems all I can say. Some time ago I left all for Sequoia and have been and am at his feet, fasting and praying for light, for is he not the greatest light in the woods, the world? Where are such columns of sunshine, tangible, accessible, terrestrialized? Well may I fast, not from bread, but from business, book-making, duty-going, and other trifles, and great is my reward already for the manly, treely sacrifice. What giant truths since coming to Gigantea, what magnificent clusters of Sequoic becauses. From here I cannot recite you one, for you are down a thousand fathoms deep in dark political quagg, not a burr-length less. But I’m in the woods, woods, woods, and they are in me-ee-ee. The King tree and I have sworn eternal love—sworn it without swearing, and I’ve taken the sacrament with Douglas squirrel, drunk Sequoia wine, Sequoia blood, and with its rosy purple drops I am writing this woody gospel letter.18 Even allowing for playfulness and exaggeration, this letter declares a turning away from the human and social world that is emphatic and complete. The “bread” question is a familiar Muir topic: he struggled all his life to balance his need for ordinary human sustenance and connectedness with his desire for what he habitually labeled “pure” wilderness. He saw them as irreconcilable opposites. Hence, in this letter Muir takes an extreme position. To the woods he swears a love affair, a marriage, a disciple’s all-forsaking, a monk’s consecration. The way heterosexual Muir genders this oath supports the idea of a hermit-monk’s calling—there’s not a woman or female spirit in sight. No ordinary mortal entanglement can be permitted; so “King Sequoia” it is (not Queen), and a life both “manly” and sexless: a pure life for the pure wilderness.

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The implied metaphor of becoming a monk to “Lord Sequoia” is striking. Sussman has investigated the almost obsessive Victorian discussion of monks and monasteries as “a rich, malleable metaphorics through which to register male anxieties . . . the code through which the early Victorians debated . . . the . . . ‘Manliness’ question.”19 The “monk” metaphor expresses the paradox that caught creative men in its double bind: an artist—or, I would add, nature writer—is situated in an intentionally all-male realm that is nevertheless outside the normal competitive realm of other men. Hence, “such activity unmans the male writer and artist.”20 These confused same-sex implications almost comically overlay Muir’s letter. Freed from domesticity and gender restraints, and therefore ostensibly from sex, Muir’s effusive devotion goes so far as to gather his “Lord’s” “sap” to write with—the woods are “in” him— and he’s “in love with” his Lord. Lee Edelman’s wisecrack about the “hermeneutics of suspicion” in which masculine identity is forged is certainly relevant here: the slightly too-protested manliness underlines the heterosexual bind Muir finds himself in.21 Many more questions are waiting to be asked here, about writing in sap and inscribing gender, about reserve and self-repression as aspects of Foucault’s “technologies of the self.”22 But my point is, simply, that nature writing is shaped, in these defining instances, by hidden but distorting questions of masculine identity, and that versions of “nature” derived from nature writing—those of the environmental movement, for instance—must be similarly distorted. We can hardly see ourselves in nature without finding dynamics of sex and gender that undermine and even reverse intended meanings almost willy-nilly. And the questions of power and domination—of nature, of humans—which they raise are tangled indeed. Vivid instances of this repression-and-reversal riptide can be seen in two classics of the nature-writing canon, both from the British side, both produced by males: Wordsworth’s “The World Is Too Much with Us” and Hopkins’s “God’s Grandeur.” I will consider these famous nature sonnets side by side, and since they are so well known and make appearances on so many college-course reading lists, I will as-

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sume they are known to the reader. I would like to notice how nature is gendered here, and how that gendering creates an odd backspin as each writer searches for a safely de-sexualized and de-eroticized nature. Heterosexual Wordsworth begins with a distinctly feminine nature baring her breast to him. But in the concluding sestet, seeking an answer, he regenders nature forcibly, obviously, into two heroic classic male figures, presumably nude, rising from the sea with horns and tridents all too visible. Strange, isn’t it? As if the implicitly sexual relation to nature were too troubling, too involved in, perhaps, getting and spending . . . leading to the expedient of removing the troubling surface sexuality altogether. Male nudes are no danger, sexually, to Wordsworth. Though he does admire them rather extravagantly!23 Here’s the pattern: the perceived sexuality of nature is shifted in an ostensibly nonsexual direction (though perhaps forbidden aspects of sexuality continue to peep through the artifice). Hopkins does the same thing. Biographer Robert Bernard Martin comments on the pervasive—if unacknowledged—sexuality “that lies behind almost all his mature poetry.”24 But since Hopkins is an undoubted homosexual, the gendering runs the opposite way, and with the same result. God the Father in the opening octave is all active maleness, equipped with that troublesome “rod”—the very word almost invariably employed in the amazingly voluminous Victorian underground literature of sadomasochism and flagellation.25 But in the sestet’s conclusion, Hopkins reimagines nature, divinizing it as a nurturing female: reversing the gender (as Wordsworth had done) to make it sexually safe for the writer. I leave it to the reader to decide if the strangely pleasurable release of the “Ah” in the last line is, or is not, a bit erotic. Closer to the surface but still submerged, sexuality appears (in both poems) in a word you will immediately notice if you’re up on your Victorian pornography (e.g., the porn classic My Secret Life, apparently printed over several decades around 1890):26 “spending” was slang for sexual orgasm. “Getting and spending . . .” and “nature is never spent . . .”: both poems, in their not-quite-conscious punning,

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engage the question of sexuality before forcibly turning away from it. For Hopkins and Wordsworth, as for Thoreau, Muir, and Abbey, it appears to be better simply to de-sex nature (and nature writer) than to directly confront the intractable problem of masculine gender domination. That sexuality still reads there should be no surprise. It is not all that easy to suppress, is it? My purpose is to raise questions and offer a hypothesis. Have these masculine gender evasions and denials substantially shaped the construct of “nature” we find in our nature literature? Have they, in turn, also shaped the “nature” of the preservationist and environmentalist movements, which drew so much inspiration from nature literature? Further, do similar evasions and omissions of sexuality and domesticity appear elsewhere in the nature-writing canon? How does this hypothesis look in women nature writers of the same eras? How have more recent nature writers played the gender questions (e.g., a nature poet like Pattiann Rogers, where sexuality seems abundant and quite released from these sad repressions and confused reversals)? And finally, can the refusal to engage sexual or domestic relations in so much of our nature writing (indeed the flight to a fantasy world where these disappear) be an attempt to define a space clear of the oppressiveness of masculinity as then defined—in other words, a place where the world can be experienced from a fuller humanity, a masculine/feminine, even a homo/hetero humanity? And thus, however fantastic their construction, might not these nature-writing landmarks continue to move us precisely because they refuse to participate in the only gender game in town—a corrupt one—and choose instead the no-game of solitary, sexless nature writing? I have chosen it myself, at times, for many of the same reasons. But I’m having more fun now, on the far side of the gender frontier, wrestling with a whole new set of questions. Notes
1. See, for instance, M. Warner, “Thoreau’s Bottom”; Harding, “Thoreau’s Sexuality.” 2. Cahalan, Edward Abbey, 65–68.

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3. Lynch, “Nativity, Domesticity, and Exile,” 89, 92, 102–3. 4. Lynch, “Nativity, Domesticity, and Exile,” 99. 5. Quoted in Lynch, “Nativity, Domesticity, and Exile,” 99. 6. Lynch, “Nativity, Domesticity, and Exile,” 100. 7. Kolodny, The Land Before Her, 3; Ehrenreich, The Hearts of Men. 8. Sussman, Victorian Masculinities, 2. 9. Sedgwick, Between Men, 201. 10. Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet, 91. 11. Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet, 1. 12. Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet, 70. 13. Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet, 83. 14. Foucault, History of Sexuality, vol. 1. 15. Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet, 2. 16. Quoted in Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet, 26. 17. Muir, A Thousand-Mile Walk (1991), 15. 18. “You say, ‘When are you coming down?’ Ask the Lord—Lord Sequoia,” in Badé, Life and Letters of John Muir, 270–73. For further discussion of Muir’s conflict over the “bread” question see Oates, Paradise Wild, 254–58. 19. Sussman, Victorian Masculinities, 2. 20. Sussman, Victorian Masculinities, 6–7. 21. Edelman, “Homographesis,” 1489. 22. Sussman makes this connection in Victorian Masculinities, 10–11. 23. John Powell Ward discusses the criticism (of Anne Mellor and others) that Wordsworth steals his sensibility from women in “‘Will No One Tell Me What She Sings?’” 24. Martin, Gerard Manley Hopkins, 21 (see also 112, 251). 25. Marcus, The Other Victorians, 252–65. 26. Marcus, The Other Victorians, 82.

7. Backpacking and the Ultralight Solution
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It would surpass the powers of a well man nowadays to take up his bed and walk, and I should certainly advise a sick one to lay down his bed and run. . . . If I have got to drag my trap, I will take care that it be a light one and do not nip me in a vital part. But perchance it would be wisest to never put one’s paw in it. Henry Thoreau, Walden Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is merely dust and hotels and baggage and chatter. John Muir, The Wilderness World of John Muir

The Backpacking Ethos Each spring, at the end of a long winter, I try to fit a backpacking trip into a busy schedule. My hope is to briefly set down the heavy modern load and in its stead pick up a small pack and set off on foot. With only that pack to carry, my burden will be lightened, my days pleasantly limited and focused. All that I need will be ready at hand. My responsibility will be no greater than to put one foot in front of the other and to look about. That’s the idea, anyway. Of course, stepping off into the woods does not make the world—what I leave behind, what I will return to— disappear; I carry all that on my back as well. Still, as a backpacker I seek out, if temporarily, another way through the world, a way that is supposedly plainer, simpler, lighter.

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American backpacking over the last half-century has been practiced as a kind of discipline, an ethic, ostensibly one that is countercultural: you live for a time with less stuff, with far fewer of the accoutrements of American-style comfort and entertainment. Yet the plain-living ethos should not be overstated. Less stuff is not no stuff. The typical contemporary backpacker is no Neolithic wannabe, but an avid consumer—a “gearhead,” in common parlance—smitten by the jamboree of equipment choices. The desire to simplify and the desire to consume compete for the backpacker’s heart. The result can be disquiet. As environmental critic Jennifer Price points out in “Looking for Nature at the Mall,” buying stuff to help us better experience nature constitutes a “contradiction between how we want to connect to nature and how we actually do.” After all, nature supposedly “mitigates the materialism and artifice of modern capitalist society,” while shopping is obviously the popular means of practicing materialism.1 Yet, short of heading down the trail naked, one will have to pass through the consumer vale on the way to the mountain. In the backpacking marketplace, efforts to confront this dilemma have contributed to the recent rise of ultralight, which claims to embrace simplicity at the expense of consumerism. To a degree. Ultralighters and conventional backpackers are subspecies that retain the ability to crossbreed, in that all backpackers are both seekers and buyers. But in the culture of outdoor recreation, the ultralight approach has turned a brighter light on the ways equipment directs and affects backpacking experience and thus one’s experience of and in nature. My own first backpack was the antithesis of ultralight: Army surplus, with wooden frame and green canvas sack. Even at the time, 1973, it was an antique, heavy and awkward and ancient. On my first trip I carried the pack up Castle Creek valley in Colorado on a winter overnighter, the most poorly equipped among my seventh-grade classmates. The following summer I got my second pack, at a discount variety store in Grand Junction: an orange nylon affair with a metal frame, lighter than the Army pack but with shoulder straps as stiff and unforgiving as two-by-fours. The color scheme linked me

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with the seventies, but I was far from the cutting edge of backpacking gear. I was, however, in on the backpacking boom. Backpacking was not new, of course—the Boy Scouts had been at it since early in the century; Vermont’s Long Trail was begun in 1910, the Appalachian Trail in 1926—but backpackers were relatively few in number until midcentury. In the 1960s and early 1970s, however, backpacking suddenly became a widely popular pursuit—especially in Colorado, where I undertook my first trip. While New England was important in hiking culture, the mountain West was a particularly significant region in the backpacking rush. Outdoors people from all over the country were drawn to the sublime parklands in the Rockies and Sierras, the Cascades and other ranges. Postwar prosperity and the new interstate highway system helped make the region more accessible than ever before. The population of the interior West itself tripled between 1945 and 1996, and as Charles Wilkinson writes in Atlas of the New West, “recreationists, most of them newcomers and urban, wanted expanded opportunities in the West’s big, magical backcountry.”2 No doubt the burgeoning of environmental consciousness in the 1960s also contributed to the rise in popularity of backpacking. And so did technical changes in equipment—the backpack itself, for example. Dick Kelty, “father of the frame pack,” was the key figure in backpack-design innovation. In 1953 he made the first Kelty packs in his Glendale, California, garage; he replaced the standard wooden frame with aluminum tubing, the canvas sack with nylon, and added a waist belt and padded shoulder straps. At first his packs were a local phenomenon, particularly popular among Sierra Nevada hikers, but by the early 1960s Kelty packs had become the gold standard among serious backpackers nationwide, a status they retained into the 1980s. As Harvey Manning acknowledged in Backpacking: One Step at a Time, “Kelty, of course, is synonymous with quality.”3 My third pack was indeed a Kelty, a gift for my sixteenth birthday, and a step up that was for me a significant rite of passage: the pack represented a transformation from dilettante to, if not exactly an expert, a more accomplished outdoorsboy. The adoption of equipment

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such as the Kelty backpack, for myself and for others, made it easier to carry gear into the backcountry; and, as greater ease encouraged backpackers to go on more and longer outings, such equipment came to signify one’s serious commitment to nature. By the end of the 1960s the gear revolution was in full swing, inspiring and reflecting the growth of backpacking. Specifically, 1968 might be identified as backpacking’s watershed year—that is when Congress passed the National Trails Act, establishing a national system of longdistance trails. The act named the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail the first two national scenic trails, providing a source of federal funds for their upkeep and development. In the nearly four decades since the act was passed, fifteen more trails have been added to the system, including the Continental Divide Trail, which runs through the Rockies from the Canadian border to the Mexican. Nineteen sixty-eight also saw the publication of Colin Fletcher’s classic The Complete Walker, probably still the most famous and influential how-to book on backpacking, though there has since been a proliferation of such works. In this literature, and in backpacking narratives, equipment selection and weight is a central concern, mediating writers’ and readers’ relation with nature: it has been understood that what one takes (and how much it weighs) determines the quality of that relation. As Fletcher writes, when planning a trip, “the weightiest matter is weight.” The second of his two “ground plan rules” states, “pare away relentlessly at the weight of every item.”4 The consensus in backpacking’s how-to literature has been that less and lighter gear is better. Manning refers to the pack as the “stone” and admits that for a novice unschooled in the art of culling weight it can seem a tool of “sadomasochism.”5 However the desire to carry less weight—to simplify—has always rubbed up against the desire to be prepared—to buy and bring along enough stuff. Fletcher’s first ground plan rule states, “if you need something, take it.”6 The question for the backpacker has been and remains how to negotiate between need and sacrifice. In conventional backpacking, need has generally entailed heavy backpacks—“heavy” meaning fifty to seventy or eighty pounds at the

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start of a long trip. Despite technical innovations, there remains a tendency (especially among beginners) to carry as much as one can bear—even though for most people carrying so much weight is unpleasant. Such burdens have been accepted, however, as the price of a rewarding backcountry experience. Innovation has usually meant lighter gear, but not necessarily less. On the contrary, something like the Kelty pack was embraced largely as the means to more efficiently carry heavy loads—not smaller ones. Since the early 1990s, though, a change has taken place in backpacking. Discontent with the heavy pack—and its effect on the hiker’s experience—inspired the “ultralight” movement, which potentially represents the next step in the evolution of modern backpacking. As the term “ultra” suggests, the shift in approach is more than cosmetic (as in the proverbial trimming of map borders and toothbrush handles); ultralight requires a thorough reexamination of gear design, pack contents, and, importantly, attitude. As for the inspiration for such reexamination, let me offer three motives (I have already hinted at the first two): first, the ultralight movement is a reaction against the commodification of backpacking by large gear manufacturers and outdoors equipment chain stores; second, ultralight revises the matter of comfort, shifting the emphasis from the campsite (the focus of the conventional method) to the trail—that is, from camping to hiking; third, and most important, ultralight is (or claims to be) a means of fuller and more satisfying communion with nature. Such communion is supposedly made possible by mitigating the influence of culture—that is, by bringing less of one’s material culture along into the wild. I will take up each of these motives in more detail, but first some historical context; specifically, let me tell about a nineteenth-century ultralighter, John Muir, and his backpacking practice. The Proto-Ultralighter Though he never identified himself as such, I would call Muir our first backpacker—and his 1867 walk from Indiana to Florida North America’s first long backpacking trip (which he chronicled in A Thou-

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sand-Mile Walk to the Gulf). Other explorers or adventurers had made forays into the wilds, but usually on horseback or by boat, and mostly for scientific or commercial reasons. Muir described his walk as a “grand Sabbath . . . sufficient to lighten and brighten my after life in the gloom and hunger of civilization’s defrauding duties.”7 The long hike is here at its inception imagined as a holiday necessary to one’s well-being, since without such a respite, “civilization” would become unbearable. As Rebecca Solnit writes in Wanderlust: A History of Walking, in the late nineteenth century, “Walking in the landscape was a reaction against the transformations that were making the middle-class body an anachronism locked away in homes and offices and laborers’ bodies part of the industrial machinery.”8 This conceit should sound familiar: it remains a common rationale for the backcountry outing. Consider, for example, how two contemporary writers explain the backpacker’s reward: Colin Fletcher characterizes the long walk as a “corrective”—“[f ]or you know that you will immerse yourself in the harmonies—and will return to see the meanings.”9 Ray Jardine, author of Beyond Backpacking, claims that we walk to bridge “the gap between human and nature, [to bring them] together for a greater awareness, and deeper understanding—of the natural world around us in all its glory, of our relationship with that world, of our own inner nature.”10 The long walk with backpack, then, ostensibly allows us to find (or rediscover) what “civilization” separates us from—which is the nature around us and within us. While people in North America have gone to nature in various ways with this goal in mind, the backpacker is often considered the most devoted of pilgrims—if only because he or she seems to travel farthest from civilization. Muir’s backpacking experience is a prime source of his “nature boy” credentials; what further enhances his reputation is the fact that he carried so little. Certainly, Muir’s backpacking style had much more in common with the ultralight approach than the conventional method. Consider the contents of his bag on the walk to the Gulf: “a comb, brush, towel, soap, a change of underclothing, a copy of Burns’s poems, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and a small New Testament.”11 To be fair, he did not expect

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to be fully self-sufficient—he stopped at inns, boarded with farmers—but on the other hand, he often slept out. After one such night in the forest, he writes, “In the morning I was cold and wet with dew. . . . Flowers and beauty I had in abundance, but no bread. A serious matter is this bread which perishes, and, could it be dispensed with, I doubt if civilization would ever see me again.”12 As an ultralighter, Muir was way ahead of his time, an anomaly. Compare, for example, the Sierra Club’s first “High Trip,” in 1901, on which hikers were “accompanied by a vast caravan of mules and horses carrying stoves, blankets, camp beds, and quantities of food.”13 Over the following decades, the expeditionary style evolved into the conventional backpacking method of the latter twentieth century—less was better, but “less” was still a heavy load. The 1962 edition of the Sierra Club book Going Light—with Backpack or Burro included advice on pack animals for those who were not up to carrying a fifty- to eighty-pound backpack (or who preferred the “comforts” and “varied ration” a burro laden with one hundred pounds of gear could provide). Even Colin Fletcher, who was hardly of the kitchensink breed—say, like Norman Clyde (1885–1972), a well-known Sierra backpacker who regularly carried one hundred pounds and was dubbed “the pack that walked like a man”—began his Grand Canyon hike in the mid-1960s with a sixty-six-pound pack.14 The heavy pack reigned during backpacking’s great expansion in the 1960s and 1970s, when thousands of people took to trails for the first time. Reflecting and fueling the boom, National Geographic’s “Special Publications” division put out books on the Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, and Appalachian trails; color photos showed backpackers bent beneath large and colorful loads, their expressions a distinctive mix of exhaustion and jubilation. The stock image of a backpacker became a person with hands on pack straps, standing awkwardly, barely maintaining balance, yet smiling big as if there was nothing better than walking the woods with a mammoth pack. A century after his walk to the Gulf, seeing someone like Muir on the trail would have been hardly less surprising than in the 1860s.15 The conventional method continued to dominate backpacking

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practice into the 1990s. Bill Bryson, in A Walk in the Woods (1998), writes of struggling to fit all the “necessary” gear into his pack prior to beginning his attempt at thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. On the first day of the hike, he writes, “I hoisted my pack and took a backward stagger under the weight.”16 His companion, Katz, is soon littering the trailside with discarded items, such as cans of Spam. But by the time of Bryson’s hike the ultralight movement was under way, though still somewhat cultish and obscure in the backpacking world. Anomalous, like Muir, it was a style supposedly limited to oddballs. Ultralight has not been adopted by all or even most backpackers—established practices die hard—but since the mid-1990s it has had a marked influence on gear design and marketing, and on the ways people undertake hikes, especially long ones. Enter Ultralight No one has been more instrumental in the ultralight movement than Ray Jardine, a man with impressive long-hiking credentials. With his wife, Sharon, he has completed the Pacific Crest Trail three times, the Continental Divide Trail once, and the Appalachian Trail twice (the second time averaging twenty-nine miles per day). His on-trail experiences led him to rethink backpacking, specifically in terms of the three issues I identified earlier: commodification, comfort, and communion with nature.17 Early in his long-hiking career, Jardine dutifully followed the precepts of conventional backpacking, or what he calls the “standard method”; but he soon became disenchanted. In “Packweight,” a chapter in his book Beyond Backpacking (the urtext of ultralight), Jardine tells a conversion story of coming-to-knowledge on the trail: discomfited and disillusioned by heavy loads, he redesigns or discards gear, scrutinizing need and necessity, and over several years reduces the “ungainly loads” of early trips to the ideal pack, an eight-and-ahalf-pound wonder. I use the term “conversion story” purposely. The tone of Beyond Backpacking is often inspirational. Like Thoreau in “Economy,” Jardine explains how he achieved enlightenment in order that readers may do the same. He witnesses for ultralight.

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So what does the ultralight convert carry, or for that matter, leave behind? First, clothing is limited to one of each garment, meaning items are usually worn rather than packed. For shelter, a tarp rigged with hiking poles replaces the tent. Underneath the tarp, Jardine favors a foam pad and a quilt made from synthetic insulation. As for footwear, he prefers “runners” to hiking boots; the weight savings, he claims, improve leg strength and stamina. Finally, the pack itself—maybe the most unconventional piece of gear—is simply a nylon bag with straps, weighing less than a pound. One can dispense with frame and hipbelt when the load is so light.18 The term “ultralight,” though it implies an attitude (the “ray-way,” as fans have dubbed Jardine’s philosophy), is obviously all about equipment. And so an ultralight practice creates the opportunity to sell backpackers more (and often more expensive) gear. This is exactly what has happened in recent years, as is clear from the types of gear and advertising messages one finds in catalogs and in outdoors magazines like Outside and Backpacker. “Light” has become a ubiquitous marketing term. But for Jardine at least, ultralight is actually a means of resisting the onslaught of advertising and outdoors megastores. Jardine sews his own equipment, and he encourages his readers to do the same. According to him, mass-marketed gear is not only too heavy, it’s too generic, too expensive, and too commercial. He and other ultralighters decry the recent proliferation of big gear companies and big gear stores. As for the latter, rei is an instructive example of the shift from small, utilitarian gear companies (run by fellow travelers) to retail giants: up until the 1970s the company was primarily a mail-order business known by its full and rather plain name, Recreational Equipment Incorporated; it operated one store, in Seattle. Today there are nearly eighty rei stores spread across the United States, huge showrooms chock full of outdoor clothing and gear.19 The swift expansion of rei, as an instance of the big-time commodification of outdoors activities, reveals how hiking and backpacking have been woven into consumer culture. As Jennifer Price shows in “Looking for Nature at the Mall,” the nature experience has

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been integrated as never before with the shopping experience. In the 1860s Muir could pose a long walk itself as a respite from commerce, but that is no longer enough. Jardine has to try to retool the experience in order to promote separation or escape, and he offers his do-ityourself approach as a means of rebuilding the wall between nature and economic culture. But maybe self-sufficiency is less a wall than an alternative route. Jardine still uses the materials of contemporary material culture—often the most cutting-edge, high-tech materials. He does take the Thoreauvian path, building his own house, so to speak, and thus can claim the “pleasure of construction.”20 However, he also participates in the marketplace with his how-to books and website (Jardine, like Thoreau, is something of a preacher, intent on sharing his ideas). Further, do-it-yourselfers make up a tiny portion of the subculture Jardine’s ideas did much to create. His work is largely responsible for a whole new marketing and marketed genre of backpacking equipment.21 But if ultralight has become a significant marketing niche, not all backpackers have converted to the ray-way. In the last few years I have spoken to a number of hikers out on trail, asking specifically about Jardine (whom most know about), and many have expressed reservations about ultralight. One man on a southern stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail is typical of the doubters. “I don’t buy it,” he said with some impatience. “It’s just another backpacking book, it’s just his thing. I need my comforts.” Comfort is the crux of the debate over ultralight, a matter that has always been a key concern of backpackers (and what Fletcher was referring to when he wrote, “if you need something, take it”). Equipment and method ideally promote physical well-being in a context that is supposedly inherently uncomfortable. The backcountry lacks central heating, among other amenities, and as Aldous Huxley once wrote concerning modern living, “to those who have known comfort, discomfort is a real torture.”22 The question for the backpacker is how to avoid or at least limit the torturous, how to fit some modicum of comfort into one’s pack. Traditionally, the contents of the pack

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have mostly served comfort at the campsite: sleeping bags and tents are chosen for maximum protection from weather and critters (and a more substantial backpack allows one to carry heavier equipment to campsites). Ultralight concentrates on comfort under way: a light pack makes for a happy hiker (and a more prolific one). Those devoted to each method believe that the other provides too little comfort—and actually promotes discomfort. In either case, equipment selection is predicated on anxiety, but not of the same sort. The conventional backpacker is fearful of carrying too little, the ultralighter of carrying too much. The difference, according to Jardine, is qualitative: the former fears nature’s power, while the latter fears missing out on the opportunity to more fully appreciate that power. Jardine has concluded that too much comfort— that is, too much gear, too much protection, too much indulging of our fears—creates unnecessary barriers between us and an authentic experience of nature. A heavy pack requires excessive physical exertion, thus creating distraction and driving a wedge between the hiker and the natural world. Comforts get in the way; or as Thoreau put it, most of the “so-called comforts of life are not only indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”23 For “elevation” Jardine might substitute “connection,” a word he returns to again and again, often spelling it with a capital “C.”24 “Connection” is his essential desire, the motivation for all equipment decisions and the key goal of the ray-way (a longing for unity that is commonplace in mainstream American writing and thinking about nature). Jardine describes connection as a sacred experience of nature that is more fulfilling and intense when one is relatively unencumbered by the heavy weight of one’s culture. Like so many nature aficionados before him, Jardine implicitly values nature over culture (invoking what environmental critic Dana Phillips calls the “dismal view of culture”).25 But more important than glorifying nature, it seems that for Jardine “connection” is the means of glorifying one’s self in or with nature. “[W]e go into the wilderness to discover more about ourselves,” Jardine writes, “about who we really are. I think the influences of modern society keep many of us from being our real selves.”26

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In The Truth of Ecology, Phillips argues that nature writing is essentially self-involved. “The nature writer’s desire to have an unmediated relationship with nature is,” he writes, “a desire to become a more perfectly reflective surface for the representation of nature.”27 Unity is achieved, then, not actually with nature but with oneself as a person of nature. Jardine’s long walks might, as more immediate endeavors than the essay, qualify as what Phillips calls less suspect “form[s] of inwardness,” but they too privilege individual experience.28 What Jardine calls “connection,” Phillips refers to as “resonance”—a self-induced ecstasy more masturbatory than enlightening. Phillips prefers an outward rather than an inward vision, knowledge to experience; therefore a more valuable nature practice would be, for example, “intellectual curiosity about natural history.”29 If one seeks connection with nature, according to Phillips, one should try to learn about the natural world, not oneself in it. Jardine might respond, yes, but I’m striving to reach a point from which to better engage in such learning. And engagement is, to come back to ultralight again, largely a matter of the correct gear: “Judge,” Jardine writes, “whether or not it [a particular piece of gear] will lead you to a more meaningful outing, with a better understanding of the natural world and a closer connection to it. . . . If it fails to serve this purpose, then maybe you could modify it, or discard it, or try something else.”30 Backpacking gear is thus a medium, both means and material. It is a tool for negotiating between person and nature, part of an effort to design a satisfying relation. In this way the backpack is something like the house (note that “House on Your Back” is the title of the main section of Fletcher’s book), and architectural metaphors have some relevance. Consider, for example, architect Christopher Alexander’s statement in Notes on the Synthesis of Form: “Every design problem begins with an effort to achieve fitness between two entities: the form in question and its context. The form is the solution to the problem; the context defines the problem. We want to put the context and the form into effortless contact or frictionless coexistence, i.e., we want to find a good fit.”31 Nature (the context) is a physical challenge for a person out on a walk, and while “effortless contact” might be overly

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ambitious, a “good fit” is the worthy goal of equipment choices (the form or solution). A few springs ago, I sought a better fit by replacing most of my backpacking gear with ultralight equipment. For years I had been a conventional backpacker, loading up my Kelty with fifty pounds or more, but I had become dissatisfied. The weight I carried too often turned a walk from challenge to ordeal. As a youngster I had longed to be like John Muir or Colin Fletcher, men who seemed perfectly comfortable on the trail. I still sought to achieve their aplomb, and it seemed to me that one way to help me get there was to go lighter. Ease, familiarity, comfort—these are largely a matter of experience and attitude, but they can also be a matter of gear. The sort of ultralight decision I made is potentially part of a revised backpacking ethic. In resisting commercialization, rethinking comfort, and working to enhance connection, the ultralight impulse is an effort to better cultivate simplicity and flexibility, and maybe even a modicum of understanding. On the other hand, ultralight might simply be the latest means of commodifying nature—especially if one buys rather than makes one’s new equipment, as is the case for most converts. While the ultralighter does carry less, most still do carry pack, shelter, and sleeping bag at least. Backpackers like myself have found themselves adding to their gear collections to meet the new demands of ultralight hiking. As for comfort on the trail, such ease has often served the goal of longer and faster hikes. Recall the Jardines’ completion of the Appalachian Trail in less than three months, averaging a blistering twenty-nine miles a day. Jardine’s book includes a chapter titled “Supercharging Mileage,” with a detailed chart laying out a schedule for days of twenty-four to thirty-three miles. Jardine insists that such a pace does not compromise the possibility for “connection,” but his and other ultralighters’ focus on distance and speed does seem to shift the backpacking experience more toward competition than toward learning. Finally, one could argue that the virtues of ultralight invoke the familiar western notion that nature and humanity are separate, an-

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tagonistic categories. From this point of view, ultralight’s emphasis on less is an attempt to suppress culture in order to improve one’s chances for an authentic experience of supposedly pure and cultureless nature. In other words, we don’t belong in the woods, but maybe we’re not quite so out of place if we bring along less gear, the technological products of culture. In this case, ultralight is the latest means of grieving our separation from nature. So on my spring hike, was I resisting the commercialization of nature, or was I indulging the latest gearhead fantasy? Was I expressing an outdoors ethic, one that brought me into greater knowledge of nature, or was I playing out yet again the melancholy American myth of inevitable separateness? Both, I suppose, though I want to root for resistance and knowledge. Those two are important and genuine motivations for backpacking, especially of the ultralight variety. But it is also necessary to acknowledge the role consumerism plays in gear choices, and the way that buying gear has become a means of expressing appreciation of nature, quite apart from actually using such gear as a means of learning. Notes
1. Price, “Looking for Nature,” 204. 2. Wilkinson, “Paradise Revised,” 17. 3. Manning, Backpacking, 224. 4. Fletcher, The Complete Walker, 16. 5. Fletcher, The Complete Walker, 20. 6. Fletcher, The Complete Walker, 16. 7. Quoted in Oates, Paradise Wild, 236. 8. Solnit, Wanderlust, 168. 9. Fletcher, The Complete Walker, 8. 10. Jardine, Beyond Backpacking, 12. 11. Muir, A Thousand-Mile Walk (1916), 17. Muir had very little to say about his pack habits—the subject apparently did not particularly interest him. He lists his gear only as part of an anecdote about a would-be robber rummaging through his bag. (He also carried, separately, a small plant press.) 12. Muir, A Thousand-Mile Walk (1916), 95. Muir’s most extended sleepingout stint was six consecutive days in Bonaventure Cemetery outside Savan-

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nah, as he hungrily waited for money to arrive from Wisconsin. Despite the privation of too-little food, he reveled in the beauty of the cemetery, where he found “one of the most impressive assemblages of animal and plant creatures I ever met” (69). 13. Solnit, Wanderlust, 151. 14. Fletcher describes his Grand Canyon hike in The Man Who Walked through Time. As for Clyde, whose Sierras hiking and climbing career stretched from 1928 until his death in 1972, his pack included such items as an iron frying pan, canned food, a library of books, and a pair of pistols (Waterman and Waterman, Backwoods Ethics, 26, 91). 15. There was the occasional exception. One such eccentric figure was Emma Gatewood, better known as Grandma Gatewood. She took up hiking when she was sixty-five, in the mid-1960s, and devoted herself to long-distance walking for the next eighteen years—completing the Appalachian Trail three times, the Oregon Trail (two thousand miles) once, and a number of shorter trails. She wore Keds and carried all her gear in a small duffle, which she toted on one shoulder. 16. Bryson, A Walk in the Woods, 34. 17. While Jardine might be the father of ultralight, he is no longer the only or, according to some, even the major voice of the movement. Chris Townsend has written an influential book—The Backpacker’s Handbook (1996)—and more recently Ryan Jordan has edited Lightweight Backpacking and Camping (2005). Jordan is also responsible for BackpackingLight.com, a clearinghouse for all things ultralight. As for long-distance achievement, a recent star of note is Andrew Skurka, who in 2005 completed a 7,800-mile, eleven-month hike across North America on the Sea-to-Sea Route. After a fall 2005 presentation, Skurka told me that the Jordan book is the “new standard,” replacing Jardine (note: Skurka has worked for Jordan as an intern). 18. The reader might notice what is missing from the list—food. When Jardine uses the term “packweight” he refers to everything but food and water, as the amount (and kinds) of food can vary greatly depending upon terrain and season, and upon the distance between restocking points. In his book, though, he does give meticulous attention to diet, and surprisingly he is not at all a minimalist when it comes to food. He is actually disdainful of “lightweight” food, such as freeze-dried meals, protein bars, and carbohydrate gels, claiming that they will not sustain one over a long, strenuous period of hiking. On the contrary, he advocates whole foods, and damn the weight (well, to a point).

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19. While the big companies have embraced and largely co-opted the golight movement, it should be acknowledged that small, cottage companies produce some of the cutting-edge ultralight gear. 20. Thoreau, Walden, 29. 21. After the first version of Beyond Backpacking came out (The pct Hiker’s Handbook, 1992), an entrepreneur approached Jardine about starting a new backpacking gear company. In Beyond Backpacking, Jardine writes, “the last thing I wanted to do was become involved in the outdoor retail market.” But, reasoning that making his gear commercially available would help those who do not sew, he agreed—“on the condition that I would contribute only my designs; I wanted no part of the company’s operation” (31). Golite subsequently became quite successful. However, in 2003 Jardine posted a terse message on his website: “Effective December 31, 2003 this company cancelled our contract and stopped paying royalties. Contrary to what was written in Beyond Backpacking, we no longer recommend them as a source of ray-way type gear.” See http://www.rayjardine.com. 22. Huxley, “Comfort,” 91. 23. Thoreau, Walden, 8. 24. From 2003 to 2005, Ray and Sharon Jardine offered outdoors workshops: “Journey’s Flow” in Arizona (one week) and “Connection Camp” (ten days) in Oregon. For testimonials from past participants and lots of other “ray-way” stuff, see http://www.rayjardine.com. 25. Phillips, The Truth of Ecology, 224. 26. Jardine, Beyond Backpacking, 15. 27. Phillips, The Truth of Ecology, 219. 28. Phillips, The Truth of Ecology, 210. 29. Phillips, The Truth of Ecology, 210. 30. Jardine, Beyond Backpacking, 137. 31. Alexander, Notes on the Synthesis of Form, 19.

8. Survival, Alaska Style
susan kollin

And when he came to the place where the wild things are they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth . . . till Max said “be still!” and tamed them with the magic trick of staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once and they were frightened and called him the most wild thing of all and made him king of all wild things. Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

Like our daydreaming adventurer Max, who travels to a faraway land where wild beasts are tamed by his youthful charm, Timothy Treadwell, the subject of Werner Herzog’s 2005 documentary Grizzly Man, possesses a certain boyish charisma that both captivates and offends.1 A self-taught naturalist and filmmaker who took to the Alaska backcountry for thirteen summers, Treadwell imagined himself as a friend, neighbor, and advocate of the coastal brown bears he lived with in Alaska’s Katmai National Park. At times, Herzog is fascinated by Treadwell even as his bear devotion comes across as more self-deluded than scientific. By the end of the documentary, however, the filmmaker challenges the wisdom of Treadwell’s project, as his ability to survive as long as he did seems less a result of his deep knowledge of the animal and its habitat and more a matter of sheer luck, his devotion to the wild something other than just a concern about nature for nature’s sake. In an era when we are surrounded by talk about the global environmental crisis, wild nature takes on new meanings while the act of survival itself carries new cultural values.2 From the reality-based

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television shows that feature well-toned first-world bodies engaging in highly paid, competitive adventures in exotic lands, to the writing that portrays certain remote regions as offering particularly challenging outdoor experiences, to the nature documentaries that feature a boyish protagonist befriending and taming the wild beasts he encounters, survival has emerged as a leisure-time activity, a distinctive marker of contemporary identity. Appearing as a form of play in a culture of consumption where one deliberately “loses” oneself in the hope of later “finding” oneself, survival for many first-world adventurers is less an imposed or unwelcome condition of endurance and more a recreational activity that is being sought after both deliberately and eagerly. All of this survival talk is closely linked to how nature is conceptualized and treated in modern culture. Discussing the ways alienation from nature actually serves as a prime marker of our modern identity, Stephen Tatum points to how “the feeling that one leads an inauthentic existence . . . constitutes one of our ‘civilized ordeals.’”3 In a similar way, John Berger has addressed nature’s banishment from the everyday in the modern era, arguing that disconnection from the natural world may be something of a requirement in the modern world. When wild nature is expelled from the everyday in modern societies, however, nature is brought back into culture in strange new forms. Berger points to zoos, for instance, arguing that at the moment wild animals recede from the familiar and the everyday in modern societies, captive animals take their place as nostalgic symbols for precisely what has been lost for humans through modernity.4 Nature in the form of exotic or remote landscapes undergoes a similar fate. For those ecotourists and nature enthusiasts who search out nature and whose acts of consumption carry great value, local natures—the familiar and the everyday—simply will not do. Instead, contact with the least common or ordinary places enables the consumer a greater degree of social distinction. While many nature advocates believe they are making socially informed decisions that counter the destructiveness of consumer culture, Donald Lowe’s work on lifestyles indicates how they might ac-

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tually be implicated in the very activity they aim to critique. As Lowe points out, because lifestyle itself has emerged as a commodity in late-capitalist America, certain relationships to nature ultimately become signs of class distinction. Indeed, the emphasis on the consumption of particular lifestyles rather than on the relationships of production operates as a prime element of late capitalism. Thus, the satisfaction of artificially created needs—the needs of a particular lifestyle—serves as the prime concerns of marketing and advertising.5 Today, rather than being markers of resistance for the counterculture, outdoor lifestyles are increasingly marketed as mainstream commodities. Take, for instance, the relationships between humans and nature fostered by reality tv shows such as the Survivor series, which are invariably set in exotic remote lands, and consider the lifestyles they advocate for their first-world audiences. Or consider the growing interest in extreme sports and the attendant purchasing of expensive outdoor gear at upscale stores like k2 and Patagonia to support those interests. Think, too, of the climbing wall at the rei flagship store in downtown Seattle or the work of writer Jon Krakauer, whose two books about adventures in nature, Into Thin Air and Into the Wild, were major best-sellers and whose continuing popularity is a sign of this rising interest in outdoor survival experiences in remote lands. Such instances illustrate that selling a lifestyle based on the consumption of wild nature remains a lucrative industry, one that situates places like Alaska as prime locations where social battles over nature are increasingly being waged.6 While nation and class complicate the picture, so does gender, an issue Herzog addresses briefly in Grizzly Man. At times the filmmaker appears haunted by the filmic absence of Treadwell’s female companion, Annie Huguenard, whose life was ended by the same bear that killed Treadwell. Although Huguenard accompanied him to Katmai National Park, her presence is almost entirely erased from Treadwell’s film stock. One scene features a shot of Huguenard crouching in the grass in the lower screen, trying to keep out of Treadwell’s frame as he films the grizzlies playing in the background. The scene is telling

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in that it shares much with the literary history of mainstream American nature writing, where female companions typically remain unmentioned or hidden from view. Removed from the frame, consigned to the margins, or denied a presence in the experience itself, female companions are marginalized as emblems of a culture that is meant to be left behind upon entering the wild.7 The realization that gender systems shape human and nonhuman relations serves as a reminder that culture has not been left behind during such excursions. As critic Stacy Alaimo points out, from the gendering of nature as female or the marginalization of women in certain environments, “the discursive landscape that women . . . inhabit is no virgin land,” and at any given historical moment “nature is not only a profoundly gendered realm but a site of many other struggles for power and meaning.”8 One site of struggle can be found today in the realm of environmental writing about Alaska. Often envisioning the state as a playground for nature enthusiasts, a particularly rugged environment that fosters the very hypermasculinity that excludes a female presence, mainstream nature writing has been subject to critique in recent years by writers such as Sheila Nickerson and Sherry Simpson, who recognize that the image of Alaska as an “exceptional” American space—a “last frontier” or important wilderness region— has had profound effects on the history of land use across the state.9 These writers question the discourses of survival and adventure that have been central to the desires driving the consumption of the wild, and in doing so they offer different views of human relations with nonhuman nature. In Disappearance: A Map, written when she lived in Juneau, Sheila Nickerson presents the underside of the heroic adventure narrative, a genre that has played a large role in shaping popular responses toward Alaska throughout history. In an attempt to counter narratives that depict Alaska as an exploitable resource or wilderness playground, Nickerson chronicles the difficulties Europeans and European Americans often have had in mapping and claiming the land. She recounts, for instance, histories of exploration in Alaska from the first Russian expedition by Bering and Chirikov to the later voyages of

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La Perouse, Franklin, Stefansson, and Rasmusson, all of which end in disappearances and death. Juxtaposed against these histories are accounts of losses that hit closer to home for her, in particular, the disappearance of a co-worker who is declared missing after the plane carrying him and a group of friends goes down between Yakutat and Anchorage on their return from a fishing trip. Nickerson’s narrative also restores to memory other disappearances and failed survivals that are part and parcel of this history, namely, the loss of homelands, languages, and cultures of Alaska Natives, which occur as a result of western exploration and conquest— losses that are often absent from discussions of adventure in Alaska. “The map of Alaska has been redrawn in such a way that its original inhabitants might be hard pressed to know its meaning,” Nickerson writes. “Stripped of their language, they could be lost in their own land—and many have been, many are.”10 Nickerson’s accounts of disappearances and losses work against hypermasculine tales of life in the rugged North, against the very stories that inspire men like Timothy Treadwell or Chris McCandless, the ill-fated young nature enthusiast featured in Krakauer’s book Into the Wild, who gave up his worldly possessions and headed north where he met death in Alaska’s backcountry. Nickerson’s writings tell not of triumph and survival but of an endless series of defeats, including failures to successfully map and claim the land. “Many come to Alaska searching,” she explains. “Almost invariably, those who come to Alaska, the land of promise, come to find that which is lost only to themselves—money, power, position, authority—or a wilderness they think will save them from the evils of a more crowded world. They come with hope, because the spaces within Alaska are very large and the unnamed peaks of mountains and the unnamed glaciers many. The horizon, often obscured by range after range of rock—or of fog—has not quite been pinned down. Boundaries are vague. Coordinates are pliable or nonexistent.”11 Rather than delivering on many of our expectations of wild nature, Nickerson’s histories of Alaskan adventure reveal what often happens when people venture into remote places without the television cameras and medical

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personnel to assist in an emergency, as is the case with participants on popular reality-based tv shows. These stories instead recount the numerous failures, misjudgments, and losses of various travelers whose desires for adventure, fame, or fortune led them north with disastrous consequences rather than survival. Because such tales of survival and adventure figure centrally in the literary history of Alaska, Timothy Treadwell, the boy-adventurer in Herzog’s Grizzly Man, might not be as unique or distinctive as some think. In fact, his story fits quite well into several conventions of Alaska narratives, including the “bear story,” which is basically a tale of survival usually written by first-time authors that has been a staple for small presses across the region for years. Treadwell’s narrative also fits into the “Alaska death tale,” the best-known today being Krakauer’s Into the Wild, but also a genre that has a long history in the state. Finally, because of his unique take on human-bear relations, perhaps Treadwell’s experiences even fit the “boy and his dog story,” the most famous being those of Jack London. Because experiences of survival and adventure have become naturalized in much of the literature of Alaska, Nickerson’s critique in Disappearance: A Map remains an important departure, an attempt to imagine other relations between human and nonhuman nature. Critic Michael Nerlich has written an ambitious study addressing what he calls the “ideology of adventure” which is important to this discussion. His argument is that western notions of adventure, rather than being merely recreationalist, have always developed in connection with the larger economic interests of the era. Rather than a simple diversion or pastime, adventure has served a crucial role in the histories of class formation in the West. The act of adventure, Nerlich argues, aids the economic interests of capitalism by expanding the space of its domain. What he calls “the ideology of adventure” is thus a powerful construction because it obscures the way heroic quests have a basis in class interests. As Nerlich contends, depictions of adventure “for the sake of adventure” perform important cultural work in that they serve to conceal the actual material and economic bases for travel itself.12 The ideology of adventure chronicled by Nerlich and the drive for

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survival continue in today’s quest for wild natures. While Nerlich addressed the beginnings of global economic expansion that shaped Western imperialism, the desire to survive extreme natures explains how new forms of adventure currently enable a different kind of class expansion. Today the ideology of adventure enables certain groups to gain increased social standing and distinction, this time by amassing a new form of capital.13 In a neo-imperialist age, ecotourism and other forms of nature consumption rely more than ever on a belief in “adventure for the sake of adventure,” which continues to obscure the class basis of adventures that occur in wild lands across the globe. Extreme natures become an accessory in the lifestyles of those with prosperity, particularly those who typically need not worry about any other form of physical survival. Nerlich’s argument about adventure and the formation of class traces the West’s history of global expansion from 1100 to 1750. Meanwhile, Nickerson’s book locates Alaska in this history, showing how the region was drawn into the global system at least as early as the first Bering-Chirikov voyage. Nickerson places Alaska in the processes of Western economic expansion, thereby showing how the region, whose popularity is often based on its identity as a place set apart or at a remove from the rest of the world, has long been integrated into the West’s globalizing system. Ever since the first Russian voyages of the eighteenth century, Alaska has been a space whose resources—whether in the form of nature or adventure—have been made into and consumed as commodities for the advancement of class power across the globe. Like Nickerson, who shows the underside of adventure and who locates Alaska in a system of globalization, Sherry Simpson focuses on issues of economy and capital in her collection of essays, The Way Winter Comes. The book is organized around chapters that address encounters with various forms of wildlife, including wolf, moose, bear, and raven, as well as the various types of work Alaskans do outdoors. With its focus on Alaskan residents whose jobs take them out-ofdoors, Simpson’s work as a nature writer is likewise implicated by issues of class.

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As intellectual laborers, nature writers often stand at a remove from the folks whose livelihoods involve physical forms of work in nature. Historian Richard White has addressed the conflicts surrounding labor that have emerged in the modern environmental movement. Discussing the ways environmentalists sometimes scapegoat those groups who work in nature as spoilers of the wild, White addresses how environmentalists in turn often place themselves at a safe remove, disavowing any responsibility for the diminishment of nature. Some environmentalists and nature enthusiasts “equate productive work in nature with destruction,” White explains. “They ignore the ways that work itself is a means of knowing nature while celebrating the virtues of play and recreation in nature.” For White, such “distrust of nature, particularly of hard physical labor, contributes to a larger tendency to define humans as being outside of nature and to frame environmental issues so that the choice seems to be between humans and nature.” The nature that some environmentalists end up advocating is one identified solely with play, a nature that is by definition a place where “leisured humans come only to visit and not to work, stay or live.”14 White is interested, however, in restoring a discussion of labor to our environmental debates; after all, environmentalists themselves work in nature, even if their work is largely intellectual rather than physical labor, and even if that work is not recognized as work. White makes another argument about work in nature that is useful to the discussion here, namely, that the kind of leisure which certain nature advocates endorse can itself be regarded as a type of work. “It is no accident,” he argues, “that the play we feel brings us closest to nature is play that mimics work. Our play in nature is often itself a masked form of bodily labor. Environmentalists like myself are most aware of nature when we backpack, climb, and ski. Then we are acutely aware of our bodies. The labor of our bodies tells us the texture of snow and rock and dirt. . . . It is no wonder that the risks we take in nature become more extreme. We try to make play matter as if it were work, as if our lives depended on it. We try to know through play what workers in the woods, field, and water know through work.”15

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White’s observations about work in nature are crucial in understanding how only some forms of labor count as cultural capital. If class divisions are marked by how one “uses” nature, those who engage in physical labor in nature generally do not accrue cultural capital in the social realm as do nature writers or environmentalists. Paid labor in nature is often deemed unglamorous, while the hard task usually involved in being a recreationalist is often not considered work. The consumption of wild nature, then, is usually transformed into social distinction only by those who consume nature as a leisure activity. Cultural capital thus hinges not on the fact that one has a relationship with nature but rather on the type of relationship one fosters with nature, on whether one has to or chooses to survive nature. Randall Roorda touches on this concern when he asks fundamental questions about the actions and motivations of nature writers as a group as they withdraw from the social realm only to return in an effort to narrate those very experiences of retreat to others. What does it mean, Roorda asks, to shun others by retreating to nature by oneself, only to call those others back in writing, describing to them, explaining to them, “even recommending to them the condition of [one’s] absence?”16 For the nature writer, the consumption of extreme nature may be converted into cultural capital precisely through the act of narration. Nature writers are thus able to gain social distinction precisely by announcing to others the details of their solitary contact with wild nature. In The Way Winter Comes, Simpson breaks down many of these divisions when she writes about working side by side with folks who “struggle to make a living in wilderness.”17 At one point she recounts her experiences at wolf-trapping school where she confronts her own ambivalent attitudes regarding the killing of animals for sport, clothing, or food and the contradictions that arise in criticizing those who do the killing for the rest of us.18 She later tells of working alongside a wildlife biologist who collars moose that are tracked by radio. While they are on the job one day, a woman stops her car alongside their work site and asks what they are doing. After they explain their labor to her, the woman thanks them and drives off, apparently losing her

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earlier interest in the work being done in nature. Simpson chalks it up to the narrow forms of value we assign to nature, pointing out how nature shows train us to expect drama in nature as events that can be consumed as entertainment. “Wildlife documentaries show animals doing something, not just being,” she remarks.19 In another essay, Simpson travels to Admiralty Island with Vern Beier, a biologist who collects data on brown bears in southeast Alaska for the Department of Fish and Game. Here Simpson recalls the Tlingit name for Admiralty Island: Kootznawoo, meaning “Fortress of the Bears.”20 She describes Admiralty as the “Manhattan of the bear world,” since more bears inhabit the island than live in the entire continental United States.21 Later, though, Simpson reminds us that “Admiralty is not a haven, just a holdout,” as developments such as big-game trophy hunting and clear-cut logging threaten bears “even here.”22 Her realization that the boundaries between inside and outside are steadily disappearing emerges again when she embarks on a weeklong excursion to Lincoln Island, twenty miles northeast of Juneau. Having spent a childhood in the Mendenhall Valley staging games that involve children lost in the wilderness and fantasies about surviving a parentless world alone in the woods, Simpson gets her turn as an adult when she spends several days by herself on the island.23 At one point she recalls the adventures of the fictional Robinson Crusoe by making lists of things she finds on the island. Just as Crusoe does, Simpson uncovers traces of the island’s previous occupants and ends up cataloging the relics left by others—“faded soda cans, trees scorched by fires, rotting tarps.”24 Like Crusoe, Simpson is also disappointed to find herself not the first to discover an uninhabited, wild island, but instead a belated traveler visiting a land already showing the history of its human imprint.25 In the process, Simpson realizes that like Admiralty, Lincoln Island is barely at an isolated remove from the rest of the world. Residents of Alaska often use the term “outside” to refer to any place that is beyond the borders of their state. Indeed, when you are socked in for days on end and cannot leave Juneau or other towns in southeast Alaska because planes are not taking off, the notion of “outside” seems to

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describe the situation rather accurately. Throughout Simpson’s writings, however, the divisions marking “inside” from “outside” prove to be more and more unstable. Islands are no longer isolated lands, if they ever were. The logging industry that encroaches on bear habitat or the hunters who leave their garbage behind indicate that even seemingly remote areas “inside” the boundaries of Alaska are intimately connected to the world “outside.” Critic Frederick Buell addresses the ways the expansion of Western capital under globalization has made us realize that we are all part of a “world system with no outside.”26 This process has implications for seemingly remote and wild places like Alaska; as he reminds us, “old notions of the externality of exotic cultures and pure preserves of nature have been undone” under globalization, to the extent that distinctions of “inside” and “outside” might not be very useful in the long run.27 Simpson understands the implications of these developments for Alaska nature writers as well. Acknowledging the seductions entailed in narrative conventions of the genre, she confesses, “I’ve used the same tone other nature lovers do as they talk about the ‘natural circle of life’ in hushed and reverent tones, as if it were a church we could never attend but only stand outside of, listening to the godly and mysterious harmonies issuing from within.”28 This image of the church of nature may indeed be an apt description of how wild nature becomes an object of worship for those whose social distinction derives from experiences in wild nature. Simpson, however, refuses this relationship of estrangement in her writings, and ends up questioning the dualism of “inside” and “outside” as well as the classed divisions that emerge between different physical and intellectual laborers. The use of nature as a lifestyle accoutrement ultimately has consequences beyond the spaces of recreationalism. In making connections between environmentalism and global studies, Susie O’Brien warns that the “growing consciousness attendant upon the shrinking of the globe that we are all, as Darwin had it, ‘melted together,’ is facilitated by the scientific demonstration of the myriad networks that connect all life forms—a process that occurs in awkward conjunction with the increasing commodification of those forms.”29 Just

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as globalization draws all natures into its system, the expansion of capital shows that anything can be commodified, even lifestyles that were once seemingly countercultural and resistant to commodification. All of this returns us to what Buell describes as an insidious and growing field of “ecoentrepreneurialism” that invades all cultural realms.30 None of us fully escapes these systems, including the nature enthusiast, nature writer, and nature critic, whose own work circulates and is made possible in part because of the commodification of nature and its attendant lifestyles. Notes
I wish to thank David Noon, whose invitation to present this paper at the University of Alaska–Southeast a few years ago gave me the opportunity to ponder these issues in greater detail. Thanks also to Rachel Bryson, Marilyn Bolles, and Dan Flory, who commented on previous drafts of this essay. 1. Grizzly Man (dir. Werner Herzog, Lion’s Gate, 2005). Of course, Max and Timothy Treadwell experienced different conditions of exile. While Max’s fantasy travels arose after he was banished to his room without dinner for terrorizing the family dog with a fork, Treadwell’s self-exile in the North seems motivated in part by untreated mental illness, his desire to escape drug problems in the city, and a general sense of cultural malaise. 2. For recent discussions of the transformation of nature into cultural capital, see Price, Flight Maps; and Nicholas, Bapis, and Harvey, Imagining the Big Open. 3. Tatum, “The Solace of Animal Faces,” 134. Such experiences of alienation and inauthenticity, according to Ursula Heise, have likewise become central problems for the emerging field of ecocriticism. See Heise, “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Ecocriticism,” 508. 4. Berger, About Looking, 6–10. 5. See Lowe, Body in Late Capitalist U.S.A., 67, 73; and Nguyen, Race and Resistance, 116. 6. See Capper Nichols’s essay in this volume for further discussion of this problem. 7. For more on this point, see the essay by David Oates in this volume. 8. Alaimo, Undomesticated Ground, 13.

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9. I discuss these points in greater detail in Nature’s State: Imagining Alaska as the Last Frontier. 10. Nickerson, Disappearance, 61. 11. Nickerson, Disappearance, 44. 12. Nerlich, The Ideology of Adventure, 80–81, 209. 13. See Bourdieu, Distinction. 14. White, “Are You an Environmentalist?” 172, 173. 15. White, “Are You an Environmentalist?” 174. 16. Roorda, Dramas of Solitude, xiii. 17. S. Simpson, The Way Winter Comes, 10. 18. S. Simpson, The Way Winter Comes, 18. 19. S. Simpson, The Way Winter Comes, 138. 20. S. Simpson, The Way Winter Comes, 65. 21. S. Simpson, The Way Winter Comes, 64. 22. S. Simpson, The Way Winter Comes, 65. 23. S. Simpson, The Way Winter Comes, 150. 24. S. Simpson, The Way Winter Comes, 106. 25. For a useful discussion of Western imperialist desires for authentic encounters with the “other,” see Behdad, Belated Travelers. 26. F. Buell, “Globalization without Environmental Crisis,” 60. 27. F. Buell, “Globalization without Environmental Crisis,” 71. 28. S. Simpson, The Way Winter Comes, 34–35. 29. O’Brien, “Articulating a World of Difference,” 154. 30. Buell, “Globalization without Environmental Crisis,” 59.

Contested Wests

9. Scheduling Idealism in Laramie, Wyoming
beth loffreda

This essay is a report about gay life and politics on one particularly notorious western front. The University of Wyoming, where I teach, and its home, Laramie, are the infamous location of the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998, a killing that made homophobia newly legible for many, a killing that became a much-brandished symbol in discussions of queer rights and anti-gay bias across the nation. But while our metaphoric density here in Laramie may be powerfully unusual, our responses as a campus community to the murder and what it represents have not been. In a place now perhaps most unable to avoid confronting sexuality’s meanings, its astonishingly persistent ability to unsettle and discompose the beneficent and malign both, the university has seen little systematic or comprehensive effort emerge in response to Shepard’s murder; instead, we now live in a mundanely, fitfully contradictory place, a place where forgetfulness and remembrance, othering and embrace, commingle. Which is another way of saying it’s a western place. I have spent the last eight years, off and on, trying to figure out the often enigmatic political and sexual worlds of the West. When I first wrote about Laramie, I wrote that the typical impulses in the analysis of Shepard’s death had swung between characterizing Wyoming as utterly different—qualitatively more homophobic, more primitive, more violent and hate-filled than the rest of the nation—and Wyoming as “just like everywhere else.”1 I thought, and still think, that neither was right—that it made sense to think of the West as distinctive but not unique when it came to sex and politics. But I am still looking for the language to characterize it correctly. One trouble with talking about regional culture is that such talk is heavy with the sensation of bor-

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ders, and borders seem to promise both a clean marking-off of differences as well as the romance of their transgression. The West is not unique when it comes to sexual politics; the things that cause trouble for queer people here—political conservatism, religious homophobia, heterosexism, the blanket of silence pressed over all things sexual—you can find anywhere. But the things that many Wyomingites like to tell themselves (and others) about themselves—those things are fashioned into a taciturn poetics of Wyoming selfhood that does have a distinctive sound. That we’re all pretty much the same; that we’re a “live and let live” kind of people (which isn’t hard, because we’re all pretty much the same); that we don’t like outsiders; that you’re an outsider, no matter how long you’ve lived here, if you’re not pretty much like the rest of us; that we’re like America used to be and don’t think much of change for change’s sake (or any other sake for that matter); that we like the quiet of our landscapes and our lives and don’t much mind being one long flyover zone, except when self-important coastal residents describe us that way: these are the lyrical contradictions you’ll hear after even a short time in Wyoming, a poetics that has shaped political and social change, or the lack of it, since Matt’s murder kicked off an alarm none of us could say we didn’t hear.2 The University of Wyoming after Shepard Matt died in a town and a state caught in the kinds of quandaries and confusions that are typical to the contemporary West. Like the rest of the state, Laramie trades on familiar, nostalgic, western iconographies—our local restaurants include the Calvaryman, the Old Corral, and the Chuckwagon, and our main tourist attraction is the Wyoming Territorial Prison, refurbished for entertainment rather than punishment. The state is vast and sparsely populated, dotted with tiny towns and a few small cities. It’s a place that turns inward and toward its mythic past, at least in its representations to outsiders. But Wyoming is inextricably entangled with the “outside” it claims to abjure. We make our money as a state by taxing whatever transnational corporations can get out of our ground—coal, oil, trona, and natural

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gas—and the state’s wealth rises whenever an energy crisis happens somewhere else. Cattle have little to do with it. Likewise, despite our cowboy iconography, the primary employer in Laramie is the university; and largely because of that, the town is a relatively liberal outpost in a strongly Republican state. That Matt died here threw a spotlight not just on the conservatism and sexual constrictedness of the Rocky Mountain West but also on the limits of the university’s own espousals of tolerance and diversity. In the first weeks and months after Shepard’s murder, what happened at the university were rituals of mourning—vigils, marches, an Elton John concert, and, on the first anniversary of Shepard’s death, a memorial concert headlined by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Spectrum, the campus queer student organization, has also made sure to remember Shepard each year in their events during Gay Awareness Month (which, in a painful coincidence, occurs over the date of Shepard’s death); and a College of Education conference on social inequality has been renamed in honor of Shepard. These forms of memorializing seem inadequate to many queer campus members, but nevertheless it is at the level of commemoration that the university has been most active. At the level of policy—the location where campus space and the interactions within it are both imagined and curtailed—the record is more mixed. In the year following Shepard’s death, the university approved a new discrimination and harassment regulation that included, for the first time, sexual orientation as a protected status (gender expression, however, remains unnamed). Since then the administration has been willing to review policies on an ad hoc basis, and to change them when the political and economic costs are perceived to be minimal. Bereavement leave is now extended to samesex partners of university staff, for example, as is access to recreation services; and gay individuals employed by Residence Life may live with their partners in campus housing. Health benefits are another story, and same-sex partners have been out of luck. The university is a member of the state-administered health insurance system, and our university president through the summer of 2005 made it clear

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that he would not expend political capital in the state legislature by fighting for equal gay access to the full complement of benefits that straight employees enjoy (our new administration shows signs of greater sympathy to gay employees on this matter, but as of the fall of 2006 it had not yet acted upon it). For students, perhaps the most significant development on campus has been the creation of the Rainbow Resource Center (rrc), the first space in university history devoted to glbt concerns. But again, the record is mixed. In its first incarnation, in the winter of 2000, the rrc was purely, merely, a space, and nothing else. Housed in a third-floor, windowless office that had started life as a men’s bathroom, the rrc had no staff, no resources, no budget line, no clear oversight, and no phone; it only had furniture because it was donated by the head of the University Counseling Center down the hall. In the summer of 2001 the rrc was moved to the first floor of the student affairs building, and then in 2005 to the first floor of the student union. During that time it gained a few things—formal oversight through the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and a large library, donated by a gay individual in New Jersey and chosen in concert with Giovanni’s Room, a gay and lesbian bookstore in Philadelphia. The provision of actual resources for the center, in other words, was very much coming from elsewhere. Since then the center has gained a part-time director, but it still has no budget beyond that provided by donors. Despite this impoverished status, the rrc has seen its usage double each year (peaking at well over seventeen hundred contacts in the 2003–2004 academic year); and it has begun to offer weekly glbt support groups, lunches, and gatherings, and has also cosponsored significant events like aids Walk and the visit, in 2002, of the gay filmmaker Arthur Dong. Where the university has done worst, I would argue, is in the academic realm. Since Matt’s death in 1998, only four undergraduate gay and lesbian studies courses—the first ever here—have been offered. A proposal, in a 2003 report prepared by members of Spectrum, to create a glbt studies minor or certificate has been greeted with little enthusiasm. At the meeting I attended where Spectrum presented its

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report, some administrators seemed skeptical that much of an audience existed for such courses (even as that audience stood before them); too, they were quick to cite the university’s struggling ethnic studies programs—programs systematically underfunded and understaffed by those same administrators—as evidence that a glbt studies program would similarly fail to thrive (an infuriating logic, to say the least). In short, we provide few intellectual resources for students interested in pursuing any kind of queer studies. Young and Gay in the Rural West For this essay I spent some time talking to two gay students—a young woman and a young man, Coley and Travis—about their lives here in Laramie. Here’s what Coley has to say about coming out, out here: It takes a while. I know that I didn’t even realize what was happening to me until I was probably a couple months into my first semester of college [in South Dakota], and I was in the dorms. That’s when I was like: uh-oh. You know, and I had a boyfriend, and I didn’t know who to talk to, and at that time, they kept the location of the [glbt] group private. You would e-mail, and then you’d be interviewed. So I was like, I can’t do that, I’m not going to do that. So I didn’t know anything about being gay. So I just stayed in the closet. I had no vehicle for coming out: I didn’t know how, I didn’t know where to find support. And I still think some of that’s happening here in Laramie. ’Cause you’re coming from, you know, maybe a small town in Wyoming, maybe you’ve never even witnessed a gay relationship, a healthy, meaningful relationship between two members of the same sex. Maybe you’ve never even seen that! I didn’t know that I could be in a committed relationship; I just thought that that wasn’t even an option, that I’d just have to be single forever. You just need to hear other people’s stories. There’s a powerful culture of quietness at work in Wyoming, what many glbt residents describe as a “don’t ask, don’t tell” rural world

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where you don’t hear those stories Coley longs for, where the threat of social isolation and exile for those who are openly different has particular potency (in a state so empty—a state, as the local politicians like to say, that’s “one long Main Street”—it’s difficult to find new communities in which to refashion oneself ). As Travis remembers about life in the dorms, “There was a very big sense of keeping one’s head down. I didn’t do so well at it because I’d do things like sit in the Union at tables that said ‘lesbian gay bisexual transgender!’—I wasn’t really keeping my head down very well. But when I came back to the dorms, I didn’t hold Spectrum meetings in my room with the door open.” Both Coley and Travis think Wyoming, because of the widespread inaudibility of queer life here, is particularly tough on the closeted and the questioning. As Coley says: It is. I think that’s probably more difficult. That’s a process that’s probably difficult no matter where you live or where you are, but it’s harder here because you don’t necessarily see couples walking down the street, same-sex couples holding hands, you don’t necessarily see programming on campus, you don’t see a really visible center on campus. I know for me what really helped with my coming-out process was just vacationing to San Francisco, and going to the Castro and seeing people and realizing that, wow, I can actually live the way I need to live, and I don’t have to not be true to myself. If you don’t see that, I think it’s really hard. You don’t get any validation for your feelings, you don’t see that it’s possible. So I think that’s what’s tough when you’re questioning here. It’s a little bit quieter, it’s more hidden. Both Travis and Coley describe how that quietness results in what could best be described as a kind of detective work—a hawk-eyed attunement to bookshelves, office space, jewelry, brochures. As Coley puts it, “We’re hypersensitive—if you’re questioning, or you’re just coming out—I can see the smallest pink triangle. There’s a hypersensitivity—I need to know that there’s other people out there.”

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These tensions of young gay life shape the campus community in ways that aren’t unique—it would be quick work to uncover the problems of closeting and invisibility on just about any American campus or in just about any American town. But the peculiarities of the rural West—where there just isn’t much opportunity for glbt people to pool up together in significant numbers, as they have in more urban, less conservative settings, and where a culture of quietness extends powerfully to sexual politics—intensify those lonely experiences. As Travis puts it, when you’re closeted here, “I think it’s harder. You need a safe place to go to, and if you don’t know where that safe place is, and you can’t talk to someone to ask them where that safe place is, that’s this cycle that puts you away from people.” All reasons why queer public space—like a truly visible, thriving center—starts to matter deeply. As Coley says: Space matters, because we take up space. It matters. You have to have a place to go, and it matters; if you don’t have an official place to go, you either don’t go anywhere, or— where are you getting those needs met? Say you just really need to talk to somebody about how to date, you’re gay, but you don’t even know how to ask somebody out on a date. Are you going to go to a counselor for that? No. It’s important. You just need a place to be you. I was walking to the union yesterday, and I saw a couple of girls hanging out, and they had their legs up on the sofa, and they’re just visiting. They can talk about their boyfriends, and the dates they went on, and was the sex good—and that’s an important part of just being a human being, to be able to share that, that kind of watercooler talk. I’m sure people in the president’s office have watercooler talk, they get to talk about their vacations, their kids. Maybe a center’s the only place in the world that gay people feel comfortable, and if it’s not there, it doesn’t exist, that means they feel comfortable nowhere. But in Laramie, queer residents can be inaudible both to one another and to the straight population that only likes to hear about them in

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sanctioned, limited ways. This absence has often extended to our campus’s carefully crafted celebrations of “diversity”—that cottony, closet-y term whose denotation is usefully vague and shiftable. Travis, as a leader of Spectrum, has spent a number of years living on the fogged borders of that word, finding himself and his community sometimes invited to and spoken of at diversity events, sometimes not. As he says: “The way the politics work at the University of Wyoming, when we talk about diversity, we don’t actually talk about gay, we don’t actually talk about black, we don’t talk about Hispanic, we talk about ‘diversity’; and those of us who deal with glbt rights— we’ve always got to hold up that sign that says, ‘Does that mean gay rights? Does that mean this is going to be gay-friendly as well?’” Procedures of Disenchantment One thing queer campus members have learned—as they hold up that sign—is how to wait. There’s what looks to me like a gradualist process firmly in place on this campus—the rrc is a perfect example, a “resource center” created without resources, staff, even a phone, and only slowly accumulating such things over time. That slowness feels to me like a heavy price, but our campus administration has been more concerned with other costs—in particular, the cost of student and faculty political passion to their ability to sway a conservative state legislature on university matters. The administration, since I have been here, has not interfered with the right of students and faculty to take unpopular political positions; but, as one senior administrator put it to me, “Don’t complicate my life, by doing something that I think we ought to do, but if you do it in February”—during the winter legislative session—“you’re going to make my life a lot more difficult than if you do it April. That’s life. Do I wish that it were different? Sure.” When I asked him, in view of that feeling, if he sees part of his job as tempering the idealism of his campus community, he finetuned my language: “Scheduling idealism—I schedule it. I don’t try to temper it all, because the consequence is that you’re perceived by your own faculty and staff as trying to limit free speech and discussion. But I do when I talk with people try to make them aware that timing issues

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can have consequences, and if you want me to be successful you can help.” It’s something of a paradox to wait to talk until the legislature elected to hear you isn’t around to listen; that’s a good example of how quiet—not silence exactly, but quiet—is a virtue out here. Within that scheduling context, both Coley and Travis have learned to work for change via a deeply disenchanted perspective—they don’t think statements of principle work here (neither does the senior administrator; he told me, “Believe me, the arguments you make when you go over to a legislature to try to make your case, they don’t read like a Supreme Court brief ”). Travis has reached an accommodation with that disenchantment, that scheduling, not entirely without cost: “You’re not trying to create this change in a vacuum. This is the real world. You work on it in steps, rather than being like ‘we want the University of Wyoming to be the shining beacon of where gay kids are going to go.’ But to realize I’m not going to be here for all that is, at first, kind of disheartening, because I would love to see that.” Coley has reached a similar, troubled accommodation: I think it’s important to realize that we are in a conservative environment, predominantly white; difference is hard, change is hard. I’m afraid that we’re just not in the position—because of the makeup of the people in the state, and the makeup of the trustees and the administration—that making change—positive change for glbt people—happens on the basis that it’s the moral and ethical right thing to do—it’s not going to pan out that way. It’s just not going to. I wish it was the other way, but I think it’s a pipe dream. I mean, you know what? I’ll take the change any way I can get it. I just don’t think it’s going to be because there’s just really good people who want to forge the road ahead and make positive things happen out of the goodness of their soul and heart. But how often is that a motivation for anything anyway? We all have our own self-interests. In my earlier research about the campus response to Shepard’s murder, I drew a distinction between symbolic and institutional change—

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those memorial concerts versus a queer studies program, to give a quick example. It’s odd, of course, for a literature scholar like myself to grow suddenly suspicious and cranky about the political efficacy of symbols, since much of literary studies over the past twenty years has made the case for symbolic discourse as not just a site of power but a privileged location of it. But the rush of symbolic gesture that happened here and elsewhere in the year after Shepard’s death—the vigils, the marches, the songs, the poetry—hasn’t translated into more permanent institutional change, beyond a barely budgeted center and some new antidiscrimination regulations that nevertheless don’t guarantee the equal distribution of insurance benefits to gay and lesbian faculty and staff. And that makes those symbols feel as much like an alibi for straights as a fulfilled commitment to real change. Straights who understand ourselves as sympathetic to glbt rights need to ask ourselves a hard question—we need to ask ourselves how much our fine feelings might actively mask our complicity in structures of inequality. The absence of institutional change, no matter how many pro-gay vigils we attend, means injustice shoulders into our lives, even when we feel like we’re better than that. Justice is not a feeling, in other words, and it’s dangerous to believe otherwise. A colleague of mine—quite radical in his politics—told me once that gay individuals have an advantage over ethnic minorities because they can choose to be invisible in settings like job interviews and dormitories; and thus the needs of gay students might be understood as important, but less urgent. (His implicit assumption that gay individuals are white is able to bloom here at least in part because of the significant whiteness of our campus and the state that surrounds it). I’ve heard other members of this campus say something similar; and setting aside for a moment the depressing ranking of oppression that scarce resources almost invariably fosters, it’s worth answering that contention, because it shapes even some of the more progressive sensibilities here, and fogs even further those murky borders of what constitutes “diversity.” The closet is not a handy form of camouflage—it’s not a nifty piece of gear that you shake open and step into when the social weather turns stormy. It is not a privilege. It is

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also not a form of sexual privacy; certainly not when a gay individual needs it in order to get a job. The closet, among other things, allows straights to continue our soothing forgetting; it allows us to set the terms for when we might remember the existence of homosexuality, and how it is remembered. It allows us, in other words, to schedule their idealism. The audibility of homosexuality on our campus, then, should not be seen as, or rendered as, the clamoring of yet another needy group that must be managed and deferred. It can be better understood as a memory of the past and also, oddly, of the present. If that’s idealism, so be it. But really it’s just fairness. The irony at work in my colleague’s comment is painful, for in a sense his complaint about queer individuals—they’re not as bad off as they say, they need to get in line, they need to acknowledge other, more pressing demands—is precisely the impoverished discourse, the scheduling, with which institutions like mine delay fulfilling the yearnings and needs of their minorities. The replication of that discourse by the very individuals it is used to marginalize is one of the most damaging results of working within the institution’s procedures of disenchantment. Damaging too is how that western quietness, that western poetics of sameness, defensiveness, and ultimately despair, extends into the very heart of an educational system that should be consecrated to equality and dissent—to those principles we are supposed to find too costly. To say that Coley and Travis deserve better is, I know, a form of idealism, a refusal to accept that this is “just the way the world out there works.” I know, too, that changing life within a university won’t do much—perhaps won’t do anything—to transform the social inequalities that lap at its doors. But the fact that inequality persists everywhere else is no reason to let it continue within. Brokeback Cowboys And the scheduling of idealism, the closeting of queerness in the cleaned-up, shame-free language of “diversity,” does contribute in small but real ways to the maintenance of a still-homophobic local culture. In the winter of 2005–2006, Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee’s film about two Wyoming cowboys in difficult love, made its way into

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local conversation, and the results weren’t always pretty.3 I was teaching a queer theory course that winter, and my students reported a few things. For one, a group of University of Wyoming students started a page on Facebook devoted to decrying the very idea of gay cowboys; an impossibility, they claimed, since cowboys are irrefutably the apotheosis of American masculinity in all of its heterosexual splendor. Another report: our male sports teams are called the Cowboys, and at basketball games one member of my class heard students shout “brokeback cowboy” whenever one of the players missed a free throw or an easy dunk. So Brokeback Mountain, in all of its queer sympathy and beauty, provided a new lexicon and a new set of opportunities for the old poetics of homophobic expression at a school only halfway committed to an open embrace of its glbt members. But there are always other ways to think about cowboys. In October 2005, Spectrum threw a drag show at the Cowboy Bar in downtown Laramie. If you want a spot that enshrines Laramie’s wish to cling to a mythic regional past, the Cowboy would work fine for such a purpose. At the Cowboy a patron can marshal all of the accoutrements necessary to a nostalgic Wyoming self—the hats and boots, the Wranglers and the bottled beer and the bourbon, the country music and the mediumfrequency heterosexism of a bar full of men and women on the make. But places like the Cowboy are also places that reveal the self-interest of such nostalgia in the New West; there’s money to be made by providing a place where people can fashion themselves into heterosexual regional archetypes, and there’s money to be made too, Spectrum told the Cowboy, by providing a place for a night where people could fashion themselves into an entirely different set of archetypes. So Spectrum held its drag show, and a friendly crowd came to watch a handful of drag queens live it up. The Cowboy got queered around the same time Brokeback Mountain queered the cowboy on a national level. Or to put it more broadly, if regionalism traditionally has entailed a retreat from the differences and the complexities of the present into a mythic and monolithic past, then what we can see in Laramie is the inchoate beginnings of a new regionalism, a struggle between the nostalgic form of regional identity and a queer remaking of it.

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A few weeks after I saw Brokeback Mountain, I drove down to the Denver airport to pick up a friend. It’s not unusual in the West to see businessmen in modified cowboy drag—the hat, the boots, maybe a buckle. A number of them are always at the airport. As I waited for my friend’s plane to land, I saw two men walking together, briefcases in hand, hats, boots, jeans, buckles. They were probably business partners, but between Spectrum and the Cowboy and Brokeback Mountain, they didn’t master their own signification in quite the way they surely felt they used to; the meaning of their drag is forever changed, whether they’d like it to be or not. The poetics are up for grabs. And that’s a West that, while still volatile and unpredictable, is finally starting to grow as spacious as it should be. Notes
1. Loffreda, Losing Matt Shepard. 2. For more on the national response to the murder of Matt Shepard, see Loffreda, Losing Matt Shepard, 1–31. Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project produced a documentary play that explored the aftermath of the murder; it opened in Denver in 2000 and then moved on to New York City and Laramie. It was later made into an hbo film. See Kaufman, The Laramie Project; and The Laramie Project (dir. Moises Kaufman, hbo Home Video, 2000). 3. In 2006 Ang Lee won an Academy Award for Best Director for Brokeback Mountain (Universal Studios, 2005). Annie Proulx’s short story, upon which the film was based, first appeared in the October 13, 1997, issue of the New Yorker; it later was included in her collection Close Range. Following the film’s commercial success, Scribner issued a sixty-four-page paperback, Brokeback Mountain.

10. Frontier Mythology, Children’s Literature, and Japanese American Incarceration
john streamas

If modern technologies may be understood as new means of measuring and controlling time and space, then the paralysis that is the consequence of prevented motion—of physical repression and incarceration—isolates communities from the time and space they had previously inhabited. They lose the conditions of their humanity. Barbed wire is, therefore, not merely a symbol of confinement but also a symbol of violent dehumanization. The literature of wrongfully imprisoned and abused peoples is filled with references to and images of barbed wire. Not surprisingly, then, covers and titles of books on the expulsion and imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II invoke barbed wire. But they fail to note a cruel irony of the concentration camps into which Japanese Americans were imprisoned. By World War II, writes Reviel Netz, even “nations generally imbued with . . . high ideals could nonetheless embark on the policy of mass concentration,” and so, in 1942, when Japanese Americans were removed from the Pacific coast to remote camps in the interior West, then “barbed wire, as it were, came home. The American West was suddenly—if briefly—the site for barbed wire structures alternating between imprisoned animals and imprisoned humans.”1 My purpose here is to examine children’s books that are concerned with this expulsion and imprisonment. I will argue that these books avoid the subject of the violent dehumanization that barbed wire represents—and in the process regard barbed wire as merely a barrier— so that they might construct individual protagonists as pioneers conquering a frontier. Children’s books on the wartime expulsion and imprisonment of Japanese Americans use a foundational myth of U.S.

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history and culture—the idea of the frontier—as their way of understanding the government’s actions and prescribing Japanese Americans’ reactions. Caroline Chung Simpson writes, “The concept of the camps as a revival of the mythological pioneer spirit of America was common to most of the early postwar attempts to reinterpret the severity of the rugged living conditions of camps located in isolated and uninhabited areas.”2 It is a dangerously false politics that defines heroes merely by their survival and not by a realization that their oppression is a result of institutional policies of violent dehumanization. A grotesque irony of this politics is that its language derives from the lexicon of nineteenth-century American Manifest Destiny. The text I will examine most closely is Florence Crannell Means’s novel The Moved-Outers because, published in 1945, it was reportedly the first mainstream children’s book on the imprisonment, and because, as a Newbery Honor book, it bears the stamp of mainstream approval, and finally because it most conspicuously speaks the language of the frontier myth. A politically informed criticism of books for children exists, albeit on the margins of mainstream studies. For example, in 1988 Betty Bacon described children’s books in the United States as being “essentially a product of and for the middle class created by the rise of the capitalist system.”3 Donnarae MacCann introduces her book White Supremacy in Children’s Literature with the charge that, except for “a few abolitionist narratives, children’s books have generally treated Black characters stereotypically, or they have excluded them entirely. The latter tactic— exclusion—provided a means in the twentieth century of escaping the embarrassing connection that could be drawn between American racism and the racism of the Nazis.”4 More recently, the authors of a review essay of My Heart Is on the Ground: The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, a Sioux Girl, Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania, 1880 detail the book’s misrepresentations and conclude that it “allows both [author Ann] Rinaldi and the non-Native reader to avoid the issues and erase the real reasons that many, many children died at the boarding schools: malnutrition, tuberculosis, pneumonia, smallpox, physical abuse

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(including sexual abuse), and—no less importantly—broken hearts and spirits, and loneliness.”5 These authors also indict the series in which My Heart Is on the Ground appears, a popular line published by Scholastic. The series is titled “Dear America,” and each book in it is presented as if it were a historical document, the diary of a real girl. Scholastic also publishes a parallel series whose diarists are boys, and its title is “My Name Is America.” In each book in both series, the true author is not identified on the spine and cover. The diary occupies most of the book, followed by an epilogue that continues the protagonist’s story and a historical note. As Rinaldi’s critics observe, the books’ “fictional aspect is played down.”6 The presentation of books in both series suggests that the young diarists are addressing the nation, as if to say, “See how you have abused me—in spite of which I remain dedicated to your ideals and principles.” The publisher strains for a comprehensive multiculturalism, to boast that, no matter how terrible the hardships some groups have suffered, America is defined by all of its groups. But this ignores questions that surely many children will ask: Why have some groups suffered while others have not? Have some groups prospered because others have suffered? Have some groups caused others to suffer? The back cover of a book in the “My Name Is America” series, The Journal of Ben Uchida, Citizen 13559: Mirror Lake Internment Camp, California, 1942, quotes its young protagonist: “I never thought I looked different from the other kids. Never once, even though most of them are Caucasian, except for Billy Smith, who’s a Negro, and Charles Hamada, who’s part Japanese, part jerk. But now I realized my face was different. My hair was black. My skin was yellow. My eyes were narrow. It never seemed to matter before, but it sure did matter now. Now my face was the face of the enemy.”7 These words are superimposed over a photograph in which a barbed-wire fence marks the border of one of the concentration camps in which Japanese Americans such as young Uchida, had he really existed, were imprisoned during World War II. And yet the text and the photograph are belied by the image at the top, of a scroll bearing the words of the series title, “My Name Is America.” Young Uchida would have been imprisoned pre-

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cisely because groups in power assumed the right to define America and, during the war years, defined anyone of Japanese descent, even nisei (second-generation, and thus American-born citizens), out of Americanness. In early 1942, in a rush to prepare Japanese Americans for their evacuation and imprisonment, the government and military cobbled together several explanatory and instructional pamphlets and short films. The earliest materials called the camps “colonies” and Japanese Americans “colonists.”8 To label an imprisoned racial community “colonists” is to insult the prisoners with a brutal irony. Still, the language of America’s frontier myth continued to frame the relocation program. The government called Japanese Americans “pioneers” and the camps their “frontier.” A circular titled The War Relocation Work Corps, distributed in the spring of 1942, defines “Relocation Center” as a “pioneer community with basic housing and protective services provided by the Federal Government, for occupancy by evacuees for the duration of the war.”9 How can an “evacuee” also be a “pioneer”? Yet the government pressed on, trying to convince Japanese Americans that they were explorers and new settlers on virgin land. Another circular, Questions and Answers for Evacuees, reminded readers that their new camp home “is a pioneer community. So bring clothes suited to pioneer life.”10 Of course, “pioneer life” is harsh and difficult. A 1972 government review of the Army Corps of Engineers’ construction of the camps claims that unforeseen complications resulted from the sites’ remoteness, a need to design around “Japanese physique and customs,” and increasing shortages of construction materials.11 But of course the government manipulated language, granting itself latitude to concede the harshness of pioneer life even as its upbeat tone stressed new and exciting challenges. Yet it was not only the government that invoked the frontier myth. Many friends and sympathetic observers—and even some Japanese Americans themselves—embraced the language of the myth. Ansel Adams photographed the community imprisoned in the Manzanar camp in California, and he regarded the landscape as daunting but

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ultimately inspiring: “I believe that the arid splendor of the desert, ringed with towering mountains, has strengthened the spirit of the people of Manzanar. I do not say all are conscious of the influence, but I am sure most have responded, in one way or another, to the resonances of their environment.”12 In other words, according to Adams, the prisoners, like good American pioneers, adapted to their environment and even drew courage from it. Elena Tajima Creef complains, “If Adams’s photographs aestheticize the dramatic and stunningly beautiful Sierra Nevada backdrop, they also aestheticize internment.” Yet the inmates lived, she says, not in the beautiful mountains that Adams adored but in a “desert wasteland.”13 For a sympathetic outsider such as Adams to construct evacuees as pioneers is bad enough, but one Japanese American young man, asked in the Tule Lake camp why he and some friends wanted to leave the United States, answered, “We want to go where there are new frontiers.”14 At least these frontiers were not the same as the prison they wanted to leave. We might hope that novelists, sensitive to nuances of language, might avoid brutally ironic euphemisms.15 Barry Denenberg, the author of the aforementioned fictive diary of Ben Uchida, infuses his young protagonist with a boyish sarcasm which understands that, when the camp newspaper fills its pages with articles praising administrators, “democracy” is at work; and when administrators refer to a guard’s shooting of an elderly inmate as an “incident,” young Ben writes, “The guy’s dead as a doornail and they call it an incident. I wonder what they would call the Civil War, a disturbance?”16 And yet near the end of his diary Ben believes the claim of a military recruiter that an all-nisei combat unit “was the best way to show that we are Americans, first, last, and always.”17 In other words, the solution to the racially imposed segregation of the camps is another segregation. Significantly, just as the frontier myth is masculinized and militarized, so is this first opportunity for Japanese Americans to show that they are “Americans.” One nonfiction book for children even takes the title I Am an American, a phrase that appears on a sign in a Japanese American’s shop window in a Dorothea Lange photograph of the evacuation from

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the San Francisco Bay area. The 1994 book, written by Jerry Stanley, endorses the masculine and militaristic themes of the frontier myth, boasting of the nisei men’s combat units’ high casualty rates and numerous decorations for their fighting “like wild men gone crazy.”18 Like all brave pioneers, these men cleared the way for their people’s future success, as the book admiringly quotes General Joseph Stillwell’s contention that “Nisei bought an awful big chunk of America with their blood.”19 Like Denenberg, Stanley does not question the idea of addressing one segregation with another. Neither does Jodi Icenoggle, in her 2001 novel America’s Betrayal. To be sure, Icenoggle is much more critical of the policy by which Japanese Americans were betrayed, for near the end of the book the protagonist’s father “felt no bitterness toward the American government. He still viewed the internment as a huge mistake,” while the protagonist, Margaret, thinks, “I couldn’t accept that. . . . Money and homes could be rebuilt. Not my childhood.”20 Yet a chapter titled “Loyalty” offers examples of loyalty that merely recapitulate mainstream definitions. When Margaret charges that she can hardly be disloyal to a nation that, having abused her, means nothing to her, her brother Robert claims that nisei are “asked to prove our loyalty above and beyond other Americans,” and Margaret notices that he is driven not by anger but by pride: “Now he could stand up and say he was an American, to the army—the very group that didn’t want him after Pearl Harbor.”21 Robert believes loyalty is his duty.22 Elsewhere in the chapter loyalty is defined as hope and as freedom. Most tellingly, Margaret defines it in her journal as the work of the individual will: “This war has taught me loyalty is more than proving yourself worthy to America. Loyalty is in your heart. . . . We can’t, beyond any doubt, prove ourselves to this government. We can satisfy our own criteria for loyalty. . . . We are being detained by prejudice. I’m going to build on the person I already am. I am worthy of a better life and someday, I’ll make that a reality.”23 As the story unfolds, the deaths of friends and relatives, including Robert, merely provide Margaret a chance to strengthen her resolve and become the loyal American—that is, the rugged individual-

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ist with a pioneer spirit—who will marry her handsome white lover, John Wilson. Not surprisingly, John has been away at war, but Margaret has asked him not to tell her, in his letters, any details of combat, not even his location. In other words, even as she constructs her Americanness in a prison camp, she asks her white lover to leave her out of history. And this dehistoricizing is facilitated by Margaret’s belief that her imprisonment is the result of prejudice, not of systemic racism. The frontier myth, like all foundational myths, tries to transcend history. In Kim/Kimi, Hadley Irwin’s 1987 novel, the sixteen-year-old protagonist tells her brother, “I hate history, Davey. You just finish off one war, and you start another.”24 Later in the novel, a Japanese American woman recalls her adolescence in a camp and her impulse to run away, but she attributes her maturing not to a political consciousness but to a self-discovery: “You grow up when you learn that life is cause and effect—that what you do has consequences.”25 Again it is the pioneer spirit of rugged individualism rather than anti-racist activism that propels the book. Similarly, in the novel War Strikes, a Japanese American character writes about his family’s adjustment to imprisonment in a detention camp: “The mattresses are filled with straw, which makes us feel like we are cowboys living on a ranch.”26 The irony here is particularly cruel, as two of the ten prison camps were carved out of Indian reservation land. In another novel, Elsie J. Larson’s Dawn’s Early Light, a prison camp is referred to not only as a “colony” but also—again with an irony that doubles back on another American racial community—as “the project.”27 The plot of this novel has enormous political potential, as its protagonist, Jean, is hired by her racist uncle, a senator, to pose as a teacher in a camp while she spies on inmates and reports on those she suspects of harboring loyalties to Japan. That is, she presumes to spy on spies. Playing on common stereotypes of the Japanese, Larson writes that Jean, “in blindness to her own prejudices, . . . had become inscrutable.”28 But of course this happens as a result of Jean’s selfdiscovery, and so the last chapters are devoted to her agonizing over her betrayal of Japanese Americans, then speaking on their behalf,

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even going to Washington dc to plead with Eleanor Roosevelt. Conveniently, an imprisoned Japanese American who is also a Christian minister counsels her: “You have wisely found the beginning of all deception. Now you need to forgive yourself.”29 Larson depicts Jean’s agonies much more vividly than she depicts the sufferings of Japanese Americans. But then her book is about individual growth and redemption, not the kind of institutional racism that led to the imprisonment. One of the best children’s books on the incarceration is Marcia Savin’s 1992 novel The Moon Bridge, which refuses to displace the sufferings of a racial community onto its white protagonist. Yet the fact that even Savin glibly attributes a Japanese American character’s postwar pride to the fact that her brother has “a chestful of medals” indicates that a fallacy of the frontier myth lures these writers into its logic.30 On the one hand, the myth promotes a masculinized and militarized individualism; on the other, it sets parameters around that individualism, beyond which is a disorder that it punishes. For example, in several of these books conflict arises from the two questions of the loyalty oath that provoke fear and anger. The questions effectively asked Japanese Americans to forswear any loyalty to Japan, which many had never felt or even imagined, and to pledge loyalty to the very U.S. government that prevented immigrant issei from becoming citizens. While many angry nisei suspected that the questions were a willful trap, most inmates answered yes to them. Affirmative answers also facilitated the military’s drafting of nisei men. These books acknowledge the fears and anger but finally construct those who answer “no-no” as troublemakers. Those who answer “yes-yes” and who enter the military—usually to return with the “chestful of medals”—serve as models of perseverance and a transcendent loyalty. Yet the true individualists, those who live outside society’s norms, were the “no-no” boys whom these books marginalize. Perhaps the most problematic children’s book on the camps is also the first to enter the publishing mainstream, Florence Crannell Means’s The Moved-Outers. To her credit, Means acknowledges racism even as, in the early chapters, she also constructs the Ohara family,

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especially the young protagonist, Sue, as being “as American as the Stars and Stripes.”31 Surprisingly, Sue’s brother Kim says, “The government’s building temporary camps, and on March 19 they’ll begin moving us into them. Back in the dark ages they began evacuating eastern Indians, and that trek was called the ‘Trail of Tears.’ This’ll be our Trail of Tears.”32 But then Means detaches Japanese American removal from Indian removal and attaches it instead to an altogether different event, when Kim says, “I suppose good things are worth suffering for. I mean things like democracy. They don’t come cheap. . . . You know what I want to name our stall? . . . ‘Valley Forge.’” And Sue agrees that “all this could be dignified, made bearable, if we could remember to think of it so: as suffering for our country. For America.”33 That none of this, in Means’s hands, is ironic is reinforced when, a few pages later, Sue thinks of others who “have suffered and died for their country, and some of them unjustly. . . . And out of all the pain and the standing for what people believed has come this America. And it is still worth suffering for.” Sue’s friend Jiro reinforces such thinking by claiming that inmates should recall Booker T. Washington’s plea to make “advantages of your disadvantages.”34 But it is Native Americans to whom Means returns for comparisons, to stress differences between them and her Japanese American protagonists, as when, on their trip to the Amache camp, the Oharas, prisoners though they are, become virtual tourists as they gawk at Navajos, and when Sue, now settled in camp, objects to “anything that suggests our staying, . . . even the ball team’s calling itself the Amache Indians. Indians! As if we were on the reservation for good.”35 More than other writers of children’s books on the camps, Means conspicuously announces her adherence to the frontier myth. In a letter Sue claims that she must keep reminding herself, “This is being a Pilgrim; this is being a pioneer; this is helping to make America.”36 Late in the novel, preparing to leave camp for a job, Sue most fully expresses Means’s myth: “We’re really the newest pioneers. . . . We, the evacuees, the moved-outers. We’re American patriots, loving our country with our hearts broken. And those who must can be pioneers behind barbed wire, but those who can must go out and pioneer

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in the wide world.” On the last page, as her train leaves camp, Sue thinks, “And now, O world, world! Give us just a little chance. Let us be human. Let us prove that we are Americans”; and the last line says, “All aboard—and bound for America!”37 But in these closing lines Means betrays an idea central to such racist American policies as the removal and incarceration of whole communities: that wherever they live, whether by choice or by force, is not really a part of America. Sue cannot be “bound for America” unless she is presently not in America. The camps, like the Indian reservations that Means’s Japanese Americans ogle, are not really a part of America’s privileged political landscape; and only by assimilating—by proving their loyalty to the very institutions that oppress them—can people of color even hope to enter America. The frontier myth assumes the existence of pioneers who are rugged individualists; it also assumes that the frontier, however ultimately beautiful, must be “conquered.” Almost all memoirs by former inmates recall that the harshness of camp life owed not only to the government’s insensitive provisions but also to the physical environment. “Desert wasteland” is a phrase that resonates through many of these memoirs. This is not to say that the desert is inherently ugly and harsh but that the government knowingly placed in it a people who had had no prior experience with it and were unprepared for its conditions. Even a paradise may seem hellish to a people forced to live in it. But of course the most available land was land that was generally regarded as least inhabitable, and this is where the camps were placed. Most children’s books on the camps stress the harshness of the desert, but Means transforms even the campsite into a source of courage. Sue’s first impression frames the place as “so ugly, so dull, so dry,” but only twelve pages later she exclaims, “Everything sort of sparkles. And look at the sky!”38 Her friend Choyo attributes Sue’s transformation merely to altitude: “First it makes you feel awful, and then it makes you feel grand.” Near the end, Sue confides in a letter, “I’m learning to like this climate, with its sort of exciting brilliance.”39 Sue’s acceptance of the land and climate results from her becoming a “pioneer” and a “patriot.”

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Since many of these books construct young women as protagonists, we might expect them to note and critique the availability to men of the ultimate test of loyalty, service in combat. Rather, they construct gendered divisions of labor that reflect the divisions of “pioneer” life. Thus the “good” and “loyal” young men, brothers and lovers of the young women, march off to war, while the protagonists deviate from a domestic life intensified by prison conditions only to become writers or students. Some of these women scorn the old-world domesticity that they believe suffocates their immigrant mothers, but they fail to note their own subservience to their medal-bearing men. Prison life tests their strength and perseverance, but it does not alter gender differentials. The ultimate failure of these books is their refusal to acknowledge, much less resist, the institutional oppressions that led to the expulsion and incarceration in the first place. The books attribute the oppressions to prejudice while refusing to recognize that the government’s policies are mere points on a continuum of racist programs. The camps evolve from a place to hate into a place to survive and finally into a place to conquer. And triumph is the reward for a pioneer spirit, which consists of the seemingly clashing values of loyalty and rugged individualism. In the world of these books, those who resist the government, as the “no-no” boys do, are merely troublemakers whose disloyalty warrants further segregation from the “good” inmates. The authors devote much more attention to problems of loyalty than to consequences of racism. And none of their characters, even after asking why they should be loyal to a nation that has betrayed them, provides any answer better than the rewards of social order and Americanness—and this answer is no repudiation of racism. But then the frontier myth is built, as Richard Slotkin and others have argued, on an assertion of masculinized, militarized, and Eurocentric dominance. Perhaps only one book accessible to older children, the graphic memoir Citizen 13660, written and illustrated by former inmate Miné Okubo, avoids the individualism of the frontier myth. Whereas most photographs taken in the camps individualize perseverance, as in

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Ansel Adams’s work, or suffering, as in Dorothea Lange’s, the drawings in Okubo’s book—of women humiliated in the public shower or of camp authorities inspecting a family’s few belongings—achieve a balanced reading of what Elena Tajima Creef calls “the public and private spaces of the camp” and thus stand as an act of resistance that is bold even by contemporary standards.40 Furthermore, Okubo’s acknowledgment and demolition of the frontier myth repudiates both institutional racism and the liberal assimilationism that pervades most children’s books on the camps. As Caroline Chung Simpson writes: “Citizen 13660 . . . posit[s] the camps as an inversion of the narrative of pioneer existence, wherein the settler inevitably comes from fear and vulnerability in the new environment to an increasing sense of belonging and self-sufficiency. Although authorities instruct Okubo’s community to ‘be prepared’ for ‘pioneer life’ in the camps, she describes Topaz . . . as a hopeless experience. . . . The pioneer theme of the conquest of a forbidding environment is never realized.”41 The process of enclosing a space of imprisonment in barbed wire is a “colonization of space,” writes Reviel Netz, and it “gives rise to small enclaves within it—settlements of a few square miles, at most, within which human motion is heavily curtailed.”42 But this “colonization of space” is not the work of the prisoners forced to live inside the barbed-wire enclosure, regardless of government pamphlets’ and children’s books’ assurances that Japanese Americans were “pioneers.” Rather, the true colonizers are those institutions that, having created barbed wire to exert violent control over the imprisoned, now flaunt this same barbed wire as a threat to those outside the camps: “While small in physical extension, these settlements have great historical significance: they are the key to the control over the entire space surrounding them.”43 By forcing concentration camps into the frontier myth, children’s books reduce racism to the amorphous individual hatreds that sprawl across open spaces, willfully ignoring the violence and control of institutionally managed, colonized spaces.

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Notes
1. Netz, Barbed Wire, 158, 159. 2. C. C. Simpson, An Absent Presence, 34. 3. Bacon, introduction, 4. 4. MacCann, White Supremacy in Children’s Literature, xvi. 5. Atleo et al., rev. of My Heart Is on the Ground. 6. Atleo et al., rev. of My Heart Is on the Ground. 7. Denenberg, Journal of Ben Uchida, 8. 8. Jacoby, Tule Lake, 13. 9. United States, War Relocation Authority, The War Relocation Work Corps, 2. 10. United States, War Relocation Authority, Questions and Answers for Evacuees, 2. 11. United States, Office of the Chief of Military History, United States Army in World War II, 516, 533. 12. Quoted in Armor and Wright, Manzanar, xvii. 13. Creef, Imaging Japanese America, 36. Viewers sympathetic to Adams may suggest that he announced an oppositional politics in the sharp contrast between majestic mountain peaks and the squalid conditions of the camps. But American documentary photography of the 1930s and 1940s is not known for irony; and Adams, who only dabbled in documentary work, was no ironist. Besides, as the quote from Adams shows, he regarded the desert as continuous with the mountains, and seemed unaware of internees’ suffering the heat and barrenness. Recent critics have compared Adams’s photographs of internees unfavorably to Dorothea Lange’s. A few extend the comparison to Toyo Miyatake, himself an internee who was allowed, under restrictions imposed by Manzanar administrators, to photograph camp life. I claim later that Adams’s camp images celebrate perseverance, the rugged individualism of assimilated Americanism, while Lange’s individualize suffering. Judith Fryer Davidov writes that, while Miyatake constructed an insider’s view of the camps that shows “the fallaciousness of demarcating otherness,” and Lange “constructed difference . . . through references to similarity,” Adams focused on accommodationist internees, “those who demonstrated their submission to captivity by working to make the spaces in which they were imprisoned more comfortable and attractive, or their patriotism by enlisting in the armed forces,” and that this construction “fit perfectly with the official presentation of the internment as humane, orderly, and even beneficial to the internees.” Davidov, “‘The Color of My Skin,’” 232, 233, 236.

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14. Quoted in C. C. Simpson, An Absent Presence, 41. 15. In the survey that follows I make no claims about authors’ racial identities until I reach Miné Okubo, and even then my aim is to show that her book constructs a communal perspective that rejects the rugged individualism of the frontier myth. Most Japanese American writers of children’s books about the camps, however, create stories of individual suffering and triumph, just like the writers I survey here. Because modern narrative conventions privilege the individual consciousness, radical deviations such as Okubo’s are rare, for reasons complicated enough to require a lengthy engagement elsewhere with narrative theory. 16. Denenberg, Journal of Ben Uchida, 92, 102. 17. Denenberg, Journal of Ben Uchida, 126. 18. Stanley, I Am an American, 65. 19. Stanley, I Am an American, 83. 20. Icenoggle, America’s Betrayal, 184. 21. Icenoggle, America’s Betrayal, 153. 22. Icenoggle, America’s Betrayal, 155. 23. Icenoggle, America’s Betrayal, 156. 24. H. Irwin, Kim/Kimi, 22. 25. H. Irwin, Kim/Kimi, 141. 26. Lutz, War Strikes, 103. 27. Larson, Dawn’s Early Light, 47, 51. 28. Larson, Dawn’s Early Light, 131. 29. Larson, Dawn’s Early Light, 168. 30. Savin, The Moon Bridge, 222. 31. Means, The Moved-Outers, 15. 32. Means, The Moved-Outers, 30. 33. Means, The Moved-Outers, 59. 34. Means, The Moved-Outers, 63, 66. 35. Means, The Moved-Outers, 106. 36. Means, The Moved-Outers, 93. 37. Means, The Moved-Outers, 149, 156. 38. Means, The Moved-Outers, 89, 101. 39. Means, The Moved-Outers, 101, 152. 40. Creef, Imaging Japanese America, 83. 41. C. C. Simpson, An Absent Presence, 35–36. 42. Netz, Barbed Wire, 129. 43. Netz, Barbed Wire, 129.

11. I’m Just a Lonesome Korean Cowgirl; or, Adoption and National Identity
melody graulich

I walk in this skin. And in this skin, I have found another world. Not in America, not in Korea . . . but where? Su Niles, “My Story . . . Thus Far” Species that emigrate only travel one way. Species that migrate travel back and forth between two different places. They have two homes. Jane Jeong Trenka, The Language of Blood

“I’m just a lonesome L.A. Cowboy,” sings Peter Rowan of the bluegrass group Old and In the Way, “Hanging out and hanging on / . . . Smoking dope, snorting coke, / Trying to write a song, / Forgetting everything I know, / ’Til the next line comes along.”1 Writing in the early 1970s, Rowan captures the ironies of the New West, providing playful evidence for Edward Soja’s argument in Thirdspace (1996) that L.A. is a place where reality and image collapse.2 When the emblems of the mythic western identity move to the quintessential postmodern city, west of (almost) everything, they lose their identities, becoming oxymorons. Hanging out in the New West but feeling old and in the way, our postmodern cowboy sings the plaintive song he is apparently writing, about his sense of dislocation. What lines will come along to help him reconcile the old with the new? Yet the twentieth-century cowboy should feel less at home on the range than in L.A., where he tirelessly snorts and repeats his lines on movie lots. After Midnight Cowboy, after spaghetti Westerns, after

2. Korean cowgirl. Photograph courtesy Melody Graulich.

the popularity of bucking bulls in urban bars, most of us recognize that the “cowboy” identity is a commodity, transportable anywhere. In L.A. or anywhere else, you can dress up as a cowboy: what better symbol of globalization than the universal youth dress, at least in industrialized countries, invented by a nineteenth-century Jewish storekeeper in San Francisco? But “playing cowboy” also has significant implications for national identity, both culturally and individually. “I grew up a-dreamin’ of bein’ a cowboy and lovin’ the cowboy ways,” sings Willie Nelson in “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys.” Some dream of being a cowgirl. Figure 2 is an image of a Korean girl dressed in an outfit insistent with American iconography. While she may initially seem even more oxymoronic than our L.A. cowboy, as Doreen Massey and others have demonstrated, we live in a

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world where cultural symbols readily cross national borders, where, perhaps, national identities are as “performed” as gender identities, where we are “seeing the breakdown of many of the close relationships between cultural identity and the nation state.”3 Why not a Korean cowgirl? But photographs contain layers of representation, responsive to our cultural assumptions. While no one ever asks an African American woman when she learned English or whether she emigrated from Kenya, the umbilical cord between Asian Americans and a (presumed) country of origin has not been cut. This cowgirl is actually my very American daughter, Larkin Katrina Jung-Ok Dethier, in what our family thinks of as her JonBenet Ramsey outfit, preparing to do the “Boot Scoot Boogie” with her dance class in Logan, Utah. Of the numerous over-the-top outfits in the dance school’s recital, only the cowgirl outfits were in red, white, and blue. Born in South Korea, Larkin came to the United States when she was four months old. She is a naturalized citizen, with the belief that in the States she can “be” anything. We have not yet revealed to her that she cannot ever be president, unless Arnold Schwarzenegger’s constituency manages to change the laws, as Henry Kissinger’s did not. The kid of liberal academics, Larkin disliked her JonBenet costume, but figure 3 represents her chosen occupation at this writing, circa 2004, and the space where it takes place, the American West. If, as Stephen Daniels argues in Fields of Vision (1993), “Landscapes . . . picture the nation,” particularly “symbolic landscapes of national identity,” my daughter, Korean on the outside, American on the inside, has infiltrated the national landscape, and she believes she can claim it as her own. In my view, she has “imagined” herself into the nation, to borrow from Benedict Anderson.4 But strict social constructionists, and some opponents of transracial adoption, might argue instead that the nation, through its cultural imaginaries, has colonized her, has split her into a “banana.” And as Anderson makes clear, national identities are not wholly based on the development of communal values; as much, they are constructed out of the exclusion of those who do not fit into the pic-

3. Korean cowgirl with horse. Photograph courtesy Melody Graulich.

ture. While my cowgirl embodies both the New West’s ties to the Pacific Rim and the Old West’s fascination with determined independence and “wide open spaces”—to quote a group she likes, the Dixie Chicks—can they comfortably coexist? Will my hybrid cowgirl end up as lonesome, as out of place, as the L.A. cowboy? While I have treated them playfully, Larkin’s efforts to locate herself, like those of other international adoptees, offer us one route to understanding what James Clifford calls “transnational identity formation” within the “diverse array of contemporary diasporic cultural forms.”5 (As I have just demonstrated, playing cowboy is surely of this array.) In his influential Routes (1997), Clifford argues for the importance of this project, building on the work of Stuart Hall to contend that “diasporic conjunctures invite a reconception—both theoretical and political—of familiar notions of ethnicity and identity.”6 In the “interstices—the overlap and displacement of domains

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of difference,” Homi Bhabha suggests, the “collective experience of nationness” is negotiated, illuminated by the question, “How are subjects formed ‘in-between’”?7 Adoptive parent Cheri Register places adoptees in this cultural “in-between” when she writes, “There is yet another culture in which our children partake, this one determined not by geography but by historical moment. They are part of a world wide diaspora of otherwise homeless children, unprecedented in size and scope.”8 Elsewhere she suggests that “we adoptive parents would be wise to listen to what these kids of ours have to say about their own lives.”9 As they grow up, these kids become all of ours. In this essay, I argue that the stories of the increasingly large numbers of children adopted every year in transracial international adoptions, possessing a particular kind of diasporic subjectivity, provoke new thinking about the links between cultural and national identity. Stories like Larkin’s force us to explore the relationship between the old (and, some believe, in the way), mythic national identities and the new, postmodern metaphors for transnational subjectivities. Transracial adoption sits at and reveals the nexus of the personal, social, political, cultural, and national. Contentious debates exist at every level. Opposition to transracial adoption became vociferous in 1972, when the National Association of Black Social Workers (nabsw) defined it as “a particular form of genocide,” a phrase they later revised to “cultural genocide”; more recently, one critic has suggested that the “primary interest” of whites arguing for the right to adopt black children is a “sort of cultural eugenics.”10 While the nabsw is mainly concerned with racial identity, its discourse is replete with global references, and other objections focus on national identity. South Korea sharply reduced foreign adoptions in the 1980s in response to North Korea’s claims that “by ‘selling’ its children to the West, the Republic of Korea is engaging in capitalism at its worst.”11 In 1999, graffiti appeared on the streets of Guatemala threatening the kidnapping of a child from the United States for every Guatemalan child “exported.” Opposition also centers around the economic relationship between first-world and third-world countries: there are persistent reports of rumors in China that children are being adopted as servants or for body parts.

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As Clifford says, “cultures of displacement and transplantation are inseparable from specific, often violent, histories of economic, political, and cultural interaction,” but I begin with the assumption that transracial adoptions have taken place, will continue to take place, and indeed should take place.12 In Family Bonds: Adoption and the Politics of Parenting, published in 1993 while I was in the midst of the adoption process, Elizabeth Bertholet argued that transracial and international adoptions were positive social goals. Her point of view has been echoed more recently by critics who suggest that such adoptions will positively change the culture of the United States. In Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution Is Transforming America (2000), for instance, Adam Pertman suggests that “a seismic cultural shift is occurring,” that “Americans . . . assume, as we all mistakenly do about so many aspects of life, that only the people directly involved in adoption are affected by it.”13 In Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption (2003), Bertholet’s colleague Randall Kennedy speculates on how the growing number of children with parents of different races will inevitably challenge the assumptions upon which racial classifications are made. While a limited focus on the importance of social and cultural change in the United States can be construed as yet another example of foregrounding U.S. needs at the expense of those of other countries, especially when it is all too easy to categorize adopted children as commodities purchased by the wealthy in acts of cultural imperialism, the literature and ongoing debates about international adoption provide at least preliminary answers to one of the central questions in cultural studies: “How and why do people identify themselves as members of distinct national collectivities and what are the implications of this?”14 They also illuminate how and when transnational exchange can turn into cultural exchange. Partially because of the complexities of cultural and national differences, partially because of my personal interests and history, in this essay I look westward to the Pacific Rim to focus on Korea. In 2002 visas were issued for more than 20,000 international adoptions. In the previous decade the numbers had increased dramatically,

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from 7,088 in 1990 to 15,774 in 1998.15 Although Americans adopted 5,814 orphaned children from Europe, primarily from Germany and Greece, in the years following World War II, as well as 2,418 Asian children, primarily from Japan,16 Korea initiated the first large-scale program for international adoptions in 1954, after the Korean War. The first children sent overseas from Korea were almost entirely mixed race. To repeat, national identity is constructed by exclusion as much as inclusion. Thus the institutionalization of international adoption was the direct result of global conflicts and racism. Such social and political agendas continue: the conjunction of a centuriesold pattern of sexism with the Chinese government’s conviction that population control would enable the country to become a twentyfirst-century economic superpower made possible in the 1990s the rapid growth of adoptions from China, almost exclusively girls. The first generation of children adopted from Korea is now in their forties and fifties. The early literature about Korean adoption, books such as Chinese Eyes (1974), was primarily written for children and their adoptive parents, offering strategies for dealing with racism or information about Korean culture.17 As with other emerging literatures based on identity politics, life writing followed, collected in anthologies such as Seeds from a Silent Tree: An Anthology by Korean Adoptees (1997), Voices from Another Place: A Collection of Works from a Generation Born in Korea and Adopted to Other Countries (1999), and After the Morning Calm: Reflections of Korean Adoptees (2002).18 The editor of Voices from Another Place, Susan Soon-Keum Cox, sets out the writers’ collective project in her introduction. “We are the legacy of war,” she writes, who have led to “a social revolution”: “We were born amid crisis and turmoil, but our lives are a testament of triumph. We are a paradox. Removed from the culture of our birth, we have thoroughly adopted our new cultures. And yet, Korea coats the surface of our skin, is in our bones, and speaks to us from the deep past.” In their writing, they “explore [their] unique citizenship in a global context.”19 The autobiographical pieces and poems in these books expose key recurrent themes. For instance, unlike most children of immigrants,

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young adoptees do not experience themselves as Korean American. They are culturally American and identify almost exclusively as American (as indeed does my daughter). For several years during his childhood, in a poignant pun, Peter Keeley said, “I’m Iwish.” Asked “Are you Korean,” Kate Hers responded no. “Just because one’s face is Asian does not mean that one is not American.” Yet a repeated motif is the discomfort adoptees feel when looking in a mirror: what they see does not correspond to who they feel they are. “I used to believe I was white,” writes YoungHee. “However my image staring back at me in the mirror betrayed such a belief. There I saw it, the rude and awful truth.” In a story called “Mirrors,” Kara Carlisle articulates her divided self, outer and inner, in telling language: she lives with “my indistinguishable Korean face and my distinctive American heart” (emphasis added).20 While the brevity of the anthologized pieces precludes complex elaboration of psychological development over time, they do make clear that adoptees ultimately develop a kind of “double-consciousness,” something like the “two-ness” W. E. B. DuBois associated with African American subjectivity in The Souls of Black Folks (1903), where he particularly attended to the social and cultural distinctiveness of African American communities in the United States. Yet the adoptees’ experience is itself distinctive, eliciting new articulations and metaphors, as can be seen in the two full-length memoirs that appeared in the first years after the turn into the twenty-first-century, A Single Square Picture: A Korean Adoptee’s Search for Her Roots (2002), by Katy Robinson, and The Language of Blood (2004), by Jane Jeong Trenka.21 Both books recount the narrators’ extended visits to South Korea as adults, where they meet and spend time with birth-family members; they offer concrete examples of forced and voluntary migrations, a process both authors leave open-ended. While I don’t see either of these memoirs—or indeed any adoption narrative—as representative, by chronicling the authors’ efforts to integrate their identification with two nations and cultures these memoirs draw our attention to the importance of recognizing how nations are inevitably connected to each other and how they should ultimately be understood through

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those connections. Trenka’s book is particularly valuable because she searches for provisional metaphors to convey the psychological dimensions of the routes she has traveled. In their openings, recounting their first migrations, Robinson and Trenka similarly (dis)locate their identities. “One day I was Kim Jiyun growing up in Seoul, Korea; the next day I was Catherine Jeanne Robinson living in Salt Lake City, Utah.”22 “My name is Jeong KyongAh. . . . Halfway around the world, I am someone else. I am Jane Marie Brauer.”23 Displaced from Korea, transported seemingly instantly somewhere else, now apparently “someone else,” the girls grow up as Katy and Jane, Ji-yun and Kyong-Ah seemingly banished. Worrying about being sent back if they are not “perfect” children, they are conscious of performing their expected American roles, which hide or silence the “out of place” self—and this awareness of how cultural identity is performed pervades their books and complicates their selfcreations. Ji-yun and Kyong-Ah exist in fragments: in documents; in the memories the trips to Korea and the memoirs themselves attempt to re-create; in the minds of birth-family members; and in Robinson’s case, though significantly not in Trenka’s, in her adoptive mother’s understanding of her daughter. The ghostly presences of Ji-yun and Kyong-Ah appear in various forms during Katy’s and Jane’s trips to Korea. Images of division and sudden involuntary change permeate the books. With the help of a “single square photograph” of herself, her mother, and her grandmother taken at the airport as she leaves for the United States, Robinson can look at but scarcely remember her Korean self. Adopted at seven, she can remember a brief moment of integration—which she identifies as a hyphenated identity—before Ji-yun is erased. She writes of listening to a tape of herself learning to read in English: “Of all the mementos from my American childhood, I treasure this recording, which is perhaps the best evidence of my moment of transformation. A freeze-frame of my brief time as a true ‘Korean-American.’ As I listen, I can almost see myself shedding my Korean language and identity and stepping into a new American skin. Half in, half out.”24 An infant when adopted, without conscious

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memories, Trenka finds herself inexplicably fascinated by examples of “the miracle of transformation” in her schoolwork.25 Believing in racial memory and seeking access to it, she writes her memoir in “the language of blood”—a title excerpted from a quotation from Joyce Carol Oates, “. . . Because we are linked by blood, and blood is memory without language”—and she conveys her division in dramatic images: Start with a girl whose blood has been steeped in Korea for generations, imprinted with Confucianism and shamanism and war. Extract her from the mountains. Plant her in wheat fields between the Red River and the Mississippi. Baptize her. Indoctrinate her. Tell her who she is. Tell her what is real. See what happens. Witness a love affair with freaks, a fascination with hermaphrodites and conjoined twins, a fixation on Pisces and pairs of opposites.26 Such deeply felt divisions call up a desire for integration, particularly in Robinson. Still “half in, half out” many years later, she goes to Korea hoping to “piece together the two halves of myself and create one continuous story that was my life.”27 But while the motif of piecing continues throughout the book, the dualism fractures into a more complex pattern. The concrete sights and sounds of Korean street life, for instance, bring back memories, particularly of the grandmother who had cared for her: “That vivid memory suddenly triggered other scenes of Korea. They were random and scattered pieces”; she “longed to stretch out each image until they all blended into one seamless story.”28 While her desire for reconnection with her grandmother and mother, her reemerging memories of them as she searches for them, and her fascination with Korean material culture seem to offer her a glimpse into a multifaceted subjectivity, her relationship with her birth father repeatedly casts her back into cultural division: “I wasn’t sure which role to play—that of a ‘dutiful Korean daughter’ or myself.”29

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This telling language conveys how her year’s residence in Korea, rather than allowing her to integrate what she sees as her Korean and American sides, increasingly reinforces her inner/outer split, eliciting images of imposture and costume. Sitting with her brother in a restaurant, she “felt like someone in disguise—an outsider peeking in through a window at two siblings having a discussion.”30 Spending most of her time in Korea with the father who abandoned her mother and with her stepbrother, who she feels treats his wife and mother like servants, impatient with being asked to walk more slowly, requested to change her clothes, told her bangs are a “sign of disrespect” to her husband,31 Robinson associates Korean womanhood with performance of gender roles she refuses to play, with exterior cultural gestures rather than interior character and desire. Trying to show her that he understands how much she must have suffered “growing up without knowing [her] culture,” her brother introduces her to the “traditional fan dance,” eliciting this passage: “These [fan] dancers symbolized the Korean idea of feminine beauty, and at first I was entranced. But as the performance continued, I was struck by how all of the women wore the exact unchanging expression in every dance—a studied look that mingled demure humility and frail beauty with subtle flirtation. As their frozen smiles blurred together, it was impossible to differentiate one woman from another. Their faces seemed to me like the masks of painted dolls more than real individuals.”32 Here Robinson reduces culture to performance and accepts that performance as an emblem of reality. Would she read Larkin’s dance group’s performance in their cowgirl duds as a synecdoche for undifferentiated American girlhood? But her response is not surprising, for she experiences Korean culture largely as gesture, as enacted, and she persistently presents it as “foreign” to who she really “is.” An adult, unwilling to conform to cultural expectations, resistant to another involuntary transformation into “someone else,” Robinson rejects the forms through which she sees womanhood represented in Korea. Yet her dissatisfaction with the treatment of women in Korea also has to do with her family’s rejection and erasure of her mother, whom

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she imagines as “a diseased limb snipped off the family tree.” Her father’s conduct toward her mother and other women, his lies about her, once again reinforce her split: “I despised my father and loved him with equal strength, as I did Korea itself, for the strong hold it had on me, while at the same time rejecting me as one of its own.”34 Although she never uses the word father, Robinson conflates her father with the patriarchal nation and its rejection of unconventional women. Repeatedly wondering what her life would have been like had she grown up in Korea, had she remained Ji-jun, she believes that her grandmother must have sent her to the United States to save her from “the same punishment as the two generations of women before me”; she wants to tell her that she had “infinite freedom to shape the course of my life in ways unavailable to her or my mother.”35 These feelings lead her to celebrate Katy’s life, to feel grateful to have escaped the life of Ji-jun, who would inevitably have been, she believes, another victim of men like her father. “Ashamed of my father’s life and my blemished family history,” she can find no space for herself in Korea.36 However, while Robinson never locates her mother, two women allow her to reclaim Ji-jun. Near the end of her book she manages to contact her aunt Sunny, her mother’s sister’s daughter, a “glamorous woman dressed in leopardskin boots” who lived for eight years in Australia.37 Like Robinson, Sunny was the illegitimate child of a single mother who had struggled to raise her; with similar origins but different lives, they both turned out to be “independent, feisty, and driven.”38 Sunny finally allows her to answer in a satisfying way one of her most haunting questions: “In Sunny, I saw myself, or what I might have been had I stayed in Korea.”39 She also finds resolution in her adoptive mother’s visit to Seoul. She reads her brother’s acceptance of her mother’s “distinctively American” behavior as acceptance of her own “American identity.”40 She receives the recognition of her past she needs through her mother’s eager participation in the life of her “Korean family and heritage.”41 Watching their interactions leads to a series of “fascinating” cultural revelations in which she recognizes the intersections of manners and
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personality: that her Korean family and her adopted mother are products of their cultures, that she “contained qualities of both.”42 Only her mother’s “out of place” presence can provide her with the “dawning revelation that I had, perhaps, become more Korean during the past year.”43 Having moved beyond the dualities, beyond the need for integration, for the first time in her book, she occupies the position of being “in-between.” Yet Robinson cannot write the seamless story she hopes for. Feeling her story is incomplete, she ends her book where it begins, at the airport as she leaves for the United States, in transit, experiencing once again her birth mother’s absence.44 She finds herself with many more pieces than she expected: “I once thought the past was like a puzzle that would lock neatly together once I found all of the missing pieces. But even then, the picture constantly shifts, one piece connecting while another is discarded.”45 This kaleidoscopic image of pieces shifting and changing in relationship to others and to place suggests the perpetual process of living in between, which Robinson represents as a “cycle that will connect generations of women, Korean and American.”46 A cycle, never-ending, challenges the either/or and both/and dichotomies of integration. Near the end of The Language of Blood, Trenka too envisions her identity and history as a puzzle she entitles “Exile’s Crossword.”47 While both books explore the complexities of translation, The Language of Blood, as befits its title, is largely concerned with the search for, and the multiple meanings of, words. Trenka’s crossword contains many of the words that connote central aspects of her experience, words such as “Korea,” “America,” “Jane,” “Janus,” “Paradox, “Ambivalent,” “Juxtapose.” The words convey that her “body was separated from my mind in a dualism so ridiculous that I almost flew apart at the shoulders.”48 Yet Trenka, unlike Robinson, does not go to Korea in search of integration. While Robinson acknowledges her racial out-of-placeness in Utah, she focuses on her struggles to establish a genuine sense of connection to her Korean family members. In contrast, Trenka, estranged from her adoptive parents—who, she feels, made no effort to

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understand her heritage—and having happily reunited with her birth mother and sisters, re-creates at some length her unhappy childhood in northern Minnesota. She repeatedly associates the landscape with whiteness, conformity, and repression: her hometown is “the last bastion of all that is good, right, fundamental, and homogenous,” where “Lutheran churches dot the corn fields, where stoicism is stamped into the bones of each generation.”49 Stylistically, Trenka fractures the flat landscape of her childhood with black humorous plays within narrative. In “The Ice House Restaurant: A Musical,” Trenka, her (also adopted birth) sister, and parents are serenaded by a “chorus” of voices that initially comment on the girls’ “pretty almond eyes,” then question whether they are good at math or use chopsticks, and finally proclaim “Gook!”50 Later, a college-age Trenka, playing a “generically Asian” Jane, enacts a model-minority monologue, “Don’t Worry/I Will Make You Feel Comfortable.”51 These interpolated scenes dramatize the racial stereotypes she confronts, her out-of-placeness, and her feeling that “Jane” is a performed identity. While Robinson feels the pressure to perform Korean womanhood, Trenka suggests that her performance as an American girl disguises another self. Having already exchanged letters with her birth mother, Trenka goes to Korea eager for a reversal of her transformation from KyongAh to Jane: she looks for “opportunities to escape the Americans,” other adoptees and their parents on her tour, in “anticipation of metamorphosis: the thrill of becoming Korean again, just like everyone else, alive inside the belly of my motherland.”52 When she meets her birth mother, she shows her the tattoo on her back: “Umma does not flinch when she sees it. She understands this scar on her daughter, the alchemy of emotion made visible. It is a phoenix the size of my palm, its wings outstretched and its mouth open in song. The tips of the wings are orange and yellow-darkening to black as they reach the center of the body. In the center of the black body lies a small red heart.”53 Soon thereafter she hears a voice asking in Korean, which she cannot speak, “What is your name?” and responds, “My name is Kyong-Ah. It never used to be, but it is now. My name is KyongAh.”54

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Kyong-Ah can reemerge because Trenka experiences the unconditional love and free expression of emotion from her birth mother and half sisters she felt deprived of in her adoptive family. Much of her communication with them is physical because she cannot speak Korean—thus her search for the language of blood. Yet her time with her birth family makes her more rather than less conscious of the fragmentation of her being. “I begin to appreciate,” she writes, “the fragmentation of memory as it is distorted by the child’s-eye view and the disruption of language.” Like Robinson, she pieces together her memoir with fragments: “I have made it my task to reconstruct the text of a family with contextual clues, and my intent is this: to trust in the mysterious, to juxtapose the known with the unknown; to collect the overlooked, the debris—stones, broken mirrors, and abandoned things. With these I will sew a new quilt of memory and imagination, each stitch a small transformation, each stitch my work of mourning.”55 Trenka comes to focus on those small transformations, voluntarily created out of “debris,” rather than the grand (and mythic) emergences from the ashes. She finds she cannot end her book as she hoped: the phoenix of the Korean poem she uses as an epigraph to her last chapter cannot be coaxed to come, nor can she write the ending she planned where she would “reveal to the reader that [the] Haeinsa [temple] is the place where all duality ceases and that Haein Samadhi is a state of meditation in which an enlightened person sees everything in its true nature; I planned to be enlightened. As far as books go, as far as writing your own truth, it seemed like a pretty good ending: seeming and being resolved, a beautiful moment. The only problem would be how to write it so that the reader would dwell there just long enough to absorb the full profundity of what I would describe: the ultimate finding of true identity, undivided, tranquil, enlightened.”56 But, as her tone conveys, she punctures her illusions and leaves herself literally up in the air, on a trans-Pacific plane flight returning to what she knows is her home, the United States. Months earlier she had realized: “I’m an American and that’s where I belong. When I came to love Korea, it was because of my family, not so much for Korea or Seoul itself.”57 Making up a chosen name when she mar-

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ries, she does not include Kyong-Ah; she creates a name from her birth family (Jeong), one from her American family (Jane), one from her husband (Trenka), to express “my and my pain.”58 Perhaps both Robinson and Trenka end their books in transit, on airplanes, to reinforce their in-betweenness. Early in her book, Trenka prepares her reader for this ending: considering whether she is an exile, she writes: “The state of the exile is suspension, caught in the middle of an arc.”59 Having learned to play roles, Trenka tries on metaphors for her state of in-betweenness, asserting her power to establish meaning. Pointing out that the evolution of the modern nation-state coexists with “one of the most sustained period of mass migration,” Bhabha suggests that “the nation fills the void left in the uprooting of communities and kin, and turns that loss into the language of metaphor. Metaphor, as the etymology of the word suggests, transfers the meaning of home and belonging.”60 Trenka replaces the metaphor associated with nation building with an organic metaphor she can adapt to her own purposes. Trenka titles her penultimate chapter “Exile’s Crossword.” In it she suggests that “‘exile’ is the word that fits me best.”61 But ultimately the word has connotations she rejects: “These things that other writers ruminate on—the feeling of homesickness, the sense of being at home nowhere but comfortable in many places, the power of memory—are realities, yet luxuries of the intelligentsia.”62 Although she leaves her reader with the sense that all metaphors for identity are provisional, she concludes by returning to a metaphor provided her by a beloved fourth-grade teacher in a study of monarch butterflies: migration. “Species that emigrate only travel one way. Species that migrate travel back and forth between two different places. They have different homes.”63 This metaphor becomes cross-cultural when her mother and half sisters take her to a Korean market to buy a hanbok, a traditional dress for Korean women. Her sister Eun-Mi uses her Korean-English dictionary to suggest that the “Hanbok is like butterfly,” and Trenka thinks, “Suddenly, it seems that we are surrounded by shelves full of butterfly wings, all waiting their turn to fly.”64 She leaves her story open-ended with her final lines: “It is the voices of

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millions of butterflies, opening and closing their wings. They whisper the secrets of their journey as they settle in for their hard-won rest, waiting for what will come next. / Opening and closing. / Opening. / Closing. / Open. / Close. / Open . . .”65 In “Travelling Cultures,” Clifford argues that we should study those who have traveled from one culture to another for the access they would give us to “the wider world of intercultural import-export.”66 In a chapter called “DissemiNation,” Bhabha explores how metaphors offer nations allegories and “entitlement.” “There must be a tribe of interpreters of such metaphors,” he argues, “the translators of the dissemination of texts and discourses across cultures.” “The truest eye,” he proposes, “may now belong to the migrant’s double vision.”67 Attention to literal and metaphorical migration, both suggest, will ultimately make us attend to the realities and possibilities of cultural hybridity. In a review of a recent collection of essays on the representation of adoption in literature, J. M. Baker claims that “anyone involved in the adoption experience” knows it is “an open horizon rich with possibility.” Pointing out that the essayists are preoccupied with how adoptees form an “integrated identity” and reconstruct their pasts, he wonders, “What if . . . the adoption experience is not about closing the circle or achieving self-integration but rather about reaching beyond to something else?”68 Writing convincingly out of personal experience, Robinson and Trenka reach beyond the need for integration into the world of possibilities described by Clifford, Bhabha, and Baker. And they carry us with them. When I find out that the lead teenager’s best friend is a secondgeneration Korean immigrant, Laine Kim, with “2000 Korean Bibles” and parents who don’t want her to date Caucasians, I rent dvds of The Gilmore Girls for us to watch together, but, though apparently no Asian Americans, or any “minorities” at all, live in Orange County tvland, Larkin prefers The oc. “Why do you always bring up Koreans!” she yells. There aren’t any oc cowgirls, lonesome or otherwise, but it doesn’t matter. Since I started this essay, Larkin has made a

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horse trade: she now spends her after-school hours on ice, figure skating. She cuts out pictures of Michelle Kwan, and she has seen Kristie Yamaguchi perform in ice shows. While she resents it when strangers ask if she’s Chinese, she likes having role models who are pan-Asian. But then again, she has said she wants to be the “next Jennifer Lopez,” and she’s more interested in learning Spanish than Korean. Like Lopez, she writes songs, but so far none of them are lonesome or plaintive: they’re rap and hiphop. She still believes anything is possible. (“That’s not true,” she yells when she overhears me reading this paragraph to her father, “I don’t believe I can fly. I need a parachute!”) Notes
1. Peter Rowan, “That High Lonesome Sound” (recorded 1973, released 1996), performed by Old and In the Way on That High Lonesome Sound. 2. Soja, Thirdspace. 3. Baldwin et al., Introducing Cultural Studies, 178. 4. Daniels, Fields of Vision, 5; Anderson, Imagined Communities. 5. Clifford, Routes, 247, 253–54. 6. Clifford, Routes, 36. 7. Bhabha, Location of Culture, 2. 8. Register, “Are Those Kids Yours?” 182. 9. Cheri Register, review of The Language of Blood, by Jane Jeong Trenka (back cover). 10. The National Association of Black Social Workers is quoted in Kennedy, Interracial Intimacy, 394; and Patton, BirthMarks, 143. 11. Simon and Altstein, Adoption across Borders, 9. 12. Clifford, Routes, 36. 13. Pertman, Adoption Nation, xiii, 7. 14. Baldwin et al., Introducing Cultural Studies, 157. 15. Simon and Altstein, Adoption across Borders, 6. 16. Pertman, Adoption Nation, 73–74. 17. Waybill, Chinese Eyes. 18. Niles, “My Story . . . Thus Far,” 153. 19. Cox, Voices from Another Place, 1. 20. Keeley, “I’m Iwish,” 59; Hers, “Are You Korean?” 76; YoungHee, “Laurel,” 86; Carlisle, “Mirrors,” 17. 21. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture; Trenka, The Language of Blood.

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22. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 1. 23. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 14. 24. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 74. 25. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 37. 26. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 118. 27. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 5–6. 28. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 126. 29. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 119. 30. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 136. 31. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 147. 32. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 144. 33. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 238. 34. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 153. 35. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 241, 242. 36. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 226. 37. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 243. 38. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 244. 39. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 242. 40. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 263, 266. 41. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 263. 42. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 267. 43. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 266–67. 44. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 191. 45. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 291, 296. 46. K. Robinson, A Single Square Picture, 297. 47. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 197. 48. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 207. 49. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 20, 15. 50. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 31. 51. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 84. 52. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 105. 53. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 107–8. 54. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 118. 55. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 130. 56. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 213–14. 57. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 106. 58. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 208. 59. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 65.

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60. Bhabha, Location of Culture, 139. 61. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 199. 62. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 200. 63. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 34. 64. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 115. 65. Trenka, The Language of Blood, 221. 66. Clifford, “Travelling Cultures,” 100. 67. Bhabha, Location of Culture, 5, 141. 68. Baker, review of Imagining Adoption, 294, 295.

12. Cultivating Otowi Bridge
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Our civilizations perish; the carved stone, the written word, the heroic act fade into a memory of memory and in the end are gone. The day will come when our race is gone; this house, this earth in which we live will one day be unfit for human habitation, as the sun ages and alters. J. Robert Oppenheimer, Atom and Void

At the end of his sustained inquiry into the social and political significance of space, Henri Lefebvre tells a story of physical and metaphysical migration. Long ago, we are told, Western philosophers split space into conceptual halves: “into intelligible space on the one hand (the essence and transparency of the spiritual absolute), and unintelligible space on the other (the degradation of the spirit, absolute naturalness outside the spiritual realm).” In the process, they “betrayed,” “abandoned,” and “denied” the body. Efforts to “stick the pieces back together and make some kind of montage” with “such notions as ‘man’ or ‘consciousness’” were in vain; instead, they “succeeded only in adding another philosophical fiction to an already long list.” Lefebvre’s imagined alternative to these betrayals and failures is a body that can migrate and produce its own space, “establishing itself firmly, as base and foundation, beyond philosophy, beyond discourse, and beyond the theory of discourse.”1 How alluring seems Lefebvre’s promise of a body capable of creating its own space and new knowledge—and how difficult to put into historically significant practice. Despite the apparent optimism of The Production of Space, Lefebvre himself despaired of realizing any “science

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of space” that could produce new knowledge, since “work in this area has produced either mere descriptions which never achieve analytical, much less theoretical, status, or else fragments and cross-sections of space.”2 Those of us who think about western literature and regional spaces recognize this challenge, too. Although Lefebvre developed his theories through the study of Venice, Tuscany, New York City, and Spanish American towns, his ideas provide a model for moving beyond the ideological and methodological divisions that constrain our historical understanding of the natural and settled spaces of the American West. For Anglo-Europeans, the West has always been located somewhere “beyond” real or familiar places, out of time and removed from common language; in Nathaniel Lewis’s words, “this West, at once America’s ultimate reality and ultimate fantasy, may be said to exist beyond: beyond the horizon, beyond the present, beyond representation.”3 To describe the region this way identifies its spatial function as a site of fantasy and specifies its limits as a utopian idea. It polarizes literature and history, the ideal and the real, the public triumph of globalization and the private rhythms of everyday life. It is exactly this kind of polarization and detachment from social reality that Lefebvre and other social geographers like David Harvey and Edward Soja oppose—and seek to move beyond with new concepts like “counter-space” and “thirdspace,” where real and imagined experience converge to resist dominant spatial practices. Because social spaces are “polyvalent,” simultaneously material and formal realities, they function as both “a product to be used” and “a means of production,” according to Lefebvre. Space “cannot be separated either from the productive forces, including technology and knowledge, or from the social division of labour which shapes it, or from the state and the superstructures of society.”4 In this essay I analyze a site that produced new knowledge of the human capacity to cultivate, dominate, and destroy space. I concentrate on the area around Otowi Bridge, just beneath the Parajito Plateau and “the Hill” of Los Alamos, and a short distance from Bandelier National Monument and San Ildefonso Pueblo. Otowi Bridge once functioned as an appropriated space, “a natural space modified

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in order to serve the needs and possibilities of a group,” with the constitution of the group shifting from its original Pueblo people to Hispanic and Anglo settlers and then to international scientists.5 By contrast, Los Alamos developed quickly into a dominated space, one fully transformed by technology. Studies have been written about Los Alamos and its director, J. Robert Oppenheimer; a memoir and a novel have been written about Otowi Crossing and its longtime resident, Edith Warner; and anthropologists and historians have explored the cultures of northern New Mexico’s pueblos and villages.6 While I draw on many of these sources to create one kind of descriptive map, I am less interested in the information they provide than in the ways they reveal Otowi Bridge to be a unique social and historical space, produced through one woman’s practices of hospitality and against the accelerating pressures of scientific achievement and world war. I focus in particular on how Frank Waters organizes his novel The Woman at Otowi Crossing (1966) around the figure of Warner, using her body and her historical experience to imagine a new kind of nonrational space and to create a countermythic heroine. Then I turn briefly to consider Critical Mass, a multimedia exhibit about the converging histories of Otowi Bridge that Meridel Rubenstein, Ellen Zweig, and Steina and Woody Vasulka created in 1993. The exhibit locates Warner’s house and identity both within and beyond modernity’s opposing forces of globalization and the reprivatization of everyday life; it aims to reconnect the historic space of Otowi Bridge with the social worlds that produced it and with our contemporary knowledge of the bomb’s toxic legacy. These literary and visual “maps,” I propose, introduce new methods of coding and decoding the ruins of an everyday life made virtually mythic by an unprecedented convergence of historical forces. On most maps of northern New Mexico, Otowi Bridge is not marked. One can follow the Rio Grande north from Albuquerque and find the pueblos of San Felipe, Santo Domingo, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, San Juan, and Taos, continuing all the way to the Colorado border without noticing this river crossing. If you follow the main road north from Santa Fe, turn at Pojoaque, and follow Route 502 at high-

4. Otowi Bridge, the second railroad bridge over the Rio Grande at Otowi Crossing, built in 1947. Photograph courtesy Tom Lynch.

way speed, a new bridge will rush beneath your tires, carrying you far beyond Black Mesa and the juniper-covered hills of the high desert, up the hill to Los Alamos. If you glance along the road, however, you might notice a small, unused railroad suspension bridge running parallel to the highway, as well as two unimposing adobe buildings (see fig. 4). This is Otowi Bridge, located near what remains of Warner’s tearoom and guesthouse. Otowi Crossing is now an abandoned site, a place unmarked on maps that chart highways, urban growth, or Native lands, although the site of Otowi Ruins nearby officially became a section of Bandelier National Monument in 1932.7 Nothing intimates that tourists once chose it as their destination or that local people met there to eat and find refuge from the surrounding desert. The very absence of a commemorative plaque suggests that Otowi Bridge fits neatly into neither the Anglo regionalist myths that transformed the Southwest into a diversion for tourists, nor the recreational model of the National Parks System, nor the national narrative of scientific and military triumph

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originating in Los Alamos. Instead, it poses the challenge of reading the history of a vernacular landscape “everywhere spotted with ruins—ruins of ancient towns, ruins of sheepherders’ shelters built a decade ago,” as J. B. Jackson has described northern New Mexico.8 The now-disposed building at Otowi Bridge might have displayed the mixture of technology, Native and imported labor, and leisure that produced a distinctive type of early-twentieth-century western place: the commercial meeting house or trading post. It first provided a place for supplies left in boxcars for the Los Alamos Ranch School, founded in 1917; Adam Martinez from San Ildefonso Pueblo, son of the potters Maria and Julian, supervised the deliveries. Then, in 1923, it functioned as a post office and general store. In 1928, Edith Warner began to remake the house into place where railroad crews, passengers, tourists, and eventually scientists could stop to have a snack, a dinner made from homegrown vegetables, or a slice of chocolate cake. Warner had first explored this part of New Mexico in 1922, when she moved from Pennsylvania to a ranch in Frijoles Canyon to recover from a breakdown, and she settled there for good in 1928, when she accepted the job of station agent at Otowi Bridge.9 Warner’s Pueblo companion, Tilano Montoya, had also traveled widely before returning to the region, having performed traditional dances with a group from San Ildefonso in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, and Coney Island.10 Warner worked hard to provide for her customers, and she and Montoya completed an additional house for overnight guests in 1934. Soon after Warner and Montoya’s development of Otowi Crossing, however, Los Alamos was conceived, built, and put to use in developing the atomic bomb. Santa Fe and Taos were already established regional centers, destinations for Anglo writers, artists, and tourists who sought to experience southwestern culture.11 Around Otowi Bridge and Los Alamos there were a variety of Native settlements, including the Pueblos living by the Rio Grande at Po-Woh-Ge-Oweenge and the Hispanic families farming and ranching on territory originally included in a 1746 Spanish land grant on the Jemez Mountain’s eastern slope. Los Alamos appeared suddenly, an instant community

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invisible to outsiders. It developed so quickly and systematically as to seem “fantastic and unreal,” in the words of Waters’s fictional scientist Mitch Gaylord. While even the newer buildings at Otowi Bridge appear premodern in Waters’s novel, either as a “small adobe squatting on the bank” or like an “old print of a woodcutter’s hut in the Black Forest” in an edition of Grimm’s fairy tales, the buildings at Los Alamos were models of compartmentalization and scientific rationalism, surrounded by fences and accessible only through carefully monitored gates.12 The Manhattan Project created a utopian community that operated through the doctrines of “secrecy, disenfranchisement, control, obedience, [and] limitation.”13 Edgar Lee Hewett had made a strenuous attempt to preserve the archaeological value of the entire Parajito Plateau by promoting plans for a national park that would include the prehistoric sites of Frijoles, Puye, Tscherige, and Navawi’i, but his proposal was a lost hope by 1906, when a new Forest Homestead Act made more of the plateau’s land available for settlement.14 When Ashley Pond designated ranchland for use as a sportsman’s club on the top of the plateau and later built the Los Alamos Ranch School, a new phase of development began, one that would force collaboration between the plateau’s Native groups. As the government appropriated the ranch school and began to build the laboratories and houses for the Manhattan Project, it hastened local cultural, economic, and ecological changes by replacing farm work with jobs on the Hill; restricting local access to wood, water, hunting grounds, and sacred territory; and failing to protect the sovereignty of tribal lands.15 Guided by Oppenheimer, the federal government chose and imposed its will on Los Alamos, creating what Peter Bacon Hales has called “one of the origin myths of the atomic age. Nature and technology, science and faith, fear and arrogance: these dualities, central to our uneasy sense of ourselves, come together on the three sites of the Manhattan Engineer District, and in the enterprises of war and invention for which they were made.”16 Even though the Manhattan Project itself lasted only twentyseven months, from the spring of 1943 to the fall of 1945, the war “creat[ed] a network of scientists and scientific laboratories in New

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Mexico, where there had been very few before,” permanently transforming the region’s landscape and the relations between local and global interests.17 In 1943 Warner’s tearoom closed to the public but opened for dinner to selected scientists working up the Hill, thanks to a special arrangement with Oppenheimer, who had met Warner while exploring Frijoles Canyon on horseback with his sister and brother. Many couples from Los Alamos came under assumed names to eat there regularly with Robert and Kitty Oppenheimer; other prominent scientists, like Neils Bohr and Enrico Fermi, appeared occasionally. As Jennet Conant describes the meals Warner served, “simple, nourishing stews arrived steaming hot on big terra-cotta plates and the fresh corn, salads, sweet relishes, and five varieties of squash all came from her garden.” Afterward, Tilano “served the strong black coffee in big pottery cups.”18 In 1945, Phil Morrison wrote an extensive letter to Warner, thanking her for her work and hospitality: “Evenings in your place by the river, by the table so neatly set, before the fireplaces so carefully contrived, gave us a little of your assurance, allowed us to belong, took us from the green temporary houses and the bulldozed roads. We shall not forget. . . . I am glad that at the foot of our canyons there is a house where the spirit of Bohr is so well understood.”19 From 1921 to the end of the war, the house at Otowi Bridge provided hospitality for an unprecedented network of communities developing in this part of the Southwest. Peggy Pond Church noted the resemblance to Ghost Ranch in the Piedra Lumbre basin to the north, where Georgia O’Keeffe began to live and work in 1934: “Like Edith Warner and her tea room at Otowi Bridge, the Packs and Ghost Ranch became a refuge for those working on the first atomic bomb.”20 Soon afterward, however, Otowi Crossing lost its function as a cultivated site of refuge for local and global visitors. When the army resolved to build a new bridge in 1947, bypassing the old site, people from the pueblo and scientists from the Los Alamos Laboratory helped Warner and Montoya rebuild their house and start a new garden on the other side of road, but even this collaborative effort could not sustain their unofficial network of cultural exchange. Warner died a few years later, in 1951.

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In the view of many writers and artists, Los Alamos and Otowi Bridge constitute a single historic landscape integrated through Warner’s perspective. Waters’s Gaylord explicitly links “the myth of the project on top of the mesa” with “the myth at the foot, at Otowi Crossing,” explaining that in retrospect he understands that “they were two sides of the same coin.” Together they formed “perhaps the only true myth of these modern times.”21 In both The Woman at Otowi Crossing and In the Shadow of Los Alamos (2001), edited by Patrick Burns, Warner stands at the boundary of the unknown, functioning as a figure for the convergence of nature and culture, spirituality and science. Burns writes about the many worlds meeting at Warner’s tearoom: “Edith was not only living at the bridge, she was the bridge between the ancient communal lifestyle of the San Ildefonso Pueblo and the new community of scientists and engineers soon to bring about a new era in the history of mankind.”22 Thomas Lyon, too, emphasizes Warner’s symbolic potential, as if her location at the bridge necessarily placed her in a cultural borderland: “Who could have been more representatively located, at the crossing of the river, precisely between the San Ildefonso Pueblo on the east and Los Alamos to the west?”23 Such representations of Otowi Bridge situate the potential for social and historical meaning in Warner’s position between cultures and prefigure the uneven development of the New West: with disproportionate growth concentrated around urban, military, and technological centers, the spaces in between, though appropriated by those who live there, would be left for symbolic reification, toxic waste, or meaninglessness. In the mythology of the Hill, few have paid attention to the “treacherous beauty” of contaminated places like Bayo Canyon or Acid Canyon, where nuclear tests injured workers and produced fallout that threatened the town’s residents and children.24 While Otowi Bridge has developed its own mythology of mystic convergence, it also cultivated the cultural values of hospitality and tolerance threatened by the invention of the atomic bomb. The possibility that the foundation of civilization, symbolized by a well-tended garden and a welcoming shelter in the desert, might be permanently destroyed was of great concern to Oppenheimer. The Reith lectures

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he delivered in England in 1953, especially, reveal his dark thoughts about the human costs of atomic progress. “Uncommon Sense” begins with the stern reminder that “this house, this earth in which we live will one day be unfit for human habitation.” He goes on to meditate on how humans are part of the process of history and seem to require two kinds of thinking, “the way of time and history and the way of eternity and timelessness.” He proposes that these approaches are “complementary views, each supplementing the other, neither telling the whole story.”25 Warner claimed for herself a unique ability to feel connections between the belief systems she encountered and to produce a new kind of space; to some extent, Waters and Burns simply extend those claims. Nonetheless, the centrality of Warner’s consciousness, her body, and her house to the novel that intervened to tell the imagined history of Otowi Bridge suggests how women’s experiences in modernity, especially within the domestic spaces of private life, do the work of resisting the official histories of regional conquest and global domination.26 Looking at Otowi Bridge’s natural and appropriated landscapes through Warner means looking beyond the moments of inevitably significant risk and destruction and cultivating visionary models of domestic beauty and cultural tolerance. Despite her identification as a writer in The wpa Guide to 1930s New Mexico, Warner labored too hard on her garden, her house, and her tearoom to write more than a few articles and journal entries. Between 1942 and 1950 she circulated an annual “Christmas Letter,” which described her impressions of the seasons and everyday tasks and joys, such as discovering mariposa lilies in spring; the demands of the harvest; the feel of summer’s dry heat; and long hikes up the mesa in fall. Though she realized that others considered her house “a landmark” or “an experience,” in her letter of 1947 she explained the meaning of the place as the cultivation of understanding: “For me it was two decades of living and learning. I had hoped to live out my life ‘where the river makes a noise.’” Even her account of “that August day when the report of the atomic bomb flashed around the world” remains grounded in the daily routine that allowed her to connect with

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the land and to provide for others: “It seemed fitting that it was Kitty Oppenheimer who, coming for vegetables, brought the news.”27 Rather than asserting a public identity, Warner’s writings articulate the need for responsible use of the Parajito Plateau’s natural spaces, her desire to serve its Native residents, and her commitment to providing refuge for strangers to the area. Her work in her garden and in her house, which she considered a “war job,” allowed for regular contact with local women who supplied her with eggs and milk in exchange for produce; with Montoya’s family and cacique; and with the scientists at the laboratory up the Hill. It also gave her time to witness dances at San Ildefonso and Santa Clara and to explore the mountains around her. A passage from her journal on March 2, 1933, reveals her openness to her environment: “I go out into the sunshine to sit receptively for what there is in this stillness and calm. I am keenly aware that there is something. Just now it seemed to flow in a rhythm around me and then to enter me—that something which comes in a hushed inflowing.” A few months later, on May 21, she wrote: “I am I and earth is earth—mesa, sky, wind, rushing river. Each is an entity but the essence of the earth flows into me—perhaps of me into the earth.” Then she observes, “The detail of life becomes the scaffolding.”28 Each of these passages conducts an experiment with the body, using it to produce both space and a rhythm of experience. Warner invokes material elements in order to leave them behind, thus privileging the process of moving toward some immaterial, all-encompassing truth over the truth itself. Working dialectically between material and utopian experience, her writing suggests, in Lefebvre’s words, that “the successive levels constituted by the senses [could] . . . prefigure the layers of social space and their interconnections.”29 Warner’s daily labor and heightened awareness of seasonal rhythms, a response at once private and shared with her neighbors at San Ildefonso, apparently contradict the strenuous efforts at scientific mastery occurring simultaneously in Los Alamos. Yet Oppenheimer himself developed his love for the area through repeated summer visits, often with his brother, Frank.30 He had long wished to combine his “two great loves,” which were “physics and desert country,” and

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with the founding of Los Alamos he succeeded.31 He also valued the “fraternity” of the international scientific community, concluding his 1945 speech to the Association of Los Alamos Scientists with an admonition to his audience: remember that “the value of science must lie in the world of men, that all our roots lie there.” To Oppenheimer, the “strongest bonds in the world” were those “that bind us to our fellow men.”32 J. B. Jackson similarly responded to the “long and immobile” New Mexico summer by feeling that the daily afternoon storms connected him to ancient rites, “some myth made visible for the millionth time.”33 Each of these Anglo residents of mid-twentiethcentury New Mexico learned to imagine a world beyond the visible landscape by looking deeply into the present material world. The Woman at Otowi Crossing further dramatizes Warner’s private experiences of reemergence and interconnection in order to create imagined spaces of cultural and even global convergence at Otowi Bridge. Although the novel juxtaposes the site’s multiple histories, these histories converge under extreme pressure in the figure of Helen Chalmers, Waters’s name for Warner. A critical episode pairs her discovery of ancient pottery with an atomic explosion to show how she transformed material and atmospheric ruin into new creation. Chalmers rides in the mountains with Facundo (Tilano), reaches into a hollow, and finds the rim of a bowl painted with a plumed serpent and imprinted with the mark of a woman’s thumb. Then she hears “a muffled report from Los Alamos” and immediately feels a “strange sensation as of a cataclysmic faulting of her body, a fissioning of her spirit, and with it the instantaneous fusion of everything about her into one undivided, living whole.” Waters prolongs this experience of “unbroken continuity,” explaining that in this moment Chalmers felt that nothing “could ever alter this immemorial and rhythmic order. Not the mysterious explosions on the Hill, nor the ever-increasing mechanism and materialism of successive civilizations. . . . With this reassuring conviction, the fierce proudness and humble richness of her life at Otowi Crossing rushed back at her with new significance and challenge.”34 In this imagined space of pure sensation, different temporalities, cultures, and natures meet, and deep ecological

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rhythms triumph over the new science of atomic destruction. Such scenes exemplify the novel, described by Lyon as “the story of Helen Chalmers’s coming into a timeless, intuitive, regardful view of existence, not dissimilar from that of some of her Indian friends.”35 Building on Warner’s own writings, Waters’s novel, too, aims to reconnect lived experience with the natural order. Both texts display reverence for local tradition, an effort to link scientific and spiritual understanding, and longing for peaceful, ecological integration. For Chalmers, the return down the mountain to the Crossing also means that everyday life and the local landscape will assume new meaning through the body. Even her later awareness of her own cancer, described as a “cataclysmic explosion,” will yield a new inner reality made meaningful through writing, a reality that “dissolves into eternal meanings.”36 Whether or not Warner’s own visions were delusions, or Waters’s narrative mythic in its own way, both accounts imagine a unified space of feeling through the body. Just as Willa Cather created the character of Bishop Latour from Bishop Lamy in Death Comes for the Archbishop to mediate physical, spiritual, and historical experiences in New Mexico’s desert landscapes, so too does the fictional Helen Chalmers reach beyond rational time and resist emerging national and global control over the region around Otowi Bridge. With their arrangement of images and voices in Critical Mass, Meridel Rubenstein and Ellen Zweig show “the worlds of scientists and Native Americans as they intersected at the home of Edith Warner during the making of the first atomic bomb in 1944 in Los Alamos, New Mexico.”37 First installed at the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe in 1993, the exhibit combined Rubenstein’s framed arrangements of still photographs with Zweig’s video works “Archimedes’ Chamber” and “The Dinner,” thus assembling the people and symbols that converged at Warner’s house: Oppenheimer, Fermi, and Bohr; Einstein and Archimedes (the Greek mathematician said to have abandoned theory for weapon design late in life); the Pueblo potters Blue Corn and Isabel Atencio, along with other Native people and their children; food; the house and bridge at Otowi Crossing; and hand

5. Edith’s House. In this composite portrait, Meridel Rubenstein reconstructs the natural and social spaces that intersected at Otowi Crossing. Courtesy Meridel Rubenstein.

tools and atomic weapons. However, instead of retrospective integration through a single figure it created the historically impossible effect of a meeting of equals. Rubenstein displayed many of her photographs in house-like structures, as if memorializing the intimate, cross-cultural community that Warner nurtured. Yet, instead of preserving the house as a space of domestic refuge, she repeatedly subjected this private space to the natural, scientific, and political forces that shaped it. The nine prints collected as Edith’s House keep opening interior space to the outdoors; while one can focus on the central, grounding images of the hearth and Warner braiding her hair, all the surrounding images pull the viewer out into the landscape, whether built or natural (see fig. 5). The roof seems to be made of sea, plants,

6. Fat Man with Edith by Meridel Rubenstein. The images of Warner and the teacup projected onto the atomic missile unite the opposing forces of cultivation and destruction at Otowi Bridge. Courtesy Meridel Rubenstein.

and sky, providing only the shelter of natural forces. Like the series of chambers that constitute the exhibit as a whole, “Edith’s House” contradicts the very notion that a house is a private and separate sphere. The photograph of Warner superimposed on the “Fat Man” missile creates an eerie juxtaposition of domestic and technological forms (see fig. 6). It preserves the capacity for hospitality, tolerance, and spiritual knowledge that Warner symbolized—but only as long as the viewer’s gaze rests on her face. Once the viewer looks away, toward the cup and saucer, and then back to apprehend the entire shape of the weapon, she has already begun to follow a path of irreversible destruction and confront a knowledge of the future that Warner only intuited. In The Meeting, a panel composed of forty pictures of people and artifacts stretching across two walls with a video “hearth” in the corner in between, each portrait is the same size and exerts the same degree of influence. Isabel Atencio, Tilano Montoya’s niece, displays

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her pottery, just as physicist Edward Teller clutches his notes. An ear of corn, a pie, the “Jezebel” reactor, an Awanyu pot, and the “Fat Man” all occupy equal squares, commanding equal attention. Rubenstein and Zweig put the figures and artifacts that met at Otowi Crossing into new spatial relations, juxtaposing them and allowing them to observe and speak to one another; in the process, the installation opens the possibility for telling new stories of the history and the future of this place. They presented their project as a new production of space from the ground up: “we enlarge the lives of ordinary people, we strip the mythic characters of history down to their ordinariness, and we replace the usual metaphors about historical figures with images of fallibility and their connection to place.”38 As in Rubenstein’s earlier portraits of lowriders, the photographs in this exhibition have narrative components, but they tell no master story. Rubenstein assembles the elements that could tell a story or become symbols—if the viewer chooses to take the responsibility for performing such interpretive work. With its multiplicity of voices, images, and media, the installation produces a kind of space that allows the present and the past to circulate in new and potentially open ways. Critical Mass articulates deep contradictions between the felt rhythms of the natural landscape and the irrevocable pursuit of scientific and economic progress that continue to produce the West’s social spaces and define its modernity. As it asks the viewer to reimagine the social and symbolic spaces of Otowi Bridge, it leads us beyond official geographies, designated ruins, and subjective perceptions of landscape and toward the remains of what Lucy Lippard terms “an acculturated landscape,” a possibly feminist place “where culture and nature meet.”39 Otowi Bridge exemplifies the difficulty of preserving historical memory of and about such parts of the West. Instead of coherent written records, we have abandoned structures that ask us to imagine what could have been. When Rebecca Solnit inquired into the social meanings of ruins, she found in crumbling buildings an allure akin to wilderness, “a place full of the promise of the unknown with all its epiphanies and dangers.”40 While they may initially promise access

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to the unknown, ruins can also reveal the decay of meaning, what Jackson calls “the negative image of history.”41 They may remain mere fragments of historical knowledge that resist assimilation into a coherent narrative. In the case of Otowi Bridge, knowledge of the place’s social meanings, especially those produced through women’s work and writing, cannot be obtained just by looking at the ruins that remain. Along with the remains of buildings and artifacts, we need to excavate the complex history of ideas about this place, documents of its lived experience, and evidence of its cultivation. Only then can we begin to know fully the places where domestic work nurtured extraordinary historic events, these unofficial spaces that have barely survived the twentieth-century West. Notes
1. Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 405–7. 2. Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 7. 3. Lewis, Unsettling the Literary West, 9. 4. Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 85. 5. Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 165. 6. For the biography of Oppenheimer and his role in directing the Los Alamos Laboratory, see Rhodes, Making of the Atomic Bomb; Bernstein, Oppenheimer; Bird and Sherwin, American Prometheus; and Conant, 109 East Palace. The most prominent texts on Warner are Church’s The House at Otowi Bridge and Waters’s The Woman at Otowi Crossing. On northern New Mexico’s pueblos and villages, consult, for example, Swentzell, “A Feminine World”; and Montgomery, The Spanish Redemption. 7. Rothman, On Rims and Ridges, 251–53. In 1963, control over Otowi Ruins was transferred from the National Parks Service to the Atomic Energy Commission. 8. Jackson, “Seeing New Mexico,” 15. 9. For a complete account of Warner’s history at Otowi Bridge, see Burns’s introduction and historical overview in Warner’s Shadow of Los Alamos. 10. Church, The House at Otowi Bridge, 55. 11. Chris Wilson provides an excellent account of this process of constructing regional identity in The Myth of Santa Fe. 12. Waters, The Woman at Otowi Crossing, 36, 74. 13. Hales, Atomic Spaces, 153.

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14. For a thorough explanation of Hewett’s efforts to preserve the Parajito Plateau, see Rothman, On Rims and Ridges, chapter 4. 15. Burns describes the changes in work arrangements in E. Warner, Shadow of Los Alamos, 29. 16. Hales, Atomic Spaces, 5. 17. Nash, “New Mexico since 1940,” 8–9. 18. Conant, 109 East Palace, 157. 19. Quoted in Bird and Sherwin, American Prometheus, 267. 20. Quoted in Poling-Kempes, Valley of Shining Stone, 208. 21. Waters, The Woman at Otowi Crossing, 74. 22. Burns, preface to E. Warner, Shadow of Los Alamos, xii–xiii. 23. Lyon, introduction to The Woman at Otowi Crossing, xv. 24. See Herken, Brotherhood of the Bomb. Hunner discusses the danger these test sites posed to Los Alamos families in Inventing Los Alamos, 138–44. 25. Oppenheimer, Atom and Void, 52, 53. 26. Lippard proposes, “Feminist landscape and the bomb do seem deeply connected, not just on a theoretical level, but also on a emotional one.” Questions of power inform our “looking at almost every ‘natural’ landscape, and power is always a feminist issue.” The Pink Glass Swan, 318–20. 27. E. Warner, Shadow of Los Alamos, 96, 101. 28. E. Warner, Shadow of Los Alamos, 162–63. 29. Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 405. 30. Robert Oppenheimer to Frank Oppenheimer, October 14, 1929, in Oppenheimer, Letters and Recollections, 134–36. 31. Rhodes, Making of the Atomic Bomb, 451. 32. Oppenheimer, Letters and Recollections, 325. 33. Jackson, “Seeing New Mexico,” 17. 34. Waters, The Woman at Otowi Crossing, 124–5. 35. Lyon, introduction to A Frank Waters Reader, xxvi. 36. Waters, The Woman at Otowi Crossing, 21. 37. Rubenstein provided this statement about the project in her recently published collection of images, Belonging: Los Alamos to Vietnam, 76. 38. Critical Mass exhibition catalog (November 1993), 1. 39. Lippard, The Pink Glass Swan, 311. 40. Solnit, Field Guide, 88–89. 41. Jackson, “Seeing New Mexico,” 23.

13. The Romance of Ranching; or, Selling Place-Based Fantasies in and of the West
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In this essay I will sketch one of several trends in land use in the American West, one that links cultural production, globalization, and changes on the ground. I will use anecdotal evidence, for I want to emphasize the ways in which personal experience and observations contribute a sense of the provisional, temporal, partial, and contingent, while they resist the tendencies within academic discourses to make universal, ahistorical, or simply grand claims. Moreover, in my case the personal represents a cross-disciplinary approach, as I draw upon experience in ranch real estate, agricultural production, conservation, and scholarly research. While my scholarly work undergirds this essay, it will remain in the background and the endnotes.1 Throughout my childhood and into adulthood, my family wandered the West, always in search of ranch real estate bargains. In my lifetime my father has owned twenty-three different ranches and two ranchettes.2 Growing up, we were always actively working at least one ranch while looking for others. From an early age I acquired the habit of reading real estate ads. Here I will use both personal observation and close readings of real estate advertising to suggest how ideological and economic changes in the West become manifest on the land. Let me begin with a story. It’s the early 1960s, and my family has settled in, sort of, to our new ranch in Sonoma County, California, only a few miles outside Healdsburg. Our ranch is on the beaten path, so the kitchen hosts visitors frequently—from the irs auditor, to the state hydrological engineers, to the soil conservation agent, to family friends. On this morning, the state trappers, Harry and Una Tracy, sip coffee before

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driving over the ranch to place coyote traps. Mostly domestic dogs get into the sheep here, but dead coyotes are state sanctioned and dead neighbor pooches are not, so Harry and Una do their work. They are an imposing team. Both fifty-something, they dress like twins, not spouses: black cowboy boots, tight black jeans, black short-sleeve shirts with pearl snap buttons, black holsters, black pistols, black hair, dark eyes. Una accents her look with ruby red lipstick, heavily penciled eyebrows, and ruby nail polish. It’s quite a look. They are friends, too. We exchange gifts at Christmas, and I can’t remember when they weren’t part of our lives there. That morning other visitors arrive for coffee. As a sideline (and a way to write off the expense—remember the irs man?) my father flies a ranch realtor and his clients on property tours in his twin-engine plane. It’s efficient, for the realtor can show a lot more property by air in an afternoon. The guests this morning are two investors from Hong Kong—in suits. Introductions all around, and as the grownups settle in for coffee I notice the businessmen are staring, wideeyed, at Harry and Una. What they took to be a busy day scouring the New West for ranch real estate—investment property—now looks to be a visit to the Old West—a pistol-packing cowboy and cowgirl in black. After some awkward chitchat with the businessmen, who are visibly uncomfortable, the real estate shoppers leave to tour. Una, accustomed to people who are accustomed to her, asks my mother if she thinks the gentlemen are nervous by nature. At age six, I have just seen globalization at work. The arrival of the businessmen from Hong Kong signaled an economic and land-use shift that would drive Harry and Una into retirement, if not oblivion.3 These businessmen were in California because, at some level, they sought the romance of ranching, albeit accessible by direct flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong. But they were investors, not agriculturalists, and they represented a type of buyer on the increase in northern California in the 1960s. In many ways these harbingers of the New West were not new at all—Daniel Boone comes to mind—but I offer this anecdote to help trace one pattern (one of many) of representational, economic, ideological, political,

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ecological, and even geographical changes that have been realized in many New Western places and landscapes. These changes have been both rhetorical and material.4 I bring in the personal here because I had a ringside seat, as it were, both to observe and to make some of these changes. My family claimed to be in the ranching business, but whether acknowledged or not, we were always in the land business. The family business, what I awkwardly term “ranch rehabilitation,” could be considered a combination of aesthetic engineering, landscape architecture, and conservation. My father borrowed money, leveraged the ranch we were on, and bought new ranches. In most cases he reshaped the land as he reshaped the agricultural component, taking derelict places, sometimes foreclosures, and changing the use of the land. In Sonoma County we arrived at a small ranch with a moribund olive orchard, a shambling barn, and more weeds than grass at a time when the county had some vineyards, some pasture, and a lot of prune orchards. By the time the ranch was sold, perhaps ten years later, my father had created five lakes, improved the grass, rehabbed the buildings, built nearly hidden roads that undulated from one vista to another, and maneuvered for the lighting and paving of the town airstrip across the road. His efforts, and those of others like him, paved the way for winemakers, recreationalists, and weekend “ranchers.” In the process, the prune orchards and pastures gave way to grapes, the agricultural economy changed, and as land prices soared, the labor camps and the businesses in town that supported them moved to cheaper and more distant places. Healdsburg and the Dry Creek Valley now sport country villas, wine estates, fancy restaurants, and agricultural workers who commute from the slums of Santa Rosa.5 This is not a move from parochialism to globalization (the West has been tied to global markets for a very long time); it’s a move from one kind of agricultural economy tied to world markets to another. For as prunes ceased to be a profitable crop and were supplanted by grapes, so the money that fueled this shift came out of the Bay area’s increased share of global capital. The capital necessary to replace

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prunes with vineyards and wineries generally came not from successful farmers and ranchers but from airline pilots, stockbrokers, investors (foreign and domestic), and—later—computer-industry moguls and dot-com millionaires.6 Sonoma and Napa counties are no longer known for their jug wines, but for their extremely expensive boutique labels. California Cabernet Sauvignon prices can often easily surpass Bordeaux prices, a reality that might have seemed fantastic forty years ago. The prices are artificially high because these wines don’t really compete in an international market, where prices might be curtailed by global competition, for they are heavily subsidized. And it’s a subsidy I hear too little about. The world movie market subsidizes Niebaum Coppola, the software industry subsidizes many a boutique winery—and everywhere in cultivated rural northern California, capital accumulated in global nonagricultural markets dislodges the agricultural market from price and cost constraints felt elsewhere in the world.7 The shift in sources of capital has changed the price of good wine and has changed the way northern California looks. Gone are the rows of eucalyptus trees, the fruit orchards, the dairies, the green hillside pastures. Gone are the lakes my father made (filled in and planted with grapes), the 150-year-old oak trees, the aesthetic that brought us appreciated land prices and profit. Gone is the redwood barn. In their places grow row upon row of grapes. When one looks at this bucolic landscape, it’s hard to imagine what was there thirty years before, or what it might look like thirty years from now, and the tourist promotions work to create a past consistent with the present. In this moment they tell a story of wine production dating back to the early nineteenth century in Sonoma County. But fads are realized on the ground as much as in the stores, and the hop kilns destroyed in the 1950s are the landmarks of the 1990s; the redwood barn that was torn down in the 1970s is a priceless piece of vernacular architecture in 2006. Man-made lakes appear and disappear, as do dwellings. Sonoma and Napa counties now boast summer colonies and festivals where thirty-five years ago people of means fled the 110-degree summer heat. A new aesthetic. Go figure.8

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We turned these tricks throughout northern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Montana. The sheep or the cattle and the farm implements were tools to feed appreciation in land prices as much as they were to make a living off the land. Now I would like to turn to Montana, where the changes might not be quite so obvious, but they affect far more acres than the appellations of northern California. Since the late 1960s changes in land ownership have corresponded with major changes in land use. With each change of U.S. tax policy, with each change in U.S. foreign policy, western land changed hands. When interest rates rose or the Farm Bill was modified, land changed hands. When grain prices plummeted or subsidies were radically altered, land changed hands. When Australia and New Zealand began to dominate world lamb production, land changed hands. When tariffs or transportation costs or aid packages were adjusted, land changed hands. When electricity and fuel prices rose, land changed hands. After a few years of drought or severe winters, land changed hands.9 In some parts of the West, eastern Montana, for example, these sales changed land use, but often the look of the country remained more or less the same. Irrigated land might revert to pasture, crops might change, the color and breed of cattle might change, but the “landscape” continued to resemble itself before the last real estate transaction. In many cases the difference wasn’t discernible visually, as loopholes in the tax code encouraged the phantom corporations of doctors and dentists to make money by losing money on farming and ranching in the arid West.10 What I want to insist upon here is that the global West is neither as recent as it might seem nor as hidden, for it is manifest in and on the land itself.11 Too easily, we view these changes as abstracted from the land; represented either in purely social and cultural terms or as lines on a profit-and-loss statement, but somehow aloof from the terrain itself. And changes in economic practices and aesthetic ideals can change landforms as much as or more than what we label environmental changes—erosion, climate change, or species change.12 In the New West, some small-scale agriculturalists still run up

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against the hard facts of western ecosystems and starve out in a nightmare version of their dream of the West as garden, as Wallace Stegner’s family did, but more frequently they suffer the consequences of global economic forces. I’m not nostalgic (especially) for the yeoman farmer, but the ideal of the family farm continues to have currency, for it helps fill the coffers of nonprofit organizations such as Farm Aid and the American Farmland Trust. These organizations have worked to preserve agricultural land and the family farm, but they tend to sell authenticity as much as they sell sound land-use policies. The inauthentic interloper is not necessarily bad for the land. Rather than simply rapacious tyrants, as they are often portrayed in film and novels, tycoon ranchers can be a value-added commodity under many conditions. Ted Turner, for example, brings his considerable business acumen, honed in global markets, to the business of ranching and the business of stewardship. Turner’s Flying D Ranch in Montana has the advantage of considerable capital for improvements and innovations, but it also represents state-of-the-art economics and, I think, profit. The Flying D also represents more than a profit center, for it has been aesthetically engineered. Turner has purchased and manages his own view shed, devoting as much attention to what one sees from any given point on the ranch as he devotes to what grasses grow there. On the Flying D, a particular aesthetic has been actively pursued with as much vigor as his well-known bison enterprise.13 At least since the early 1970s, ranches throughout Montana have been marketed in a way that suggests very distinct classes of clientele. For this essay I have labeled them the “economic unit,” the “transitional ranch,” the “trophy ranch,” and the “sustainable subdivision.” These categories represent a marketing approach more than they reveal any stable, codifiable attributes of the land itself.14 For example, many of the ranches advertised with the verbal markers of the “economic unit” do not “pencil” as profitable business ventures. The “trophy ranch” may attain that status due to its asking price rather than its beauty or amenities. Big scenery has been a selling point for ranchland at least since

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the era of the nineteenth-century land baron, but the use of imperial ideals and romantic images in selling the buyable West has escalated in the past few decades. As the postcard places have filled to capacity, enterprising business folk have been busily working to manufacture more silk-purse scenery from sow’s-ear acreage.15 While it is sometimes difficult to tell where in the transition process from “unlovely” but productive agricultural land to “trophy” ranch a piece of ground lies, real estate ads can be instructive. For example, price per acre is an easy one: a 19,000-acre operation with 12,000 deeded acres for $3.5 million tells me quite a bit. It’s a long way from the nearest sushi bar, and the sellers have priced the land in some relation to its production; that is, a prospective buyer might reasonably expect this land to “pencil,” that with good management it should have a positive cash flow, produce some profit, and represent a good long-term investment. These kinds of ads are filled with the language of western agricultural economics: crp, blm, bu, acre-feet of water, tons of hay produced, aums.16 In an ad for a 1,840-acre eastern Montana farm/ranch, we learn from a single paragraph of description that “This piece of ground looks good and produces more than a 7% return on the purchase price.” Photos show the “developed” water and the farm ground, and the price per acre, $356, is displayed prominently. Both the description and the images in ads for the “economic unit” suggest the kind of life one might have there. With farm ground comes labor and a commitment to a crop calendar (no vacation during planting or harvest), and the improvements reveal its status as a farm. In these photos, the grain bins and shops are often newer and nicer than the house. These ads highlight gpms (gallons per minute for a well), irrigations systems (more labor), and carrying capacity (number of aums, optimistically estimated for a wet year). They often describe soil types. Most “amenities” buyers wouldn’t know a soil type from a front-end loader, so these properties clearly eschew celebrities, tycoons, or the recreational rancher. The ads for “transitional” properties represent the widest range in ranch properties, and the rhetoric of these ads often vacillates among

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discourses of agricultural productivity, economic value, recreational opportunity, and scenic beauty. For example, an ad for another ranch, positioning for more than one market, notes not only that it is “scenic” but also that it offers “impressive production.” In the ads that begin to transition away from strictly agricultural appeal toward recreational and scenic amenities, we get more text and more images. Yet another ad works the transition more clearly, with a headline touting the ranch as “pristine” (read: few improvements, a long way from anywhere). “Remote and secluded” might attract an urban refugee seeking privacy, but as Montana writer Judy Blunt can tell you, it means you won’t be running to the doctor or popping into town for groceries. The privacy suggested here is mitigated by the penultimate line: “Seller is a 78 year old widower and requests a life estate in the house.”17 Agents for large parcels often use conflicting lures meant to appeal to very different kinds of buyers. One 52,894-acre operation with almost 48,000 of those acres deeded (remember that a section, 640 acres, is one square mile) boasts both its “18 miles of pipeline” and the possibility of “triceratops fossils,” all for $120 per acre. This is bulk purchasing at its best. Alas, this ranch lies in an area troubled by coal-bed methane drilling.18 As we move upscale in the “transitional ranch” market, the language in the ads shifts, as do the demographics of prospective buyers. In one ad headline the location named is “Missoula, Montana,” but the description discloses that the university town, with its commercial airport, is fifty miles away. The ranch is actually located near Drummond, a town with neither the name recognition of Missoula nor its amenities. This 12,000-acre ranch, already restricted by a conservation easement, appropriates the language from the Nature Conservancy easement document, highlighting the “extensive riparian bottoms,” its “selective timbering” (not that it was logged only four years earlier), and the “semi-resident elk herd” (they range over 50,000 acres, 12,000 of which could be yours). Although the streams have been “channeled for ease of hayfield pasture” (read: big ditches where the stream used to be), the realtors, in their interminably

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wordy way, encourage: “a reconfiguration of this water back into a more natural channel should result in significantly enhanced fishing in the creek as well as the resurection [sic] of a much needed spawning area for the main river.” In other words, this place could become your private sportsman’s paradise, with only a million dollars or so in capital improvements. The ad seesaws between the language of the economic-unit ranch and the trophy ranch. It includes information on the carrying capacity in aums and the amount (in tons) of hay produced annually, and provides a detailed accounting of various water rights held with the property. On the other hand, substantial text is given over to the amenities afforded in the nearest small cities, and the ad supplies an extensive list of the wildlife found in the “riparian habitats,” along with descriptions that appeal to the aesthetic: “lush meadows” and “rolling grass hills.” The tag line on this ad homes in on the buyer they seek: “It is a private and wild ranch empire with superb recreational opportunities” (emphasis added). When I look at this ad, I see that the $7.5 million asking price makes it too expensive for a truly profitable agricultural enterprise and too undeveloped to be a trophy ranch. To run it as a profitable cattle ranch, a buyer would have to do something about that “1,000 head of elk” that eat the ranch’s grass, fence out the riparian areas, and build an infrastructure that goes with cattle ranching. In addition, one would need about a million dollars’ worth of cattle to stock the place. To transform this ranch into a recreational retreat, a buyer would need to replace the modest “896 square feet” house and improve the ranch roads and access.19 Ads in this category nearly always state distance to university towns Bozeman and Missoula and distance to commercial airports, and the photos push the views and the wildlife. To aid in the empire fantasy, no people or buildings are featured in these ads. Now I would like to turn to the most elaborate attempt I found to market a transitional property. This ad appears as a comprehensive website, one with multiple links, pages of text, maps, and dozens of images. The ad aims for an amenity buyer, but one who wants to develop the ranch, creating his or her own paradise.20 The text has been

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organized under subheadings. Under “Location” once again we see a ranch located relative to airports and small cities, and we learn that it lies closest to the “sleepy” little town of Opportunity, Montana. Under “Access” we learn that the ranch roads have been “intentionally left in original condition.” One wonders what “original” means in this context. When I clicked on the image of one road, I saw deep ruts and significant erosion. Under “Description” the prose works to build upon a fairly traditional aesthetic: the language evokes visual pleasure based on variety and culminates with “aspen-lined draws,” offering a wide color palette for the new owners.21 Once we imagine those “aspen-lined draws,” the next step is, of course, “Views and Homesites,” so that we can truly be masters of all we survey. Unwary prospects may fail to realize that the costs to build or repair the roads to most of these “homesites,” to bring in power and water, will be more than the total cost of improvements on the economic-unit ranch. And as readers imagine their new home, conventional descriptive language for the beautiful kicks in, as we are urged to think of “panoramic views of snow capped mountains.” And if we had any lingering doubts about the target for this ad, we know when we discover that the ranch lies “within 15 minutes of the Jack Nicholas [sic] championship golf course.” You can build fence in the morning and improve your handicap minutes later. The lack of any usable buildings on the ranch is mitigated by the evocation of the “rustic” homesteader buildings. Here’s a near-perfect fantasy of legitimate ranching. So what might get in the way? What I see here is a ranch on land that shares the neighborhood with some of the most intoxicated land in Montana—this ranch lies near Anaconda, Montana. While not necessarily downwind from historic air pollution from Anaconda (so perhaps no arsenic blanketed the ranch in the early 1900s), it appears to be adjacent to one of the largest Superfund sites in the United States, so its water might be contaminated, and I question whether there are any mineral rights that go with the property. Having been reclaimed from some of the most toxic land in the United States, the nearby golf course, Old

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Works, stands as a “poster child” case study for the epa’s Superfund sites. The little town of Opportunity might be “sleepy,” but it’s also lethal. The toxic sludge from the Superfund site at the Milltown Dam near Missoula will be taken to Opportunity for disposal. When I look at the view to the east I see rough country, no roads, and few possibilities for use other than looking at it. When I see the photo of the beaver slide (an old-fashioned device for stacking hay), I look instead at the fence line—thirty-five miles of fence badly in need of repair. As a nod to the past, the beaver slide most likely is an artifact of someone’s bankruptcy. Many of the views I see in the photos suggest accessibility problems, and the ranch maps confirm this, along with the fact that some of the more productive sections are owned by someone else, and are likely to disturb the peace, for they in-hold on the ranch itself.22 With this ranch, the $13 million asking price only begins the writing of checks. The pitch—rhetoric and images—changes at the top end of the market. For the “trophy ranch,” expensive glossy brochures and password-protected websites can be in play, but the openly advertised places often hype publicity itself. For example, the ad for one ranch, a high-altitude, marginally productive recreational ranch of roughly 7,000 deeded acres (but which controls, through leases and allotments, nearly 20,000 acres), crows that the 10,000-square-foot owner’s residence was featured in a big spread in Architectural Digest. The ranch “is home to almost all of the big game species in the Rocky Mountains” and has an abundance of non-game wildlife. It has four “superb trout lakes” and its own fish hatchery. The ad promotes tiny Dell, Montana, as the home of both an “excellent restaurant” and a paved jet airstrip. The ad highlights Dillon, Montana, some fifty miles away, as a “college town with several good ‘watering holes,’” “a full-equipped [sic] hospital,” “numerous banks,” and “even a Patagonia outlet store.” Does a buyer who has $26 million to spend on a summer retreat shop at outlet stores? One also learns from the ad that the “Shoshone, Bannock and Flathead” Indians favored this area (which makes the ranch “historic,” as well as subject [possibly] to ownership issues in the future) and

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that the boss’s house has “the largest single pane of glass in North America.” Wait until a majestic bald eagle slams into it and cracks it. For your $26 million you get a few houses, an indoor arena, lots of wildlife, but not privacy, for the sellers demand lifetime fishing access. Moreover, with almost 20,000 acres in state and federal grazing allotments, much of this “privatopia” is subject to the vagaries of changes in agency management and policy. The use is prescribed by contract, and some of that use may include that bane of the trophy ranch owner, public access.23 The final ad reveals a new kind of ranching in the West. It’s what I call the “sustainable subdivision.” This, too, has been brought about by changing economics and the fact that, with inflated land prices and the probability that inheritance taxes are here to stay, and given that trust funds aren’t what they used to be, the owner, a member of the Maytag family (think appliances), came up with this solution to the legacy issue. Buying the core of the ranch in the late 1970s, Maytag sought to pursue the livestock business and settle down to raise a family. He had more than one child. So what to do? Global markets (read: the meatpacking cartel, or in many circles, “evil packers”) have changed the economics of cattle ranching, and 2,900 acres is no longer adequate for making an income substantial enough to afford his children what he had. So, he created the sustainable subdivision, or what he calls a “ranch-preservation community.” Nowhere in the ad does it say that lots are for sale; rather, buried in the copy we find that “owning your own ranch” means sharing all but your hundred-acre “homestead.” One hundred acres is spelled out so as not to compete with the enumerated 2,953 acres of the ranch. Here we have the fully realized, fully tamed landscape, where every photo comforts with human presence. It’s a family values kind of place, where retired stockbroker granddads take their grandchildren fishing. The buildings have been architecturally designed with a nod to the rustic, and one can be assured the covenants are strict. You can own a “priceless part of the mountain west,” which means the “homesteads” and the maintenance fees will be expensive. Here’s the fantasy fully realized—ranch ownership, where their slogan is “This

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is a working ranch without the work.” Like other trophy ranch owners, the “homesteaders” at Maytag Mountain Ranch can play at work; as one new woman “homesteader” proclaims, “I might want to fix a barbed wire fence. . . . But it’s nice to know I have the option not to.” It surprises me that something as unpleasant as barbed wire remains on the ranch. There are no signs or artifacts of work in these photos, not even the rustic reminders as on the ranch near Opportunity, Montana. There is no pretense about making a living here—this is where one spends a living. Much like his or her Gilded Age counterparts, the successful and stressed-out executive or tycoon can come to the “homestead” to recuperate before returning to the work of making millions.24 And here, in the copy, is the key word used by sociologists, economists, and realtors to describe what today’s wealthy buyer wants—“amenities.” The ranch is a working one, in that livestock will dot the scenery, but with new sustainable methods—low-stress cattle movement rather than cattle drives, none of the ugly practices that marked the homesteading spirit of old. I find the hype and the slick presentation distasteful, but the rhetoric spins idyllic as it covers over land-use choices that have been locked in contractually by this “ranch-preservation community.” Unlike the economic-unit ranch, or even many of the transitional properties, both the trophy ranch and the sustainable subdivision often come with land-use and management plans bound by legal contracts. These documents mandate perhaps the biggest fantasy of all: the fantasy of perpetuity. Although the Maytag Mountain Ranch may truly be a model “eco-ranch,” one land conservation wonk worries that “future decisions by property owners at the Maytag will not always meet the letter and intent of the original development plan, strictly outlined in the covenants and restrictions of the property deeds. . . . At some point down the line, the homeowners’ association could get together and change those restrictions. . . . That’s what homeowners’ associations do.”25 Conservation easements have become an increasingly common tool used by rich landowners to secure either tax deductions or, in some cases, outright payments in exchange

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for forfeiting development and other property rights on their land. Many conservation organizations actively promote easements as a way to block development and to preserve open space, habitat, and species diversity. Easements can do all these things. But the danger here is that they take one historical moment’s ideas about what is best for the land and community and often work to make those ideas permanent. If the New Western History and environmental historians of the West have taught us anything, they have made us see that the last century’s—or even the last decade’s—great ideas have often had unforeseen and/or disastrous consequences. While conservation easements may be a powerful weapon in the war against sprawl, they may prove to cause “collateral damage.” In our rush to use one tool as a universal fixer, we may have provided work for lawyers for decades to come. It’s easy to be cynical about these New Western ways, but I do not intend to be nostalgic, for both the trophy ranch and the sustainable subdivision offer ways to preserve open space, as they afford another chance for good, ecologically sensitive land management practices. But they most frequently do so behind closed and locked gates. In the process these ranches set an aesthetic standard, one that encourages, even hastens, management practices and economic changes that we can see on the ground. The view ranch doesn’t need to be 15,000 acres; the recreation ranch doesn’t need farm ground. The part-time resident needs no farm equipment, employs little local labor, and buys few supplies in the “sleepy” neighbor towns. The folks who might have worked seasonally on a hay crew make way for the hay contractor with his own equipment. The hay contractor then loses his job when the ranch, devoid of livestock, lets hayfields lie fallow. No fences need to be repaired if no livestock graze. The flora and fauna will respond to these different practices. Selecting for elk over cattle or sheep selects away from many grasses and forbs, selects toward weeds. And in such situations, what a neighbor does affects his or her neighbors. Intensive hunting on one place might move an elk herd to the neighbors. Selecting for privacy selects away from the production of local businesses, local jobs, and local schools.

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As some ranchers who are still tied to an agriculture economy seek value-added enterprises to supplement the fluctuating income from livestock and crops, many in Montana turn to agricultural tourism. But as the predominant image of the ranch looks more like the Maytag Mountain Ranch and less like the hunkered-down spreads in eastern Montana, tourists may find that the working ranch looks inauthentic compared to the amenities ranch. Not all ranch and rangeland in the West will be protected by conservation easements. The homely, isolated ranch might not be threatened by sprawl and subdivision, but in a global economy the less-than-picture-postcard ranch might be threatened anyway. Who will buy the treeless ranch two hundred miles from the nearest organic market? As we continue to emphasize the value of open space to the exclusion of open cultures, we may see large-scale corporate ranching control agricultural production on the one hand and enclaves of private retreats for the wealthy on the other. No matter how many niche markets a rancher might tap, the movement of capital into ranches that will serve as recuperative retreats for the very rich affects the entire ranch real estate business. When the rich folks get bored and leave, they sell out to other rich people.26 Meanwhile, the local workers and businesses that at one time supported an agricultural economy have left these small towns behind. The wealthy rarely join the community, and often they don’t pay income taxes in the state where they own ranchland. Montana newspapers regularly report the clashes between citizens and landowners over public access to streams, rivers, and public lands. For many of these landowners, their kingdom in the sticks offers relief from their frenzied metropolitan lives. They eschew contact with the locals, then find themselves more isolated than they imagined. One venture capitalist who has had trouble unloading his piece of paradise laments, “Sometimes you’d have to fly in your friends just to have people around.”27 In my own case, I co-own a ranch in Montana that has yet to operate as a viable for-profit business. Had my family been solely in the ranching business all these years, I wouldn’t have the ranch at all. It

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is only because my family was always also in the land business that I have the privilege to be one of an increasing number of ranchers who works in town to support the business of ranching. We sell our grass, not livestock; we harvest elk, not wheat. And increasingly, we pay the bills by selling access to open space with a pretty good view of “snowcapped majestic peaks.” This region has already tried dude ranches. Is the next move to forget the ranching tradition and wrangle people exclusively? Notes
1. For help with this research I thank all the ranch realtors I have known, and I thank Bill Cook for his memory, for his mild correctives, and for providing me with a lifetime of sitting in the back and opening gates. I am grateful to Marie Schwartz, Lynne Derbyshire, Valerie Karno, Karen Markin, Eve Sterne, and Libby Miles for their useful comments, and to those who made suggestions at the thirty-ninth annual meeting of the Western Literature Association. My thanks to Susan Kollin for the opportunity to turn to this subject. I dedicate this essay to my ranching partner and sister, Cynthia Kingston (1953–2004). In preparing this essay I have looked at census data, articles on agricultural economics, and hundreds (if not thousands) of real estate ads. I have talked with other ranchers, attended meetings on the business of ranching, and studied changes in land use in the late-twentieth-century West. This essay represents a distillation of decades of looking, listening, and reading, so a full bibliography is impossible. While this essay will use personal anecdote and generally refrain from academic discourse, several academic conversations inform my work here. Where particular academic conversation seems relevant, I will link by means of these notes. Broadly considered, my work has been deeply influenced by conversations in cultural geography, landscape studies, environmental history, and ecocriticism. For a lucid synthesis of the intellectual work contributing to the “spatial turn” in western American studies, see Neil Campbell’s introduction to his The Cultures of the American West. For this essay I am particularly indebted to the work of John Brinckerhoff Jackson, William Cronon, William Kittredge, Edward Soja, and Wallace Stegner. 2. Sanchita Sengupta and Daniel Edward Osgood, following others, define a “ranchette” as a parcel of between two and twenty acres; however, many of my sources consider parcels of fewer than forty acres to be “ranchettes.” Sengupta and Osgood, “The Value of Remoteness.”

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3. Their jobs have been so radically altered that now there is no memory of them or their work in the current viniculture. The animals they killed and the livestock they protected are part of a lost and erased economy. 4. There is significant scholarship on changes in types of ranch buyers in the West, as well as a good deal of recent work on land use and ecological changes on ranchland. Among the most comprehensive and useful is the work done by the Rangeland Dynamics project at the Center of the American West (http://www.centerwest.org/ranchlands/index.html). 5. For a compelling version of class, labor, and racial issues associated with these economies and this region, see Greg Sarris’s collection of short stories Grand Avenue. For extensive coverage of the labor and social issues associated with this kind of gentrification, see High Country News (http://www .hcn.org). 6. Several growers’ organizations offer brief histories of winemaking in their regions. None discusses the capital needed to get into the wine business, and all gloss over the specific changes in technology that encouraged sweeping changes in the early 1970s. In addition to an influx of capital, the move from wood barrels (which had included redwood barrels) to stainless steel fermenters and crusher-stemmers helped to precipitate rapid growth in the industry. For regional histories, see sites for the Napa Valley Vintners (http://www.napavintners.com) and Sonoma Grape Growers Association (http://www.sonomagrapevine.org). 7. Several studies mention in passing the influence of owners whose incomes and primary enterprises lie elsewhere. Pope and Goodwin state: “Consumptive owners”—not people with tuberculosis, but their term for what others call amenities buyers—“of rural land often choose a production enterprise like they choose a hat; cost, functionality, or efficiency are secondary considerations to how they think it looks to them” (“Impacts of Consumptive Demand,” 753). Sengupta and Osgood claim that “hobby agriculture” parcels “confound traditional agriculture statistics and analysis because they are not operated for profit. Inputs are purchased with non-farm income instead of revenues from agricultural sales” (“The Value of Remoteness,” 92). 8. The ranches and farms, along with their livestock and produce that vanished in the 1970s as pastures gave way to vineyards, have begun to reappear since the 1990s with the interest in locally produced foodstuffs. In the California wine country a few “working” ranches serve as tourist destinations,

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with ranch tours one of the many commodities sold. See, for example, http:// www.longmeadowranch.com. 9. In Fatland, Greg Critser offers an example of the way global events— both economic and meteorologic—coalesced in the early 1970s, resulting in the substitution of high-fructose corn syrup for sugar in the American diet, with what he views as disastrous consequences for Americans’ health (7–11). 10. Before the tax code was altered, losses such as those incurred by corporate investors in farms and ranches shielded their earned income. Throughout the West these partnerships and corporations bought properties that were not profitable for agricultural production but which could be profitable for the investors, who happily incurred the loss while hoping for a long-term capital gain. 11. What has happened in the West has been brought about by events and policies around the globe, and while the sequence and particulars might be unique to particular western places, other places have been similarly affected. Australian colleagues attending the Tenth International Seminar of Forum unesco–University and Heritage (held at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, April 11–16, 2005) indicated that a similar change in land ownership and land use has occurred in their wine country. 12. I avoid using the word landscape here, since it has come to have a far too universal usage for my purposes. What is occurring in the New West is nothing less than the creation of landscape from terrain. Following J. B. Jackson’s analysis of the term, I use landscape to mean “not a natural feature of the environment but a synthetic space, a man-made system of spaces superimposed on the face of the land, functioning and evolving not according to natural laws but to serve a community.” Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, 8. Real estate ads interest me, in part, because they expose the process of landscaping, if you will, where other modes of representation tend to efface and naturalize those processes. 13. Turner ranches globally, owning more than two million acres of land in fourteen states and Argentina. He is the largest individual landowner in the United States (http://www.tedturner.com). As such, he arguably has as much influence over land use in the American West as many federal agencies. Turner and his kind have spawned some popular critiques, among them a song by Christopher H. Bunn titled “View Shed Ted,” from his album Two Million Acres (And No Place to Build a Home) (http://tunescribble.squarespace. com/political-tunes/2006/11/30/view-shed-ted.html).

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14. Researchers for the Ranchland Dynamics Project classify “ranching landscapes” as “traditional,” “transitional,” and “amenity,” and within these categories they create subcategories. While their definitions are helpful, they are elaborate and their focus is on the type of ranch and its use rather than the type of appeal to prospective buyers (“Executive Summary,” Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem project, 26–36). 15. This work occurs at both the rhetorical level, in promotional materials and ads, and materially, when a seller alters the land and creates new landscapes in hopes of appealing to a type of buyer. As I write, a developer has run afoul of local and state government in Montana for significant alterations to the land without proper permits. In this case, where the famed trout-rich Rock Creek joins the Clark Fork, the developer provoked the ire of his neighbors by moving several thousand yards of gravel to create a private pond for his subdivision (The Missoulian, various news stories, April–May 2006). 16. Some of these descriptors are trickier than others. crp stands for the Conservation Reserve Program, a federal payment program designed to take marginal farmland out of production (see http://www.fsa.gov/dafp/cepd/crp .htm). blm is the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that administers the leases for much of the marginally productive federally-owned land in the West. bu represents bushels; aum (animal unit month), although used as a standard, is a much looser term. Generally, an aum represents the amount of forage for a cow and her calf for one month. Any number of websites or textbooks on agricultural economics or range management provide variants of this definition. Current trends in ranch real estate promotion include the extensive use of websites, whereas in the past, ranch realtors sent prospective buyers brochures. Old-style brochures often included glossy black-and-white or color photographs, which were easily reproducible for an article such as this one. I learned just before this book went into production that none of the images I captured from the internet to accompany my text was of sufficient quality to reproduce here. All of the brochures I acquired during my research for this essay used digitized images incorporated into the layout, and so none of the brochures contained images of sufficient resolution for reproduction. I have described images where I think it is warranted, and I encourage interested readers to browse ranch real estate websites for examples of how images are used to entice a particular kind of buyer. 17. Blunt, Breaking Clean. Real estate ads are ephemeral, so most of my citations will direct to website ads that have long vanished into cyberspace. I

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found these ads in September 2004, but they were gone by May 2006 (http:// www.northwest-national.com [. . . /18–464.htm, . . . /20–4520.htm, and . . . /20–522.htm] and http://www.gocountry.net [. . . /12–765.htm and . . . /20– 471.htm] verified September 29, 2004). 18. This ad appeared at http://www.farmandranch.com on September 20, 2004 (. . . /listing.cfm?ID=6128&for=listing). Again, High Country News is a great source for information on coal-bed methane extraction in the West. Many landowners in the West do not own the mineral rights to their land, so they can hope only to set some limits on the damage done by the extraction of subsurface natural resources. 19. http://www.hallhall.com/ranches/mt/wallace.html (accessed September 29, 2004). I have estimated the cost to stock this ranch based on spring 2006 cattle prices. As with other commodities, cattle prices cycle, so this estimate will fluctuate significantly. 20. http://www.bigeasyranch.com (accessed May 14, 2006). Actually, women do not own many ranches in Montana. According to census data, most ranches in the state are either family owned or owned by men. The few women who do own ranches tend to be widows over sixty, except in romance novels. 21. This aesthetic owes much to conventions in nineteenth-century American landscape painting. Many of the ads for the “transitional,” the “trophy,” and the “sustainable subdivision” feature image composition reminiscent of the Hudson River School, Bierstadt, and their descendants. For a provocative treatment of the relation between nineteenth-century aesthetic traditions and the management of western national parks, see Richard Grusin’s America’s National Parks. 22. Most buyers prefer a ranch that constitutes a “block” of land, with no other ownership within the ranch’s borders. An “in-hold” is a parcel that is surrounded by another owner’s property. 23. http://www.hallhall.com/ranches/mt/lima_peaks.html (accessed September 24, 2004). Since 2004 the price has been reduced incrementally, and as of September 2006 the asking price is set at $19.9 million. The realtors produced an elaborate eleven-page brochure for this ranch. Of the twentyfour color photographs, twelve feature the “improvements” and nine feature the main residence. Of these, several feature the view, including photos of the snowcapped peaks reflected in a lake. Two photos use the “largest single pane of glass in North America” as a kind of proscenium arch to frame the view of the lake and alpine peaks. Of the remaining photographs of the

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“improvements,” one features a picnic shelter and two show the elaborate equestrian center. Unlike brochures for down market ranches, here there are no photos of corrals, equipment sheds, grain storage bins, or even of the four-bedroom manager’s home. The website copy and images have changed with each price reduction. I take “privatopia” from David Harvey (Spaces of Hope, 148). For good coverage of the battle between trophy ranch tycoons and the Montana public over public access, particularly to rivers and streams, see the Missoula, Montana, Missoulian or http://www.newwest.net. 24. Grusin’s work is again instructive, as he reminds us of the recuperative power of nature as espoused by Olmstead and others (America’s National Parks, 38–43). Many of the photographs on the website show people pursuing recreational and nonthreatening ranch activities—a grandfatherly man fishing with a small child, a young woman on horseback. As the emphasis here is on recreational opportunities and an exclusive community, humans (absent in virtually all of the single-owner ranch brochures) appear liberally among the picturesque photos of the landscape. 25. See http://www.maytagmountainranch.com for all copy, including a number of articles published about the ranch. The Maytag Mountain Ranch appears to have encouraged a flurry of articles about the project, and many are no more than “puff ” pieces. Among the more thoughtful and evenhanded, the piece by Bob Berwyn stands out (“The New Ruralism—Can Eco Ranches—and Their Wealthy Residents—Save the Wild West?” 5280: Denver’s Mile-High Magazine, September 2005, http://www.maytagmountainranch .com/article_5280.php). The quotations from Brian Riley, executive director of the San Isabel Land Protection Trust, my “conservation wonk,” are taken from Berwyn’s article. 26. Or they try to sell out to other rich people. In 2006, trophy ranches flooded the market, and sales were slow, especially when your own private kingdom is a long way from anywhere. As one Chicago real estate broker put it, “They want second or third homes with lots of amenities and good cell service. . . . They don’t want to freeze their butts off roping steers or bailing hay.” One owner, stuck with a ranch in southwestern Montana, complained that sometimes the ranch could be “a bit too out of the way. Mail could take a week to arrive, newspapers would get dumped at the property’s entrance a day late.” Troy McMullen, “Home Sale on the Range,” Wall Street Journal, January 27, 2006, w1, w8. 27. McMullen, “Home Sale on the Range,” w8.

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Contributors
Michael Beehler is Professor and former Chair of English at Montana State University. He has published widely on literary theory, modern American poetry, and architectural theory and practice. His recent works include essays on the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, the poetry of Wallace Stevens, and the intersections of theory and architecture in Jacques Derrida and Daniel Libeskind. Neil Campbell is Senior Research Fellow and Reader in American Studies at the University of Derby, U.K. He is coeditor of Issues in Americanization and Culture (2005) and editor of American Youth Cultures (2004). His other books include The Cultures of the American New West (2000) and American Cultural Studies (1997), which he coauthored. Campbell’s new book, The Rhizomatic West, will be published by the University of Nebraska Press. Krista Comer teaches English and Women’s Studies at Rice University. Her current projects include a book in progress, Surfing the New World Order: Gender, Globalization, Counterculture, and a new study of the literatures of Generation X. She is the author of Landscapes of the New West: Gender and Geography in Contemporary Women’s Writing (1999). In 2003 she was President of the Western Literature Association. Nancy Cook is Associate Professor of English at the University of Montana, where she teaches courses in American literature and culture. Her publications include essays on the Great Plains, Thomas McGuane, Mark Twain, and Long Lance. When not teaching, she manages a ranch near Clyde Park, Montana. Audrey Goodman is Associate Professor of English at Georgia State University in Atlanta, where she teaches courses in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature and in western American fic-

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tion. She is the author of Translating Southwestern Landscapes: The Making of an Anglo Literary Region, 1880–1930 (2002), which was awarded the 2003 Thomas J. Lyon Award for Best Critical Book on Western American Literature by the Western Literature Association. She is currently working on a book about networks and topographies of migration in the twentieth-century West. Melody Graulich is Professor of English and Chair of American Studies at Utah State University, where she also edits the journal Western American Literature. She is coeditor of Reading The Virginian in the New West (2002) and coauthor of Trading Gazes: Euro-American Women Photographers and Native North Americans, 1880–1940 (2003). Susan Kollin is Associate Professor of English at Montana State University, where she teaches courses in western American literature and film, environmental cultural studies, and women’s studies. Her articles have appeared in American Literary History, Modern Fiction Studies, Contemporary Literature, isle, and Arizona Quarterly. She is a past president of the Western Literature Association and author of Nature’s State: Imagining Alaska as the Last Frontier (2001). Beth Loffreda is an Associate Professor of English and an Adjunct Professor of African American Studies at the University of Wyoming. Her book Losing Matt Shepard: Life and Politics in the Aftermath of Anti-Gay Murder was published in 2000. Lee Clark Mitchell is Holmes Professor of Belles-Lettres at Princeton University, where he has served as Chair of the English Department and Director of the Program in American Studies. He teaches courses in American literature and is the author of Witnesses to a Vanishing America: The Nineteenth-Century Response (1981), Determined Fictions: American Literary Naturalism (1989), The Photograph and the American Indian (1994), and Westerns: Making the Man in Fiction and Film (1996). His essays on Crane, James, and Twain, among others, have appeared in Critical Inquiry, pmla, and Raritan. He is presently completing a book investigating the intersection of ethics and aesthetics.

Contributors | 267

Capper Nichols teaches courses on the environment, science, and technology in the Rhetoric Department at the University of Minnesota. His recent writings include essays on Alaskan homesteading narratives and wilderness therapy programs for teenagers. His recent backpacking trips include hikes on the Superior Hiking Trail and the Border Route Trail, both in northeastern Minnesota. Nichols’s writings have appeared in Utne Magazine, City Pages, American Book Review, and Mississippi Quarterly. David Oates received his PhD in literature from Emory University and currently lives in Portland, Oregon, where he teaches at Clark College. He has explored questions of gender and nature in Paradise Wild: Reimagining American Nature (2003) and analyzed how environmentalist worldviews are constructed in Earth Rising: Ecological Belief in an Age of Science (1989). His recent book, City Limits: Walking Portland’s Boundary (2006), brings nature writing home to the urban environment through a 260-mile collaborative trek around Portland’s “urban growth boundary.” A mountaineer, backcountry wilderness guide, and poet, Oates has also published widely on Thoreau, Whitman, and Darwin. John Streamas writes about war and Japanese American incarceration, literature and film, and racism in the technologies of time and space. He also writes stories, poems, and plays. He lives with his wife, Valerie Boydo, in Pullman, Washington, where he teaches in the Department of Comparative Ethnic Studies at Washington State University. Stephen Tatum teaches in the English Department and the Environmental Humanities program at the University of Utah. His “Spectral Beauty and Forensic Aesthetics in the West,” a companion piece to the essay printed here, appeared in the summer 2006 issue of Western American Literature. He is coeditor of Reading The Virginian in the New West (2002) and a past president of the Western Literature Association.

In the Postwestern Horizons series True West: Authenticity and the American West Edited by William R. Handley and Nathaniel Lewis Postwestern Cultures: Literature, Theory, Space Susan Kollin Manifest and Other Destinies: Territorial Fictions of the Nineteenth-Century United States By Stephanie LeMenager Unsettling the Literary West: Authenticity and Authorship By Nathaniel Lewis María Amparo Ruiz de Burton: Critical and Pedagogical Perspectives Edited by Amelia María de la Luz Montes and Anne Elizabeth Goldman

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