Roads in the Wilderness: Conflict in Canyon Country
I’m currently completing a major manuscript for publication on contemporary land use and wilderness debates in an iconic corner of the American West. My work suggests that modern conflicts in the canyon country are endemic, rooted in heritage and culture and driven by religious and secular ways of seeing the land.
In particular these contending perspectives are reflected in the built landscape. Using one especially ubiquitous human imprint on the land as both trope and subject, I explore the political and cultural meanings of roads as symbols of both progress and exploitation. Taking this approach allows me to explore a somewhat neglected aspect of canyon country history and literature. I do not linger on celebrated landmarks. I travel the roads that traverse the lesser known yet no less remarkable landscape of the high desert. Echo Park, the arches of Moab, Lake Powell, and the Grand Canyon are significant, but I stop at the in-between places that buttress their stories. Roads connect the landmarks; they are first cause, and, in the end, at the heart of modern debates over wilderness and land use in the canyon country.
My work meditates on how people perceive and move about the land, the technology they wield to manipulate it, and the broader cultural and environmental transformations that result.
My manuscript is currently in press at the University of Utah Press and won the following award:
- The 2012 Wallace Stegner Prize in American Environmental or Western History, for the best monograph submitted to The University of Utah Press in the subject areas of American environmental or western history
For an article on my upcoming monograph in the Salt Lake Tribune, see http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/54918684-78/utah-history-rogers-canyon.html.csp.
Prosopography of Consumptive Culture in the American West
My next project traces the evolution of consumption within the Mormon culture of the Great Basin. Modern American culture may be characterized as consumptive, a relatively recent development in human history. The transformation is not merely material: mass consumption has become ingrained into our worldviews, informing the way we conceptualize the individual, the community, and the natural world. A collective biography of Mormon consumption makes an interesting study: Mormonism thrived through most of the nineteenth century deeply committed to communalism and self sufficiency only to become in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries thoroughly integrated proponents of the American capitalistic system. How did the Mormon individual and culture come to identify as a consumer, and what consequence does this mindset have on the way they construct communities and interact with the environment? These are questions I hope to illuminate.