Lecture: "Real and Ineffable Properties: Resource Politics and the Modern American West"
Abstract: The conflicts over natural resources in the American West have long held a starring role in the historical literature of the region. Land, water, minerals, grass, trees, oil: these resources have been at the center both of actual military battles in the region and of a volatile political history in the United States. But historians have focused surprisingly little attention on how individuals whose livelihoods depended on these resources, or who in other ways experienced deep attachments to them, expressed and essentially translated those connections in the political realm. This talk will explore this question as a way to illuminate in particular the volatility of resource politics in the twentieth-century American West.
Biography: Karen Merrill is the Frederick Rudolph ’42 – Class of 1965 Professor of American Culture in the Department of History at Williams College. She is the author of The Oil Crisis of 1973-74: A Brief History with Documents (2007), and Political Meaning: Ranchers, the Government, and the Property between Them (2004), which won the Robert G. Athearn Award for the best book on the twentieth-century American West from the Western History Association. Most recently, she was contributing editor, along with Brian C. Black and Tyler Priest, of a special issue of the Journal of American History, “Oil in American History,” to which she also contributed two essays. At Williams College she has also served as the Dean of the College and the Director of the Program in Environmental Studies. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan History Department in 1994, where she wrote her dissertation under Terrence McDonald.
Free and open to the public.
This lecture is part of the Thursday Speaker Series of the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies. It is made possible by a generous contribution from Kenneth and Frances Aftel Eisenberg.