The American West: A Case Study in Culture, Social Structure, and Politics

Dr. Justin Farrell, Fall 2015, 3 Credits

The social and environmental context of the North American West provides fertile ground to examine important issues pertaining to culture, politics, social movements, and institutional structures. This course will equip students to think critically and imaginatively about the social aspects of natural landscapes and the communities who inhabit them. This is *not* a history course, but it does examine stability and change across time. The course draws on empirical cases dealing with a range of interrelated issues, including economic change, environmental values, energy and water conflicts, native experiences, religion, American mythologies, gender, race, and the culture of individualism. Engaging with important theories, debates, and scholarly work around these exciting cultural and political issues is the primary goal of this course. 

Field Course in Culture, Politics, and Social Change (Western Wyoming, 2016 Field Site)

Dr. Justin Farrell, Spring 2016, 3 Credits

This course provides students with the opportunity to engage environmental politics and social change through experiential field-based learning and immersive research. Using a case-study approach, the course emphasizes active learning and independent research about broad theoretical issues pertaining to culture, politics, values, social movements, and institutional structures. The central component of the course is a major field trip to Western Wyoming, which is an especially salient context for examining these theoretical issues through the lens of water scarcity, population growth, income inequality, energy development, local knowledge, and indigenous perspectives. The course will meet throughout the semester for instruction and discussion in preparation for the Spring Break trip, and will conclude with sessions where students will present their research. Because of high demand, the course requires a brief application.

Reading Group: Western Environmental Issues (Fall 2015)

Dr. Lisa Dale, Fall 2015, 1 Credit Independent Study

This reading group is dedicated to an exploration of environmental policy challenges in the American west. The group is focused on current policy issues, and while we may consider theoretical perspectives on some topics, we are grounded in policy application. Many of the most complex policy dilemmas raise questions of federalism and involve some tussle between federal agencies and state control; we will explore these political themes throughout. Our reading material aligns with this applied policy focus, and we study news articles, websites, and policy statements. Occasionally we will look at academic articles, but they will not form the bulk of our reading list.