[F&ES 764] / 2016-2017
The North American West as an Environmental, Cultural, and Political Case Study
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 equips 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. In addition, there are three secondary outcomes of this course that are invaluable both inside and outside of academia. The first is for students to develop the capacity to think about the connectedness of social life and apply social network concepts creatively to solve problems arising in human and environmental social systems. The second is for students to become more efficient readers, improving their ability to process and synthesize large amounts of information in short amounts of time—a skill especially useful in today’s world of information technology. The third is for students to become more confident and dynamic speaking in front of others.