Changes in the West : Mormons and the ecological geography of nationalism

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


Environmental historians have made fruitful endeavors in exploring the ways in which human communities modify the landscapes in which they live. However, nationalism is one area that has exhibited a tremendous influence on the course of modem history, yet has been little studied in its relationship to the environment. This thesis looks at the ways in which nationalism-a sense of connection to the larger nation-- has influenced those modifications, and how those modifications have influenced and affected those making changes. This thesis looks to the early Mormon migrants to the West as a case study on how nationalism has influenced environmental change. Using an interdisciplinary approach, this argument relies on the work of intellectual historians of nationalism, environmental historians, geographers, and ecologists\biologists. Using these studies as a framework, this thesis posits a method for identifying nationalized landscapes: recognizing circumscribed landscapes, simplified environments, and lands that are connected spatial and temporally to the larger nation identifies a nationalized landscape. In particular, this thesis looks at fish, trees, and riparian zones as areas of change. Using the identifying markers of circumscription, simplification, and connection has uncovered that Mormons did indeed make changes in the landscape that were influenced by nationalism. These changes made to the land, influenced by nationalism, created a redesigned nature, that in turn influenced human relationships. A feeling of nation-ness is one of the major influences in the way westerners have tried to redesign their environments.




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