127. Race-ing the Environment: Historical Approaches to Race and Environmental History

R. Romano (History and Comparative American Studies)
Full Course -- 4 Credits
Fall Semester FYSP 127-01 TR 11:00-12:15

Nature, wilderness, and race seem like basic terms with well-established meanings. But as we will explore together in this course, ideas like nature and race are in fact socially constructed, created by people and societies in different historical moments and subject to change over time. This course brings together two vital areas of study—race and the environment—to ask what we can learn by exploring America’s environmental history through the lens of race. In this course, we will study many different topics related to the relationship between race and the environment in the United States. The first part of the course addresses how European colonialism changed the American landscape, the construction of the idea of “wilderness,” and the founding of America’s National Parks. A second unit explores different racial groups’ cultural beliefs about, and approaches towards, the natural world, while the last third of the course addresses racial issues within the environmental movement, with a focus on the nature of environmental racism and the contemporary struggle for environmental justice. Students will write a variety of short papers, take part in a group presentation, and undertake an academic or creative final project.