I took John Clarke’s History of Environmentalism module last year. We read a few interesting pieces that I found to be relevant to this week in Transnational history. Sophie made an interesting point regarding how easy it is to forget that the ways in which we visualise the borders and landscape of various nations are constructed. This point reminded me of a few fascinating concepts I learned about last year in John’s module. After the Revolutionary War, the United States was desperate to culturally define itself in contrast to its European counterparts. Romantic images of wilderness and vast terrains were spread by novelists, poets, painters, and explorers during the early years of America’s independence. There was an almost frantic effort to label themselves as the nation with unmolested, virgin land. Nature and the vast expanse of wilderness was that focal point. Wilderness, therefore, became the centre of literary and artistic expression.

Conservationism, preservationism, and the current environmentalist movement all have their foundations to some extent in the maintenance of America’s natural grandeur – the wilderness that served as America’s first cultural identifier. I only ever approached this thought from a settler-colonial theoretical perspective—American national identity grew at the expense of indigenous history, culture, and identity erasure. I never thought about this piece from a transnational perspective as I have only written about wilderness in the context of North America. It is interesting to look at ‘wilderness’ in terms of boundaries and the international definition of self. The United States created the concept of ‘wilderness’ (a place devoid of human touch) to separate itself from Europe. Europe had thousands of years of artists, poets, and other magnificent cultural traditions that young America could not emulate. They, therefore, used ‘wilderness’ to separate themselves from the rest of the Western world and give themselves a cultural background previously non-existent. The concept of ‘wilderness’ has played a huge role in my dissertation and honours studies since John’s class and it is very interesting to look at it from a transnational perspective now.

constructing culture

One thought on “constructing culture

  • April 15, 2022 at 6:10 pm

    Hi Lily! The topic of constructing culture is very interesting, especially within the borders and how cultures are created within nations. This idea can also be appleid to tourism, especially when people are coming into countries to seek out the unique cultures that are different from their home countries. A lot of times people travel in order to escape the ordinary, mundane, and normal too oneself and see how other cultures operate. This can also be connected to the idea of authenticity within tourism, and how there is a fear of commercialization of culture. This can also be applied to what you talk about with conservation. Many national parks are sought out by tourists to see the natural beauty of a country, but there are also fears of pollution and disruption of the natural environment and animals living inside. The commercialization of these natural lands can affect the preservation efforts that have been put in place, and can bring harm to animals who come into contact with humans or trash that is left behind. While many people do have great respect for the environment, especially when visiting national parks, some people do just not care and can continue to harm the environment through their actions.

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