Politics of Place

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Politics of Place
Humanities Course
Course CodeLAND
Years Of Operation2004
Sites OfferedASU, BRI
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Course Description

From the CTY Course Catalog (2004):

Looming high in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Mt. Rushmore holds a mythic place in the American imagination, symbolizing democracy, individualism, and triumph over the severe topography of the American West. For the Lakota Sioux, however, Mt. Rushmore serves as a constant physical reminder of the loss—cultural and natural—suffered from the influx of Anglo Americans into their region.

How can physical spaces like Mt. Rushmore represent such drastically different ideologies? Geographer D. W. Meinig offers an answer: “Any landscape is composed not only of what lies before our eyes but what lies within our heads.” In this course, students interpret significant natural and human-produced landscapes such as Niagara Falls, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Hoover Dam, and glean from them the numerous and frequently contradictory meanings these places hold for Americans.

Working from primary and secondary sources, students approach landscapes from multiple perspectives and discern how places become the impetus for social debates. For example, students might scrutinize plush green lawns and golf courses in the context of water politics in the Southwest, or consider how industrialization and shipbuilding influenced urban landscapes of the Northeast. Emphasis is placed on developing critical writing and advanced research skills.