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Haunted by Waters: Race and Place in the American West

Robert Terry Hayashi, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Cultural geographers have explored how the power to control definitions of place and dominant modes of their representation has naturalized the manipulation of environments and people. I am concerned not only with the impact of dominant ideologies, but with the interconnections of competing definitions of the West along ideological, material, and aesthetic lines. I discuss the ways in which American Indians, Asians, and Mormons experienced, shaped, and represented the American West to illustrate the various responses to it and the alternative plans for its development that are omitted from traditional discussions of the American West. I argue that the dominant ideas that shaped the environment of the West intertwined with ideas about race and that their intersection can be traced back to Thomas Jefferson's notions of American democracy. By focusing on a specific locale, the state of Idaho, and critically analyzing the policies of federal agencies informing its development and the legislation affecting Idaho's racial/ethnic minorities, I detail how the vision of an agrarian and all-white West became the controlling blueprint for its development. I focus on the period from 1805 to 2000 and use a comparative and cross-cultural framework that focuses particularly on Japanese Americans, but also includes Chinese, American Indians, and Mormons. My own travels through Idaho function as a framework by which my “reading” of the contemporary landscape reveals this historical connection between race and place in the American West.

Subject Area

American studies|Ethnic studies|American history|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Hayashi, Robert Terry, "Haunted by Waters: Race and Place in the American West" (2002). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3056237.