Naturalizing whiteness : the politics of landscape at Whitman College
May 9, 2018
Department or Program
Through an analysis of Whitman College’s Outdoor Program and the maintenance of its campus grounds, I argue that Whitman College, through the production of “nature,” cultivates white subjects who are ignorant to the labor, violent histories, and relationships of displacement which produce the nature they value and the places they inhabit, both on campus and off. This thesis argues that it is the constitutive elements of Whitman, rather than a simple lack of diversity or accessibility, which reproduce the project of colonialism and whiteness at Whitman, even in the seemingly universal “oasis” of a beautiful campus or the widely celebrated “escape” of outdoor recreation. The nature ideal produced through Whitman’s politics of landscape bolsters colonial myths of liberal white innocence, mobility, and agency, while making invisible any other relationships people have with “nature”: indigenous people displaced from “protected areas” and National Parks, people of color associated with backwards and dangerous “wilderness,” and working class people who labor on and with nature for a living.