Full Title of Thesis or Dissertation
Department/Program Conferring Degree
Critical Ethnic Studies
wilderness, settler colonialism, whiteness, multiculturalism, racial capitalism
This project investigates discourse about American wilderness, from the first European explorers through contemporary outdoor recreation, to reveal that wilderness is a socially constructed concept. By uncovering nine essential myths, this project argues that wilderness discourse is both influenced by and perpetuates American settler colonialism and racial capitalism. Section One traces a history of wilderness discourse to demonstrate that wilderness discourse establishes whites as citizens, as civilized, as courageous conquerors, as rightful owners to land, as protectors of space, and as beneficiaries of any potential profit. Section Two uses a content analysis of contemporary outdoor recreation websites to argue that attempts at multiculturalism in wilderness recreation fail to address underlying structures of power that justify settler colonialism and racial capitalism. Ultimately, Section Three advocates for “race radical” epistemologies of wilderness, using an analysis of visual art, as a means to challenge the structures of power embedded in wilderness discourse.
Corliss, Jamie, "White wilderness: race, capitalism, and alternative knowledges of natural space" (2019). College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations. 264.