Ph.D. University of Washington, 2000.
I am a historian of the twentieth-century US whose focus is on environmental and cultural history. My research interests revolve around how and why different people understand environments and environmental change in the ways that they do, and the larger social implications of those understandings. I am especially interested in the evolution of certain kinds of professional knowledges, how those knowledges gain status and authority at particular moments, how they travel, and what happens when those knowledges come into conflict with the understandings of ordinary people. My book, Inescapable Ecologies: A History of Environment, Disease, and Knowledge, draws on environmental history and the history of the body to explore the ways in which medical professionals, sanitarians, and lay persons have or have not connected issues of disease and health to the larger environment in one particular place from the late nineteenth to the late twentieth century. My current project, tentatively titled Engineering a Modern World, tells a cultural, environmental, and postcolonial history of postwar “development” by following American water engineers in the decades after World War II as they moved between North America and other places to undertake a series of remarkably unsuccessful projects. It is a history of both technical knowledge-making practices and of a certain form of middle-class imperialism. In addition to telling a particular historical story, this project also engages with a broad methodological question—that is, how to narrate historical “agency”—by suggesting that human agency might be better described as something that emerges not simply out of abstracted human minds but out of, and through interaction with, specific social and environmental contexts. M y teaching and research reflect my continuing interest in issues of disease and environment and technical knowledge as well as historical methodology, consumption and consumerism, food and agriculture, the state and environmental politics, and the history of the US West.
Selected Awards and Honors
American Historical Association, John H. Dunning Book Prize (for Inescapable Ecologies), 2008
American Historical Association-Pacific Coast Branch Book Prize (for Inescapable Ecologies), 2007
Western Association of Women Historians Sierra-Keller Book Prize (for Inescapable Ecologies), 2007
American Society for Environmental History, Alice Hamilton Prize (best article), 2005
National Library of Medicine Publication Fellowship, 2004-05
Inescapable Ecologies: A History of Environment, Disease, and Knowledge . Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006. 346 pp.
“Environments of Disease,” in Oxford Handbook of Environmental History, ed. Andrew Isenberg, New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
“The Agency of Nature or the Nature of Agency?,” Environmental History 10 (January 2005), 67-69.
"The Fruits of Ill-Health: Pesticides and Workers’ Bodies in Postwar California," Osiris 19 (2004), 203-19.
"Finishing Nature: Harmonizing Bodies and Environments in Late Nineteenth-Century California," Environmental History 8 (January 2003), 25-52.
"The Changing Experience of Nature: Historical Encounters with A Northwest River," Journal of American History 86 (March 2000), 1600-1629.