- Associate Professor
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, material objects, and environmental change in the ways that they do, and the material and social implications of those understandings. Although my interest in history developed while I was an undergraduate, for many years I pursued my concern with environmental issues through the study of engineering, science, and policy. In addition to an AB and Ph.D. in History, I also hold a BS in Civil Engineering and an MS in Energy and Resources.
As a twentieth-century historian, I am especially interested in the evolution of certain kinds of professional knowledges and identities, how those knowledges and identities gain status and authority at particular moments, how they travel, and what happens when individuals encounter different environments and alternative ways of understanding the world. 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 doctors, public health officials, engineers, and lay persons have understood the intertwined issues of environment, health, race, and disease in one particular place from the late nineteenth to the late twentieth century. This book was awarded the American Historical Association’s John H. Dunning Prize, the American Historical Association-Pacific Coast Branch Book Prize, and the Western Association of Women Historian’s Serra-Keller Prize. My current book project continues my interest in the production of knowledge, while placing that interest in a transnational frame and looking at a different set of concerns and actors. Tentatively titled Engineering Modern Lands, this book tells a cultural, environmental, and postcolonial history of postwar “development” by following American water engineers in the decades immediately after World War II as they moved between North America and other places to undertake a series of remarkably unsuccessful projects. It is both a history of how distinct local environments shaped transnational knowledge-making practices in the mid-twentieth century, and an examination of American imperial projects from the perspectives of the engineers, technicians, and laborers who tried to implement those projects on the ground.
My teaching and research reflect my continuing interest in issues of environment and culture, disease and public health, science and technology studies, and the history of the US West, as well as more recent interests in consumption and consumerism, material culture studies, and transnational environmental history. I currently serve on the Executive Committee of the American Society for Environmental History, and on the editorial boards of Environmental History and Environmental Justice.
U.S. Environmental History (HSTAA 221/ENVIR 221)
Consumption and Consumerism in Modern America (HSTAA 371)
Colloquium on the Environmental History of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest (HST 498)
Colloquium on Nature and Culture in Modern America (HST 498)
Comparative Environmental History
Environment, Disease, and Histories of Empire in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
Regional History in a Transnational Age: The American West
US Environmental History: Approaches and Topics
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.