"The Past is the Key to the Present" Landscape of the Upper North Fork American River

Authors: Sean J Pries*, University of California
Topics: Landscape, Cultural and Political Ecology, Cartography
Keywords: landscape, post humanism, political ecology, cartography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Estherwood, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

One means of studying the landscape of a region is to examine the affective qualities of the way the place has been represented through time. Representations affect our perceptions of and shape our actions within that place. The North Fork American River’s headwaters basin ownership structure is a mixture of national forest, properties owned by land trusts, as well as sizeable areas in private ownership and largely managed for conservation purposes. Derived from a larger project seeking to understand the conservation network of the North Fork, in part, as the result of the way it has been represented through time, this is an attempt at a posthumanist political ecology of the landscape of the North Fork American. During the Gold Rush era, maps served as guides to the gold fields and as agents erasing indigenous occupation. Modern maps of the conservation network of the North Fork built on GIS data tell very different stories depending upon what dataset is utilized. These instruments are discussed not only as products of power relations with ecological consequences but also as landscape agents with the capacity to act and be acted upon. Understanding the cartographic choices that shape their creation is critical, but so too is seeking to grasp the effects these maps have upon our perception regardless of our knowledge of their origins and creators. Unveiling what historic maps seek to obscure strengthens our ability to interrogate modern creations.

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