Part I. Vernacular Landscapes
Landscape Analysis (17 pages)
Cultures, Material Cultures, and Cultural Landscapes
Components of Cultural Landscape
This chapter provides
the conceptual and spatial contexts for the subsequent topical chapters. It
defines terms and relates them to each other. Culture, as learned behavior, is
defined by language, religion, racial/ethnicity, food, clothing, and politics.
But not all human behaviors result in material forms, either as objects like
books and cars or as whole landscapes. Some of the most important critical
cultural ideas and behaviors result in cultural landscapes. Specific cultural
groups express themselves in space by manipulating topography, vegetation,
building structures, and settlement patterns.
Cultural landscapes reveal
the meanings and values of specific groups, both dominant and marginal; thus,
providing unique insights into North American cultures. The diverse U.S.
cultural landscapes are the focus of this book, but aspects of Canadian and
Mexican landscapes are also included as they complement the themes developed for
the United States.
Landscapes (37 pages)
Extinct Utopian Groups: Shakers, Oneida, Zoarist, Amana
Practicing Utopian Groups: Amish, Old Order Mennonites, Hutterites
Communal groups of the past
and present illustrate the most comprehensive and distinctive differences in
social structure, economics, and landscapes from the dominant culture. In
contrast to the ideological dominance of individualism in the former settler
empires of the USA and Canada, utopian groups created and continue to maintain
strong communities, socially and spatially. As part of the continental empire of
Spain, Europeans came to Mexico as royal, military, and religious administers
rather than as settler families and thus utopian settler communities are rare.
Extinct utopian groups, such
as the Shakers, Oneida, Zoarist, and Amana, are compared with current ones:
Amish, Old Order Mennonites, and Hutterites. Distinct ethnic origins, religions,
and social organizations of each group resulted in particularly revealing
cultural landscapes. Their reasons for existence and their organization was/is
in sharp contrast to the dominant settlements in the United States and Canada.
Religious Landscapes (42 pages)
Mormons in Utah
Roman Catholics in Quebec
Roman Catholics in Central Minnesota
Religion is a critical aspect of culture,
whether expressed directly in spirituality or indirectly in more subtle and
general values and behaviors. Almost all utopian groups had/have a strong and
distinctively different religious raison d'etre. The Mormons were such a utopian
group with their unorthodox beliefs, behaviors, and landscapes, often expressing
more practical than religious needs.
The U.S. government’s restriction of religious
freedom to exclude the religious practice of polygamy and its persecution of
Mormon polygamists changed their religion to meet dominant cultural norms. The
inherent religious conflicts between dominant and minority views and groups
delineate the meaning of religious freedom and by extension the scope of all our
In contrast to the original Mormons, Roman
Catholics always represented a major cultural group in the United States, even
if they were discriminated against by the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant elites.
In such places as Quebec, parts of the Midwest, and in Mexico, Catholics
predominated and created numerous institutions and extensive landscapes. The old
French-speaking Catholic settlements of Quebec are compared with the newer and
multi-ethnic Catholics of Central Minnesota.
Reservations (34 pages)
Landscapes of Slavery (38 pages)
U.S.-Mexican Borderlands (39 pages)
Japanese Concentration Camps (14 pages)
The Canadian and U.S. governments used racial
categories in discriminatory ways to interact with racial minorities. Four types
of racist landscapes emerged. 1) Indian reserves and reservations were created
in the settler empires of Canada and the USA, respectively; whereas the much
larger numbers of Indians in Mexico were never spatially ghettoized as in the
North. 2) Only in the Unites States did slavery play such a critical role in the
economy and culture, resulting in wide-spread landscapes of slavery and their
transformations after the Civil War. 3) The shared colonial and contemporary
relations of Mexico and the USA resulted in the Chicano borderlands. 4) During
World War II, both Canada and the USA interned Japanese in camps.
Placeless and Postmodern Landscapes
Postmodern Landscapes (32 pages)
Central Business Districts
Commercial Strips and Suburbia
Earlier ethnic, religious, and utopian landscapes emerged gradually over
time as they expressed the diverse cultures of local people. Industrialization,
urbanization, and suburbanization created “machines spaces.” For critics of
these auto-based landscapes, placelessness reflects large-scale, impersonal, and
instantaneous built-environments for outsiders. City downtowns and suburban
commercial strips and housing subdivisions provide good examples of “flat”
landscapes. In respond to placelessness, postmodern places have emerged since
Real Fantasy Landscapes
Turning Entertainment Fantasies into Realities
and Disney World: Turning TV Fantasies into Realities
and Ethnic Towns
By definition, placelessness lacks
distinctiveness; yet manufactured uniqueness is characteristic of postmodern
flatscapes. Movies and television shows often require geographical settings. In
the back-lots of movie companies, such as Universal Studios, directors select
appropriate vegetation, lighting, weather conditions, and buildings based on
commonly accepted, or stereotypical, ideas of places. They create cultural
landscapes that are functionally placeless while convening a sense of place.
Even the real landscapes of the wealthy stars and the rich of Hollywood are, by
most people’s living standards, unreal or fantasy places. TV cartoon characters
and Hollywood fantasy sets were turned into “real” people and places in
Disneyland and later in Disney World. Furthermore, fantasy and reality merge in
places that commemorate, and often then, sell
frontier myth and cowboy culture in historically accurate places like Western
ghost towns from mining and ranching eras.
Sexist Landscapes (33 pages)
New Orleans: Southern Hospitality
Las Vegas: Gambling and Prostitution
The unique places of New Orleans and Las Vegas
are compared and contrasted for their landscapes of hedonism (alcohol, sex,
gambling, and general partying) and of ordinariness (unique local environmental
settings, and commercial and residential patterns). The ultimate in real fantasy
landscape is Las Vegas. The earliest designs of casinos in Las Vegas were
influenced by Hollywood and the current glitz and entertainment continues this
connection. Las Vegas is the largest cultural landscape of postmodern
consumption and a exaggerated metaphor for the USA in particular, less so for
Canada and even less relevant to contemporary Mexico.
What are the lessons to be learned from examining the critical cultural
landscapes of North America, particularly in the United States?
Enormous cultural diversity is typical, in the past and present.
Religious freedom has been highly
Racial and ethnic intolerance
continues to be common.
Our everyday lives and places are
Artificial experiences and places
are sold as fun and unique, negating our own personal worth and worlds.
Topographic Map Exercises (19
The topographic map and church assignments
provide yet another perspective on reading the cultural landscapes of
distinctive groups in Canada and the United States.
* Amana Colonies in Iowa
* Hutterites and Mennonites in Manitoba
* French Long Lots in Quebec
* Distribution of U.S. Churches, by
* Indian Reservations in
Indian Reservations and Spanish Grants
in New Mexico
* Black Hamlets and Horse Estates in Kentucky
High Income Areas in Chicago, Illinois
* Sinning in Las Vegas, Nevada