Seminar on Environmental and Agricultural History (SEAH)

Who’s Responsible for the Shortcomings of Nature Bernadette Perez, University of California

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At the turn of the twentieth century, the beet sugar industry migrated from continental Europe to the U.S. West. Sugar companies thus joined settler farmers in the project of “culturing wilderness.” Focusing on the colonization of the Upper Arkansas River Valley in Colorado, this talk examines how the industry responded to the obstacles and failures it encountered on the Plains. Unpredictable seasons, unruly beets, and environmental contingencies raised the question: who was responsible when “nature” failed? How this question was addressed had profound implications for the rights of whiteness, the objects of U.S. governance, and the poverty and violence of agricultural labor.

This event is part of the MIT Seminar on Environmental and Agricultural History sponsored by the History Faculty and the Program in Science, Technology and Society. For more information contact