Race, Nature, Nation, and Property in the Origins of Range Science

  • Nathan F. Sayre
Chapter

Abstract

Nomadic or itinerant livestock herding declined dramatically in the western United States between the 1870s and the 1930s. Historians have emphasized two causes of the decline: racial discrimination against herders and federal laws that restricted public lands grazing to owners of nearby private ranch properties. Range science played an important and overlooked intermediary role between these factors by linking the success of rangeland settlement to the purity of livestock breeds, the relative fitness of native versus non-native plants, and the supposed habits and traits of people of various types. Interconnected assumptions about race, nature, nation, and property were simultaneously incorporated into range research and euphemized via the norms and language of science itself. Producing range science as a science thus served to depoliticize and legitimize the dominance of land-owning, Anglo stockmen over western rangelands.

Notes

Acknowledgments

In writing this chapter, I benefited from generous and constructive feedback from many people, including Rebecca Lave, Christine Biermann, Diana Davis; participants in a seminar discussion hosted by University of California-Berkeley’s Social Science Matrix, including Bill Hanks, Carla Hesse, Marion Fourcade, Terry Regier, Lynsay Skiba, and Istvan Rev; and a number of graduate students with whom I am fortunate to work, including Christopher Lesser, Julia Sizek, Robert Parks, and Mike Simpson. The usual disclaimers apply.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nathan F. Sayre
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of California-BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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