Friday, July 13, 2012

The Next Big Thing

I haven't yet blogged about my next major research project. I'm giving myself the summer off, my first extended stretch in recent memory without graduate or research work (beyond the day job, that is). Come this fall, however, I'll start digging into my shiny new ideas.

Basically, I want to look at the American mustang as an heritage symbol. I want to look at how the wild horse in the American west has been perceived, how it came to represent the culture of that space, how popular views of it played into preservation arguments that continue today. The research promises to fuse several things I find interesting: horses (I cop to the researcher's faux pas of working on something close to my heart, as I own and train a BLM mustang), the American West, the history of historic preservation, environmental history, the nineteenth century, and trying to put a finger down on a certain animating spirit.

My master's thesis investigated the tensions involved in creating the first regular, federal mounted regiment in American history, the United States Dragoons, and I found myself drawn to the more descriptive and narrative sections of the sources I was reading. How the dragoons thought about the land they were traversing - and the inhabitants of that land, both human and animal - often played back closely into their experiences in and perceptions of the military.

I'll start with travel narratives, both military and civilian. I've flagged over a dozen to start with. I have no pressing deadlines this time, other than my own curiosity, so I'll be moving more slowly than I have, and hope to take advantage of that to really build in a lot of contemplation time. There are all sorts of tricky historiographical questions to pull in as well, and I have some recommendations for good environmental and Western histories to use to begin to inform my thinking.

I'll be reporting back on my reading - both primary and secondary - and hopefully on my research trips and developing theories through this blog over the months. Watch this space starting in September.

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