The North American West in the Twenty-First Century


The North American West in the Twenty-First Century

Edited by Brenden W. Rensink

420 pages
12 photographs, 3 illustrations, 12 maps, 3 graphs, 2 tables, index


November 2022


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November 2022


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November 2022


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November 2022


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About the Book

In 1893 Frederick Jackson Turner famously argued that the generational process of meeting and conquering the supposedly uncivilized western frontier is what forged American identity. In the late twentieth century, “new western” historians dissected the mythologized western histories that Turner and others had long used to embody American triumph and progress. While Turner’s frontier is no more, the West continues to present America with challenging processes to wrestle, navigate, and overcome.

The North American West in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Brenden W. Rensink, takes stories of the late twentieth-century “modern West” and carefully pulls them toward the present—explicitly tracing continuity with or unexpected divergence from trajectories established in the 1980s and 1990s. Considering a broad range of topics, including environment, Indigenous peoples, geography, migration, and politics, these essays straddle multiple modern frontiers, not least of which is the temporal frontier between our unsettled past and uncertain future. These forays into the twenty-first-century West will inspire more scholars to pull histories to the present and by doing so reinsert scholarly findings into contemporary public awareness.

Author Bio

Brenden W. Rensink is an associate director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies and an associate professor of history at Brigham Young University. He is the author of Native but Foreign: Indigenous Immigrants and Refugees in the North American Borderlands.


"An indelible cornerstone that future historians can build on in their study of the twenty-first-century American West."—Benjamin Kiser, H-Environment

"[The North American West in the Twenty-First Century is] a substantive study that is required reading for Western writers looking for a refresher course that argues convincingly that the Old West has been superseded by a West relevant for the times in which we live."—Abraham Hoffman, Roundup Magazine

"This book would be an excellent addition to any undergraduate course about the modern U.S. West, and will help build a new historiographical base for the field."—Sheila McManus, Journal of Arizona History

"These wide-ranging, well-researched essays accomplish Rensink's goal of pulling modern Western scholarship into the twenty-first century and demonstrate the continuing power of historic events to shape the modern American West."—Michèle T. Butts, South Dakota History

“Anthologies such as Trails Toward a New Western History (1991) have marked seminal moments in the developing field of western history. Brenden Rensink’s collection The North American West in the Twenty-First Century is a new landmark volume in this tradition, one that marks a seminal moment in our understanding of what contemporary western history is. The contributors—a distinguished and adventurous group of emerging and established scholars—take on the vital issues of environment, Indigenous sovereignty, labor and migration, and politics, and place the transition to the twenty-first century at the forefront of our thinking. Every scholar and student of the West needs to engage with this important collection.”—David M. Wrobel, author of America’s West: A History, 1890–1950

“This book is in the vanguard of scholarship on the twenty-first-century West. It will provide a benchmark for future generations of historians as they assess [this time period].”—Todd Kerstetter, author of Inspiration and Innovation: Religion in the American West

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Foreword, by Patricia Nelson Limerick
Introduction: Updating “Modern West” Histories for the Twenty-First Century 
Brenden W. Rensink
Part 1. Environmental Reckonings
1. Poisoned Wilderness: Superfund and Libby, Montana
Jennifer Dunn
2. Vulnerable Harvests: Agricultural Risk and Environmental Hazard in the Modern Great Plains West
David D. Vail
Part 2. Indigenous Lands and Sovereignty
3. Sacred Space and Identity: The Fight for Chi’chil Biłdagoteel (Oak Flat) and the History of the San Carlos Apachean Peoples
Marcus C. Macktima
4. Chess or Checkers?: Fracking in Greater Chaco
Soni Grant
Part 3. Urban and Rural Transformations
5. Westworld: Life on the High-Tech Frontier
Stuart W. Leslie and Layne R. Karafantis
6. Our Mission, No Eviction: Resisting Gentrification in San Francisco
Lindsey Passenger Wieck
7. Agritourism as Land-Saving Action in the New West
Jeffrey M. Widener
Part 4. Migrant Lives and Labor
8. “A Violation of the Most Elementary Human Rights of Children”: The Rise of Migrant Youth Detention and Family Separation in the American West 
Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez
9. Toxins in the Field: The CRLA, Farmworker Families, and Environmental Justice in Contemporary California
Taylor Cozzens
10. NAFTA’s Legacy in the High Country: Mexican Migration to Colorado’s Western Slope
Ernesto Sagás
Part 5. Unresolved Politics and Law
11. “I Oppose the ERA, but I Do Approve of Equal Rights for Women”: Gender and Politics in the Aftermath of the Equal Rights Amendment Campaign in the U.S. West
Chelsea Ball
12. LGBTQ Civil Rights in Washington State Since 1977: An Unresolved History
Peter Boag
13. The American West, Native Americans, and Controversies over the Antiquities Act: Bears Ears National Monument, a Utah Case Study
Andrew Gulliford
Frank Bergon

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