The Land Speaks: New Voices at the Intersection of Oral and Environmental History
Kathy Newfont of University of Kentucky and I are co-editing a collection of essays exploring the way everyday people talk about their relationships to public lands. The Land Speaks, forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2017, explores the intersections of two vibrant fields, oral history and environmental studies. The pieces cover urban, rural, suburban, and wilderness areas. They examine forests, rivers, lakes, and agricultural fields. They treat crops, trees, dunes, mammals, insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Narrators and authors contest established narratives and shed light on entirely untold stories. They consider topics ranging from environmental activism to wilderness management to public health. They raise questions about the roles of water, neglected urban spaces, land ownership concepts, protectionist activism, and climate change. Geographically they treat nearly every region of the United States, and one is focused on the Caribbean—a liminal space outside the U.S. and tangentially connected to it—thus opening up the topic to an international audience. Most address the particular contributions oral history can make to understanding issues of public land. Two concern women’s roles in establishing and managing public lands, one looks at African American smokejumpers, and one offers perspectives from Hopi elders. The authors argue that oral history can capture communication from the land and serve as a tool for environmental problem solving.