Acting Natural: The Sociopolitical Construction of Nature in the Mesilla Valley

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Hadfield, Elizabeth


Folch, Christine
Nelson, Diane Michele
Smithson, Brian
Yako, Louis

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This thesis explores how nature is imagined in the Mesilla Valley of Southern New Mexico. Through analyzing multiple forms of ethnographic fieldwork data collected in the Mesilla Valley, this thesis illuminates the ways in which current understandings of nature in the Mesilla Valley are deeply rooted in colonialism, domination, escapism, and white supremacy. The ethnographic fieldwork data collected and analyzed in this thesis primarily consist of (1) interviews and interactions with interlocutors in spaces of nature in the Mesilla Valley, (2) experiences with different forms of nature in the Mesilla Valley, and (3) representations of nature in the Mesilla Valley through sources such as advertisements, articles, museums, and archives. Based on this data, this thesis produces a counternarrative to the popular idyllic representation of nature; rather than a pristine entity, autonomous from humans, I show that the Mesilla Valley as nature only exists in relation to human brings, always connected to people, via the social, political, and historical forces that impact it. IN doing so, this thesis challenges the idea that nature can be defined in any one specific way; instead, nature emerges as a host of constellated meanings, holding multiple definitions, experiences, and realities within it and around it that make it nearly impossible to characterize as one essentialized thing. The thesis therefore calls for a more inclusive discourse surrounding nature, allowing for perspectives that show nature and human activity as inextricably linked.





Hadfield, Elizabeth (2017). Acting Natural: The Sociopolitical Construction of Nature in the Mesilla Valley. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

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