Race and the Real California
The Nature of California: Race, Citizenship, and Farming since the Dust Bowl
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/05/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21598
Book review of Sarah D. Wald's The Nature of California: Race, Citizenship, and Farming since the Dust Bowl.
Sarah D. Wald in The Nature of California examines how meanings of citizenship, labor and farming have been contested and represented in literature since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Although the "ideal images" about the farmer have changed over time, they have been closely related with claims of who deserves substantial citizenship or who belongs to this nation and has rights to its resources and landownership.
For Wald, the ideas about who are "natural" citizens cannot be understood without examining the dimensions of race and gender. The white male has been perceived as a natural (and thus "universal") citizen who "receives the promise of equality before the law," whereas the "nonwhite nonmale subject" has been marked as "different" and existed "outside of, or on the margin of, universality."
The Nature of California is part of a "third wave" of ecocriticism that incorporates politics and theories of race, as well as gender, queerness and anti-colonialism, into understanding environment and environmentalism. Human society and nature cannot be separated, just as discourses about nature and those about race have been closely intertwined.
For example, those who were concerned about the "purity of nature" often blamed nonwhite immigrants for "polluting" it by taking up and using natural resources (land, water, etc.) as well as polluting "racial purity." The fear of immigrants was often presented in the fear of "invasive foreign flora and fauna."