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Improved Earth

Improved Earth: Prairie Space as Modern Artefact, 1869-1944

Rod Bantjes
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Improved Earth
    Book Description:

    The first systematic treatment of the spatial dimensions of the colonization of the prairie west,Improved Earthis a unique and thorough study certain to provoke new debates about the way space and time are imagined.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7603-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    Prairie colonization from the Dominion Land Survey to the rise of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) offers an ideal frame for a Foucaultian history of ‘spaces.’ Here modernist projects born of the ‘culture of time and space’ in the metropolitan centres of the Western world unfolded with stark clarity. The elemental prairie environment revealed essential features of the making of ‘abstract spaces of modernity’ or, more accurately, modernist spatial projects in three areas: bourgeois governance-at-a-distance, socialist ‘resistance,’ and the transformation of ‘nature.’ A vast territory, thinly settled by newcomers,² strangers to one another and to the environment, tested to the...

  6. Chapter 2 Groundwork: The Dominion Survey
    (pp. 15-35)

    With transfer of the North-West Territories from the Hudson’s Bay Company to the newly formed Dominion of Canada all but complete, legislators in 1867 found at their disposal ‘a grand estate, larger than most kingdoms, the very cream of which is larger than England and Wales together,’ and upon which ‘nature’ had ‘showered her treasures.’² Their first order of business was to plan for the ‘Dominion Survey’ of these possessions. An ‘extensive and accurate’ survey was, as Wakefield had advised in 1849, the groundwork for the ‘art of colonization.’ The Dominion Survey must not be conflated with its outcome-the Uncompromisingly...

  7. Chapter 3 Modernity in the Countryside: Contested Rural Space
    (pp. 36-64)

    America’s ‘mobile and uneasy’ rural population was a curious aberration to J.S. Mill when he wrote these lines in 1840. It was an anomaly for that ambiguous, fruitful, and mystifying conceptual dualism that nineteenth-century thinkers from Bentham to Marx used to understand their century. Dynamism, mobility, and progress – all the temporal motifs of the century were expected to animate the artificial space of the ‘urban.’ ‘Rural’ spaces and the social relations embedded within them could be relied upon to follow the deliberate and unvarying rhythms of nature. Soja has argued that space in critical modern consciousness has been conceived...

  8. Chapter 4 Local Governance as Spatial Practice: State Formation
    (pp. 65-90)

    Thomas Jefferson provided nineteenth-century revolutionaries with a template for the design of self-government. The ward, or New England township, was, he declared in 1816, ‘[t]he wisest invention ever devised by the wit of man for the perfect exercise of self-government, and for its preservation.’² Jefferson’s township was based on a spatial principle of design intended to ensure the maximum involvement of the governed in the governing of their own affairs. Its size was to be such ‘that every citizen can attend, when called upon, and act in person.’ The ‘local’ here is a spatial figure that transfers power to the...

  9. Chapter 5 Utopics of Resistance: Agrarian Class Formation
    (pp. 91-116)

    Notwithstanding the evidence of physical deconcentration of industry heralded by town planners at the turn of the century, the overriding logic of firms was still, as Marx had envisioned, towards the concentration of assets and the expansion of the spatial scope of operations along with a widening of the reach of the machinery of coordination. Mail-order houses epitomized the abstract terrain upon which wellcapitalized modern businesses could operate. With minimal physical embodiment, no local staff or outlets, they were capable of serving customers irrespective of place and coordinating orders and deliveries across whole continents. To achieve these spatial powers or...

  10. Chapter 6 Conclusion: The Trans-local and Resistance
    (pp. 117-126)

    The governance of the prairie west from the mid-nineteenth to the midtwentieth century exhibits in an unusually pure form the spatial practices that Giddens and others have associated with ‘modernity.’ The most visible and tangible legacy of this history is the modernist landscape – thousands of acres of land devoted to single crops in vast monochrome squares. By the end of the twentieth century, the architectural complement, the towering grain elevators so admired by Le Corbusier, had begun to give way to the even more uncompromisingly ‘industrial’ look of the new ‘inland terminals.’ Indeed, few of the landmarks that defined...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 127-162)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 163-194)
  13. Index
    (pp. 195-204)