Brenden W. Rensink

Dec 21, 2022

The North American West in the Twenty-First Century

University of Nebraska Press 2022

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 (U Nebraska Press, 2022), 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.

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.

Brady McCartney is an interdisciplinary environmental social scientist whose work (often) focuses on the North American West.

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