For the Enjoyment of the People
The Creation of National Identity in American Public Lands
Sales Date: July 10, 2023
304 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: July 2023
- Published: August 2023
National parks are widely revered as “America’s best idea”—they are abundantly popular and remarkably noncontroversial in the United States. American presidents use these parks to stake their claims to environmentalism, assert a singular national history, and define a unified national identity, often doing so inside the parks themselves. However, the establishment and history of almost every national park has been riddled with conflict over competing claims to land, knowledge, and economic interests. Like any major area of public policy, the fissures present in debates over the national parks also represent important fracture lines in the public understanding of the meaning of America and of individual claims to citizenship. The park system, in other words, does a lot of political work for both presidents and the mass public, even though much of that work goes largely unnoticed. This book explores that political work by addressing themes of national origins and the dispossession of Indigenous peoples; monuments to the national past, heritage, and the assertion of a national narrative; environmentalism and natural resources; and exploitation of the national landscape for economic gain.
In For the Enjoyment of the People, Mary Stuckey looks at the politics of the parks as well as what the parks can teach us about citizenship and what it means to be American. Stuckey asserts that through the national parks we can hope to explain the past, clarify the present, and project the future. Combining interdisciplinary conversations about tourism, public memory, national history, park history, the presidency, and national identity, Stuckey contributes insightful ideas to the conversation on the history of national parks while examining the natural, military, and patriotic nature of America’s best idea.
“The rhetorical work of space and place is taken seriously in For the Enjoyment of the People. Stuckey supplies a brilliant interrogation of the ways that national parks have been used for claiming American identity and how the contestation of national identity can be forged from these same lands.”—Leslie A. Hahner, professor of communication, Baylor University
“In For the Enjoyment of the People, Stuckey expertly explores the presidential politics and rhetoric engaged around the creation and extension of the national park system, while simultaneously unpacking what she terms the ‘political work’ exercised by the parks themselves. Stuckey artfully delineates how the two historical paths merge and clash around multiple layers of identity and value for a host of actors. The tension between extraction, conservation, spirituality, and delineating identity is revealed through fascinating case studies of many of the United States’ most beautiful, visited, and fought over public areas.”—Diane J. Heith, author of The End of the Rhetorical Presidency?: Public Leadership in the Trump Era
List of Images
Important Events in the Development of American Public Lands and the National Park Service
Introduction: Interpreting “America’s Best Idea”
1. Establishing National Origins: Erasure, Dispossession, and American Empire
2. Claiming a National Past: Patriotism and Citizenship
3. Asserting a Singular National Narrative: Whose History and Whose Heritage?
4. Protecting National Resources: Citizens Stewards and the Nation’s Future
5. Measuring Value: Entitlement in the Land of Opportunity
Conclusion: “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of All the People”