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The Pan-American Highway: Mobility and Encounter in Landscapes of Difference

Rosa Ficek, Universidad de Puerto Rico en Cayey, Fellow 2018–2019

I made significant progress on a book manuscript on the history and politics of the Pan-American Highway. I researched transcontinental road trips and analyzed travel accounts from the early 20th century. Beyond these primary sources, the Garden and Landscape Studies program enriched my analysis because I learned about how planners and designers approach roads and the built environment. This has shaped my thinking about how motorists see and experience landscapes. Attending the “Landscape, Sport, Environment” symposium has encouraged thinking about road trips in relation to the history of automobile racing, and how the national and regional politics of these mobilities shape and are shaped by the environment. Working with the library collection has also generated unexpected insights into the role of plants and animals in the making of the Pan-American Highway and the resulting landscapes. This allowed me to conceptualize landscape change in ways that decenter anthropocentric approaches. These insights inform my manuscript and, in the meantime, have resulted in two essays: one on cattle recently published in Current Anthropology, and another on pasture grass to be published by Stanford University Press in the digital collection Feral Atlas.