Author Archives: Borderlands History Team

About Borderlands History Team

Hi! I'm the group account for coauthors of Borderlands History Blog!

BHB at AHA 2017

We’ll be at the American Historical Association meeting in Denver this week and we’d like to invite you to our panel if you’re in town. Lina, Mike, Kris, and Jenny will be talking about their experience working with the blog and the role that digital humanities can play in thinking and teaching about the U.S.-Mexico border. Their roundtable will be held in room 401 of the Colorado Convention Center (Meeting Room Level) on Thursday, January 5th from 3:30-5pm. Continue reading

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Westworld and the Frontier Imaginary

Lina and Mike have been obsessed with Westworld over the last two months, and in this essay, they share their reflections on the first season of the series as it came to an end last Sunday. There are mild spoilers ahead, but the two authors keep the discussion focused on the major themes of the TV show as understood through a Borderlands history perspective. We hope you enjoy it. -ed

Westworld, set in the American West in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, tells the story of a futuristic amusement park where many of the “cast members” (to borrow a term of Disneyworld parlance) are not human, but rather humanoid robots.  In the narrative, there are frontier towns, Mexican outposts, renegade Confederate soldiers, violent indigenous tribes, and endless lines of gunslingers and prostitutes. They serve the wealthy clients who pay large sums to visit the park and indulge in the bacchanalia and bloodshed on offer. Undergirding this scifi-western fantasy, dozens of levels beneath the surface, is the infrastructure of the park, built by its director, Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), and run with the help of his chief deputies, Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) and Theresa Cullen (Sidsi Babbet Knudsen), whose departments also vie for power, while references are made to impatient, faraway investors.

Some of us on the Borderlands History blog have been quite taken by this sci-fi thriller and believe we can learn something about the contemporary understanding and continued obsession with the frontier through HBO’s newest hit.  Moreover, we see that the show not only uses the borderlands region as a material space where sexual and violent fantasies are played out by park visitors and workers alike, but a metaphor for other historical and modern borderlands.

Like Frederick Jackson Turner’s famous address before the American Historical Association, Westworld is also deeply concerned with the frontier. Whereas Turner’s frontier was geographic, this drama’s is scientific. Both use some concept of the frontier to understand how culture and society are shaped. Violence becomes the catalyst for westward expansion in Turner’s imagination, and helps push major turning points for the narratives constructed in the park for its patrons. Continue reading

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