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Department of

Ethnic Studies

Colin Fisher

Associate Professor and Chair

Colin Fisher has been a member of the USD history department since 2002. He teaches classes in U.S. environmental history, environmental visual culture, history of food, and history and memory, among others. He also teaches the senior thesis sequence required of all history majors. His research centers on minority cultures of nature in the United States.


Ph.D., University of California, Irvine; History

M.A., University of California, Irvine; History

B.A., Lawrence University, History

Scholarly and Creative Work

My scholarly work explores minority cultures of nature. In my current book project, Urban Green: Minority Cultures of Nature in Industrial Chicago (forthcoming, University of North Carolina Press, 2015), I argue that it was not just affluent Anglo Americans who sought nature during their leisure. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, recent immigrants, their American-born children, African Americans, and industrial workers also sought temporary escape from the “artificial” urban environment by venturing to landscapes that they viewed as green and therapeutic. In search of relief, they travelled to wilderness parks on the outskirts of the city, but they also found nature in city parks, commercialized urban groves, beer gardens, vacant lots, and along the shores of Lake Michigan or Chicago’s polluted rivers. I also document how marginalized Chicagoans used landscapes in “nature’s nation” to image themselves as German, Irish, Polish, African American, and as members of an international revolutionary proletariat.

Other work includes:

“Nature in the City: Urban Environmental History and Central Park” in OAH Magazine of History (October 2011). [This article explores how urban environmental historians might interpret Manhattan’s Central Park, a site that not only obscures its own artifice but also the natural systems at work in the supposedly artificial city that surrounds it].

“Race and U.S. Environmental History,” in A Companion to American Environmental History, ed. Douglas Sackman (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2010). [This historiographical article explores how U.S. environmental historians over the last forty years have addressed the experiences of racialized populations.]

“African Americans, Outdoor Recreation, and the 1919 Chicago Race Riot,” in “To Love the Wind and the Rain”: Essays in African American Environmental History, ed. Dianne Glave and Mark Stoll (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005). [This article explores African-American efforts to escape the ghetto and come into contact with nature, either at black resorts such as Idlewild or in urban green spaces such as Washington Park on Chicago’s South Side. I argue that white efforts to limit black access to nature played a significant role in the devastating 1919 race riot.]

Teaching Interests

Fisher is a committed teacher who enjoys cultivating a critical understanding of the past among his students. He teaches classes in U.S history, environmental history, nature and visual culture, and history of food. He also teaches the history thesis sequence required of all graduating seniors.