Hannah Bakken MA Critical Studies and MFA Print Media Thesis 2020
Unconscious Boundaries and Paradigmatic Capture: The Fence in the American West
The fence is an omnipresent material object in the rural American West, yet it is often unperceived — it is expected and therefore taken for granted and unquestioned. The fence is a direct, material manifestation of the settler colonial power structures we function within; we live and remain within physical boundaries but also within individual and communal ideological boundaries; both of which keep us from deeper connections and realizations of experiences past our own. This paper reminds that settler colonialism is a structure and not an event — a structure of “paradigmatic capture” which is so deeply entrenched into the thought, ideology, and visual perceptions of the American West that it is rendered unnoticed. This structural paradigm limits future possibilities of relationality in order to sustain itself and creates a situation of “environmentally unconscious” perception — a foreshortening of attentiveness to the fence and therefore the structure of settler colonialism. This thesis argues that it is urgent for settlers to alter their way of looking inward and outward by engaging with the materiality of the fence. By exposing and advocating for an ongoing individual engagement with the material presence of the fence and therefore settler coloniality, this work presents a tool of close looking for a consistent reprocessing and revisioning of an individual experience through meditation, care, and settler responsibility in order to cultivate future efforts towards decolonization and healing in the American West.