Witches, Wolves, and Wilderness: Notions of Purity and Righteous Domination in Early America

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Burton, Neil
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2020-06-01T00:00:00-07:00
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History
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Abstract
An examination of the ideological, theological, and archetypal forces behind early New England colonists' conception of America as the potential for a "New Canaan", an idealized and restocked version of the overburdened, at-capacity, denuded agrarian Europe they left behind but which continued to shape their perceptions of their ongoing experience. In particular, their conception of an omnipotent, judgmental, white, male anthropomorphized God would guide their notions of their own sense of entitlement and supremacy in these new lands inhabited by non-white people and wild non humans. This vision would affect nearly all early American practices and attitudes relating to 'New' World flora, fauna, conceptions of wilderness, and the disintegration of indigenous societies, and it would influence the shape taken by emerging extraction and subsistence economies. In addition, the transmission of European cultural elements such as witch hysteria and an emerging proto capitalism of colonial resource commodification to New England was emblematic of this overarching worldview. The subordination or elimination of animals, plants, and whole ecosystems by colonists often mirrored constructed human social and gender subordination hierarchies and was often powered by compulsive acquisitive proto-capitalist behavior from the subsistence level to the owner class
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