Atlas of the Corn Belt
Atlas of the Corn Belt was funded by the University of Michigan Office of the Vice President for Research
David de Céspedes, John Ewanowski, Jared Owen Heming, Li Li, Danielle McDonnough, Dan McTavish
The Corn Belt appellation refers to the region of the United States in which the intense farming of corn has produced an agricultural surplus for the country and the globe. Although corn has been a native crop in the Americas for over 7,000 years, Yellow Dent – and its high starch economy– is a fruit of modernization. Beginning the mid nineteenth century, the development of agricultural technologies – from government subsidies and continental infrastructures to the genetic modification of the seed itself– greatly transformed the region from a mixed crop-and-livestock farming area to a highly specialized, high-yield, cash-grain, monocrop landscape, giving rise to what Vice President Henry A. Wallace, a pioneer of hybrid seeds, proclaimed as the “most productive agricultural civilization the world has ever seen.” In this view, the Corn Belt is abstractly defined as a commodity-supply zone within paradigms of quantity, specialization, and capitalist expansion, all narrated in foundational myths of agrarian republicanism.
Against such violence of abstract space, the Atlas of the Corn Belt constructs a spatial knowledge of the histories, constituents, mythologies, and ecologies of the Corn Belt to highlight differential concerns and through that project strategies of engagement in the territory.