THE BUFFALO COMMONS: METAPHOR AS METHOD*

Authors

  • DEBORAH E. POPPER,

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      Dr. Deborah Popper is an assistant professor of geography at the College of Staten Island/City University of New York, Staten Island, New York 10314–6609.

  • FRANK J. POPPER

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      Dr. Frank Popper is a professor of urban studies at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901–1958.


  • *

    We presented an earlier version of this paper to a session on “Whither the Buffalo Commons?” cosponsored by the Rural Development and the Contemporary Agriculture and Rural Land Use Specialty Groups at the 1998 annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers in Boston. Bradley Baltensberger chaired the session; he and Darrell Napton organized it; and Martyn Bowden, Bret Wallach, and Stephen White commented on the paper. Karen Danielsen, Michael Greenberg, Amy Hannon, Briavel Holcomb, William Howarth, John Kasbanan, Donald Krueckeberg, Robert Lake, Robert Lang, Catherine Lavender, Robert Mason, Anne Matthews, Charles Popper, Dona Schneider, Paul Starrs, Mary Ann Vinton, and Richard Wakeford offered comments at various stages in the preparation of this article, and we thank all of them.

Abstract

ABSTRACT. By crafting regional metaphors, geographers can help the public to understand and expand regional choices. As a metaphor for the United States' Great Plains, the Buffalo Commons stands for a large-scale, long-term ecological-economic restoration project. It has found an attentive audience in the last thirteen years and is in practice springing to life in the region. Comparable metaphors for other regions dealing with structural change are explored in this essay, using as main examples the Pacific Northwest, Detroit, and big cities generally. Metaphors, we conclude, differ from usual social-science tools because they engage the public in forming policy. The most effective regional metaphors are ambiguous, open-ended, and somewhat disconcerting.

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