Checkerboard: Complexities of the Grid and the Making of Place in the American Southwest


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


Art History


The checkerboard grid has played a significant role in the making of place in the Americas. Both the Spanish crown and the United States government chose the grid to impose physical and social order on the uncharted land and varied populations of the continent. These grids, while based on the same abstract ordering device, were conceived to work at different scales and to shape different kinds of space. This dissertation compares the two grid systems within the framework of the American Southwest, where they converged on land already marked by the settlement patterns of Native Americans, and explores the complex landscapes resulting from the juxtaposition and layering of the grids, and shaped by the people who strove to make meaningful places within them.