Brad A. Bays
My research interests center on questions of historical and cultural geography, political geography, material culture, and cultural landscapes. I am especially interested in twentieth century agricultural change in the southern Great Plains, particularly the diffusion of mechanical and organizational innovations on farms that drove the emergence of areal specialization and productivity increases, expansion of operational scales, and consequent consolidation of landholdings, rural-to-urban migration, and rural depopulation.
My funded research has been centered on documenting and assessing the vernacular landscape, including both urban and rural residential, industrial, and agricultural resources. From this work, I am working on a field guide to Oklahoma’s farm and ranch landscapes. This work has sparked new questions about how the several postwar generations’ perceptions of farming and farm landscapes have drifted into the realm of myth, even amid information-driven consumer trends promoting food that is healthy and environmentally and socially responsible. In terms of political geography, I have examined the development of the legal landscapes created by U.S. Indian law.
More recently, I have sought to assess the political culture of the counties of the southern and central Great Plains, arguably the most libertarian-conservative region of the United States. My current paper-length projects examine how marketers utilize highly-idealized landscapes to convey messages on food product labels, as well as an electoral geographical history of changes in Oklahoma liquor laws. In the near future, I hope to investigate what I call the mostly-invisible landscape, places that only a handful of people ever view or experience.