Michael Wise | Department of History

Michael Wise

Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies
WH 259
Environmental History; Food and Agriculture; Animal-Human Relationships
Historical Geography; History of the American West


I am an environmental historian and cultural geographer with expertise in the histories of food, agriculture, and animal-human relationships. My research blends archival methods with the critical sensibilities of anthropology, film, food studies, Indigenous studies, and science studies, and also extends interdisciplinary ties to plant biology, wildlife ecology and other branches of the life sciences. A core theme of my work is to explore how historical narratives organize our understandings of the biophysical world. I'm especially interested in the role of day-to-day physical practices (such as farming, traveling, cooking, and eating) as historical expressions, as narrative performances that often go unrecognized.

Producing Predators, my first book, tied these themes together in an investigation of the history of American and Canadian campaigns to exterminate gray wolves in the Northern Rockies during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, an era that largely preceded the formalization of predator biology as a scientific field of study, and a moment in the environmental history of capitalism when fluid meanings of predator-prey relationships emerged as sociobiological allegories for demarcating legitimate and illegitimate forms of human and nonhuman labor.

My second book, Native Foods: Agriculture, Indigeneity, and Settler Colonialism in American History, brought to bear approaches from the fields of food studies and Indigenous studies to explore how biophysical patterns of settler colonial land use have worked as narrative frames for structuring historical views of Native agriculture. Following the lead of Indigenous food sovereignty advocates and activists, the book emphasized the presence and persistence of Native American cuisine, and documented how Native foods and agricultural techniques were never "lost," but only obscured by the peregrinations of colonialism, capitalism, and various other historical transformations over the last five centuries.

My current research is moving further into studying cultural memory in the present in relation to historical questions that concern food, place, embodiment, animal-human difference, and experiences of corporeal selfhood. My most recent book is a peer-reviewed, co-edited collection of essays with Carol J. Adams (author of The Sexual Politics of Meat) that considers the practice of "vegan cycling" not as the punchline to some joke about post-millenial lifestyle choices, but as the basis for exploring--both historically and philosophically--the emergence of new subject positions rooted around alternatives to dominant systems of animal exploitation and energy dependence. Titled Pedaling Resistance: Sympathy, Subversion, and Vegan Cycling, the book is the twenty-fourth and final volume of the University of Arkansas Press's Food and Foodways book series, which I have co-edited since 2016 with my UNT colleague, Jennifer Jensen Wallach.

Serving as the UNT Department of History's Director of Graduate Studies has prompted me to ask, more than usual, a number of other epistemological questions that concern the production of historical knowledge in relation to contexts of selfhood, family, possession, and the political and economic contexts of the historical discipline--which stories get told, which stories go untold, etc. I am experimenting with some different narrative forms to explore these topics in a new book manuscript that decenters the so-called "Great Surveyors" of the 19th-c American West by focusing on their mothers-in-laws.

UNT Faculty Profile

Selected Publications:

Pedaling Resistance: Sympathy, Subversion, and Vegan Cycling (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2024).

Native Foods: Agriculture, Indigeneity, and Settler Colonialism in American History (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2023).

Producing Predators: Wolves, Work, and Conquest in the Northern Rockies (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016).

"Who Counts? Effective Altruism and the Problem of Numbers in American Wildlife Conservation," in The Good it Promises, the Harm it Does: Critical Essays on Effective Altruism, eds. Carol J. Adams, Alice Crary, and Lori Gruen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023): 59-75.

"The Ties of Historical Geography and Critical Indigenous Studies: An Interview Forum," Historical Geography 46 (December 2018): 239-284.

"Seeing Like a Stomach: Food, the Body, and Jeffersonian Exploration in the Near Southwest," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 120:4 (April 2017): 463-491.

"The Place that Feeds You: Allotment and the Struggle for Blackfeet Food Sovereignty," in Food Across Borders (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2017): 163-180.

"Meat," in The Routledge History of American Foodways, eds. Michael D. Wise and Jennifer Jensen Wallach (New York: Routledge, 2016): 97-112.

"Killing Montana's Wolves: Stockgrowers, Bounty Bills, and the Uncertain Distinction Between Predator and Producer," Montana: The Magazine of Western History 63 (Winter 2013): 51-67.

"Colonial Beef and the Blackfeet Reservation Slaughterhouse, 1879-1895," Radical History Review 110 (2011): 59-82.

Selected Awards and Accomplishments:

2023 - President's Council Teaching Award, University of North Texas

2019 - Faculty Spotlight Award for Supporting Student Athletes, University of North Texas.

2018 - H. Bailey Carroll Award, Texas State Historical Association.

2014 - Vivian A. Paladin Award, Montana Historical Society.

1994 - Winner, Sixth-Grade Geography Bee, Zuni Elementary School.