Photo: Professor Carl Abbott
Carl Abbott here: Historian and Urbanist, Portlander and Pacific Northwesterner.

I’m a specialist on the history of American cities and city planning, on the history of the American West and Sunbelt, and on the later twentieth century United States more generally.

My life has taken me to all quadrants of the United States: I was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, went through school in Dayton, Ohio, college in Philadelphia, and graduate school in Chicago. I’ve had jobs in Denver, Norfolk, and Portland and visiting academic positions in Washington and Grand Junction. I think of myself as a heartlander who’s followed the trail of Lewis and Clark from east to west.

I recently retired (officially at least) after teaching in Portland State University’s School of Urban Studies and Planning in five decades (not fifty years!).

I’ve written more about Portland than any other city (four books worth plus lots of commentary), but I’ve also published articles or books that have dealt with New York, Washington, Norfolk, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Chicago, Galena (IL), San Antonio, Denver, Seattle, Richland (WA), and Los Alamos (NM). I’ve never quite had the gumption to take on California.

In 2008 I published a “big” book that draws on more than thirty years of reading, teaching, and writing. How Cities Won the West: Four Centuries of Urban Change in Western North America tries to place cities in their central role as the engines of economic, social, and cultural change in western Canada and the United States—change both for good and for ill.

My current research and writing is taking me toward the analysis of literary sources.

In 2006 I published Frontiers Past and Future: Science Fiction and the American West, in which I deal with the different ways in which the narratives of the American West are used as templates for science fiction future (think homesteading stories in the mode of the little house on the big planet).

My recent book is Imagined Frontiers, a collection of essays that deal with the suburban frontier, American regional frontiers, and the future frontiers of science fiction. I cover topics from Cascadia to the Florida novels of Peter Mathiessen, from the film Falling Down to the TV series Firefly.

From time to time I collaborate with my wife Margery Post Abbott, whose own background spans biomedical research, urban planning, and teaching and writing about the Society of Friends (Quakers). We collaborated on a book dealing with the creation of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area . . . and on an article discussing the incorporation of the Quaker testimony of simplicity within institutional architecture.

A number of my publications are online through the Portland State University library. Search by my name and browse work of my Urban Studies and Planning colleagues at pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/usp_fac/.

I am a compulsive checker of my email at abbottc@pdx.edu.

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