Renée Barry, the 2021-2023 Erie Canal Research Fellow, in collaboration with Lemir Teron, an assistant professor at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science & Forestry, had their paper “Visualising Heritage: a critical discourse analysis of place, race, and nationhood along the Erie Canal” published in by Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability in February 2023.


The Erie Canal forever changed the American environment, both materially and ideologically. Since 1825, the iconic New York waterway’s primary use has evolved from transportation to recreation. Today, leisure along the Erie Canal celebrates the “Empire State” throughout a Rust Belt still reeling from the racialised environmental injustices of industrial development and decline. This study collectively examines a wide sample of Erie Canal representations along its historic corridor to see their most recurring pattern: the dominant Erie Canal discourse. Through critical discourse analysis, this research qualitatively examines what is most often included and excluded in Erie Canal communication. The findings reveal a nostalgic, imposed gaze underpinned by the powerful ideologies of place, race, and nationhood that sustain inequality. We argue that in order for Erie Canal heritage spaces to initiate a democratisation process, these reproducing discourses of exclusion must be taken seriously.

To learn more or request access to the full article, email Renée Barry at

We are grateful to the New York Power Authority, the New York State Canal Corporation, and the Reimagine the Canals initiative for funding and supporting this project.