Morta Las Vegas: CSI and the Problem of the West

Morta Las Vegas: CSI and the Problem of the West

Morta Las Vegas: CSI and the Problem of the West

Morta Las Vegas: CSI and the Problem of the West


Through all its transformations and reinventions over the past century, "Sin City" has consistently been regarded by artists and cultural critics as expressing in purest form, for better or worse, an aesthetic and social order spawned by neon signs and institutionalized indulgence. In other words, Las Vegas provides a codex with which to confront the problems of the West and to track the people, materials, ideas, and virtual images that constitute postregional space.

Morta Las Vegas considers Las Vegas and the problem of regional identity in the American West through a case study of a single episode of the television crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Delving deep into the interwoven events of the episode titled "4 x 4," but resisting a linear, logical case-study approach, the authors draw connections between the city--a layered and complex world--and the violent, uncanny mysteries of a crime scene. Morta Las Vegas reveals nuanced issues characterizing the emergence of a postregional West, moving back and forth between a geographical and a procedural site and into a place both in between and beyond Western identity.


There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.

— Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet (Arthur Conan Doyle)

1. meadows

Las vegas is a Spanish term for rich, fertile valleys, and it is usually translated as “the meadows.” Contemporary visitors to Las Vegas, Nevada, might well wonder why the urban gambling mecca in the desert is named for meadows, but in fact the area was originally settled exactly because of its abundant water. the valley’s creek, fed by underground aquifers, attracted Paiute and other indigenous peoples for millennia before the arrival of European explorers. It was in the late 1820s and 1830s that traders and travelers on the Old Spanish Trail became aware of the oasis and started referring to the area as las vegas. in 1844 John C. Fremont, exploring what he called the Great Basin, mapped the area, and in 1855 a group of Mormons established a short-lived settlement, using the Las Vegas Creek for irrigation. the site was later turned into a large ranch, with cattle, horses, and fruit trees, and was eventually sold, in 1902, to the San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad. Three years later, in 1905, the town of Las Vegas was established.

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