Environmentalism and Leisure Spaces--ASLE May 28-June 1, 2013--University of Kansas
In No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920 (1994), T. Jackson Lears argues that the transition of the U.S. economy from agriculture to agribusiness and blue-collar labor to white-collar work similarly transformed old sites of industry (i.e. the farm, the woods) to new sites of leisure. However, the postmodern period has seen these sites become increasingly mediated by technology and urbanity, resulting in carefully constructed "natural built" environments—the city park and the urban farm, where recreation is moderated by creation, and landscape by landscaping. The rise of the postmodern "natural" leisure space asks crucial questions both about the packaging of nature into fungible units and the narratives that we create and circulate about those units.
Of particular interest to the organizers of this panel are the following questions: what does the reproduction of natural space as leisure space reveal about conceptions of nature as a category? How do books, poetry, and popular media such as tourist advertisements, documentaries, and interpretive signage capitalize on the leisure value of natural settings? How are "user-unfriendly" areas of nature such as glaciers, deserts, oceans, volcanoes, and waterfalls reimagined as viable sites of recreation? What does the process of transforming nature into a leisure commodity look like, and what are its (aesthetic, economic, environmental, social, philosophical) benefits and costs? What kind of usage or consumption does the label of "leisure space" entail for our environments?
Topics to be addressed in this panel may include, but are by no means limited to: national, state, and local parks, the urban farm and community garden as sites of recreation, environmental theme parks and ecotourism, the representational logic of spaces such as trail systems and campgrounds, golf courses and sports spaces, artificially-created lakes, islands, and greenways, or any other form of "manufactured" nature intended for leisure.