I Am (Not) An Animal: Ideas of Nature, (Social) Darwinism, and Recreation

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Association for Studies in Literature and Environment (ASLE), Panel for the Tenth Biennial Conference, May 28-June 1, 2013, The University of Kansas, Lawrence
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This panel will investigate the intersection of two key areas of inquiry. First: in recognizing evolution, human beings perceived ourselves as falling back into animality. Where exactly did we fall? Social Darwinism, for instance, has imagined human beings as exposed to a brutal underlying reality, and that idea has done much to create real brutality. Second, how do ideas of human animality intersect with the high value placed upon recreation, especially since the second industrial revolution? As Anne Norton suggests in her book *Republic of Signs*, with workplaces often marked by limited agency and dull repetition, many turn to spheres outside of work to define themselves. That makes recreation a particularly telling terrain for understanding how we imagine our identities. So what can we learn from studying recreation since Darwin? What does recreation tell us about widely held ideas of nature and animality? What does it tell us about the force of naturalized gender norms in activities that matter to people?

Our papers can study a variety of topics. Possible questions include: Is shopping a form of escaping nature? In other words, is shopping postnatural? What ideologies of nature and animality inform outdoor pursuits like rock climbing, whitewater kayaking, bicycling, and so on? What differences in ideology are introduced by events like the Gay Games? When is competition a form of social Darwinism? When is it not? How does American football thrive on a barely submerged ideology of violence? What *is* the ideology of community in football? How does an embrace with a purported notion of animality drive boxing and, more recently, cage fighting?

Please submit proposals of 750 words or fewer (the guideline for the conference more generally) by 1 November 2012 to Ryan Hediger at rhediger@kent.edu. Please send questions to that address as well. The format of this panel (or, possibly, panels) can be determined by its members, once we have a good idea of who we are (the options are 20 minute presentations, 15 minute presentations, paper jam/8 minute presentations, or roundtable). This year's conference guidelines further stipulate that "Panel proposals must include participants from more than one institution, and the participants cannot all have the same academic rank (that is, panelists cannot be all full professors or all graduate students, for example)." See the website for more information about the conference: http://asle.ku.edu/.