Nature and Social Theory

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Nature and Social Theory

Adrian Franklin SAGE Publications London • Thousand Oaks • New Delhi © Adrian Franklin 2002 First published 200

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Nature and Social Theory

Nature and Social Theory

Adrian Franklin

SAGE Publications

London • Thousand Oaks • New Delhi

© Adrian Franklin 2002 First published 2002 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without permission in writing from the Publishers. SAGE Publications Ltd 6 Bonhill Street London EC2A 4PU SAGE Publications Inc. 2455 Teller Road Thousand Oaks, California 91320 SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd 32, M-Block Market Greater Kailash - I New Delhi 110 048 British Library Cataloguing in Publication data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 0 7619 6377 4 ISBN 0 7619 6378 2 (pbk) Library of Congress catalog card number available

Typeset by SIVA Math Setters, Chennai, India Printed in Great Britain by The Cromwell Press Ltd, Trowbridge, Wiltshire


List of Figures Chapter 1




Chapter 2

Thinking about Nature 1: Disciplinary Beginnings


Chapter 3

Thinking about Nature 2: The Nature Crisis?


Chapter 4

A New Anthropology of Nature


PART II Chapter 5



Chapter 6



Chapter 7



Chapter 8

Politicising Nature






for Josephine, Dexter and Brooke

List of Figures

4.1 A man and his child in the rainforest, looking up to the tree canopy (Source: Laura Rival; photographer: John Wright) 4.2 A macaw opening its wings and held by a group of Huaorani children sitting on a log (Source: Laura Rival; photographer: John Wright) 5.1 Golders Green, 1908 (Source: London Transport Museum; artist: unknown) 5.2 Invade It Yourself, 1915 (Source: London Transport Museum; artists: Warbis Brothers) 5.3 Hop Gardens of Kent, 1922 (Source: London Transport Museum; artist: Dorothy Dix) 5.4 Move To Edgware, 1924 (Source: London Transport Museum; artist: William Kermode) 5.5 Why Not Live At Sudbury Hill? 1929 (Source: London Transport Museum; artist: Christine Jackson) 5.6 London Transport Opens A Window on London’s Countryside, 1933 (Source: London Transport Museum; artist: Graham Sutherland) 5.7 Walton’s River Lea at Broxbourne (Source: Adrian Franklin) 6.1 Digging the garden (Source: Adrian Franklin) 6.2 Welwyn Garden City, 1920 (Source: Adrian Franklin) 6.3 Garden centres now promote ‘native plants’, formerly considered weed or pest species (Source: Adrian Franklin) 7.1 Elderly birders listen out for the Reed Warbler, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset (Source: Adrian Franklin)


78 112





117 125 145 152

177 191

1 Introduction This new way of thinking will eventually sweep away the representation of society as an artificial order constituted in a breach with a disorderly and hostile nature, in which the anarchy of individuals must be reduced through the hierarchy of institutions. In this emerging vision, society will no longer be seen as functioning to shackle nature. Rather it will come into alliance with it, encouraging beliefs and practices which will tend to enrich the possibilities of the species and increase its prospects for survival. (Moscovici 1990:8)

In recent years we have seen new and startling transformations in the relations between humanity and the natural world. In comparison with the mid-twentieth century decades, where scarcely anyone ventured an opinion on nature outside the institutional natural sciences, from the last quarter of the twentieth century onwards, the domain of nature is now highly contested and new lay knowledges, opinions and values are expressed freely and frequently. We have seen gardeners up in arms about genetically modified plants, about the scandalous removal (floracide?) of large numbers of plant varieties from the catalogues of the giant seed merchants (aided and abetted by equally large supermarket chains concerned only with shelf-life and profitability) and we have seen British gardens described by naturalists and zoologists as an important habitat for many rare species under threat in the countryside. Suburban gardeners and bird feeders have been fêted for providing refuge, food and a foothold for Britain’s rarest and most celebrated bird, the Red Kite. We have seen ordinary suburban people, the elderly and the retired, young schoolchildren and working-class families out on the streets protesting over nature issues. First, there was the enormous public reaction to the live export of animals from British ports. Journalists expected such events to be dominated by the usual suspects, Earth First campaigners, die-hard Greenpeace and animal rights groups, local RSPCA chapters. But these events were newsworthy simply because of the social diversity and range of protesters and also because of the expression of such passion by people world famous for their quiet, apolitical lives, their restraint and public decorum. According to



McLeod (1998:348) for example, a survey of the live animal export protest at Brightlingsea showed that 82 percent of the protesters were women, 73 percent were aged between 41 and 70, 38 percent were retired, 71 percent lived in the immediate locality and 81 percent had never protested before. The local evening paper described them as ‘law abiding locals, Mr and Mrs Averages, pensioners, young mums and children’ (Evening Gazette, 17 May 95, quoted by McLeod 1998:348). According to Benton and Redfearn writing in the New Left Review (1996:44), the media coverage ‘remained far removed from the hegemonic hostility which has characterised media treatment of industrial action by workers, as well as other more obviously comparable forms of protest action’. Again, in the USA and Australia the unthinkable has happened: ordinary people have expressed an historically unusual antipathy towards hunting and extensive and rapid legislations have banned many forms of hunting across both nations (Franklin 1996b). Much of this has been achieved on the basis of actions and votes in civil society with very little action from the big animal rights groups. All across the UK the new road building plans of the 1990s created a furore not so much at a national level, but as they affected small locales, old country haunts, picnic spots, favourite walks, leafy glades and the spaces of romantic and sexual memories. Often it would be revealed that these spaces contained rare communities of butterflies or rarely seen plants and it is perhaps the first time that British people have turned out in their droves in support of the rights of insects to continue unmolested in their localities. It does not take a new sociology of nature to make this point; it is already extensively out there in popular culture. Among the most widely read novels, for example, are crime thrillers. Taking just a handful of the best-known authors in this genre, we find that the politics of nature and its highly democratic and popular social base have featured centrally in their recent novels. Examples include Antonia Fraser’s Your Royal Hostage (1987), Dick Francis’ Come to Grief (1995), Reginald Hill’s The Wood Beyond (1996) and Ruth Rendell’s Road Rage (1997). As White (2000:6) writes: ‘Emphases vary but in all four books, the common sense is that times have changed, that of course animals should be included in the moral universe.’ In Rendell’s Road Rage her Inspector Wexford finds himself in sympathy with the protest over the endangered Map Butterfly:

There were only two hundred of them [Map Butterflies] perhaps now not so many. When he was a child people had caught them with a net, gassed them in killing bottles, attached them to cards on pins. It seemed appalling now. Only a few years ago people who opposed bypasses were looked on as cranks, loony weirdos, hippy dropouts, and their activities on a par with anarchy, communism and mayhem. That too had changed. (White 2000:6)



In the TV series Pie in the Sky, the writers pull the common stunt of having the police investigator’s wife, Maggie, as one of the protesters. This device, of course, underlines the truly moral, upstanding, respectable and mainstream character of the issue at hand. However, it is also worth mentioning that there are few dissenting voices against nature protesters. The developers, road builders and politicians comprise the bad guys, but even they are directed to express regrets; that they are only doing their jobs. The biggest ever protest gathering in London was not over ‘intrahuman’ political issues but over the morality of human activities in the natural world. The Hyde Park rally of 1 March 1998 comprised a large number of rural and urban people affiliated to and organised by a number of traditional field sports organisations. Although they were ostensibly rallying to oppose proposed legislation to ban fox hunting, the issue was much wider, to do with protecting traditional hunting relationships with the natural world, preserving rural sports and leisures, with continuing to have an active, consumptive relationship with the natural world. They complained about an essentially urban set of sentiments and constituencies dictating to rural culture how they should behave with respect to the natural world. They emphasised also their custodial relationship with nature and the conservational basis of hunting activities. Meanwhile, the animal rights groups featured in what seemed like Pythonesque and surreal new frontiers for action. British newspapers showed frog-suited activist divers disrupting a line of bewildered pensioners fishing in their local canal. However, it is not only in the political and protest spheres that one can detect change. One senses, from a number of diverse sources, that older relationships and the boundaries between humans and non-humans have been questioned and are now being rejected both in theory and in practice. Two recent major UK television productions, one a drama, the other a natural history documentary, illustrate this shifting terrain. Nature Boy was a drama set in a northern British town featuring all the grime and grimness of a former industrial landscape and all the social pathologies of de-industrialisation, mass unemployment, community collapse, familial mayhem and neighbourhood chaos. Against this, the hero, David, finds beauty, friendship and order among the animals, birds, fish and flora in the nearby wastelands of the local estuary sandflats. Flashbacks establish that as a young boy he was first introduced to the techniques of fishing, snaring and to a nature aesthetic by his now estranged father and these continue into the present with his friend, a local hermit who lives on the estuary. David finds escape and solace in nature. His natural relation with non-humans descends directly from local rural culture via his father and it highlights the continuation of such links and the persistence of natures even on the edges of former industrial zones and inside urban cultures. Nature Boy challenges, therefore, the putative boundaries between urban and rural, nature and culture and true nature and sullied nature. David’s ‘nature’ is sullied, polluted and problematic, rather like his family and domestic circumstances, but this is



all the more reason to maintain a moral connection with it and to cherish it. David’s search for his father and his persistence in trying to feed his hopeless heroin addict mother with fresh fish makes a powerful but seamless link between the human and the natural world. This story reminds us that imperfect natures of this kind are the backdrop to the lives of most people, that their closest and strongest dealing with the natural world are through their gardens and backyards, through allotments, pigeon lofts, dog walks, through the scraps and bits of nature along railway lines, roads, old industrial zones, canal banks and coastal wastes. It reminds us that it is only on rare occasions that we travel to the so-called ‘natural’ areas, wildernesses and places of outstanding natural beauty. It reminds us also that we are never properly at home in such places; their natures are unfamiliar to us, the land belongs to others, notably the rural gentry and the middle classes (who can afford the necessary dress codes for countryside leisures), the touristic pathways are restricted by rules and practices that discipline the body to keep to paths, not to touch, pick, take or otherwise disturb. It is a nature inaccessible in a fully sensed and dwelt-in manner. When we reflect on Nature Boy we must surely conclude that the academic accounts of the relations between the human and natural world are lacking this anthropological depth, this ethnographic sense of practices on the ground or its variable and contested nature in complex nations such as the USA and Britain. Certainly there has been little focused research on everyday relations, beliefs and practices. To begin with, for obvious reasons to do with the dramatic impact of the green movement in the 1980s, many recent books conflate nature and environment. The outstanding political and scientific issues have driven sociological interest here, so that the natures of sociological interest are not, paradoxically, those of the discipline’s primary focus, modern urban cultures, but those of the scientists, the political economists and geographers. So sociologists have embraced the global changes in the environment both in terms of their social construction in the media and through science and in their impact on civil society through such enquiries as Inglehart’s (1977) postmaterialism thesis. Sociologists have also paused to consider very fully Beck’s (1992) concept of the risk society and the range of environmental issues and environmental changes that allegedly create such a phenomenon. Finally, in Macnaghten and Urry (1998) we see a more complete sociological treatment of the relationship between nature leisures and the environment. Conflating nature with the environment also means that the agenda for research becomes driven by what environmentalists decide is important and what scientists deem is of environmental consequence (see Wynne 1996). Increasingly, the science–environmentalist discourse on nature has taken on a very unified content and agenda, with environmentalism itself very strongly directed by science and scientists. Hence we have witnessed an endless interest in the actions and activities of environmentalists and environmentalism and, although this is important, the unintended



consequence is to skew the research and publication effort in favour of a highly selected subset of natures. Environmentalists are much like romantic writers in the nineteenth century in that they tend to identify, promote and defend areas of pristine wilderness and of other pure natures such as forests, areas of sea, wetlands etc. against destruction rather than the already spoiled areas closer to human habitation, including urban areas (see Williams 1972). Theirs are the truly scandalous coalfaces on the human–nature boundary. Urban cultures are of interest only in their capacity as a danger to these fragile marginal natures through tourism and leisure. Even here the practices, beliefs and conceptions of people come a poor second to what is deemed to be their impact, usually adverse, on the natures they insist on visiting. Hence the social issues tend to be the demographics of ecotourism, the impact of ecotourism and especially questions to do with management and control of visitors. Urban cultures are also of interest, again, not for their actual relationships with the natural world but for their expressed values in relation to extant environmental issues. These are significant only in the sense that they are the most powerful electoral force in most nations and such studies drive, as Macnaghten and Urry (1998) argue, a very one-sided and abstract knowledge of nature and modern cultures. Cities themselves are also of interest but the extent to which it is a social interest is also very limited. Thus one of the most staggering nature– human interfaces, gardening, has been ignored almost completely. Of more scandalous importance are issues to do with pollution, cities as sources of environmental problems or the brown environmental agenda: car usage; heating and pollution; emission of CFC gases from domestic appliances; suburban sprawl and invasion of bush and countryside; pollution of waterways by dog and other pet faeces; water usage and conservation; introduced pest species (pets, plants etc.) escaping into the bush and threatening native species; gardeners poisoning the environment; metropolitan effects on weather patterns. Again, people tend to be cast as the cause of the problem for nature with research tending to focus more on management and control issues such as the collection of dog faeces, recycling behaviour, environmental action groups, changing uses of domestic cleaning agents and so on (Baldassare and Katz 1992; Berger 1996; Derksen and Gartrell 1993; Ungar 1998). As such, a misanthropic gloom pervades the entire research enterprise on nature; Schama’s (1995) reassurance, wrought from his long historical overview, that nature will be ultimately looked after because it is central to all western cultures’ sense of selfhood seems somehow lost on these authors. By contrast Schama’s optimism provides one of the conceptual starting points for this book. Most new sociological publications on nature and environment tend to conflate nature with environment. Wilson’s (1992) book examining the cultures of nature in the USA is a good example of the tendency to reduce a sociology of modern nature to that of the environmental agenda. Hence



the notes describing the book claim that ‘the current environmental crisis has reached far beyond the land; it is a crisis of culture as well. It penetrates our leisure time, our thinking, our art and gardens’. In other words, the environmental crisis must be the framework around which we think of a sociology of nature. Such a view penetrates his analysis of the American suburban garden as an impoverished, standardised, polluting and unnatural phenomenon. As we will see this is a travesty of the true picture of the condition of American gardening cultures, but the environmentalist concerns require that environmental and human problems be found. Although Eder’s excellent Social Construction of Nature (1996) is not explicitly framed by environmentalism and contains some useful analyses of food and nature, it too is ultimately drawn into the gravity of risk, pollution and environmentalism. The realist tradition, that includes the recent work of Peter Dicken, Ted Benton, Kate Soper and Luke Martell for example, is driven mainly by environmentalist and ecological concerns/ anxieties. Indeed, they are notable mainly for their passionate and heated debates with social constructivist accounts of the human–nature relation because in identifying a social as opposed to an environmental content to the science and practice of environmentalism, social constructivists are accused of confusing or even denying the real issue which is quite clearly in their view, the inescapable reality of an environmental crisis (see Burningham and Cooper 1999 for a complete history of these skirmishes). While realist sociologists wish to attend to and practice an environmental ethics and to avoid investigations of society as if it were limited only by social relations, they have tended to stifle rather than encourage the sort of research that sociology can usefully conduct. In this regard, the sociology of scientific knowledge has a better track record in attempting to break down the epistemological boundaries of modernity that have so far trapped sociology inside a circularity of the social. Far from taking the lead from Latour (1993) and Braun and Castree (1998) who deny the modern insistence on the proper separation of nature from culture, realists find themselves vulnerable to criticism because they want to uphold and defend a pure and unsullied nature against a disordered (and sick) humanity. One senses here the crystallisation of a purity–danger scenario and the whiff of a moral/ religious rather than a natural crisis and it was not long before Alexander and Smith (1996) provided the rather obvious (but well-flighted) Durkheimian arrow into the heart of the environmentalism/risk argument. Clearly, however some sociology could be accused of a focus on ideational analyses, reducing the performativity of human cultures and relationships to their social and mental logics/ideas. Although some sociology continues to exist in this disembodied form, between them the sociologies of the body, scientific knowledge, dwelling, space and performance have established a formidable agenda and it is from these that some of the more promising work on nature has derived in recent years. Notable among these recent works is Macnaghten and Urry’s Contested Natures (1998) and in this the authors have broken free of the need to



conflate nature with environment. They eschewed the unproductive tension between constructivist and realist debates arguing instead that nature is always and everywhere socially constructed but it also a performed as well as a lived or dwelt experience. By taking an historical perspective on the notion and developments of nature[s], as ‘environment’ and ‘countryside’ (Raymond Williams’ ‘ideas of nature’) for example, they are revealed as cultural constructs with very precise timed and spaced aetiologies. However Macnaghten and Urry have produced a fully sociological account of the human–nature interface and analyse the socially embedded, sensed and contested character of these natures. As such this is a return to the sanity and clarity of writers such as Williams (1972) and K. Thomas (1983) who had the advantage of writing in an earlier period when environment was not an all-encompassing and urgent project. If anything Macnaghten and Urry commit another folly, which is to conflate a sociology of nature with a sociology of nature leisures and tourism and perhaps also to confine relevance/interest to so-called natural leisure areas or spaces. As Demeritt (1999:372) argues, ‘their account is focused on the consumption of rural nature as spectacle’. This is more, one suspects, an artefact of the research projects that informed this book than a clear intention. Here is another very significant set of practices that relate historically to many threads of modernisation and the production of a civil society. In this version, nature in its guise as countryside and environment is made to be an other to the metropolitan centre and constructed to be the disciplined and ordered playground for politically benign but denatured metropolitan cultures. Muscular leisures, combined with contemplative sensual technologies of the body and aesthetic appreciation, in league with improving recreations such as field naturalism, botany, ornithology, beach combing, flower pressing and butterfly collecting provided a sober and useful stock of human social capital. Nature was to teach us all not how to escape from an industrial capitalist society but how to cope with it, recoup from it, acquire the skills and techniques consistent with it. In so doing it created at the same time a sense of belonging and identity that frames the possibility for political alignments over nature issues in specifically created ‘natural areas’. However, there is very little in their account that goes on between humans and the natural world elsewhere – whether in town, homes or in hinterlands. And here our approach must depart somewhat from theirs. Nature in their account is given particular, largely touristic or environmentally significant spatial settings. Again there is a tendency on the one hand to follow in the footsteps of environmentalists into the endangered areas and, on the other hand, to follow nature tourists, walkers (especially walkers) and other nature leisures into the preserved areas of natural significance, parks, National Trust lands and so forth. The plates in the book all contribute to the general sense that when we talk about nature we are talking about fields, forests, wild areas – places in some sense separated from the living spaces and everyday of civil society. Places we have



to drive to or drive through; places of sacred pilgrimage rather than the everyday. Even in their very brief section on animals the focus is on countryside landscape animals and the issues affecting them such as road building and live animal exports. The present book is informed by the conceptual developments in Contested Natures but in writing a book that secures a better sociological angle on the politics of nature Macnaghten and Urry have tended to write out as much as they include. The natures of the everyday include companion animals; the plants, trees and shrubs planted and tended in every household; the walks among natural communities in parks and other patches of nature in and around towns; the daily practices of eating foods and urban trends towards natural and organic foods; soothing, healing and relaxing our bodies with natural products, lotions and medicines; surfing on local suburban beaches, exercising along jogging tracks, skating and running tracks or fishing in local ponds and streams; feeding our local wild birds and animals; walking, sitting, picnicking and making love in innumerable natural settings that have been designed and provided on our own doorsteps. The social accounts of nature understood as environment and tourism fail to penetrate these everyday natures and produce skewed accounts of so-called attitudes and values on the natural world. Of course people will proffer a view on the rainforests of the tropics, desertification or acid rain in Sweden and they will have accounts of their occasional trips to more distant natures, but assuming that nature is a space and zone at one remove from everyday life is a poor way of understanding people’s relations with the natural world. In this book we will be looking closely at what we can learn from other disciplines such as anthropology and methods such as ethnography. Although Urry and Macnachten’s Contested Natures is largely focused on the tourist nature of late modern engagements with the natural world in the West, their conceptual analysis of human–nature relationships is potentially modifiable to all sites. Using the Heideggerian concept of dwelling as modified by Ingold (1995), they are able to show, particularly in the European countryside, how the natural world is deeply modified and shaped by humanity and thus how humanity is embedded in nature rather than separable from it. The embedded and embodied nature of this dwelling is demonstrated by historic layers of occupation: paths and routes through space, plantings of crops and trees and forests; waste spoils from mining; defensive and other public works; through work (from which Ingold derives the term ‘taskscape’) and leisure and through identity and belonging. Although their book does focus more on environment and countryside, the concept of dwelling cannot be confined to rural spaces and indeed, Ingold referred to his suburban dwelling even in the process of his writing. It is not only dramas such as Nature Boy that are beginning to challenge the old modernist dichotomy and separation of nature and culture, producing in the process neither natural history nor anthropology



but hybridology. It is also beginning to appear in the genre of wildlife documentary making that has, until recently, strictly maintained the nature–culture boundary for popular culture. An example of the new approach is Living Britain. Living Britain was, in many senses, a revolutionary natural history documentary because it avoided the fiction (and ideal) of a humanity separated from the natural world. Indeed, it showed for the first time how, in a small industrial island of 65 million people, nature and humanity combine to form a set of distinctive and historically specific natures. In this film, nature is not made to seem (ideally) primordial, steady and good; neither is humanity made to seem modern, destabilising and bad. Nature is whatever happens to result from the interaction between species including the actions and designs of man; it is a result of history unfolding; it is the outcome of ‘co-dwelling’. Significantly, it is also local: If it is worth using the term at all, ‘nature’ is no more than the provisional outcome of local processes, the current state attained by a universe of systems whose ultimate states will always defy prediction. As compensation for the certainties that the physical sciences once aspired to, however, the world which is now materialising is more deeply imbued with creative and selfgenerative properties than at any other stage of our modernity; it is a restless, turbulent, unfinished place which promises surprises in perpetuity. (Clark 2000a:1)

What is so striking about this documentary is the hybridity of nature, how impossible it is to disentangle the human from the non-human. When filmmakers do not insist on entirely human-free shots to depict nature it is surprising how much nature comes into view. Hence one of the strongholds for the otter in Europe is close to the oil terminals of the North Sea oil industry in the Shetland Isles. Wild otters and seals are seen in symbiotic relations with the local fishing industry. Wild foxes that have been endangered in the countryside and set aside for the sport of the gentry are seen playing, hunting and rearing their young in the peaceful haven of a municipal rubbish tip and garden suburbs. The more the camera looks at towns and cities the more wildlife it picks up. City dwellers are not and have never been separated from the natural world, this is the fiction of urbanisation and the mythology of modernity (see Clarke 2000b; Latour 1993). Living Britain shows a very close relationship between suburban Britain and a very wide and growing range of animals and plants. Indeed, one of the most important natural habitats for a large number of rare or declining animal and bird species is the British garden. These include the hedgehog, weasel, dormouse, badger and fox, Red Kite, owl, wren and many others. In the USA we find a similar hybrid history unfolding. The White-tail Deer, the icon of American deer hunting and role model for Disney’s star Bambi, has made huge population gains as a result of tolerance and protection by suburban gardeners and residents, but there is also a long and rich history



of animal and bird feeding in the USA that is conveniently forgotten in the misanthropic views of recent environmental history. According to a survey in 1985 some 110 million people or 61 percent of the urban US population ‘over the age of 16 engaged in some form of nonconsumptive [i.e. not hunting or fishing] wildlife recreational activity such as observation or identification, photography, regular feeding of wildlife, maintaining natural areas to benefit wildlife, maintaining plantings to benefit wildlife, or visiting natural areas within a mile from their home to observe, photograph or feed wildlife’ (Wolch et al. 1995:742; see also Fish and Wildlife Service/Bureau of the Census (1991) which has trend data on these activities). Outside the gardens of concerned nature lovers, industrial and commercial landscapes are just as much habitats to animals and birds indifferent to the social spatial classifications of modernity. Disused factories provide abundant new nest sites for rare birds; the most forbidding prospect of myriad pipes in an oil refinery near London provides the perfect resting place for migrating birds; the rooftops of the CBD provide nesting sites and hunting grounds for several urbanised hawks. However, it is not only the animal and plant species that have discovered these new, albeit strange habitats, their urban human enthusiasts have tuned into their presence on an individual and organised manner. In addition to the attention paid to wild animals naturalising themselves into the city, to join with those plants, trees, shrubs, lakes and animals already naturalised by city builders, we can now add new and recent additions: city farms, suburban nature trails, city pond and wetland reserves, city bird-watching hides, suburban and inner city clean-up days, organised care activities such as the ‘toad-crossing’ teams assembled to help migratory frogs and toads cross roads safely on their migration to spawning ponds, the planting in Australia of native plants designed to provide needed habitat and food for declining native birds; and in the USA education programmes that promote the development of small wildlife areas for children to play in (Schicker 1987). Nature Boy represents the sort of enthusiasm and attachment to nature that can occur in a declining industrial urban complex. David, the hero, may not be an exaggerated figure in late modern cities, since we know that extraordinary passions and enthusiasms for bird watching, fishing and wildlife do develop, especially in urban centres. The assumption has always been made that their enthusiasm grows in relation to the poverty of city wildlife, but this is unlikely: it is just as likely that such passions grow in relation to the diversity and colour of city and city-edge natures. As Wolch et al. argue, in the USA: The most common wildlife to be watched, fed, photographed etc., were songbirds, squirrels and chipmunks, rabbits, waterfowl, deer, birds of prey, and butterflies; but even reptiles, amphibians, spiders and beetles and other types of insects were enjoyed, leading Shaw et al. (1985) to speculate that availability rather than species preference was a deciding factor in which animals became the focus of recreational pursuits. (1995:742)



In other words, cities can provide sufficient and increasing nature to drive many different wildlife hobbies and interests. The more one investigates the pathways and exchanges between the so-called natural world and the urban world of humanity, the more it seems to be neither one world nor the other but both. Even in a state such as Tasmania, Australia, with its vast wilderness areas, its small and declining human population and lack of industry, the cities have been discovered to host very significant natural populations: An indication of the importance of urban bushland areas to protection of the State’s biodiversity is given by Kilpatrick et al. (1988) who point out that many of Tasmania’s rarest plants are contained in urban bushland areas, in tips, cemeteries, road reserves and parklands. The Queen’s Domain in Hobart for instance is the location for five vascular plant species which are absent from any secure reserve in the state; one species that is found only in the Domain and one species that is nationally endangered. (State of the Environment Unit 1996:5.18)

Indeed, one of the intriguing things about most cities is their relative youth and the recent succession of discoveries that non-humans successfully remain, find their way into or learn to live in them successfully has become the basis for a new ways of thinking about and planning future relationships between the city and nature. According to Mike Davis’s (1998) study of Southern California, for example, ‘the wild and the urban are far from exclusive categories’. Davis draws attention to innovative behaviour of fauna along ‘the increasingly fractal edge of development’ (1998:237) – what would seem to be an instance of the ‘edge-of-chaos’ unpredictability beloved of complexity theorists. Joining coyotes, raccoons and other known generalist species, he argues that mountain lions may now be in the process of a critical transition from highly specialist predation to a more broad-based opportunism – as they learn to feed off pets, small wildlife lured by garbage, and the occasional human camper or jogger. (Clark 2000a:11)

The implications of this renaturalisation of the city are important because it means that as relatively open systems, all sorts of life and recombinations of life are feasible and likely at the same time changing the geography and sociology of interactions between humans and non-humans. But what is more challenging to our received conceptions of the city and the bodies therein, and our writing of civilisation in general, are the undesigned and undesired resurgences of nature in urban spaces. ... As De Landa has so eloquently underscored, human agents have been far from universally successful in their ‘socialising’ of the flows of energy and matter (1997:122). Cities, he reminds us, are dynamic and open systems, the multiple forms of matter–energy (including minerals, biomass and genes) which pass through them entering into complex, non-linear relationships whose outcomes tend to exceed the calculations of their human component. (Clark 2000a:11–12)



My case that the ‘modern’ boundaries imposed and assumed between humanity and the natural world have been breached, made permeable, if not in places dissolved, is also manifest in a new religiosity of nature. There is something new about our relationship with non-humans and with life itself that has convinced a growing number of urban people that humans and non-humans exist on a common and intimately connected, moral, physical and spiritual field. Combining aspects of animism, ancient pre-Christian religion in Europe, religious traditions from the East and more recent Christian and secular rituals, neo-paganism is reckoned to be one of the fastest growing religions in the West. Neo-paganism belongs to a wider set of cultural drifts in later modernity that are placed in bookshops under the best selling headings ‘New Age’, ‘Spiritual Health’ and ‘Alternative Health’. There is nothing particularly new about them except that they hybridise hitherto separated categories (such as nature and culture), they seek to enchant the world once more with putatively neglected powers and spirits and they wish to take control over their lives and their world by tapping into those forces through a new raft of technologies (crystals, witchcraft, possession dancing, shamanism and so on). Of course, we meet some of this in the colourful bands of neo-tribal nature protesters, but it has not been their beliefs so much as their political campaigns and their role as catalysts for wider political support that has been of interest so far. David, aka Nature Boy, follows a girlfriend who has joined a neo-tribe-like band of road protesters currently in full campaign against a road development. David, the ordinary working-class teenager is not impressed with the tribal ritual posturing of the protesters, their inability to feed themselves from the woods and streams where they were camped or their camping and tunnel making on a flood-prone site. In this way, the makers of Nature Boy are underlining the point being made here, that for all its fanfare and colour, environmentalism does not exhaust or even tap into the more embedded natures of modernity; that there are beliefs, practices, knowledges and histories of the mundane, ordinary and everyday that are as important to understand even for the narrower focus of environmental politics. This book came about as a result of teaching a new multidisciplinary course called The Sociology of Nature which reviewed the huge growth in research and publications on the interface between humanity and the natural world as well as works in history anthropology, sociology and philosophy over the course of the twentieth century. In addition my research over the past eight years has been concerned with such topics as animals and modern cultures, nature tourism, food and nature, gardening and other nature leisures and sports. It is coming from such a research focus that gives this book its critical edge. In terms of its development and relationship to other theoretical contributions, it develops agendas and ideas mooted by historians such as Schama (1995), K. Thomas (1983); by sociologists such as Lash et al. (1996), Latour (1993), Tester (1991), Eder (1996), Franklin (1999), Macnaghten and Urry (1998), Urry (1996); by



anthropologists such as Bloch (1992), Descola (1992, 1996), Ingold (1993, 1995) and Rival (1993, 1996, 1998) and geographers such as Braun and Castree (1998), Harvey (1996) and Thrift (1999). These key influences do not simply describe a range or scope for this book, they describe how a growing unity of orientation can be synthesised from an interdisciplinary set of authors all working on similar sorts of questions. Although this book is a synthesis of these works it is not merely a synthesis because it seeks to improve and extend their work. This is particularly the case in relation to Macnaghten and Urry’s Contested Natures, which was published as this book was being formed and has a common set of theoretical and methodological antecedents. While Contested Natures was very ambitious and remains one of the most excellent books on the subject, this book seeks to complement and extend their work in several particular ways. One problem with Contested Natures is that Macnaghten and Urry were unable to demonstrate the full potential of the ideas set out in the book. Path-breaking books rarely can. In particular, perhaps, too much emphasis is given to a narrow, albeit significant, range of engagements with nature in their typification of late modernity. Tourism and touristic leisure encounters with the natural world are presented, inadvertently perhaps, as typical or prototypical. All too often nature is thus defined spatially in those defined and protected areas of so-called natural importance. This cluster of activities overemphasises the passive countryside leisures of the British middle classes (walking and bird watching for example), including of course the significance for most people of short- and long-break tourism. For their own purposes, their choice is sensible, because the sorts of people who enjoy these activities span the entire range of views about nature and environmentalism and enable them to show the ambivalence, ambiguities and contingencies which compose their thinking about the environment and environmental issues. Against most studies of the politics of environmentalism that demonstrate a growing normalisation/routinisation of environmentalist values they find more diversity of views and contingent variations. Notably, they find environmental issues to vary in relation to spatial proximity to the respondent: crudely, the more such issues take place in their own dwelling spaces, the more concerned they are. For our purposes here, however, their focus on nature as an essentially leisure space in modernity is one-sided and introduces some unfortunate biases and omissions. First, the passivity and visual centrality/significance of these activities gives undue weight to the visual sensing of nature. Macnaghten and Urry place great emphasis on the significance of the embodied experience of nature and thus they are interested in the sensing of nature, but their focus on touristic engagements draws them towards a privileging of the visual. They claim that visualism or the dominance of the visual sensing of the world is itself related to modernity through scientific tradition and technologies of the visual, but they do not adequately demonstrate this dominance with regard to everyday relations with the natural world. Since the visual is most clearly associated with the



symbolic, their analysis bends inevitably towards the intellectual and mental consumption of nature. If they are correct in signposting the embodied experience of nature, they did very little to advance the argument. In terms of the consumption of nature their emphasis on passive leisures and tourism underscores the significance of more active, productive and spiritual forms of activity (gardening, fishing, hunting, gathering wild foods, beach combing, nature crafts), those based on locatedness, familiarity and belonging rather than travel (home and garden based; activities – including work and travel to work and children’s play – which are based on the knowledge of a particular natural space and routinised contact) and those based on sporting excitement (skiing, climbing, surfing, diving, horse riding, cross-country running, jogging, mountain biking). Many of these activities rely on multiple sensing or even the fourth embodied sense of kinaesthesia. A second criticism, which results more from the constraints of the book than an intellectual oversight, is that in recognising the significance of embeddedness they only go on to describe the parameters and social composition of embeddedness. How embeddedness, in particular socialspatial-historical configurations, is constitutive of particular practices in the natural world is left poorly developed. This is unfortunate because, as the anthropologists we discuss reveal, it is through the processes of engagement with nature in specific embedded conditions that we can see precisely how and why different attitudes and practices arise. It is possible to identify at least three broad types of embedded engagements with the natural world in modern cultures. These are naturalisation, hybridisation and performative embodiment. These will be expanded upon in three separate chapters that can be found in the second part of this book. However, in the first part, we will consider the contested ways in which social theory has tried to understand the relation between primordial, modern and postmodern relations with the natural world. In Chapter 2 we will establish precisely the relationship between modernity and the natural world. Was it really so brutal, so disregarding of nature, so privileging of human progress that nature became merely its resource? This is a common stereotype of the environmental movement but paradoxically the mastery of nature in modernity implied a considerable interest, passion and enthusiasm for nature itself (Clark 1997). The orderly, law-bound state of nature compared nature favourably with the estate of mankind in modernity and it was among scientists and naturalists that a misanthropic view developed during the peak of modernist development. Romantics were just as successful in undermining a fullblown destruction of nature in the name of human progress although they were arguably writing from a more Arcadian tradition of the upper classes, a curious aesthetic of the land rather than a critical backlash against industrial development. Finally, of course, development contained a logic which was to surface in environmentalism: as the recipients of industrial wealth gained better working conditions, affluence, transport freedoms and the



acquired nature consumption tastes of the landed classes, they constituted the demand for preservation and consumption. By the 1960s nature was part of development: garden cities, suburbia, parks, nature resorts, nature entertainment. The consumption of nature in a manner modelled on the nineteenth-century landed class began to break down in the 1970s as environmentalism and animal rights gained a firm footing in the West. Under postmodernising conditions anthropocentricism broke down and decentred sensibilities tried to imagine new and more sustainable relations. In Chapter 3 we investigate the more recent debates as they emerged and developed around the so-called environmental crisis. As an issue the environment drew some sociologists into its own agenda with a gritty determination to make a sociological contribution to the practice of environmental recovery and improvement while others found the anthropology of the environmental movement itself worthy of closer cultural examination: environmentalism and risk became for them critical diagnostics of late modern cultures. The chapter begins by setting out the row between the realists (as champions of environmentalism and ecologism) and social constructivists (who develop a social critique of environmentalism). Such a row is instructive about the role of the social sciences in respect to the environment and to science, about the anthropology of the environment as a register of moral and social disorder in late modernity and as a means of seeing where sociologists stood relative to issues of science, environment and nature. A debate with more decorum emerged around Beck’s claim for a risk society and we will investigate this and its critical aftermath through Durkheimian and postmodern critical perspectives. As these debates smouldered on it became obvious that while environmentalism had held centre stage for almost a decade, the theoretical object at the centre of these debates, nature and the relationship between humanity and the natural world, had been sidelined. However, environmentalism had encouraged a great deal of cultural activity and change with respect to the natural world and it was to this richer seam of sociological and anthropological enquiry that writers such as Macnaghten and Urry turned. The chapter concludes then with an exposition and critique of their Contested Natures. This critique is a positive one and it is used to set the stage for Part II, which consists of three important ways in which western cultures have become inextricably embedded in the natural world. Before Part I concludes, Chapter 4 investigates a new and emerging anthropology of the natural world that parallels, in exciting ways, many of the new developments emerging in sociology. Dissatisfied with the theoretical and empirical impasse of structuralist analyses of society and nature, a new group of anthropologists have established new ways of theorising and researching this relationship. We will examine this new wave and the implications that their work has for a western sociology of nature through the work of Descola, Ingold, Ellen, Bloch and Rival. Part II comprises three chapters that look in closer focus at three overlapping processes by which western cultures have embedded themselves



into the natural world: naturalisation, hybridisation and embodiment. In Chapter 5 several naturalisation processes are elaborated. Naturalisation describes the process by which people actively form personal and often deep relationships with the natural world such that a subset of nature is inextricably associated with their social identity. Beginning with a section considering this process in relation to the process of nation formation, we will move on to more specific and localised forms, particularly mapping such behaviour to conditions of settlement and migration within the nation state. Naturalisation, it will be argued, acknowledges the spatial disjuncture of modernity, the scattering of people into different places and landscapes through colonisation, resettlement, migration, urbanisation and suburbanisation. These patterns of movement removed people from the dwellings of their forebears and placed them elsewhere, often in others’ dwellings. As we will see, naturalisation is a process where people assert a new relationship with nature; where, in trying to make themselves, literally ‘at home’ in new places they have to make connections between themselves and their natures. In Chapter 6 we will consider one of the most significant and enduring relations between modern cultures and the natural world, that of gardens and gardening. Gardens are an apt nature for modernity, combining as they do the processes of globalisation and the technologies whereby we have learned to manipulate and change or hybridise nature. Gardens and gardening illustrate perfectly the hybrid nature of our relations with the natural world. Our cities are neither nature nor spaces devoid of nature; our homes and workspaces are a jumble of the human and the non-human; at every step beyond and between the cities, all we see are hybrid forms. This chapter will analyse how a passion for gardens and hybridisation emerged almost as a parallel to the modernisation process. We will see how gardens became a distinctive feature of the English urban landscape, how gardening epitomised the civilising process of the newly grown cities in the beginning of the century and the ordering of a mass industrial workforce at the end of the nineteenth century and how hybrid spaces became normative through the development of byelaw houses, followed by garden suburbs and later, garden cities. We will then investigate, using twentieth-century comparative leisure data, the significance and social composition of gardening in western nations and the chapter will conclude with a substantial section analysing the garden as a changing expression of economic social and cultural factors in the USA and UK. All the way through we see the garden as a significant and deepening link between humanity and nature, with a pattern emerging that emphasises the steady breakdown of barriers between the social and the natural. Chapter 7 continues this theme in a focus on nature and embodiment. This chapter investigates in more detail whether visualism is indeed the principal way in which we experience nature in an embodied way. It is



argued that this is far from true, indeed it is argued that sensing and investigating the natural world through new body technologies has emerged as a distinctive set of practices in recent times. We will explore why this is so through an examination of the body and social and cultural theory; through a history of nature and embodiment; through a series of consumption practices: whole and organic foods, natural cosmetics; alternative, natural medicine; nature religion and nature sports. Chapter 8 concludes the book with a consideration of the implications of the claims of this book for the politics of nature. We have shown the growing significance of nature in how we mix with nature and why we long to be closer and more in tune with natural processes, products, forces and rhythms. How can this explained? What sorts of theoretical tools exist to assist us in understanding its origins and implications? In this last chapter we draw away from the practices and surfaces of the human–non-human interface to consider three sorts of overarching explanation. The first of these is sociobiological: E.O. Wilson’s notion of biophilia. We love nature and need it around us in an embodied sensual way because that is how we are wired up: we are genetically disposed to nature as a result of adaptive advantages and selection in our deep history as hunter-gathers. This thesis not only fits the facts in a rounded sort of manner, but it has proved enormously influential – more so than sociological accounts – in new age and lifestyle shelves in bookshops. We spend some time investigating its case but decide that it is a fanciful and fatally flawed thesis. We then critically consider Inglehart’s postmaterialist thesis, that nature and environment became important to a post-war generation for whom, perhaps for the first time in history, their material existence was secure and guaranteed. Freed, therefore, from the politics of basic needs, they were in a position to campaign for a lifestyle politics of choices and quality, into which a more natural aesthetic came to be entrenched. Again this is a very seductive and influential thesis and we will spend some time exploring its advantages and disadvantages. Although we find that empirical data tend by and large to support it, it is fatally flawed in two respects. First, the theory is only supported indirectly from somewhat remote indicators of values. It tells us very little about why these values came into place and can attribute very little to the processes we have outlined here. Second, in respect to animals as a subset of nature the thesis fails, as we will show empirically, to work at all. Such methodologies are crude and blunt and contain an insufficient social and cultural content. We turn then, finally, to theories of social change in late modernity that seem capable of accounting for these changes across all sites and objects of the natural world. We conclude that in very complex ways the natural world is still used by humanity to hold a mirror up to itself, to tell new stories about itself and to seek to order and reorder itself. Our conclusion argues that the historically sudden and abrupt changes in late modernity plunged a hitherto



complex, highly regulated modern social order and moral community into disorder, moral confusion and lack of regulation. Despite continuing environmental problems, nature operates as a refuge from this and at the same time a model of order by which we may retune and reorder ourselves. Nature seems the panacea for our seriously disharmonious world and we can find a pattern that links the historically sudden and passionate new affair with the natural world to the moral and social collapse of a modern social order.


2 Thinking about Nature 1: Disciplinary Beginnings The idea of nature has shifted substantially in recent years from an independent reality external to and different from the human and the cultural to a domain that is increasingly dependent on and shaped by the operation of a global human society. Global society is reflexively working through the implications of this change and despite much decentred rhetoric ‘the environment’ and ‘the environmental crisis’ are another in a continuous series of human realisations or constructions of nature. Nature had previously been considered ordered, benign and beneficial; endless in its beneficence and guaranteed. A series of writers on risk have shown how this belief has shattered; nature has become disordered, malignant and a source of risk; it has become finite and fragile. The endlessness of nature corresponded with the widest view of nature as the universe. Nature as environment has narrowed the focus to planet earth, the human biosphere. Until relatively recently nature was in the bailiwick of science, literally, the natural sciences and social theory was completely confined to relationships between people and cultural phenomena. Increasingly, as nature can no longer exist as an independent external ‘variable’ and a guaranteed resource in the lives of people, it has become domesticated or socialised and politicised. We are interested now in its management, sustainability and order. Air, the supreme natural substance, is now seen to be rather like any other utility such as roads and electricity. It must be monitored, regulated and ordered, socially. Water was socialised earlier in the nineteenth century and its management is seen as normative; unnoticed in its myriad underground workings and systems. Animal and plant species, natural areas, forests and wildernesses are all presently falling steadily into the domain of the social through the logic of environmentalism. Partly this is because gradually their finite, fragile but valuable qualities are perceived to be under threat from a disordered and unsustainable economic development, but also because an increasing number of people in the world believe they have a



stake in its future, because it is seen collectively as a life support system common to all and because it is seen in its individual sites as human heritage, the remnants of a variety of historical human environments. But we are also interested in its politics, in how it will be changed and from its groundswell in the 1980s many books on environment and environmentalism have sprung. While we can certainly talk about these general conditions for the socialisation of nature and the spectacular rise and continuity of environmentalism, it is altogether less clear whether this is all that is interesting and important in the relationship between humanity and nature. It will be argued in this book that the wish to fix natural instability and disorder through a system of new regulatory measures and commensurate cultural practices in nature has resulted in a one-dimensional ‘environmentalist’ nature, even though it comes in contested forms. Although few would wish to disagree strongly with this development it has come at a price. Just at a time when it is more important than ever to understand the highly complex relationships between humanity and nature and the options that may be thrown open by such an investigation, we are tending to avoid research and theory in favour of the development and implementation of policy. Rather than open up the issue it is prematurely closed down in an atmosphere of apostolic zeal and political correctness. What is quite clear from the accumulation of books on nature over the past ten years is that they are either directly concerned with environmentalism itself, carrying arguments about the role of the social sciences in this heroic project or they are indirectly concerned with environmentalism as a social movement, or environmentalism, the messier range of social practices that compose the constituencies and debates about ‘the environment’. Paradoxically, these environmental rhetorics, which one would assume to be universal, often have quite a narrow range of natural objects, social subjects and social practices. Of great concern to those in the West are the remaining wilderness areas, natural forests, highland and moorland regions and wetlands. These ‘at risk’ areas dominate the proceedings precisely because environmentalism is an ‘at risk’ issue. Other natures closer to the metropolitan centres and small towns are almost ignored, as if they have become denatured, unclean or ‘lost’. In this regard the environmental movement is related in interesting ways to the Romantic Movement which privileged and concentrated on exactly the same types of nature. Even in its more ‘contested’, socially embedded version, its cultural base and social composition has all the hallmarks of the educated middle classes. Conspicuous by their absence are the hunters and anglers of the commercial and managerial middle classes and the relicts of the landed elite. One does not have to scratch very deep to find very serious environmentalist/conservationist claims by the latter, but they are also, it would seem, tainted by their instrumentalism and consumerism in what ought to be



the hands-off sacred temples of nature. While the working class are a much reduced social force at the beginning of the twenty-first century, their place in the environment, their social practices with nature and their role in the environment appears to be decidedly less interesting. In the USA one could almost go further and argue that nature is a predominantly white concern, a view, in this case apparently supported by the principal source of data, the Fish and Wildlife Service/Bureau of the Census (1991) Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. In terms of social practices in nature, the environment movement has been accompanied by a great demand for nature-based leisures. Although environmentalist concern about nature has encouraged a sensual need to be natural, and that includes taking regular refuge in natural areas, that very demand has generated a considerable anxiety about the sustainability of these leisures. Again, if one looks very carefully, the majority of natural leisures which interest the environmental movement and the literature aimed at its social ferment are non-consumptive, passive, physical and spiritual. Not exclusively young or educated middle class in composition but decidedly orientated towards such a taste or lifestyle group. They are relatively fit, healthy and affluent. Certainly the literature on ecotourism, for example, is dominated by walking and to a lesser extent, cycling. In both cases over relatively rough, unsealed tracks and country. The environment seems to be predominantly a rural space, even though environmentalism is highly concerned about the city. Gardening, for example, was always a popular activity in the twentieth century but its staggering growth over the past 25 years warrants hardly a mention. In Britain gardeners’ demands for peat and its negative impact on the Somerset Levels and other wetlands might be mentioned, but this relation with the natural world, its trends and social significances are not noteworthy. Neither are those activities that are predicated on sport and excitement. Surfing, diving, skiing are particularly interesting in late modernity because of their popularity but also because they maintain an intensive but different relationship with the natural world. These may be the new social bases upon which a better management and consumption of nature can be organised, but that cannot happen if they are ignored or worse, rendered trivial.

What is nature? This is no doubt an interesting philosophical question, but it is not for sociologists to pose or attempt to answer such questions. Rather, our job is to understand what these words (and indeed these questions) mean and do for the people who use them; why they emerge at specific points in time and how they relate to social and cultural processes. Nature is not for us a concrete reality that may be like this or like that, but an idea or



series of ideas which specific people (in specific times and places) use to frame and understand their world. In this way we can dodge a very complex question by suggesting that nature is a construction of culture. But the sociological analysis of nature as it is used in the modern West (by specific cultures and space(s)) is fraught with definitional problems, notably the seemingly very different and overlapping senses of the word nature. Fortunately Raymond Williams has been here before, in 1973 and again in 1983 and did a very good job in setting out the parameters of the difficulty. ‘Nature’, says Williams, ‘is perhaps the most complex word in the language’. However, on the same page he is able to show that it is usually not difficult to distinguish its varied meanings: ‘Indeed it is often habitual and in effect not noticed in reading’ (Williams 1983:219). For the anthropologist of western cultures such clarity (albeit paradoxical) and stability of meaning (albeit relative to historical periods) is most welcome, because we can assume a commonality of understanding – in broad terms – across a very large cultural space. It makes a book such as this possible because the word nature is well rooted in western cultures: It is relatively easy to distinguish three areas of meaning: (i) the essential quality and character of something; (ii) the inherent force which directs either the world or human beings or both; (iii) the material world itself, taken as including or not human beings. (Williams 1983:219)

Williams says that the meanings are variable across (ii) and (iii) but that the area of reference is broadly clear: that these senses relate to each other in an important historical developmental sequence and that all three senses are still common and actively used. The first sense is a specific singular and was in use in the thirteenth century. The second and third senses are abstract singulars, the former deriving from the fourteenth century and the latter from the seventeenth century, although they overlapped in the sixteenth century. Williams relates this linguistic transformation to changes in religious and scientific thought where sense (i) derived from a more plural and pantheistic world view of gods and forces and where sense (ii) derived from a more omnipotent singular directing force as a universal power, while sense (iii) emerged later to describe the unity of the material world so ordered. The seeming diversity of the material world is therefore made to have a commonality in post-enlightenment thinking, although the source of the singularity of nature changed from a creating, omnipotent god via singular personifications such as ‘mother nature’, to the playing out of natural laws, the laws governing all things in the universe, where nature was personified as a constitutional lawyer and later, after Darwin, as a selective breeder (Williams 1972:152, 1983:222). This book will be mainly concerned with the relationship between humanity and nature in Williams’ third sense, although of course how



nature in his second sense is specified and understood has a profound influence on those relationships. We shall also be suggesting that in late modernity the notion of a singular nature has collapsed into a pluralistic series of natures (forces, sites, experiences and so on). Although Williams’ work has clarified what we might mean by nature this lexicological approach has inherent dangers. It tends to use authoritative texts from literature and science as benchmarks of usage and meaning. There is a certain inevitability about this, since central texts are widely read, formative and influential in the dissemination of shared/agreed meanings. Moreover, as Gellner (1983) has argued, it is precisely over such overarching and abstract questions as the meaning and purpose of nature that western culture emerged from highly local and parochial affairs and began to form high cultures, (art, literature, science and music) the idea of ‘an education’ and ultimately overarching polities such as nation states and civil society. However, because only the educated and literate classes have left an archaeology of written works, for most of western history, the records carry an in-built cultural bias and do not properly represent the full range of senses and meanings. Even where accounts are given of others, they remain the testimony and interpretation of the more privileged and powerful groups. Indeed, this book will claim that, in parallel with the establishment of a stable and agreed understanding of nature and the natural world, there coexisted other understandings and practices, some based on spatial differences (parochial outliers, metropolitan cultural variety/diversity), others on folk traditions, historical continuities and so forth. It is precisely those sorts of groups not well represented in the sources for William’s keywords which are also silent in much of the recent literature on nature and environment and it will be one of the aims of this book to redress this imbalance. Nature as the material world, for which we might easily substitute the more commonly used phrase the natural world, became the subject of disciplinary claims in the academy although combined they comprise science. An important border dispute centred on the classification of human beings. Clearly they were part of the natural world and equally clearly, it seemed, they were distinguishable from the natural world in their possession of a soul, language, mindfulness and culture. This assisted in the making of psychological and psychoanalytical claims as separate from the anatomical sciences but the claim by Durkheim for a separate domain of the social and the social sciences provided even firmer evidence for the separation (Dickens 1992, 1996; Macnaghten and Urry 1995, 1998). According to Durkheim there was an irreducible domain of facts that was entirely social. Moreover, by the time this intellectual carve up took place, western humanity was increasingly urbanised and the city was clearly taken to be outside and opposed to the natural world. This separation of civic society from the countryside, its agricultural hinterland and from wild nature its opposed other, enabled sociologists to imagine a province comprised purely of the social and cultural. In essays such as The Metropolis and Mental Life,



Simmel (1950) was thus able describe the specificities of a big city culture, as a self-contained sociality (Frisby and Featherstone 1997). Moreover, this essay shows how the city produced a new kind of person from the small town or rural village, with a different psychological make-up, emotional content and intellectual capacities born of a different environment of stimulations. Because the city was not governed or anchored in nature, natural rhythms or cycles, it was cut loose to develop in new ways. Sociology is almost exclusively urban in location and has been able to ignore the nature of the countryside or wilderness as an irrelevant variable: Taking for granted the success of such modern societies in their spectacular overcoming of nature, sociology has concentrated and specialised on what it has been good at, namely describing and explaining the very character of modern societies. As such, sociology has generally accepted a presumed division of academic labour that partly stemmed from the Durkheimian desire to carve out a separate realm or sphere of the social which could be investigated and explained autonomously. (Macnaghten and Urry 1998:5)

Macnaghten and Urry suggest that the work of Dunlap and Catton (1979, 1994) were the only exception to this trend. Their work was predicated on an interdisciplinary approach to ‘environmental’ problems and, as Macnaghten and Urry (1998:5–6) point out, they played second fiddle to the more obviously significant and dominant scientific disciplines. The environment was a problematised nature, the problem being caused largely by people. While the environmental problem was to be defined, monitored and fixed by science, sociologists could do their bit by explaining the social dimensions and causes of environmental harm and its impacts and suggesting the means by which a social solution could be arrived at. By these collaborations sociologists found themselves working according to an agenda set by science in which they were able to develop only a partial and instrumental sociology of nature. Social theory, however, was not confined to sociology as a discipline. Indeed, it was from Durkheim himself that social anthropology became a professional and theoretical discipline in which society and nature were to prove a very long lasting focus for theoretical development. Recent developments in that tradition will be examined in more detail in Chapter 4. For present purposes it is sufficient to outline its principle impact on our thinking about nature and its influence on social theory.

Durkheim, anthropology and nature Unlike western culture that was seemingly encapsulated in an urban technical and spatial bubble, primordial cultures encountered by anthropologists of the nineteenth century were seemingly encapsulated in the



nature world. The terms ‘a state of nature’, ‘primitive’ and ‘savage’ for example, implied not that cultures were simply living in close spatial proximity to and in articulation with the natural world, but that somehow they were something less than cultural, that there was something contaminating and arresting about such proximate relations. Indeed, they were understood for a long time to be manifestations of earlier stages of western social evolution and therefore closer to nature, our common starting point. Primordial cultures were frequently lavish in their appropriation of the natural world into their material artifacture and onto their bodies; to the point where western visitors were occasionally unable to detect any humanoid provenance. The most primitive peoples were of special significance to those early inquirers precisely because they threatened to complicate the rigid orthodox separation of humanity from nature. According to early reports from travellers there were a wide variety of human examples displaying disturbingly animal-like behaviours and living in such a rude state of nature as to raise doubts about such a clear and universal boundary between ours and other species. The apparent beliefs and practices of Australian Aborigines, which bore a similarly close relation to the natural world around them, were scarcely much of a lead in determining their humanity relative to the West, but it was a sufficiently interesting clue to become one of the first anthropological debates and one of the most formative ideas in understanding nature in all societies. According to this tradition, nature is a social and cultural construction, and natural objects are made to embody social subjects. Durkheim’s analyses of totemic practices exemplify this approach. In totemic societies, social identity is concentrated in clans, typically individuals related to each other by sharing a common ancestor through male or female lineages. Typically, each clan claims a separate species of animal or plant or more rarely rocks, stars, planets and so on, as the ancestor from whom the clan descends. The natural world is not merely comprised of cockatoos, snakes, insects and trees, the individual manifestation of the species, it is comprised of their powers, cockatooness, snakeness, etc. This power is manifested in an individual clan animal ancestor (which clan members are forbidden to eat), in certain parts of clan members, bodies and in the patterns depicting the clan ancestors on shields and artefacts and on the very sacred objects that remain hidden and form the centre of clan ritual. In the case of Australian Aborigines, the clan ancestors emerged from the earth in a period known as the Dreaming, when the earth became animated with life and from when human clans were initiated. Aboriginal clans are seemingly religious or ritual communities as much as they are cognatic communities, because marriage rules, which dictate that clan members must marry outside the clan, mean that clans are not necessarily the dayto-day groups formed by marriage and birth. The multi-clan day-to-day



groups or bands are highly scattered spatially and therefore clans tend to meet together only rarely, for special occasions associated with the life of the clan, that is, matters relating to its continuity, death, birth, marriage, initiation and so on. Initially, one theory held that totemism was a misguided attempt to harness and pacify natural powers through ritual observation in nature cults. The social logic of kinship was drawn on to establish links between the key subjects, clans and species. Just as clan members are bound to support and protect one another so such a relationship was incurred between human clans and natural species. This made little sense to Durkheim who asked why it was that the little, apparently insignificant plants and creatures (e.g. the gum tree grub, edible roots and small birds) were the object of such social alliance rather than the really dreadful powers of nature, fire, thunder, flood and wind. For Durkheim there could be only one answer to the riddle: the relationship with the natural world represented by totemism was nothing other than a projection and representation of the clan itself. This is illustrated for Durkheim in the apparent strength of totemic powers vested in different objects. In individual clan animals or plants, totemic power was relatively weak. It gained strength in various human body parts and fluids, and yet more strength in patterned representations. Its ultimate power was vested in the highly abstract nature of the sacred objects stones with their minimal lines and shapes. For Durkheim these levels of power relate to the relatively insignificant status of an individual clan member as compared with the more abstract and fragmented nature of the clan itself. Totemic powers were at their most potent in their most abstract expression in centralised hidden locations, just as the clan was at its most potent when it was gathered together on those rare occasions to administer the continuity of its social existence. Durkheim wondered at the unequivocal nature of his source material when it described the state of great excitation at clan gatherings: ‘The smoke, the blazing torches, the shower of sparks falling in all directions and the dancing, yelling men,’ say Spencer and Gillen, ‘formed altogether a genuinely wild and savage scene of which it is impossible to convey any adequate idea in words’ (Durkheim 1976:218). He considered it plausible that the psychosocial dynamic of the situation gave rise to a sensing of collective powers at work and also of the existence of ‘two heterogeneous and mutually incomparable worlds’: One can readily conceive how, when arrived at this state of exhaltation, a man does not recognize himself any longer. Feeling himself dominated and carried away by some sort of external power which makes him think and act differently than in normal times, he naturally has the impression of being himself no longer. It seems to him that he has become a new being: the decorations he puts on and the masks that cover his face figure materially in this interior transformation ... and at the same time all his companions feel themselves transformed in the same way and express this sentiment by their cries, their gestures and their general attitude, everything is just as though he really were transported into an environment filled with exceptionally intense forces that



take hold of him and metamorphose him. How could such experiences as these especially when they are repeated every day for weeks, fail to leave him without the conviction that there really exist two heterogeneous and mutually incomparable worlds. (Durkheim 1976:218)

The undoubtable reality of these experiences combined with the impossibility of explaining them exactly favoured their objectification in an external source: He does not know that the coming together of a number of men associated in the same life results in disengaging new energies, which transform each of them. All that he knows is that he is raised above himself and that he sees a different life from the one he ordinarily leads. However he must connect these sensations to some external object as their cause. Now what does he see about him? On every side those things which appeal to his senses and strike his imagination are the numerous images of the totem. They are the waninga and the nurtunja, which are the symbols of the sacred being. They are churinga and bull-roarers, upon which are carved combinations of lines having the same significance. They are the decorations covering the different parts of his body, which are totemic marks. How could this image, repeated everywhere in all sorts of forms, fail to stand out with exceptional relief in his mind? Placed thus in the centre of the scene, it becomes representative. The sentiments expressed fix themselves upon it, for it is the only concrete object upon which they can fix themselves. It continues to bring them to mind and to evoke them even after the assembly has dissolved, for it survives the assembly, being carved upon the sides of rocks, upon bucklers etc. Everything happens as if they inspired them directly. . . . So it is from it [the totem] that those mysterious forces seem to emanate with which men feel that they are related, and thus they have been led to represent these forces under the form of the animate or inanimate being whose name the clan bears. (Durkheim 1976:220–21)

The clan symbol, a socially differentiating symbol, became the obvious repository of these hard-to-express feelings of mind, body and worldtransforming power. Durkheim was not simply interested in the identification and objectification of mystic forces. In order for a totem to qualify as religious it had also to offer a conception of the universe. All the evidence available to Durkheim established that the entire natural world was classified and encompassed in relations of totemic belonging: ‘In fact, these classifications are the first we meet within history, and ... they are modelled upon the social organization, or rather they have taken the forms of society as their framework. It is the phratries that have served as classes and the clans as species’ (Durkheim 1976:145). The Aboriginal material suggested to Durkheim that Totemic societies used the natural world around them to construct an understanding of themselves and in so doing nature was thinkable only in social terms. The classification of the natural world documented by Curr and Fison and



Howett, Durkheim’s sources, are clearly ordered according to a social logic with lines of differentiation following social differentiations according to clan logics. But how did the natural world appear to Aborigines themselves? Clearly there was no differentiation between the human and the natural; people were linked to other parts of nature in a seamless but ordered manner. The natural world was composed of discrete parts, just as clans are discrete one from another, but the parts were linked together through ties similar to kinship. However humanity and nature was both corporeal and animate and incorporeal and spiritual. As clans were to species, each had a species or clan power in common, expressible in terms of say, cockatooness or crocodileness or gum treeness which was immanent in the bodies of individual people and specimens, but especially also in any abstract manifestations in decorations and ultimately in the sacred goods of each clan. Importantly, these powers were causal in the lives of people and especially concerned with clan rules. It is this identification of the natural world as an essentially moral and juridical intervention that creates in the minds of Aborigines not a benign peaceful and Edenic other to the world of people but a relatively harsh, turbulent and omnipresent presence inside their affairs. Aborigines were not living in a constant state of anxiety and fear in relation to the natural world, but clearly it was a source of risk in their lives (particularly drought) and, as with so many other primordial cultures, some considerable time was set aside to make the appropriate atonements or appeasements (see Durkheim 1976:403–4). Moreover, as Durkheim argues, the natural world into which Aborigines conceived themselves was organised into notions of the sacred and the profane, a contingent moral universe in which different aspects of nature were sacred or profane according to the individual or group in question. Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, a relatively late work in his career, has had an influence on social theory that cannot be overstated (see Alexander 1982). The key idea in this work is his conception of the universe (for which read the natural world) as a moral or social universe. Although the Elementary Forms of the Religious Life can be read as an analysis of totemism or ethnography of Aboriginal Australia, it is significant that Durkheim is quite clear that this is a universal theory. For Durkheim, the recognition of the sacred and the profane goes to the very heart of any social order. Some 37 years later in his revision of Durkheim’s theory of totemism, Radcliffe-Brown was to affirm this: ‘The conception of the universe as a moral order is not confined to primitive peoples, but is an essential part of every system of religion. It is, I think, a universal element in human culture’ (Radcliffe-Brown 1952:131). This idea was regularly echoed and extended thereafter and became a regular feature of the work of French and English social anthropology. Moreover in the work of Lévi-Strauss, Mary Douglas and Edward Leach the universality of the idea was frequently underlined in case studies of western culture (see Douglas 1966, 1972, 1975; Leach 1964; Lévi-Strauss 1962, 1964, 1966).

Table 2.1 A totemic classification of the world from Mount Gambia, Australia (Source: E. Durkheim, 1976: 142) Phratries Kumite


Things classed in each clan

Fish-Hawk..................................................... Pelican............................................................ Crow...............................................................

Smoke, honeysuckle, certain trees, etc. Blackwood-trees, dogs, fire, frost, etc. Rain, thunder, lightning, clouds, hail, winter, etc. The stars, the moon, etc. Fish, seal, eel, the stringybark-tree, etc.

Black cockatoo.............................................. A non-poisonous snake............................... Kroki

Tree-tree......................................................... An edible root............................................... A white crestless cockatoo.......................... Details are lacking for the fourth and fifth Kroki clans

Duck, crayfish, owls, etc. Bustard, quail, a small kangaroo, etc. Kangaroo, the summer, the sun, wind, the autumn etc.



Douglas’s works such as Purity and Danger (1966) were particularly influential in a growing feminist and gender literature and the significance of nature in the ordering of culture could hardly be missed. Similarly, her 1972 essay ‘Environments at risk’ is one of the earliest reminders that western ecological anxiety discourses do not reduce to the scientific facts of the matter and cannot be rendered free from moral content. These themes in social theory will be taken up in more detail in later chapters on anthropology and postmodernity but from this brief discussion it is perfectly clear that an interest in nature and claims for its universal association with moral and social discourse had seen anthropologists picking apt case studies from modern society to illustrate it. The implications of this work were significant in the development of gender studies (MacCormack and Strathern 1980; Rosaldo and Lamphere 1974), studies of religion (Swanson 1960; Worsley 1968), the sociology of food (Mennell et al. 1992; Murcott 1983), the sociology of risk (Beck 1992); Douglas and Wildavsky 1982), and the sociology of the body (Elias 1994 [1939]; Turner 1996). It is not true therefore, as some have claimed, that sociology has ignored nature. Rather, a wide variety of sociologists have acknowledged the cultural meaningfulness and richness of those natures central to modern cultures and the ensuing social constructivist tradition in sociology has been gathering strength over the past 40 years. Since the 1970s at least, the environment has emerged as the external nature that could be ignored no longer and sociology was forced by this and other issues to confront a global agenda of social relations. Under the contingent conditions of a global world order the interface between two abstract concepts such as nature and society, long favoured by structural accounts, were of little use. The environmental ‘nature’ was a discourse of risk, an apocalyptical account of the crisis of modernity in relation to nature conceived as a life support system, but often also conceived of as a mother, a nurturing giver and sustainer of life. As we will see later the risk literatures in sociology became divided over a proper sociological response. Realists, comprised largely of neo-Marxians, embraced environmentalism as a call for participation in political activism; the role of sociology was to conceive of a society in which ‘nature mattered’ (Murphy 1995). The more orthodox response was deconstructivist, largely using Durkheim: Beck’s risk society rendered as a mythical discourse (Alexander and Smith 1996). However, as a result of the growth of tourism, natural leisures, natural foods and nature therapies in the 1980s and 1990s it was also clear that the engagement with the natural world had become a significant element in consumption and social identity and not merely politics. To some extent, attempts to reconcile realism and social constructivism philosophically (see Soper 1995) have been swept to one side by Macnaghten and Urry’s new approach to society and nature as a complex series of culturally embedded and contested practices. By the mid-1990s it was clear that practically everyone was an environmentalist (see Eder 1996) or would describe themselves as concerned about the



environment: environmentalism had a long track record as a principal political issue and even street protest action (as the road protests and the live export of animals controversy in the UK showed) could be comprised of a bewildering variety of supporters. Contested Natures was as much a research agenda as an explanation. It was clear from their brief historical analysis of the intellectual and embodied relation between the English and their countryside that over the most formative years of sociology the British had only partly conformed to the mythical metropolitan subject for sociology. It was clear that they had by no means fully abandoned ancient and complex ties and reverence for the natural world. The narrative history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is one of rediscovery and renaturalisation. As we will see, Contested Natures could not deliver its entire promise in one volume: as its title suggested the archaeology and sociology of the multiple natures in Britain alone was a compendious empirical task. Some idea of the scale of that task is given in the work of two prominent historians on the relation between humanity and the natural world. Given the difficult and slow birth of a sociology of nature Thomas’s Man and the Natural World (1983) is all the more remarkable. This is an in-depth history on England and the natural world, 1500–1800. What emerges at the end is not only an industrial superpower but a society smitten with and deeply associated with its diminishing wild nature and its burgeoning gardens, parks and domesticated non-human companions. Its themes and analyses are appropriate for us to turn to now since Thomas’s history was informed by a reading of Durkheim, Lévi-Strauss and Elias.

History and the natural world Keith Thomas’s Man and the Natural World (1983) remains the most in-depth study of the English and their natures and covers a period during which dramatic changes occurred. Ultimately, Thomas seeks to explain the arrival by the nineteenth century of a series of attitudes and practices that are argued to be reversals of those pertaining in the Tudor period. These new relations can be characterised by the following: extensive sentimental attachments to animals; a widely influential romanticism of natural areas, phenomena and landscapes; legislations to protect domestic animals from cruelty and wild animals from hunting or economic exploitation in specified natural areas; a passion for natural history and gardening; evidence of ambiguity and guilt over the slaughtering of meat animals and the despoilation of natural areas for economic purposes. It is hard to exaggerate the extent and depth of English feelings for the natural world as they developed into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (at one level Thomas’s book can be read as a catalogue of this natural aesthetic) and indeed this notoriously urban and industrial power can be framed as precisely the opposite:



Whether the preoccupation with nature and rural life is in reality peculiarly English, it is certainly something which the English townsman has for a long time liked to think of as such; and much of the country’s literature and intellectual life has displayed a profoundly anti-urban bias. (Thomas 1983:14)

In Tudor and Stuart England the contrast is dramatic. English rural life was lived cheek by jowl with the natural world but humanity was categorically and emotionally removed from nature. In the first place nature was objectified by Tudor theology as a god-given resource for humanity to do with as they pleased. This gave rise, particularly from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to an instrumentalism that found expression in a design theory: animals especially were explainable by their use value to humanity. Fish swam close to shore the easier for people to catch them. Lobsters were of twin values: they were good to eat and they demonstrated good design in armour. Sheep, cattle and horse came in variegated colours the better that individual owners might tell them apart. Songbirds and parrots were to provide mirth. Weeds were to provide a struggle and maintain human industry and spirit and trees to make house building easier. Clearly, the singular creator would exercise ingenuity in providing convenience for humanity: ‘Henry More in 1653 was convinced that sheep had only been given life in the first place so as to keep their meat fresh “till we shall have need to eat them”’ (Thomas 1983:20). Earlier, especially in the years following the Reformation, nature was not imagined in this ideal sense, rather it was in a ‘wretched and decaying state’ and emphasis was put on it being an obstacle to humanity. Either way, nature was an instrument of divine purpose, a detachable material context to humanity’s cardinal place on earth. Second, the natural world, but particularly animals, were held at arm’s length through ritual acts of distinction. Cruelty to animals was commonplace in sports such as baiting, which was even a popular court diversion, laid on for important visitors. All manner of cruel contests were set up: swans were tied to large fish (pike) to see which would remove the other from their element; badgers were set against dogs; dogs were pitched against each other. Clothing and short hair and other embodied affirmations of human distinction were encouraged: long hair, nakedness and pets were frowned on. According to Thomas, excessive cruelty to animals reaffirmed a boundary between humanity and animality under conditions where everyday life threatened to muddle it. Moreover, Thomas likened early modern England to other primitive and primordial cultures where ‘the universal belief in analogy and correspondence made it normal to perceive the animal world as a mirror image of human and social political organisation’: ‘For it was not merely the hierarchy of natural species which was invoked to justify social inequalities with the human species. Even within individual natural species there were believed to be social



and political divisions closely paralleling those in the human world’ (Thomas 1983:61). Here we see the classical metonymic and metaphoric devises that became the analytic material for structural anthropology as they were borrowed and adopted from Durkheim. The early period in which the natural world was linked to moral and social structures and which also served to distinguish a proper humanity was challenged slowly and unevenly by a reconfiguration of knowledge of the non-human world and by a reconfiguration of the manner by which humanity lived alongside nature. Thomas’s method changes somewhat to accommodate these new conditions. He switches from an anthropological approach in which the intellectualisation of nature derives from the social to an ideational approach where, as a result of the Enlightenment, nature takes on a realist independence from man. From this volte face everything can change: anthropocentricity changes to reflexive decentredness; pets can show themselves (empirically through observation and experience) to be worthy moral emotional subjects for human friendship; wild nature can appear as a pure otherness to counterbalance the pollution of modernity; animals become acknowledged, anatomically, as wired for pain and suffering in a manner similar to mankind and therefore candidates for moral subjecthood and deserving of legal protection and rights. To simplify Thomas’s rich and textured account we can isolate six related factors associated with this reversal. First, Enlightenment discoveries about the size and likely physics of the world and universe were strongly suggestive that mankind was not positioned at its hub. Rather in the now grander scheme of things, mankind could be thought of as insignificant. Nature by contrast could be thought of as more significant than just a designer consumable for mankind. The microscope revealed a hidden universe of nature as significant and as diverse as the visible. Geological discoveries revealed large animals unknown to man and a complex nature much older than mankind himself (Thomas 1983:165–8). Second, through natural history, previous utility-based classifications and ‘vulgar taxonomies’ were shown to be absurd and false. Nature was independent of humanity, articulated by its own laws and classifiable only in its own terms. It was worthy of study in its own right and would reveal further use values than those already known: This essentially modern view of causality had been overlaid by centuries of Christian teaching, when nature was portrayed as the creation of an omnipotent deity and her laws were seen not just as impersonal regularities but as moral norms. Now ... the scientists returned to the view [as pioneered by the Greek atomists] that nature and humanity were fundamentally distinct. (Thomas 1983:91)

Set adrift from moral or spiritual discourse, Enlightenment practice implied the need to learn natural laws the better to exploit their benefits. From Galileo, through Descartes to Newton, the state of nature was



deadened, ‘from a life giving force to dead matter, from spirit to machine’ (Macnaghten and Urry 1998:10). However, natural history produced a tension in the Enlightenment philosophy. While observation and detailing were essential to its empirical project, the sorts of observations that struck early naturalists did not always chime with a mechanistic, automata view of natural species. Glacken (1966) describes a counter-movement within natural history to observe and be impressed by natural complexity, beauty and aesthetic appeal, rather more than simple mechanisms. Indeed, empirical experience of nature often produced a view opposed to mechanical theory. As we shall see, pet keeping tended to oppose the idea that animals were simply machines at the command of instinct. This tension forms one of two strands that were to surface in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the Romantic Movement. The other strand was the observed and sensed consequence of a scientific and rational exploitation of nature in terms of escalating environmental damage, looming slag heaps, pollution of air and water and so on. Third, the gradual popularisation of pet keeping by the urban elites under conditions of enthusiasm and aesthetic zeal rather than sanctimonious condemnation permitted humans perhaps a unique sight of animals as intelligent beings with qualities comparable to humans. Nature was distinct from humanity, but humanity was discovering that it was, after all, more animallike than it had supposed. As simply different animals, humans and dogs and cats could be seen to share a lot in common and what they did not could be appreciated aesthetically and emotionally – at the very least by humans. Pet keeping therefore softened the hearts of people in a very intense manner. The material Thomas mobilises in favour of the extension of sentiments to other non-pet animals is compelling, although one wonders whether among the urban elite then, as among contemporary households, pets filled the emotional gap left by absent people (see Franklin 1999). Fourth, the period before, during and after the English Civil War was intellectually and socially radical. The extension of the idea of rights, the revulsion against cruelties to humans and animals owed a great deal to the humanist traditions of puritanism. Although the position was derived from the Bible it was unequivocal and gave rise to much campaigning against cruel sports, including the first moral and ethical concern with hunting (K. Thomas 1983:153–61). However, Thomas makes little of the significance of the extension of social and political literary discourse in this period, during which sensibilities among the social elite were spread down the social hierarchy via army networks and pamphleteers. Cartmill (1993) shows how tender-hearted sentiments to animals can be related to war weariness following the Second World War and a similar disaffection with bloodshed and violence may have extended to animals in the post-Civil War period. Certainly, from the Civil War until the first anti-cruelty legalisations in the early nineteenth century, it never really left the agenda for change. Fifth, urbanisation forms an important part of Thomas’s account, making something of a link between moral and objective dealings with



animals. Under conditions of rural contiguity and the blurring of living spaces, people created a significant ritual boundary between themselves and animals. According to Thomas, when this was no longer the case and the rituals of separation became redundant, people were free to associate with animals and did so with some considerable enthusiasm. However urbanisation, particularly after the seventeenth century, created more sustained longings for the country, for clean air, peace and greenery. These longings were not simply a reaction to the growth and discomforts of the town. Rural idylls and Christian Arcadia were also a product of the English Civil War and a little disguised critique of the puritan order centred on commerce and materiality. These may have been Royalist sour grapes but their popularity suggests they were in accord also with popular feelings and they have sold like hot cakes ever since. Finally, the Romantic Movement was responsible for securing a more or less stable and enduring aesthetic of wild nature that was also tied to a critique of modernisation: here was an anti-Enlightenment sentiment of huge appeal. Unlike the anti-cruelty reformers of the early nineteenth century, who were typical of their day, progressive and largely urban legislators, the Romantics were a relatively small body of recluses, albeit mostly of an elite background. Although uninclined to the political life, Thomas underlines their political significance, particularly the poets, ‘Shelley’s “unacknowledged legislators”’ (K. Thomas 1983:149). Tester (1992) argues that the Romantic Movement constituted a demand for similitude, by which he means that humanity and animals were in most respects similar and, in a proper state of nature, humanity would not erect spurious grounds for differentiating itself and justifying animals as inferior. People were naturally vegetarian and naturally kind and cooperative among themselves and closely linked to nature. The Romantics were of course opposed to urbanisation, industrialisation and rationalisation. They created an aesthetic of the margins of modernity or of wild untamed natural forces such as tides, storms and wind. Nature was not only aesthetically superior it was therapeutic and restored body and spirits damaged by urban life. Building on the earlier traditions of rural idylls, the Romantics were intolerant of the rationalised condition of the countryside. Here wild nature that was patchworked into the fields, meadows and commons in Walton’s seventeenth-century Compleat Angler was on the retreat from mechanised agriculture. The discourse of retreat, disappearance and sadness encouraged a considerable rethink about nature as simply a raw material and substantial areas were set aside in the USA, UK and elsewhere before the conclusion of the nineteenth century. By this time, pilgrimages to the sacred cathedrals of nature had established a rapidly growing following among the urban middle classes and, with the addition of new rail links to such areas, among the working classes too. The success of the Romantic Movement rendered nature into a modern urban leisure on the spatial margin rather than oppose politically the



mutilation and reordering of nature elsewhere, in farmlands and hinterland of the city (Williams 1972). Thomas’s book, first published in 1983 when the environmental movement was in full swing, leads the reader to comprehend the origins of their sentiments for nature and it challenges them in a chapter called ‘The human dilemma’, with sections such as ‘Meat or mercy’ and ‘Cultivation or wilderness’ to reconsider this bigger question, of the natures not rendered parks or conservation areas. We are invited to consider these questions as they were considered by the Victorians whose actions and views close the book in a muddle of sentiment, ambiguity and guilt. In 1983 vegetarianism had become mainstream and self-conscious of its previous status. A London vegetarian restaurant chain called itself Cranks. Animal rights organisations and actions vied with environmental action. In these conditions Thomas could propose meat as a moral dilemma and nature as an environmentalist issue. In this way he continues to give emphasis to the ideas of the essentially educated classes as an indication of the way people thought, felt and acted with regard to nature. Throughout the book, for very good reasons, his sources are largely the literate if not literary class and emphasis is given to the character and content of shifting high culture views on nature, from theology through science to romanticism. While we can concede their significance, it is also possible to exaggerate it. It is as if nature is an imagined, ideational relationship rather than a lived and sensed one. If we consider relations with nature as a set of socially embedded and spatially and culturally variable practices, Thomas’s slowly transforming, steadily civilising thesis is rendered problematic. Sources for low culture are less prominent, but their relative autonomy from the educated discourse of their day make them all the more compelling. The contestedness of nature is evident in Thomas to be sure, but whether all dimensions of it are included is open to doubt. More critical perhaps is its thesis on change. On the one hand, there is an underlying civilising thesis in Thomas, although not cast in an Eliasian manner. Comparisons are forced between a dominant anthropocentric view at the beginning of the period and a more reflexive, decentred view at the end. As we have seen he enters into a variety of theses on why views changed. On the other hand, this is seemingly problematised when he argues, in respect of animals, that preachers and pamphleteers constituted ‘one single, coherent and remarkably constant attitude’ against ‘animal cruelty between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries’ (Thomas 1983:153). Tester (1992:71) demands to know where the original ideas came from if not from urbanisation. This paradox lies at the heart of another great historical contribution to the sociology of nature. Simon Schama’s Landscape and Memory (1995) seeks to avoid the ‘great divide’ tradition of historical and sociological constructions of modernity and instead to find the threads of continuity between the traditional and the modern. Schama’s starting point is a concern with the ecologistic/



environmentalist/realist view that modernity involves the structural and systematic despoliation of nature, ‘the annexation of nature by culture’. Schama’s disquiet is fuelled by equally ubiquitous and concurrent venerations of nature and the survival of primordial practices and values with respect to nature: For notwithstanding . . . that Western culture has evolved by sloughing off its nature myths, they have, in fact, never gone away. For if, as we have seen, our landscape tradition is the product of a shared culture, it is by the same token a tradition built from a rich deposit of myths, memories and obsessions. The cults which we are told to seek in other native cultures – of the primitive forest, of the river of life, of the sacred mountain – are in fact alive and well and all about us if only we know where to look for them. (Schama 1995:14) And it is just because ancient places are constantly being given the topdressing of modernity (the primeval forest, for example, turning into the ‘wilderness park’) that the antiquity of the myths at their core is sometimes hard to make out. (Schama 1995:16)

Schama’s thesis is that the sacredness of nature as scripted by a variety of different primordial European cultures was never shaken off by modernisation with its emphasis on nature as a resource (another primordial idea one might add). The two are not, of course, mutually exclusive and illustrate a recurring theme in this book, that social contractions of nature and a realist ontology of nature (that is just stuff, resources, food, fuel) are perfectly compatible and regular if not universal features of human relationships with the natural world. Life or death itself is something about which science is properly and typically neutral but modern people cannot be that blasé and are moved to consider such themes as renewal, regeneration and fertility in much the same way as primordial culture. The European tree cults of pre-Christian cultures figure prominently in such ritual and mythology but the point is one cannot identify a moment at which they were terminated or made redundant. Schama argues against Frazer’s (1910) assumption that modernity was predicated on the decline and death of myth but with the art historian Warburg who argued that primitivism and modernity were connected through what he called ‘the archive of memory’ (Schama 1995:212). Between them Thomas and Schama, with their relative emphasis on change and continuity, come somewhere close to an acceptable account of natures as culturally specific and embedded and prone to change in relation to shifting economic, ethical and moral conditions. However, Thomas was writing in 1983 and Schama in 1995. Between these two dates some sociological contributors took Thomas’s Victorian moral dilemmas and demanded that sociology recognise nature as a structuring force of the social and resolve to prevent a social disaster through ecological reform.



For others, environmentalism, or ecologism, was of sociological interest in its own right, particularly in relation to its social construction in the context of risk society, its mobilisation of a realist ontology of the environment and its construction in terms of a moral imperative. For the former realist writers, the social construction of nature was anathema: it undermined the basis of an environmental crisis, it focused unproductive attention on environmentalism as text and it encouraged nihilism that in turn produced political quietism. At its worst, it denied nature as an objectively given reality. Realism, by the same token, produced statements about real feelings and passions for the natural world and although one may argue that this generation reinvented a natural aesthetic for itself using all manner of bits and pieces from the archives of memory, they felt it to be new and rigorous and not to be made light of. Considering the intellectual questions that this debate raises and particularly its unusually charged emotional atmosphere, it is surprising that Macnaghten and Urry dismiss it as ‘rather dull’. As we will see they resolve the issue by arguing that nature is socially embedded in the vectors of space and time, while being at once a physical reality, amenable to the senses and discursively ordered. This position is one with which the present author is in full agreement. It more or less denies that the realists and the constructivists had a debate, because, in effect, it argues that nature is constituted as an objective reality but may be further constituted socially in all manner of ways. They were both right. What is interesting from our point of view, however, is why it seemed like a disagreement and why so much spleen was associated with it.

3 Thinking about Nature 2: The Nature Crisis? Realism, social constructivism and the environment question Crudely, modern sociology did not express much interest in nature as such until there was such a thing as the environmental question. The ‘nature’ debate grew up as a result of two principal moves. First, many sociologists convinced of an environmental crisis were also convinced of a sufficiently compelling case for their involvement as experts of its social and cultural dimensions. What was clearly needed before any appropriate action could take place was a theoretically informed account of the social dynamics of the environmental crisis. Social theory and investigation needed to match scientific theory and investigation in this unique multidisciplinary problem. Second, as their work got under way in the context of, and with a degree of overt collusion with, an environmental movement, their combined cultural production attracted the attention of other sociologists who saw, irrespective of their own views about the environment, that there was an interesting cultural dimension to their work and their involvement. Not least, it was an involvement in a movement that, while drawing on a putatively scientific foundation, also appeared to have an underlying social and moral content. With keywords and phrases such as pollution, purity, balance, abuse, death of the planet, rights and risk in their vocabularies and coloured as it was by a generalised misanthropic gloom, it was little wonder that they attracted the attention of anthropologists such as Mary Douglas and Durkheimian sociologists such as Alexander and Foucauldian analysts such as Keith Tester. Seen in terms of two discernibly sequenced moves, one is also able to understand why it was that realists took offence first and with more spleen. That so much more emotional energy and anger was mixed in with their responses to constructionist analysis is perhaps illustrative that it was more than just a dispute over the scientific facts – an additional point that constructionists might want to tease out. Before we look at the emotional character of the debate it is useful to first describe the theoretical background to the realist positions.



The first thing to clarify is that realists come in at least two varieties. The first are those who subscribe to an epistemological position known as realism, of which there is more later. The second are those who acknowledge the materiality of the natural world and who see humanity as intimately a part of this, distinguished by neither privileged powers or status – most scientists and ecologists subscribe to this view. Humanity has damaged a complex ecological relationship within which it must restore its place if the planet is to survive. Soper (1995) refers to this position as ecologism though within ecologism there are a number of diverse perspectives such as deep ecology and ecofeminism. Ecologists rely almost exclusively on scientific validation for the status of ecological relationships although, of course, they are also interested in the materiality of human culture as the source of ecological imbalance and therefore locate their political interventions in the social sphere. In her book What is Nature? Soper constructs her argument around the tension and opposition between ecologism and social constructivism: The distinction, broadly speaking, here is between an approach to nature that has emerged in response to ecological crisis, is critically targeted on its human plunder and destruction and politically directed at correcting that abuse; and an approach that is focussed on the semiotics of ‘nature’, which would recall us to the role of the concept in mediating access to the reality it names, and whose political critique is directed at the oppressive use of the idea to legitimate social and sexual hierarchies and cultural norms. The contrast, crudely, is between discourse which direct us to the ‘nature’ that we are destroying, wasting and polluting and discourse that are focussed on the ideological functions of the appeal to ‘nature’ and on the ways in which relations to the nonhuman world are always historically mediated, and indeed ‘constructed’, through specific conceptions of human identity and difference. (Soper 1995:3–4)

Soper notes the range of variations in the manner to which these two approaches are combined and rather than oppose ‘green’ to ‘postmodern’ she prefers the opposition between nature-endorsing and nature-sceptical approaches. Soper somewhat confusingly admits of the self-evidence of social constructions put upon nature yet seems to insist that in doing so the constructivist is inevitably opposed to a realist position. Her insistence on a critical tension between constructionist and ecologistic approaches is the problem. Drawing on perhaps the extreme case of Derrida all such constructions of nature are made to oppose a realist nature: For while ecologists tend to invoke nature as a domain of intrinsic value, truth or authenticity, and are relatively unconcerned with questions of representation and conceptuality, postmodernist cultural theory and criticism looks with suspicion at any appeal to the idea as an attempt to ‘eternise’ what in reality is merely conventional, and has invited us to view the order of nature as entirely linguistically constructed. (Soper 1995:6)



What follows is a display of anger or exasperation that is so characteristic of realist accounts: But I defend a realist position as offering the only responsible basis from which to argue for any kind of political change whether in our dealings with nature or anything else. I recognize, that is, that there is no reference to that which is independent of discourse except in discourse, but dissent from any position which appeals to this truth as a basis for denying the extra discursive reality of nature. I seek to expose the incoherence of an argument that appears so readily to grant this reality to culture and its effects while denying it to nature, and argue that, unless we acknowledge the nature that is not a cultural formation, we can offer no convincing grounds for challenging the pronouncements of culture on what is or is not ‘nature’. (Soper 1995:8)

Our grounds for disagreement with Soper are that she has made more of this so-called tension than is properly justified. As we will see later, Burningham and Cooper (1999) take realists to task for exaggerating the extent to which other sociologists have arranged themselves in such extreme opposition. In Soper’s conclusion she proposes that we avoid this opposition by allowing each form of analysis to coexist by addressing different sorts of question. The issue is, of course, whether most social constructions of nature have strayed into a position that does deny the extra discursive reality of nature. However, Soper wants to say more than that nature is independent of our thought and language and what we think of nature is frequently constructed culturally. In her conclusion she argues that ‘while it is true that much of what we refer to as “natural” is a “cultural construct” in the sense it has acquired this form as a consequence of human activity, that activity does not “construct” the powers and processes upon which it is dependent for its operation’ (Soper 1995:249). Reference to the powers of nature, by which is meant the causal powers of nature as they interact with the causal powers of social structures to produce any one knowable/measurable ecological conjuncture, is a hallmark of realism. Realism (or critical realism as it sometimes known) itself emerged as an empirically orientated revision of structural Marxism in the 1980s. It is closely influenced by the writings of Roy Bhaskar (1989, 1991) and William Outhwaite (1987), it was widely embraced in post-Marxian urban social theory and it rooted well in some university research communities such as at Sussex (Dickens 1992, 1996; Martell 1994; Sayer 1984). It has been very prominent in recent debates on the environment and nature providing a tireless critical response to most manifestations of social constructions of nature (e.g. Benton 1989, 1992, 1993; Dickens 1992, 1996; Martell 1994; Murphy 1995). Martell highlights four distinguishing features of realism that are relevant here. The first is that nature and society are mutually constitutive and should therefore be analysed dialectically. This involves the claim that ‘nature’ has causal properties of its own and that these are involved in



the structuring of the social. Second, realism seeks to identify objective generative potentials in nature (including the social) which are then assembled into what they call ‘an abstract level’ (abstract because they are merely potential causal properties, not those unleashed through necessary contingent conditions). Concrete events, processes or outcomes themselves are formed by these entities under socially mediated contingent conditions (contingent level), Marx’s ‘conditions not of their own choosing’. Indeed (point three) realism is roughly modelled on the early work of Marx, particularly his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (Marx 1975). This not only showcases the methodology realists adopt from Marx, it also specifies the theoretical link between humanity and nature: In brief, Marx’s conceptualisation was that humans are so dependent on nature that nature can be seen as ‘their inorganic body’ (Dickens 1992: Ch. 3), as part of them. Humans live from nature and nature becomes part of human being. This guards against any dualist distinction of nature and society and necessitates a unified approach that includes both in an understanding of the dynamics and processes in either one. (Martell 1994:181)

Arguably this is the most critical theoretical link for realists who are at the same time environmentalists. Benton (1989:53–4) identifies the key passages in Marx and Engels’ work which connect the social to the natural through an ecology, but it is most plainly stated in their Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844: Nature is man’s inorganic body – that is, in so far as it is not itself a human body. Man lives on nature – means that nature is his body, with which he must remain in continuous interchange if he is not to die. That man’s physical and spiritual life is linked to nature means simply that nature is linked to itself, for man is part of nature. (Marx and Engels, Collected Works, vol. 3, p. 276, cited by Benton 1989:54)

Finally, it follows from Marx’s position and the realist position on causality that society cannot by studied in isolation of nature: social and natural science must therefore be combined ‘to see how society is embedded in nature’ (Martell 1994:180) and presumably to analyse any one causal outcome, such as an ecoevent. Although realism is as opposed to what Martell calls ‘environmentalist holism’ (where the whole of nature and humanity can be reduced to overarching natural laws of the ecosystem) as it is to social constructivism, special anathema is reserved for the latter. Indeed, it is largely as a result of their vociferous objections to social constructions of the natural world that something approaching a ‘stand-up row’ occurred (Dickens 1996:72). Up until this social contructivists more or less ignored realism. The most famous case is the realist mobbing of Keith Tester’s Animals and Society by Dickens, Benton and Martell. Benton opened with his 1992



review article. In this, Benton objects to Tester’s analysis of anti-cruelty legislations and animal rights discourses as being fundamentally about human morality, about what it is to be properly human. Rather than merely engaging with this somewhat established, uncontroversial tradition of argument (animals are, as Lévi-Strauss and others have noted, ‘good to think with’, notable even for their role in moral reflexivity), Benton accuses Tester of ‘affected posture’ (Benton 1992:126). Benton reads Tester to be denying animals a reality (‘no character of their own, no liabilities, no causal powers, no relational properties independently of the shifting symbolic and moral projections of human societies’) and therefore undermining any possibility of them having an independent moral claim: The ‘blank paper’ view of animals, and the wilful reading of all claims about animals as covert claims about humans, enunciated as presuppositions for an inadequate writing of the history of animal rights also imply a philosophical rejection not just of animal rights but of the very idea of animals as objects of moral concern in their own right. This is why Tester’s text is committed on the substantive moral issue, and why his methodological non-commitment is therefore just a posture. (Benton 1992:127)

In Martell’s brief critique of Tester’s (1992) work on animal rights, which is set up as a prototypical case of the social construction of nature, he refers to it as ‘overly social contructivist’ as if sociological explanations have a place but can only go so far, certainly not all the way. Tester’s constructivism, moreover, ‘will not do’ (Martell 1994:174). In his view a proper (realist) explanation ‘has to recognize independent objective properties in nature in its relationship with society’. But does a social construction of, say animal rights or environmental risk, deny the extra-discursive nature or are realists badly muddled? The clear problem with the realist critique of Tester is that it confuses the identification of social construction in nature as its simultaneous denial as an extra-discursive entity. Certainly, the idea that animal rights and the appropriate treatment of animals is related to human/ethical/moral discourse is unproblematic and cannot at the same time be held to mean that animals are merely a blank piece of paper; rather, humans seem to be uninhibited in placing all manner of meanings and classifications on the natural world (as if they were a blank piece of paper) while at the same time relating to them in an everyday way, recognising their natural properties and powers. A careful reading of Tester reveals that he accepts Keith Thomas’s explanation for the growth in sentimentalities towards pet dogs and cats as arising from a more closely observed relationship. The realisation by pet owners of greater similarities between humans and animals rather than differences was claimed to be a major transforming process in the path towards the framing of animal rights. In this case, it was the nature of the pet animals in terms of their most detailed capabilities and behaviours, their animality,



that was being observed and taken into account. But it does not follow that an understanding of their true natural properties prevents any social construction from being placed on top of or alongside such knowledge. Tester appears to be saying that the recognition of similarity stimulated people to behave towards them as if they were humans; and if they shared sufficiently similar natures, then they must be accorded the same rights as humans. This is in itself a social construction; rights are a human cultural phenomenon and are not naturally given. The realists seem to want to say the opposite. At no point did Tester evaluate the science of the claims of animal rights, his material for analysis were the claims themselves and the ideas from which they derived. Again, this is surely a very standardised, almost safe procedure in the analysis of the natural world; according to Michael Williams (1998:29–30) ‘the social construction of nature (or most of it), is now a concept that needs little elaboration’, indeed ‘the ambiguity and social construction of nature (and by extension, the environment) have hit the academic world with a bang’. So, must we really reject social constructions of nature as morally, ethically and theoretically objectionable? Martell, Dickens and Benton appear to hold this view. Burningham and Cooper, however, make a strong case in favour of social constructionism. ‘For instance, both Benton (1994) and Martell (1994) take issue with Tester’s claim (1992:46) that “a fish is only a fish if it is classified as one ... animals are indeed a blank paper that can be inscribed with any message and symbolic meaning that the social wishes”, on the basis that this denies the objective physical nature of fish.’ Tester’s claim that a fish can be categorised with ‘any message’ may appear an overstatement, since as Martell points out ‘they cannot be categorised as feathered because they do not have feathers’ (1994:175). ... [H]owever, the undoubted restriction on interpretative flexibility here derives from preexisting categorisations rather than any natural, physical givens. Tester’s central point is that the fish could be classified otherwise. This does not amount to a denial of the fact that fish has certain physical properties: the point is rather that what these properties mean is the result of social processes of categorisation. It is in this case that we can talk of fish as socially constructed. A strict constructionist does not have to maintain, as Sismondo suggests, that there is no distinction between physical/material and social reality; however s/he is likely to argue that exploring how physical reality is socially constructed provides a valid and interesting topic for sociological research. (Burningham and Cooper 1999:309)

Burningham and Cooper (1999) offer for the first time a solid and full defence of social constructionism against realist criticism. Intellectual points are relatively easy to score, but their paper shows that researchers working in the field of environmentalism are under subtle kinds of pressure to acknowledge an objective reality even when working with a constructivist model.



Burningham and Cooper note at the outset that realists actually acknowledge the usefulness or even centrality of social constructivism. Dickens for example argues that ‘all knowledge must in some sense be a social construction’ (1996:71). What they do mind, however, is what Burningham and Cooper refer to as strict constructivism, ‘one that denies’, to use Dickens again, ‘that there are features of the world which exist independently of the discourse and social construction’. Further, social constructivism is not merely wrong in this denial; it is also bad (politically and morally) because it distracts attention from the important issues (environmental problems) and suggests that all truth claims are valid (hence clouding the waters of political purity or coherent political action). This is the problem Kate Soper ran into and which tipped her in favour of realism as essential, politically. Burningham and Cooper set about their critique on a number of fronts. First, the realists are taken to task initially for concentrating on the methodology of constructivism rather than the empirical studies they drive. They notice that only a very few empirical studies from a constructivist position are used. Tester is regularly pilloried; Dunlap and Catlan concentrate on Buttel et al. 1990 and Martell also takes on Yearly. In their own review of constructivist studies of the environment, however, they found that most correspond to the approved mild or contextual form in which an external reality hovers, correctly, in the background and where claims are analysed in the context of a knowable environmental truth (Aronoff and Gunter 1992; Capek 1993; Hannigan 1995; Mazur and Lee 1993; Shoenfeld et al. 1979). Second, Burningham and Cooper argue that the realists misread the intentions of the stricter form of constructionism and argue that they are not denying nature, merely the making of ontological claims of any kind. According to this view, ‘the sociologist should remain agnostic about the existence and extent of conditions and simply consider the claims made about them’. This ‘radical scepticism’ does not amount to denying their existence. Second, the stricter constructionists do not deny reality so much as consider its meaning more significant. Burningham and Cooper quote Laclau (1990:101): ‘A stone exists independently of any system of social relations, but it is, for instance, either a projectile or an object of aesthetic contemplation only within a specific discursive configuration.’ Third, Burningham and Cooper take issue with the realist claim that constructivism is ethically and politically hostile or a worthless distraction away from urgent political projects such as attending to the environmental crisis. As a result perhaps of the work of Rorty, Baudrillard and Lyotard ‘the real word has become a fable’ making clear political action difficult to conceive and implement. According to Benton (1994:45) constructionist accounts preclude environmental issues from investigation. According to Newby (1991) the symbolic reading of the environment is a short step from explaining it away. Dunlap and Catton meanwhile insist on the ability to refer to the ‘things themselves’ and not be ‘severely



restricted’ by constructionist accounts (Burningham and Cooper 1999:310). In short, objectivist analyses of the environment can identify theoretically the rational and ordered political work necessary to save the environment from human degradation; social constructivism clogs up the smooth working of environmentalism and produces instead a dangerous political quietism. Against these accusations of political quietism, Burningham and Cooper argue that there is nothing to stop constructivists from political interventions, ‘however, such an intervention will not justify itself in objectivist terms by making reference to, by suggesting unmediated access to, or by claiming knowledge of an assumed uncontestable reality’. Further, they argue that the political debate on environmentalism centres on the making of knowledge claims and therefore the expertise of constructionism is a far better mobilisation of sociology than the dubious mobilisation of contestable scientific truths. From their review of the mild forms of constructionist analysis in empirical case studies, they are surely correct to claim that it is by these means that sociologists place themselves ‘at the heart of environmental debate’ rather than on the sidelines. Indeed, Hannigan (1995:189) makes the claim that social constructionist studies have contributed significantly to the knowledge of risk perception and management; to understanding the media in relation to environmental outcomes; to understanding the role of science in the ecological field and to understanding moral entrepreneurship in the environmentalist movement. Realism could be more roundly criticised for failing to deliver on its own promise. So far it appears to have been principally involved to establish political action in environmentalism on a firm theoretical, moral and interdisciplinary footing for the social sciences, rather than a methodology for analysing nature–human relationships sociologically. Part of the problem has to do with its theory and method that seem at best vague and at worst difficult to operationalise. There is no doubt that connections between nature and society can be made, but the issue is always how far one needs to go in identifying a sufficient bundle of causally related entities. To put it somewhat crassly, since everything is causally connected in the ecosystem, every action and every contingent position has consequences around the system and since some processes take place over a range of time spans, the problem becomes one of being able to isolate precisely the relevant causal entities and the configurations of contingencies and the periods over which one must look that are sufficient to explain any one outcome. In terms of historical materialism, Marx himself isolated his investigations mainly within the social, as if nature itself was merely given and his success in explaining social outturns sufficiently indicates that his own reluctance to see very much causal relevance to natural entities. It remains a problem, a very basic problem in analysing precisely the causal properties of nature, especially as they relate to the social. They are surely correct to question the view that humanity controls nature, but to hint vaguely and mysteriously about the abstract causal properties of nature is perhaps to



miss the more significant point that these causal properties are precisely those that scientists and technologists have tried to sniff out and control for specific purposes. Before that it is appropriate to consider a more influential realist approach that has tried to characterise a major change in the social and moral composition of society as relating to objective relationships between nature and humanity in late modernity.

Risk society Ulrich Beck’s concept of risk society ‘describes a phase of development of modern society in which the social, political, ecological and individual risks created by the momentum of innovation increasingly elude the control and protective institutions of modern society’ (Beck 1996:27). Initially, the Beck thesis appears to be a momentous social construction of the environmental crisis: Beck starts from the premise that the environmental crisis is primarily not a natural but a social crisis. The hazards produced by society can longer be contained within conventionally modernist systems of prediction and control. In the face of nuclear, chemical and biotechnological dangers it is no longer possible for authoritative decisions to be made by groups of experts. Because of this, epistemic authority no longer rests with particular groups of scientists, politicians and industrialists, but has fragmented across a huge range of social groups, the incessant interaction of which is potentially raising society to a qualitatively new level of self-critique. (Lash et al. 1996:6)

However, despite calling this excessively constructivist with respect to the ontological status of environmental problems, Lash et al. (1996:7) argue that it is founded on a realist assumption ‘that it is the genuine, real physical riskiness of ... large nuclear and chemical technologies, that has taken industrial society beyond its own limits of calculability’. According to Alexander and Smith (1996) ‘Beck presents the terrors of risk society as an objective social fact, one that has resulted from intra-systemic, involuntary, tendential developments in the economic infrastructure of capitalist societies. They emerge ‘from techno-economic development itself (Beck 1992:19)’, unmediated by broader cultural frames (Alexander and Smith 1996:254). Such naked objectivism prompts Alexander and Smith to offer the most completely cultural explanation of environmentalism. In their view, Beck cannot explain in a manner consistent with his own theory why environmentalism lagged so far behind the alleged material and technical conditions for its emergence. As far back as the mid-nineteenth century industrial pollution and environmental degradation were just as evident. In order to do this they have to present technology in a necessarily culturally



mediated manner: in its early stages technological development and industrialism were widely considered to be a source of salvation. ‘Expectations for salvation have been inseparable from the technological innovations of industrial capitalism. ... Major innovations ... were hailed by elites and masses as vehicles for secular transcendence’ (Alexander and Smith 1996:258): In terms both of cultural logic and social action, this salvationary discourse about technology was linked to an understanding of nature as profane and threatening, as a force that demanded the ‘civilising’ control of technology itself. This representation of nature was itself rooted in a Christian tradition that saw ‘man’ as having domain over the flora and fauna of the natural world. (Alexander and Smith 1996:258)

However, while this was widely and officially supported, there was also a concurrent though minor construction of technology as evil and as likely to become out of control as offer permanent salvation. Associated with this view was the subordinate anti-technology, pro-nature discourse of romanticism, which itself has long and ancient historical roots. Alexander and Smith are able to link the timing of the environmental discourses to the late twentieth century by locating the breakdown in the salvationist discourse of technology in alarming technological wars; the development of atomic power and other nature-deforming chemicals beginning with DDT (Alexander and Smith 1996:259). Environmentalism represents a volte face where the romantic construction of nature fills the salvationary vacuum created by the profanation of technology: In this emerging symbolic world of ‘ecology’, nature is portrayed as a holistic, self-regulating and fundamentally peaceful system in relation to which violence can only emerge from the outside. For those who believe in this nature myth it is axiomatic that human life can be continued in a viable way only if the economic system is subordinated – ‘in tune with’ – the ecological one. In this newly dominant environmental consciousness, nature is associated with the sacred and the sublime. (Alexander and Smith 1996:259)

Returning to Beck’s text, Alexander and Smith are able to reread it as a mythical discourse containing a typical narrative of secular social salvation. Mystical invisible forces which threaten to bring about the apocalypse can be defeated only by rituals of repurification and the taking of heroic, collective action. ‘For it is precisely the restoration of human agency and moral responsibility that a strongly cultural reference allows. Only if the symbolically constructed dimension of social structure is forcefully acknowledged can the responsibility for contemporary social life, at its best and at its worst, be brought back in’ (Alexander and Smith 1996:262). Whether Alexander and Smith have got the narrative account correct is a minor matter. Certainly others have argued that the secularisation of



nature and particularly animals was less closely tied to technological arguments alone and more to modernist, progressive discourse which involved the deployment of technologies in its name. Hence Franklin (1999) argues that modernisation as a progressive social force could be mythified as salvationist all the time it rendered nature into successively better conditions for humanity. Providing technologies were deployed against nature for the greater (human) good, the imbalance between nature and society could be tolerated. However, it was when the highly moral nature of modernisation as a principle of ordering gave way to a new rationalised individualism emerging in the 1970s that the imbalance was no longer tolerable. Environmentalism responded to a moral discourse of humanity and a critical juncture of social and political forces rather than a critical level of imbalance per se, for that had been in existence for some time. It had also been the subject of much agonising protest and action, but, critically, not the focus of a generalised mass sentiment (Macnaghten and Urry 1998). Indeed the same forces of greed and uncontrolled (irrational) development were seen as against large sections of humanity and nature together. The lack of planning and regulation in society created geographies of winners and losers and ontologically insecure culture and widespread unhappiness. A similar disordered approach to the natural world created plagues of pests and species extinctions, a decline in biodiversity, environmental turbulence, insecurity and frailty and a generalised decline. Nature was drawn upon to symbolise the disordered social and to demand a new order based on the principles of sustainability. Nature has always been the metaphoric parallel ordering to the social but the social construction of nature has also hinged on or works on the basis that there is an important connection between the two. The sustainability of nature, of course, conceals a major project to restore collectivist and welfarist principles against the predations of selfish and fatalistic individualism; the sustainability of nature secured an important symbolic battle to reorder the social. To secure the former is to secure the latter. Crook (1997) takes culturalist accounts (such as Alexander and Smith) to task for trying to set up a purity and unity of culture, as if environmentalism were a singular response from a coherent cultural entity. Crook likens their appeals to cultural purity to similar but flawed appeals to the real ‘nature’ of the risks themselves (15). The problem is that they provide no guide to ‘the complex networks of risk identification, assessment and management’ which might account for the emergence of risk society and the environmentalisms that perch on one of its branches. Crook agrees with Beck to the extent that in late modernity the proliferations of risks outstrip ‘the processing capacities of society’ but disagrees with the idea that these necessarily correspond with increasing dangers. For Crook, the proliferation could be a function of the changing ‘regimes of risk management’. Crook draws on models of twentieth-century social change to illustrate this view. Organized risk management corresponds to what he calls ‘modern ordering’ characteristic of the mid-twentieth-century



western welfarist state. Under this regime the state more or less identified risks and put into practice modes of monitoring, regulation, inspection and control. Risks and safety were the business of appropriately trained professions working for the common good, largely behind the scenes of everyday life. With such a regime in place citizens of modern societies could proceed as if modernity were a lifestyle largely without risk. All this was to change in Crook’s view with the arrival of ‘neo-liberal risk management’ of the post-fiscal crisis years. With escalating costs associated with the welfare state and the decline in corporate politics the state did not so much pull out of risk management as change its role. The full comprehensive risk regime of modern ordering gave way to an advisory function: ‘To exaggerate, state agencies became information and advice bureaux rather than agencies of regulation and control’ (Crook 1997:17). Crook argues that the perception of increased danger and risk and its sudden and dramatic effect on citizens has to do with this new function: The regime tends to the over-production and under-control of risks. The provision of advice and information means, precisely, the ‘production’ and communication of risks in ever-greater numbers. To put it crudely, if you establish an apparatus for the identification of risks, it will identify as many risks as it can. However, the only mechanisms available for the control of these newlyidentified risks are the risk calculations and lifestyle modifications open to the individual or the increasingly strained and under resourced controls associated with the organised regime. (Crook 1997:17)

Beyond realism versus constructivism While environmental realism may have a degree of coherence in terms of its basic theoretical baggage, it is, as we have seen, largely concerned with legitimating a pragmatic association of the social sciences with green politics. From this brief review it is clear that more can be said about their campaigns against social constructivism than their contribution to understanding the relationship between humanity and the natural world. They start from a fixed agenda in many ways, the central puzzle is already solved: humans are endangering the planet and the solution is to stop them and to usher in a new sustainable accommodation between the two. Social constructivist accounts are so vociferously attacked because they seem to threaten the certainty of their solution and the terms in which it is written. As we have seen, many constructivists share green concerns and include minor realist clauses in their account but any talk of or interest in knowledge claims which relativise what the realists want left as objectively given incurs their wrath. In addition, we have seen how the interpretation and challenging of knowledge claims is the idiom of the environmental debate and thus become the terms by which one becomes



a player. For realists, however, social constructivism appears as its opposite: the means by which the political character of environmentalism is dissolved. Moreover, it is not as if constructionist accounts amount to the same thing. There is a world of difference between the few works that have been examined here. One must conclude by agreeing with Burningham and Cooper that ultimately the realists are confused. While professing to accept the necessarily socially mediated nature of nature, in practice they do not tolerate it. They are coherent only at the level of agreed political objectives, thus it is that they appear to be saying that if an approach is not explicitly environmentalist or realist, then it is anti-environmentalist. Benton goes almost so far as to say that Tester is anti-animal rights simply because he gives a social account as to its emergence and operation as a cult. However, we must not allow this ‘row’ to obscure a fairly clear message resulting from the debate over these issues, namely that social constructions of nature do not and should not obliterate the value of conceptualising nature also as an objective reality, a real materiality that exists prior to any social constructions that people may put on it. Most constructionists want to say that ultimately it is our constructions of nature in terms of what ‘it’ is, what it means and its instability in relation to competing claims that is of most importance to understanding environmentalism and environmental politics and related issues such as risk assessment, regulation and management and the culturally mediated nature of scientific knowledge. However, the process by which nature is constructed is preceded, presumably, by experience of it in an unconstructed or differently constructed condition and this presupposes that the natural world is experienced in two quite separate moments. Social constructions are also notoriously in an unstable state and prone to series of reconstruction, contestation and recomposition. Nature can be experienced in an everyday manner (even though culturally formed into classifications that make one plant a weed and another plant a food and yet another ‘good for warts’ and several unknown species a hedge etc.) principally through an embodied sensual relation in which the species being of nature can be identified as separable from any constructions that can be put to it. In Marx species being was an abstract term but to the extent that it can be knowable means that it is also possible to experience nature in terms of its various species beings. Clearly science would claim the principal expertise in this and through scientific education its filtering into lay general knowledge. However, at one level science only dominates in this sort of knowledge; others preceded science and other lay knowledges persist alongside science. It will be one aim of this book to look more closely at these types of encounter and knowledge of the natural world. Birdwatchers are a prime example and their identification of a bird’s ‘gizz’ is an illustration of a parallel knowledge. Thus, the gizz of a bird, its characteristic set of body movements (permitting it to be recognized at distance, in silhouette or for fleeting moments) and its cultural aspects, are



knowable as a means of identifying it from other birds, irrespective of what the bird means socially or however it has been classified by science. These sense data (sonic, visual, olfactory) are learned over long periods of exposure to birdlife by birders in a similar way hunters learn to sense their way towards food species and avoid others. Arguably, a lot of time was spent by hunter-gather ancestors as a way of mastering and monitoring their environment. But interest in the materiality of nature may not have been confined to its use values or risk. Obviously, aesthetic sensibilities are constructions of a sort, but in the non-conventional sense, aesthetic sensibilities are free floating. This freedom to aestheticise and adopt nature personally or locally seems to be fairly common but a relatively neglected object of research. The local embeddedness of nature is another characteristic worthy of further investigation. According to Crook late-modern risk management also involves what he calls ritualistic risk management which involves reflexive communities and neo-tribalism becoming organised around local risk issues. Such a regime, of course, implies a more closely scrutinised and surveilled local nature, the development of greater aesthetic attachments (say to particular woods, streams, wetlands or whatever) and a collective defence strategy. Local institutions, schools, chapters of the RSPB and other local organisations can easily fold into such a regime and change the manner by which people relate to the natural world. However, the spatial replication of ritualistic risk management around local solidarities (Lash’s reflexive communities) not only draws on preexisting attachments to local nature; it also implies the pluralisation of nature to natures (Lash 1994). Increasingly, the natural world of the modern nation states becomes fragmented into local natures and lifestyle natures. Under these conditions, there is no authoritative agreement as to how local nature should be managed, used or consumed with the result that the different aesthetic judgements associated with lifestyle groups compete for definition and control of preferred natures. This is precisely the point that Macnaghten and Urry wish to make in Contested Natures (1998) and their approach. Against naïve environmentalism, arrogant science and environmental realism they argue for a plurality of socially embedded natures as the only possible way of comprehending the contemporary state of play between nature and humanity. In a nutshell it: ... seeks to show that there is no singular ‘nature’ as such, only a diversity of contested natures; and that each such nature is constituted through a variety of socio-cultural processes from which such natures cannot be plausibly separated. ... Our approach will emphasise that it is specific social practices, especially of people’s dwellings, which produce, reproduce and transform different natures and different values. . . . It is through such practices that people respond, cognatively, aesthetically and hermeneutically, to what has been constructed as the signs and characteristics of nature. (Macnaghten and Urry 1998:1–2)



While it is probably true that nature has been plural and contested in modernity, it is also true that the realism of the scientific canon has made it appear otherwise. Nature was a complex of laws, materials and processes that only science could properly reveal. At once sidelining previous knowledges of nature and asserting itself as the standard interpretation, natural science produced the chimera of coherence and universality. Macnaghten and Urry’s Contested Natures is written in the new times of postmodernity and it is partly in challenging the hegemony of science that new discourses on nature have emerged. The postmodernization of nature in the West constitutes a series of renegotiations of the Enlightenment standoff; what we are beginning to see appear are fully modern societies negotiating new relations with nature. Not based merely on intellectual (philosophical), pragmatic (ecological) or spiritual (romantic) grounds, but also in recognition of embodied relations with nature (feminism; Darwinism; nationalism/regionalism). As the enlightenment orthodoxy collapses and as its rhetorics are brought under scrutiny exposing new types of relations and practices, western thoughts on nature are changing. They are postmodern, first, in the sense that they descend directly from a prehistory of industrialisation, urbanisation, Fordism and so forth and, second, because even though pre-modern/indigenous societies have been influential in the West, particularly among green philosophers and ecologists, they are unlikely to produce anything like a return to pre-modern forms of engagement. Postmodern relations with nature depend critically on previous, modern modes of consumption of the natural world and the absence of paradigm assumptions about the true or proper relationships between society and the natural world. Today there is a diversity of conflicting claims out of which people from different places and different backgrounds form a wide range of ‘contested natures’. One implication of these changing relations is the relative emphasis given to mental and physical qualities. The Enlightenment emphasised the mental and ideational significance of nature: the natural world had to be reconceived mentally, intellectually and consumed in new ways through harnessing its powers via intellectual means – knowledge. Indeed, the Enlightenment exaggeration of the difference between humanity and the natural world can be understood by the very centrality and primacy given to the mental and intellectual. As an interface between humanity and nature the human body was ambiguous and interstitial enough to be the subject of taboos and ritual seclusions in Enlightenment cultures. Over the course of the twentieth century, if not before in some places, the human body became less ambiguous, less the subject of taboos and guilt. Menstruation taboos, in the early twentieth-century West, for example, were scarcely different from those in pre-modern societies. Into the twenty-first century menstruation may still be medicalised to a degree, but it is no longer so secretive, private or disgusting. There are many reasons why attitudes to the human body changed, but at least one reason has to do with a generalised reconsideration of nature and the natural world.



Nature had become so subdued and controlled through its subjectivity to human intellect that it could no longer be constructed as dangerous and polluting. Indeed, nature and society shifted position as principal sources of risk; increasingly modernisation, the utilisation of natural resources and the extent of human development became problematic, while nature was reconstructed into new forms of Arcadian solution. Keith Thomas (1983) points out that when nature became spatially removed from the eighteenth-century urban everyday, the need ritually to mark the boundary through such devices as disgust, guilt and cruelty became unnecessary. But nature became sentimentalised, precisely because although once the subject of ritual avoidance, it had of course always been intimately connected to humanity at every level of life and was aestheticised in popular cultures where the stark boundary dangers meant very little. It was almost as if the ritual separation of nature were tolerable only because it was doomed to fail, transgressions being the norm not the exception. As nature went on to the backfoot and receded from the everyday and as romantic sensibilities spread like a cultural virus, the triumph of knowledge became tainted with brutality. Romanticism created a backlash in which nature became re-aestheticised in a post-industrial intellectual order. Not the nature of an everyday rural culture but the nature of an urbanised, travelling culture that could discover new natures on the margins (Shields 1991; Macnaghten and Urry 1998). In addition, new and exaggerated powers were discovered in untarnished, untrammelled nature, although interestingly their potency related especially to the health of the human body and mind. Here then is a second reason why the body became less liminal. The body became the surface through which the goodness of nature could be absorbed. Through sun, ozone, brine, spring water, cold water, Alpine air – all newly reformatted natures from marginal places – the entire body, not just the mouth, became the consumer of natural goodness. Moreover, natural things became aestheticised alongside humanities previously considered part of the natural history of modern man – the rude, backward or ancient. Thus romanticism enjoyed and promoted Greek celebrations of the human form and the naïve, uninhibited lives of savages. As the site of a complex set of senses, the body challenged the ascendancy of the mind and became the conduit through which new experiences of the world could be obtained: sexualities, suppleness, aerobic exercise, travel, aroma, taste. Here was a world that could be perceived and sensed in multiple ways alongside the intellectual and this holism, a word that cropped up increasingly in the later years of the twentieth century, altered the place of nature in western cultures. Most of the argument so far is compatible with Macnaghten and Urry’s recent theory of society and nature. In particular, it agrees that there are multiple natures and that these derive from the ‘significance of embedded social practices’. These social practices possess a number of constitutive principles. Such practices are discursively ordered, embodied, spaced, timed and ‘involve models of human activity, risk, agency and trust’. This



multiplicity of discursively constituted natures has always existed and, as they argue, ‘everyday talk contrasts with official rhetorics’. However, the extent to which everyday talk about nature is framed by official rhetorics has been variable. Mass education and mass media around the mid-twentieth century standardised and homogenised the way most people thought and felt about nature in a way that was impossible before or after. The mid-twentieth century was still predominantly influenced by scientific canons of natural history established in the nineteenth century but it had become an established part of high culture and as such was mobilised chiefly through nation states and institutions at the national level. Nation formation as we will see is very concerned with identifying a connection between people thrown together, somewhat arbitrarily, in nation spaces and the natural world so encompassed. As James (1996) has argued, nation states use similar primordial identifiers from nature to establish social bonds between citizens who have no other organic connection (through spatial propinquity, descent or affinity) and the nature of each nation is given special significance. As Gellner (1983) shows, mass communication, literacy and universal education disseminated nation high cultures, through the standardised scientific idiom, to the everyday urban West. Thus, although there was still contact between urbanites and their natural hinterlands, each with those spatial, social and physical specificities which give rise to discursively constituted local differences, those connections were less formative than they once were and were no doubt losing ground to the canons of high culture. Superstitions arising from the natural world are a good example of this changing balance. Mary Webb’s Gone to Earth (1932) is a story set in late nineteenth-century rural Shropshire where the natural world was routinely understood to be causal in the affairs of people. So, for example, when the heroine of the novel was born with a harelip, it was believed to be the result of a hare crossing the path of her pregnant mother. Such theories no doubt survived well into twentieth-century urban cultures, but with the difference that they were transformed into superstitions (dubious, outmoded theories) and contrasted with science (correct, modern theories). The latter part of the twentieth century was different again, although we will argue, along with Macnaghten and Urry, that the hegemony of official/scientific rhetoric was weakened. A principal cause of this was a growth in reflexivity associated with the extension of critical traditions, notably in the newly expanded university sector. Those educated in western universities from the 1960s onwards were exposed to alternative views of nature from different cultures, to traditions of romanticism in literature and music, to anti-modernist/development rhetorics from ecology and, perhaps most important of all, to a new diversity of opportunities (and associated rhetorics) to visit and re-engage with aspects of the natural world. Around the mid-century the smaller numbers of university graduates formed an elite, many of whom entered the institutions and organisations



of high culture. By the late twentieth century university graduates were filling not only elite levels but the much expanded middle classes, whose influence was at once more extensive and fragmented. Extensive in the sense that their connections with civil society were more complete and day to day and fragmented, in the sense that they were driven not by singular visions and narratives adopted as high culture, but by a more problematic sense of diversity, conflict and contradiction. As Savage et al. (1992) point out, the new middle classes, particularly the groups they call postmoderns and ascetics, occupy positions in which they are required to make changes on a routine basis. In sum, while they were broadly concerned with nature or at least a subset that could be framed as ‘environment’ and were in a position of considerable power to initiate change, they were also divided on how change might proceed. Although they are frequently portrayed as the movers and shakers of the green revolution, Macnaghten and Urry show that they are more diverse and fragile than the simplistic ‘polling’ models of their behaviour suggest. Moreover, they show that as a result of their considerable energies and powers, almost everyone in society became an environmentalist within a single generation.

Dwelling Contested Natures is about environmentalism but in deconstructing the sociology of environmentalism from a hidebound political sociology, they exposed the rich and varied variations of postmodern engagements with the natural world. These, it is very clear, are not merely mental or intellectual, which is implicit in Inglehart’s (1977) notion of postmaterialist values as the driving force of environmentalism, but spaced, timed and embodied. In short their approach ‘emphasises the significance of embedded social practices’. In expanding this idea Macnaghten and Urry draw on Ingold’s notion of ‘dwelling’ in relation to landscape. Ingold uses dwelling to reject landscape as a realist phenomenon and the culturalist conception of landscape as sign. According to Ingold, ‘the landscape is constituted as an enduring record of – and testimony to – the lives and works of past generations who have dwelt within it, and in so doing, have left something of themselves’ (1993). As Macnaghten and Urry comment: ‘This viewpoint allows him to overcome the conventional distinctions between humans and nature and between mind and matter. Landscape is the world as known to those who have dwelt there, who do dwell there, who will dwell there and those whose practical activities take them through its manifold sites and who journey along its multitudinous paths’ (1998:167). The comparison with Schama is notable and the meeting of minds from different disciplines here (anthropology, history, sociology) is reassuring. Further, Ingold’s conception of landscape is timed along two dimensions. One dimension, chronological time, strings people and events out along



linear pathways. This dimension suggests separation and discontinuities. But Ingold also insists that there is another dimension, a sort of social time, which holds that the present contains aspects of the past and is projected into the future. This dimension is influenced by what he calls ‘taskscape’, a series of tasks and practical activities within any one landscape. Macnaghten and Urry reproduce Ingold’s prototypical illustration of what he meant by a dwelling approach using the terms landscape/ taskscape. It is a European rural scene called The Harvesters, painted by Pieter Brueghel in 1565 and in it one can see the landscape as peopled and as an historically layered record of human dwelling in nature. Macnaghten and Urry propose to structure Contested Natures using this dwelling perspective, elaborating it to look more broadly at nature ‘rather than landscape’. They go on to look at taskscape and nature in terms of a globally operating science; in terms of changing human subjects and changing ‘patterns of reflexivity, resistance and protest’; the development of visual and electronic technologies that ‘increasingly exert a hegemonic role in the sensing of nature’; and the emergence of ‘diverse social practices dependent upon nature beyond those of agricultural work or indeed work more generally. These include walking, music, mass travel, climbing, leisure, photography, and so on’ (Macnaghten and Urry 1998:170–71). Although this is a mammoth and seemingly exhaustive scope for a sociology of nature, it tends to reproduce a somewhat narrow conception of nature as essentially rural/countryside and natural relations as largely rural leisures. As with the environmentalist discourse nature is framed as spatially separable from the urban and this separation is unnecessary and unwarranted. None of the social practices they discuss for example is related to urban landscapes, none is specifically concerned with relationships with animals (except for a brief note on protests about live animal exports and BSE) and there is an implicit emphasis on touristic practices in their selected list and in the general content of social practices in the book. This is somewhat ironic since Ingold himself (1993:162) seems to refer to the everyday as the more critical modern space or place of the landscape/taskscape: Thus outside my window I see a landscape of houses, trees, gardens, a street and a pavement. I do not hear any of these things, but I can hear people talking on the pavement, a car passing by, birds singing in the trees, a dog barking somewhere in the distance, and the sound of hammering as a neighbour repairs his garden shed. In short, what I hear is activity, even when its sources cannot be seen. And since the forms of the taskscape, suspended as they are in movement, are present only as activity, the limits of the taskscape are also the limits of the auditory world. (Ingold 1993:162)

In this book we want to take inspiration from the natures accessible to Ingold in his neighbourhood because we also want to argue that most people in the West maintain most of their relations with the natural world



in and around their dwelling places, which is mainly in urban settings, in their homes and gardens, in their parks and greens, in the intermediary, mixed spaces and hinterlands of towns. We also want to investigate whether it is really true, as Macnaghten and Urry claim, that nature is mainly apprehended through visual sensing and visual technologies. This is to recognise the truth of Latour’s claim (that seems to be implicit in the notion of dwelling) that modernity did not and, indeed, cannot separate the natural from the cultural/human, there can only be hybrids and networks of humans and non-humans. In agreeing with the force and implications of Latour and Ingold, we also deny the validity of claims that modernisation destroyed or eclipsed nature (Jameson 1991:311) or that we have now seen the ‘end of nature’ (Beck 1992:81; Giddens 1994:77; McKibben 1990), leaving in its place only a remainder of preserved natures, simulations of nature and the desire for simulations of nature and the primordial (Benjamin 1979:148). To agree with Jameson and others is to pose an essentialist definition of nature as that which is not tainted or mixed with the human, but such a proposition would scarcely work in primordial or pre-modern societies either, as we outline in Chapter 4. Nature and culture, humanity and non-humans are now so thoroughly enmeshed and hybridised that it is the new mixes, transformations and potentials that should occupy our attention. As Clark argues: If it is worth using the term at all, ‘nature’ is no more than the provisional outcome of local processes, the current state attained by a universe of systems whose ultimate states will always defy prediction. As compensation for the certainties that the physical sciences once aspired to, however, the world which is now materialising is more deeply imbued with creative and selfgenerative properties than at any other stage of our modernity; it is a restless, turbulent, unfinished place which promises surprises in perpetuity. (Clark 2000a:1)

In three successive chapters, 5 through 7, we will concentrate on those embedding processes that direct and structure modern associations with the natural world. Chapter 5 looks at important processes of naturalisation as aesthetic, discursive, performative and embodied means by which individuals and groups find self-identity in the natural world. We will see that naturalisation processes can be discerned at national and subnational levels and particularly in relation to key markers of social identity such as class. Naturalisation is an important embedding process because it at once establishes a discursive construction of social identity and provides a compelling reason to express or perform it in an embodied manner. Chapter 6 looks specifically at the hybrid nature of the modern city, particularly through the social practice of gardening, the development of natured cities and suburbs and the development of styles of gardening that are amenable to a sociological analysis. Chapter 7 focuses specifically on how the body has become a transformed surface



for engagement with the natural world and how new body technologies and consumption practices have developed to assist this engagement. In the next chapter, however, we turn to a similar sequence of contemporary debates in which a new wave of young anthropologists have substantially altered the way their discipline views nature, human relations with nature and how these theoretical innovations have implications for the practice of anthropological research. Here we can see the signs of a convergence between anthropology, geography, philosophy and sociology, particularly through the work of Tim Ingold, Nigel Thrift, Martin Heidegger, Laura Rival and Philippe Descola.

4 A New Anthropology of Nature The sociological reformulation of nature, of which Risk, Environment and Modernity (Lash et al. 1996) and Contested Natures (Macnaghten and Urry 1998) form important milestones, is mirrored and matched by debates taking place in anthropology. However, these debates have different starting points. In sociology, as we have seen, interest in nature was initiated in the 1980s by the realist ontology of scientific environmentalism pursued largely by a post-Marxian following. Their position provoked a critique that spelt out the more obvious areas of social constructivism and, at the same time, denied or problematised the nature–culture dualism upon which both realism and environmentalism depend. For Clarke, Latour and followers, and Thrift there never was a culture separate from nature, there were only ever hybrids. Hybridity is guaranteed by the necessary combination, ordering and interaction of actants in networks. We will see how cities are open systems in which all manner of things are thrown into combination and recombination in an unplanned and unforseeable way. The threads of networks that constitute history are necessarily composed of human and non-human actants and outcomes always therefore bear the stamp of their combination, not their separate or their rigidly distinct domains. In anthropology, a similar kind of outcome has emerged from slightly different starting points. The social anthropological debate starts from classical and central canons of social constructivism that date back to Durkheim. To the extent that social anthropology was predicated on the somewhat narrow confines of the purely social, its classical writings have only been interested in nature as a linguistic and symbolic framework for the social and as an other to the social. The social is exposed and comes into relief through the identification of the natural; at the same time nature provides a palette of metaphors and metonyms of the social, linguistic devices that provide the basis for social thought. According to Descola, representations and objectification of the natural world provided anthropologists, of all theoretical persuasions, with one of the principal means of comprehending social orders: The sustained concern with the modes of use and representation of the natural environment which has united structuralists, Marxists, ethnoscientists and cultural ecologists is obviously not reducible to mere fashion,



and although it has generated countless misunderstandings this unplanned convergence of interest reveals a common, albeit rarely explicit, assumption: the principles of the construction of social reality are primarily to be sought in the relations between human beings and their natural environment. (Descola 1992:109)

However, to the extent that the classical canon also asserts that the world is experienced through a terminology and idiom of the social, nature itself became relativised. For anthropology, therefore, there was both nature as universal symbolic other and natures, the infinite variety of conceptualisations of nature (infinite to the degree that social arrangements are capable of infinite variation even if there are recognisable correspondences). There could be no nature outside our means of comprehending it and that depends on the social logic of local people as sewn into their language. What was of interest to this structuralist logic was not nature but its terms of reference to the social and its articulation in the human mind. It was foundational then that social anthropology was not interested in nature as an object of study, but it was also true that there was scant interest in 1) the interaction between the social and natural world, 2) the practices and practical knowledge that stem from that interaction and 3) the ramifications or consequences of that practical knowledge for conceptions of the social. Social anthropology was influenced by environmentalism to the extent that this discourse focused attention generally and globally on environmental practice. Primordial cultures were held up to be relevant exemplars and models for proper environmental practices and attitudes. As the future of declining forests became a cri de coeur of environmentalism, their enduring past with primordial cultures became romanticised. A popular environmentalism genre developed on the fringes of academic anthropology that contrasted the balance and sustainability of primordial cultures with the imbalance and destructiveness of western practices. Indigenous people were said to have a potentially important role in re-educating modern cultures. Indigenous people, such as Black Elk, chastised the contemporary West for their disregard for nature and outlined the unity that was once the relationship between Native North Americans and their nature. This was at the same time a call for the renewal of a spiritual content to our dealings with the natural world that is being taken literally and seriously by various Wiccan and other new age religious groups and/or spiritual practices such as ecofeminism (Barry 1999:112). The emergence of these new nature practices will be analysed in Chapter 7. According to Bouma (1997) for example, these are the fastest growing set of religious groups in Australia with over 30,000 identifying as affiliates in the census of 1996 (Possamai 1998). Forest-loving cultures as immortalised in Turnball’s The Forest People (1961) were trotted out regularly and used to establish the point that humans were originally and properly ecologically



neutral or passive. They were neither controlling nor destructive of their environment. Typically, it was asserted, they did not commodify, own or dispose of nature as property and wealth but held it in a custodial manner – in trust only – on behalf of later generations. Although academic social anthropology responded critically to such claims (see Chase 1989; Ellen 1986) the new relevance of the environment had a profound impact on the nature of their debates for the next ten years or so. If primordial cultures were not the paragons of environmental virtue, what precisely was their relationship(s) to the natural world and how adequate were stock anthropological theoretical approaches? Descola and Palsson (1996:1) admit that up until the newly emerging relevance of the environment, ecology courses in anthropology programmes had been in decline. In June 1994, at the Third Conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists in Oslo, however, the organisers were overwhelmed by a renewed interest in nature and the environment and had to lay on no fewer than three full sessions. Key questions included the following: Are the different cultural models of nature conditioned by the same set of cognitive devices? Are we to replace the historically relative nature-culture dualist category with a more general distinction between the wild and the socialised? Do non-western cultures offer alternative models for rethinking universality and the issue of moral attitudes towards non-humans? Will the blurring of the nature–culture opposition in certain sectors of contemporary science imply a redefinition of traditional western cosmological and ontological categories? And finally, would the theoretical rejection of the nature–culture dualism merely signify a return to the early medieval European world or would it, perhaps, set the stage for a new kind of ecological anthropology? (Descola and Palsson 1996:1)

Among those present we can select four contributors who in these and other papers have answered these questions in forceful if not revolutionary ways.

Philippe Descola Philippe Descola provided one of the first rethinks at a conference in 1990 (see Kuper 1992). In this he admitted that folk taxonomies of the natural world derive from common mental procedures and that, further, ‘it is not unreasonable to suppose that the models of representation of the interaction between human beings and nature are themselves supported by a few cognitive universals’:



It would however be dangerous to assume that the schemes that regulate relations between human beings and their environment must spring from a limited (and largely unexplored) set of mental constraints.... These relations obviously change as technical systems and forms of production evolve – a cumulative process that constantly reveals new uses and new properties of a nature more and more transformed by social practice. The taxonomic hierarchies of natural objects remain constant, but the representations of the relations of people to these objects undergo periodic reorganisation, generally unperceptible to those who experience them but sufficiently significant in the long run to impose a kind of rhythm on the course of human history. (Descola 1992:110)

He continues: It is not enough to recognize that ideas about the interaction between a community and its environment probably derive ultimately from notions which are rooted in human cognitive processes. Each specific form of cultural conceptualisation also introduces sets of rules governing the use and appropriation of nature, evaluations of technical systems, and beliefs about the structure of the cosmos, the hierarchy of beings and the very principles by which living things function. The logic that informs these configurations is dictated both by the characteristics of the ecosystems to which each culture must adapt itself and by the types of practice through which these ecosystems are socialised. (Descola 1992:110–11)

Descola declares himself in favour of an Haeckelian approach that focuses on localised systems of interrelations rather than the Linnaean concentration on perceptually evident entities. The secrets of human society are not all to be found within the bounded confines of the social but within the wider ecological relations of which they are a part and through the practices that connect them to nature. Descola endorses structuralists, such as Willis, in particular their finding that there is a homology between the way people treat each other and the way they treat nature. In quite disparate ecologies and types of societies the logic informing the one field of relations is mirrored in the other. This may be less powerfully explanatory than, say, the Marxian theory that productive forces are determinant, but he argues that this is also less constraining: ‘It implies that there are correspondences between two fields of social practice without presuming causal links.’ Whereas former structuralists have been inclined to see relations with nature deriving from the logic of social relations, Descola is more interested in exploring overarching approaches to life and living things, formulae or cultural invariants as he calls them: a logic that is deduced neither from the social nor the natural but from the ordering of all relations. Unlike many previous structuralist writers, Descola does not subscribe to a culture–nature dualism. In part this is because such a view of nature



derives from the formulae governing the way anthropologists understand their world, but not their respondents necessarily. For Descola, we must listen and perhaps take notice of their beliefs rather than rush to decode what they really mean – in our terms. Indeed, it is argued that we have good reasons to believe that most primordial peoples do not subscribe to a nature–culture duality, but to the opposite, a single social field. The emphasis here is on the word social and the field in question consists of both human and non-human actants. In summarising a similar view expressed by Bloch (1992), Kuper captures the point well: ‘Inanimate objects do not function as metaphors for social processes, because social relations are not imagined to be of a different order from natural processes’ (Kuper 1992:11). Descola describes two principal ways in which many people impose continuity between our social and natural domains: by the logics of totemic classification and animism. The logic of totemic classification ‘makes use of the observable discontinuities between natural species to organise, conceptually, a segmentary order of delimiting social units. Plants and animals offer natural stimuli to the taxonomic imagination’ (Descola 1992:114). Animism is the opposite sort of social objectification of nature. In animic thought, natural things are believed to possess their own spiritual principles and to be available for communication and exchange with people: more than this, natural species are inextricably involved in the lives of people. Natural species are also ordered according to the same moral and social principles as people: In that sense, what I shall now term animic systems are a symmetrical inversion of totemic classifications: they do not exploit the differential relations between natural species to confer a natural order on society but rather use the elementary categories structuring social life to organise in conceptual terms, the relations between humans beings and natural species. Animic systems do not treat plants and animals as mere signs or as privileged operators of taxonomic thought; they treat them as proper persons, as irreducible categories. (Descola 1992:114)

The idea of a social order for Descola is not a given but a fluid and changing thing, neither is it necessarily something entirely/completely human in its origins. It is only easily discerned from the point of view of an outsider because for the insider it is only ever normative and never arranged in a conscious appreciation qua an order. Certainly, it does not derive in a causal sense from social relations of this type or that, from forces of production or from an environmental determinism. For Descola, the homology that links the way people treat the natural world and the way they treat each other is not the result of the latter determining the former. Instead, he wants to look for overarching formulae, a moral and social ordering that applies to all of life. Particularly perhaps in animic societies, the sources and inspirations for overarching moral and social order might be inferred from practices with and experience of non-human species as much as with humans themselves.



Descola cites the work of Haudricourt (1962) on the radical nature of the Neolithic revolution on relations between humanity and the natural world: ‘Human beings were led to establish bonds of affective coexistence with the species they had domesticated, bonds of the same order as those prevailing within the social sphere.’ However the new pastoral technologies in turn also produced the social figure of the shepherd, who became enshrined in western cultures as the good leader of men or sovereign. The shepherd is a hybrid form, never existing in nature or society before but arising from the experience of the new technology and relationships. A similar dialectic example is given of the very great care and attention given to yam growing in New Caledonia. The emphasis on friendship and respect and the avoidance of violence is paralleled by the political institutions that developed around the possibility of their surplus production and the associated but subsequent patronage of big men politics (Descola 1992:112). If the origins of overarching formulae derived from the experiences of an ecological order and societies were relatively free floating in the determination of such formulae, and if the homologies were not causally related, we might reasonably expect to see dramatic variations between similar peoples in similar ecologies and, vice versa, identical formulae in very different social spaces. Descola presents evidence from two spatially and culturally contiguous people in Amazonia living in identical ecosystems and using identical technologies where the formula governing the social relations of people and non-humans is very different. In one, the formula encourages continuous sharing and exchange of energy and resources both between related sub-groups of people and between people and natural species. It is a formula of balance, exchange with an ecological harmony always the goal. In another group the opposite obtains: the formula is highly predatory in strategy; socially it is both defensive and insular and it orientates to a constant state of internal feuding, robbery and deception. Relations with the natural world are typified by the need to trick mother earth into releasing game for people. Clearly, Descola’s case studies make nonsense of the Marxian position on the causal relationship between the social and the natural. These societies live in identical ecosystems and employ similar technologies and relations of production. How can they possibly be so fundamentally different in their ordering of the social and their social objectification of nature? In a later essay, Descola (1996) consolidates his earlier sketches. His first task is to clear up the question of relativism versus universalism that his initial paper posed. Are there as many specific and unique constructions of nature as there are human groups or are there ‘some very general patterns in the way people construct representations of their social and physical environment’? According to Descola, we can discern underlying most cases a relatively restricted number of patterns, formulae or overarching templates. They are never very coherently or systematically



expressed, except perhaps in the West and they are expressed somewhat chaotically in ‘hasty rituals’, body techniques, practical choices and daily actions, but nonetheless, according to Descola, members of any one community appear to conform their practice to a basic set of underlying patterns: These schemes or schemata of praxis, as I like to call them, are simply objectified properties of social practices, cognitive templates or intermediary representations which help to subsume the diversity of real life under a basic set of categories of relation. But since patterns of relations are less diverse than the elements they relate, it seems obvious to me that these schemes of praxis cannot be infinite in number. (Descola 1996:87)

Descola uses the analogy of kinship systems ‘which organise modes of relation, modes of classification and modes of identification in a variety of combinations which are far from having been exhaustively described and understood, but which many anthropologists are willing to treat as a finite group of transformation’ (Descola 1996:87). His modes of relation are ‘schemes of interaction’ which reflect the variety of styles and values found in social praxis: predation and reciprocity are early examples. In the later essay he introduces a third, protection: It prevails when a large collection of non-humans is perceived as dependent upon humans for their reproduction and welfare. This collection may be composed of only a few species of domesticated plants or animals which are so closely linked to humans, on a collective or an individual basis, that they appear genuine components either of the whole society (e.g. cattle for pastoralists or of a more reduced kinship unit (family pets, sacred animals as ancestral figures etc.). (Descola 1996:90)

Although a mode of relation may characterise any one social group it is possible that some social groups combine different modes. For example, by modes of identification he means the definition of the boundaries between self and otherness as expressed in the treatment of humans and non-humans, thus ‘giving shape to specific cosmologies and social topographies’ (Descola 1996:87). Descola discusses three significant modes of identification: totemism, animism and naturalism. We have already described the first two. Naturalism is: ... simply the belief that nature does exist, that certain things owe their existence and development to a principle extraneous both to chance and to the effects of the human will. Typical of western cosmologies, naturalism creates a specific ontological domain, a place of order and necessity where nothing happened without a cause, whether originating in god ... or immanent to the fabric of the world (‘the laws of nature’).



By modes of classification Descola means ‘conceptualising the world of humans and non-humans by distributing its elementary components in such a way that these can be objectified in stable and socially recognised categories’ (Descola 1996:91). Accordingly there are two principle modes: metaphoric schemes which classify by likeness and metonymic schemes which classify by attributes. In sum, Descola has taken the enlightenment nature–culture dualism apart and revealed what it might have concealed. His approach reverses the emphases given to constructing the non-human, reducing the significance of mental, cognitive constructions and imaginings and enhancing the role played by the practical, embodied and technical relationships. A different emphasis is given to the term social construction, away from the Durkheimian dualism, ‘wherein nature is merely a phantasmagoric analogon of society, a static projection of explicit social categories impervious to the influence of practice and to the incidence of physical factors on the way people use and perceive their environment’ (1996:86). For Descola, social constructions take place not only because nature is good to think with but because nature exists on the same social field as humanity – as he says in the 1992 essay ‘there is room for a nature that is merely good to socialise’ (1992:112). Finally, he steps back from the obsessively narrow focus on the static social, to see humanity and nature in the round, always as cultural hybrids, constantly changing, always to be seen in terms of practices and processes. In concluding the 1996 essay Descola turns to Heidegger’s argument that the vaguely specified nature that was so central to western thinking not only provided an antithesis to critical ideas such as culture, art, supernatural, history, mind, etc., it was also critical in defining them – ‘what is distinguished from nature receives its determination from it’ (1992:98). If the naturalism of the West were to be exposed as a social construction, along with all others, would the West be thrown into an ontological crisis? No, says Descola. As a moment of globalisation it will neither collapse the notion of ‘us and ‘them’ nor bring ‘us’ closer to ‘them’ as we strive in our own way to cope with a ‘hybrid universe in which humans and non-humans can no longer be comfortably managed by two entirely different sets of social devices’ (1992:98).

Roy Ellen Ellen (1996a, 1996b) also attempts to avoid a collapse into relativism and cognitivism, although his realist approach that identifies universal coordinates of the experience of nature (his cognitive geometry of nature) is ultimately at odds with Descola. Ellen admits that the ‘nature’ of the West rarely has exact duplications elsewhere and that many people do not possess a term for nature. Further, even if they did possess synonyms of the western nature they would typically be fuzzy, contingent, variable and in



constant flux. Despite all this, he is convinced that it may still be possible to identify a set of common axes that enable people everywhere to refer to what the West by convention calls ‘nature’. In other words, Ellen is claiming that while linguistic and ontological frameworks are seemingly incommensurable, particularly between western and primordial conceptions of nature, there is still a realist experience, as triangulated by his three axes, that is common and shared. The first axis ‘is that which allows us to construe nature inductively in terms of the “things” which people include within it, and the characteristics assigned to such things’ (Ellen 1996a) or elsewhere his ‘thinginess of nature’ (Ellen 1996b). In part, his insistence on this realist ontology is an assertion against relativists and deconstructionists that nature is merely imaginary. Ellen argues that ‘the human environment consists of neutral objects waiting to be ordered, an orientation which is closely linked to the tendency to view animals and plants as physical objects, things of nature’. Nature then becomes the aggregate or sum total of its parts, things deemed to be natural kinds. For the Nuaulu of Seram, Indonesia, who provide an empirical test of Ellen’s argument, such an aggregate is possible to infer from their inventory, even if it is not as developed as western classifications. The second axis, according to Ellen (1996a:104–5), ‘is that which allows us to define nature spatially, assigning it to some realm outside humans or their immediate living (cultural) space’. This ‘nature as space which is not human’ (1996a:110) builds on ‘many ethnographically reported instances’ of the ‘semantic congruence between forest and nature’ although it may also be with some alternative topography (sea, desert, mountains). For the Nuaulu, nature is ‘that which is not of the village’ or ‘that which is not of the village or gardens’. However, ‘whatever its semantic approximation might be it surrounds or encompasses the village and ultimately the self; and it is in this sense that nature comes closest to what in the western scientific tradition has become ‘environment’ (1996a:111). Thus, for Ellen, nature is more easily identified and distinguished from humanity because nature is typically externalised in spatial terms. People can refer to the environment as a non-human space. Finally, the third ‘is that which allows us to define nature in essentialist terms, as some force which is exogenous to human will but which can to varying degrees be controlled’ (1996a:105). This experience of nature is largely sensory ‘its sensation as an inner essence or vital energy or force outside human control. However, there are physical manifestations too, semen, heart beat, breast milk, blood, sweat and tears but also growth, flows and weather phenomena’. Ellen uses the example of gender as an essentialist category that has been widely used to identify nature with women (1996a:112). Whereas Descola and others seek to show the essential difference between western and primordial ontologies of nature, and indeed to show the purely cultural construction of western ontology, Ellen wants to argue for some formal similarities as based on key cognitive experiences.



Irrespective of the cultural inflections put upon the natural world, it is composed of real stuff and it is spatially located and sensate. Ellen claims his approach is consistent with Descola since each axis is rooted in practice ‘to go beyond linguistic representation and to situate perception within actions on the world (non-mediated forms of knowledge) and – paradoxically – to resist the imposition of our own nature–culture dualisms on data’ (1996a:120). But to say there is a global perspective that is not at odds with a western experience risks the criticism that it amounts to the same thing. Moreover, while Ellen’s spatial analysis identifies spatial discontinuities, it is doubtful whether spatial nomenclatures imply irreducible references to self and other that would amount to the absolute western conception of nature–culture. Most people are in the environment in various ways rather than external to it and they and their interventions cannot in all moments or over longer terms be easily distinguished from it. Further, where ‘self’ is situated must be activity and context dependent. However, the full presence of people in the environment is more manifold than its topographical coordinates. There are, presumably, accretions of presence, an archaeology of habitation and activity: interventions that make both the spatial forms and the thinginess of environments messy, hybrids of the human and non-human. For Ingold (1993, 1995) it is this being in the world and in the landscape that ultimately make it impossible to distinguish or externalise humanity from the natural world. Tim Ingold Following leads from Heidegger and Meinig, Ingold has developed what he calls a dwelling perspective: to dwell is to inhabit a landscape, to be an inextricable part of it, to experience it in an embodied sensual manner and to be as formative of the landscape as formed by it. There can be no external positions from which to contrast humanity from nature and therefore no dualist ontologies: this presupposes a rupture that has been imagined from the conceptual abstract world of western thought and, through the practice of anthropology, transposed onto an alleged lifeworld. For Ingold, the dwelling perspective is not merely to better understand primordial cultures, as if they dwell in landscapes that are inaccessible or lost to modernised peoples. His prime example is drawn from early modern sixteenth-century rural Holland, an analysis of Pieter Brueghel’s The Corn Harvest. But the landscape, any landscape, in his view is never complete, ‘neither built nor unbuilt, it is perpetually under construction’: This is why the conventional dichotomy between natural and artificial (or ‘man-made’) components of the landscape is problematic. Virtually by definition, an artefact is an object shaped to a pre-conceived image that motivated its construction, and it is ‘finished’ at the point where it is brought into



conformity with this image. What happens to it beyond that point is supposed to belong to the phase of use rather than manufacture, to dwelling rather than building. But the forms of the landscape are not pre-prepared for people to live in – not by nature nor by human hands – for it is in the very process of dwelling that these forms are constituted. ‘To build’ as Heidegger insisted ‘is itself already to dwell’ (1971:146). Thus the landscape is always in the nature of ‘work in progress’. (Ingold 1993:162)

This temporality of the landscape, he argues, ‘might enable us to move beyond the sterile opposition between the naturalistic view of the landscape as a neutral, external backdrop to human activities, and the culturalist view that every landscape is a particular cognitive or symbolic ordering of space’: I argue that that we should adopt, in place of both these views, what I call the ‘dwelling perspective’, according to which the landscape is constituted as an enduring record of – and testimony to – the lives and works of past generations who have dwelt within it, and in doing so have left something of themselves there. ... For anthropologists, to adopt a perspective of this kind means bringing to bear the knowledge born of immediate experience, by privileging the understanding that people derive from their lived, everyday involvement in the world. (Ingold 1993:152)

Clearly, Ingold rejects the opposition between a realist and social contructivist view of nature. The problem for Ingold is clearly the term nature itself. Nature has a specific meaning: The specific sense whose ontological foundation is an imagined separation between the human perceiver and the world, such that the perceiver has to reconstruct the world, in consciousness, prior to any meaningful engagement with it. The world of nature it is often said is what lies ‘out there’. All kinds of entities are supposed to exist out there, but not you or I. We live ‘in here’, in the intersubjective space marked out by our mental representations. Application of this logic forces an insistent dualism, between object and subject, the material and the ideal, operational and cognised, ‘etic’ and ‘emic’. (Ingold 1993:154)

In rejecting such a separation the notions of landscape, dwelling and taskscape are called upon to restore the simultaneity and propinquity of the relationship between humanity and non-humans: The landscape, I hold, is not a picture in the imagination, surveyed by the mind’s eye; nor, however, is it an alien and formless substrate awaiting the imposition of human order. ‘The idea of landscape’ as Meinig writes ‘runs counter to recognition of any simple binary relationship between man and nature’ (Meinig 1979:2). Thus neither is the landscape identical to nature, nor



is it on the side of humanity against nature. As the familiar domain of our dwelling, it is with us, not against us, but it is no less real for that. And through living in it, the landscape becomes a part of us, just as we are a part of it. Moreover, what goes for its human component goes for other components as well. In a world construed as nature, every object is a self-contained entity, interacting with others through some kind of external contact. But in a landscape, every component enfolds within its essence the totality of its relations with each and every other. In short, whereas the order of nature is explicate, the order of the landscape is implicate (Bohm 1980:72). (Ingold 1993:154)

A critical link between humans and their landscape is what Ingold calls the taskscape, an active, embodied and technical embeddedness ‘in the current of sociality’. ‘One of the great mistakes of anthropology’, he argues, ‘has been to insist upon a separation between the domains of technical and social activity. ... It is to the entire ensemble of tasks, in their mutual interlocking, that I refer by the concept of taskscape’ (Ingold 1993:158). Over time landscapes are formed from the congealed configurations of the taskscape. The landscape is highly visual, it is what we can see all around us ‘whereas the taskscape is what we can hear’: Thus outside my window I see a landscape of houses, trees gardens, a street and a pavement. I do not hear any of these things, but I can hear people talking on the pavement, a car passing by, birds singing in the trees, a dog barking somewhere in the distance, and the sound of hammering as a neighbour repairs his garden shed. In short, what I hear is activity, even when its sources cannot be seen. And since the forms of the taskscape, suspended as they’re in movement, are present only as activity, the limits of the taskscape are also the limits of the auditory world. (Ingold 1993:162)

Ingold does not limit the sensuality of the landscape and taskscape to sight and sound; touch and smell are also by implication critical to the concept of dwelling. In sum, Ingold’s innovation is important not only for the way we conduct anthropology but the way we investigate any landscape. After Ingold, anthropology becomes entirely new and exciting because we have to deal with cultures that make and are in turn made through landscapes and taskscapes. Technologies become critical in the social objectification of nature, not peripheral and unrelated. The world looks different this way and to see it and sense it requires a more active study of engagement with the world. It is less an exercise in the exploration of the mental construction of the social, through mediated knowledge, still less an exercise in trying to understand nature in social terms. The basic building blocks of this anthropology are unmediated perceptual knowledge, practical experience and knowledge of the world, the technologies that link humans



and non-humans, the aesthetic and sensual composition of experience and the cultural choices that are made in reference to these. The social is not to be thought of as existing in some sense prior to its landscape, but emerging with it, through it. Laura Rival is an early exponent of this new anthropology and we shall turn now to look briefly at this through her work on the Huaorani of Amazonia.

Laura Rival Following Ingold, Rival has produced two papers that showcase what might be called the new anthropology of dwelling (Rival 1993, 1996). The first illustrates how unmediated or perceptual knowledge about the landscape, particularly of living things, can affect cultural choices and produce patterns of aesthetic judgement and social life. The Huaorani are an Amazonian group living in a similar way to many others in the region and yet they are not exactly the same; they dwell in a very distinctive way and their culture has been profoundly influenced, according to Rival, by their landscape, knowledge and technologies. Following Bloch’s pioneering work on culture and cognition, Rival develops his thesis that unmediated knowledge of the landscape influences the way by which people think about themselves in physiological, moral and social ways. His paper on the Zafimaniry of Madagascar, for example, illustrates how notions of growth and maturity are common but potent everyday perceptions. Bloch is interested in how people conceptualise their own society; what terms and models are used to imagine the social and whether these originate in the everyday world about them: These models . . . are not principally propositional in the traditional sense of the term, although they can be accessed in part through language, but partly visual, partly sensual, partly linked to performance. They are all anchored in practice and material experience, and this is what makes them ‘obvious’ to anybody, anthropologist or informant, who participates in Zafimaniry life. ... I am talking about . . . what things ‘are like’ – people, trees, sex, gender, houses and so on. (Bloch 1992:132)

How does Rival situate Bloch in terms of the recent debates reviewed earlier in this chapter? Bloch’s recent re-analysis of Zafimaniry society (1992), although using a completely different model from Ingold’s, is also an attempt to conceptualise social relations on the basis of material processes and everyday practices. Bloch’s ‘central mental models’ result in a form of non-representational cultural knowledge akin to Ingold’s practical knowledge based on perception and



engagement. Bloch suggests that natural objects do not function as metaphors for social processes ‘because social relations are experienced as natural’ (1992:130–2). He identifies the process of growth and maturation, a process that equally affects all living beings, as a particularly forceful illustration of how people derive a practical knowledge of the social from their concrete experience of the world around them. (Rival 1993:634)

Because people are natural and their lives are ‘like’ other nature about them (woolly monkeys are thought to be ‘like’ the Huaorani, according to the Huaorani), there is a way of thinking about people and social groups in terms of a broader natural logic, similarities that make very obvious sense. In this way, it seems very clear why it is that so many peoples consider themselves and non-human species around them to occupy a common social and moral field and to conceive of forces and logics in the world that apply to all simply by virtue of being natural. According to Rival, it is therefore possible to ‘imagine social relations with reference to the experience of biological processes’ (Rival 1993:635). Therefore, ‘the correspondence between certain properties of social life and the experience of organic life should form a crucial part of anthropological analysis’ (Rival 1993:635). Rival takes up Bloch’s analysis of the unmediated concepts of growth and maturation and investigates their place in Huaorani culture. The Huaorani live in relatively small groups in isolated longhouses and hunt a relatively productive forest between five and twenty kilometres around it. The longhouse is comprised, typically, of a brother–sister pair, their respective spouses and their children and grandchildren. They are very endogamous in their marriage pattern and generally isolated from all but a few other longhouses with which peaceful and marriage links are made. Within the same tribal group of Huaorani, the people of other longhouses are most often either considered enemies or are ignored. Hunting and gathering from forest trail expeditions is the preferred means of getting food and resources while only sweet manioc for drinking parties is grown with any regularity. The staple preferred food is monkey meat supplemented with bird meat and fish. An aesthetic sensibility surrounds monkey hunting which is done very skilfully with blowpipes. However, peachpalm fruit is also seasonally very important. Rival shows how the Huaorani are highly interested in growth, particularly as evidenced by new leaves which form the basis for delight, songs and much discussion. A concern with the right speed of growth is inferred from tree species onto human growth and maturity. Children are lightly brushed with new leaves and nettles to produce new fast growth to launch them into the safer domains of adolescence where a slower growth is encouraged. The aesthetic of slow growth derives from two types of tree they greatly admire, the very tall canopy species and in particular the peachpalm trees that grow very slowly, producing very hard wood. This



species, which is actually propagated by humans in their groves as a result of previous feasting and consumption (heating the seeds to permit germination), is very long living and has become the means by which to imagine their social continuity. The groves are always identified as the places of their grandparents. These groves also supply fruit to fatten pregnant monkeys whose meat is considered the best of the annual cycle. Groups of monkeys are thereby tied to groups of Huaorani and peachpalms in a very obvious symbiotic association. The enduring slow growing but fertile peachpalm groves enable them to imagine themselves (as longhouse groups) regulated ideally by the same principles of slow growth and long life. Rival contrasts the positive nature of slow growth with the negative nature of fast growth. Fast growing species include balsa and manioc. Fast growth is accompanied by short life and discontinuity. Manioc is grown in clearings where it matures within a few weeks and the plot it is grown in, unlike the peachpalm grove, is then abandoned. Manioc in particular is a feasting food for the relatively dangerous occasions in which enemies are invited to a party. Enemy groups kill each other periodically but they are also exciting because they represent the chance of potential affines and marriage outside the endogamous group. Such alliances are judged to have benefits but they are also notoriously short lived and perilous. Hence fast growth of the sort obtained by exogamous marriages and manioc drinking parties comes to be associated with short life, discontinuity and even warfare and decline as enemy groups turn into predators of one another. Slow growth by contrast of the sort obtained through endogamous marriages (ideal cross-cousin marriages have to be planned and waited for as the brother–sister pair wait to marry off their respective grandchildren) and the more exclusive drinking feasts among the peachpalms comes to be associated with peace and fruitful years, continuity and stability. Clearly, this is a good case of nature being, as Ingold suggests, ‘good to relate to’: In addition to illuminating Huaorani resource management strategies, growth, which is a property of social life as much as a life process, also explains why kinship and social groups undergo short and long development cycles. While growth obviously affects all living forms alike, this does not necessarily entail that human processes are conceptualised in terms of plant categories, nor that growth be used as a metaphor to describe social processes. Through active and direct engagement in the world, the Huaorani know (i.e. perceive) that trees grow and mature at different rates, and, on this basis, draw a fundamental distinction between living organisms that grow slowly and perdure as groups, and those that grow fast but die off. On the basis of this distinction, the developmental process of peachpalm groves, which grow and endure on a time scale commensurate with the passage of human generations, parallels that of Huaorani groups. Embodiments of past human activity, these groves reproduce through the enduring relationships created with



endogamy and feasting. As their growth and the growth of local groups form a continuous interlinked process, Huaorani history and the natural history of Bactris gaspipaes coalesce. (Rival 1993:648)

Rival concludes by asking about the ontological status of growth: is it conceptual, symbolic or metaphorical? The answer appears to be all three, potentially, but not, it would seem, inevitably or exclusively metaphorical: My purpose here is not to debate the symbolic nature of social facts or the innateness of symbols. More modestly, I simply want to emphasise that growth belongs primarily to the domain of practical knowledge, or in Atran’s words, to common sense ‘which is responsible for the phenomenal givens that people ordinarily apprehend’ (1990:252). Perceived, experienced and conceptualised, growth is knowledge about the world. As such, it is a nonmediated perceptual knowledge that orders social relations between people, and between people and other living organisms. But growth is also symbolised and even ritualised. Once formed conceptually, it is interpreted and imagined, and then recast as, for example, the vital energy communicated sympathetically to children, or the complementarity of hard and softwood. Evoked metaphorically during drinking ceremonies, it stands for the ripening of fruit and becomes maturation. Transformed into an abstract and vague property that can be extracted from the organic context and applied to the social order, growth becomes more evocative and symbolic than conceptual, as when, for instance the fast growing and highly productive manioc gardens are used to foster new political alliances and exogamous marriages. This kind of symbolism would lose all potency, however, if some families and some trees did not grow more slowly than others. (Rival 1993:649)

In other words Rival has reconfigured the anthropology of nature such that nature is no longer ‘seen solely as metaphors for social categories’ (Rival 1993:636) but is capable of ontological transformation/innovation from practical, perceptual knowledge to symbolic or abstract thought. The second Rival paper (1996) investigates the mediatory role of technology in the notion of dwelling. Far from being of little consequence or peripheral to the understanding of relations between humanity and the natural world, technologies are precisely the means by which the articulations of dwelling take place. Again the study of technologies in everyday life can tell us a great deal and should form part of anthropological fieldwork. This paper is primarily about two very contrasting methods of hunting, by blowpipe and by spear, but hunting technologies begin with ethological knowledge, forest geography, tracking skills, animal call imitations, etc. Most anthropologists have noted the profound expertise required for



successful hunting, so ‘why is it’, she asks, ‘that studies have tended to ignore the practical knowledge of the living habits of animal species, focusing instead on semiological and ethical aspects of animal symbolism?’ (Rival 1996:145–6). It is entirely possible that anthropologists have not been active participating hunters themselves, preferring the less active pace of the camp and occupied with index cards, indices of social composition and transcription machines rather than the blowpipe, the net and the fish spear. One can immediately appreciate the price they pay for this sedentary occupation: forced to wait for the return of the hunting party they are perhaps reduced to asking leading and risky questions about the semiotics of animals and nature rather than base their understanding on a firm knowledge of the aesthetics and priorities of practical and perceptual knowledge. They do not find their leads in the spontaneous track conversations, the repertoires of the hunting engagement or the embodied and physical response and performance of the hunters. Such passages are included in Rival’s otherwise tightly compressed papers because they press home the point she makes: the analysis can only start with the data that presence on such occasions can bring. Consider the following: More like hunter-gatherers than horticulturalists, they spend much time ‘cruising‘ in the forest, exploring it slowly, collecting what they need for the day, and monitoring its potential resources for later use. Their constant checking of the maturity of trees, and of the number of pregnant monkeys, or bird nests, is commented upon at great length on return to the longhouse. This interest in plant growth and maturation is more than mere pragmatic resource management: they have a genuine aesthetic delight in observing plant life, particularly the growth of new leaves. (Rival 1993:637)

Or again: Both men and women have a great knowledge of the habits, habitats and feeding cycles of most arboreal species. Inferring from fruiting cycles, weather conditions and many other signs, they can predict animal behaviour and locate animals they cannot see with developed sensorial abilities – especially hearing and smell – they feel the presence of animals and anticipate their next move. Men, women and children spend hours slowly exploring the forest along their trails. They do not merely hunt or gather (two activities that are relatively undifferentiated in practice), but walk, observing with evident pleasure and interest the movements of animals, the progress of fruit maturation, or simply the growth of vegetation. One’s body takes the smell of the forest and ceases to be extraneous to the forest world. One learns to perceive the environment as other animals do. One becomes a ‘dweller’ deeply involved in a silent conversation with surrounding plants and animals. (Rival 1996:148)



FIGURE 4.1 A man and his child (about 6) in the rainforest, looking up to the tree canopy (Source: Laura Rival; photographer: John Wright)

As with all hunting and gathering this appears casual and spontaneous but it is, of course, highly technical. Highly honed senses trigger highly skilled responses. In the Huaorani case two hunting technologies are singled out by Rival for closer inspection, largely because these are the two principal hunting tools but also because they illustrate how they are implicated in an overarching logic which again commences with Huaorani perceptual knowledge. Rival tells us that the Huaorani are unusual in this region for their particular mix of hunting technologies (the blowpipe and the spear) apparently eschewing the otherwise ubiquitous bow or traps. The spear is a technology of warfare and remains hidden in forest locations or hut rafters until needed. Apart from warfare, they are needed only when white-lipped peccaries invade the land around the longhouse, at which point the men grab the spears and indulge in a killing frenzy that in many aspects matches that of warfare itself. Afterwards the great quantities of peccary meat is eaten in an orgy-like way. Normally, however, the Huaorani do not make any special effort to hunt them and spears are not involved in other form of hunt. In contrast to the peccary, the monkey and to a lesser extent other canopy animals are much sought after and hunted in the most meticulous fashion. Monkeys are considered to be ‘like’ Huaorani themselves and they are not considered to be killed in hunting but gathered. The Huaorani ‘blowhunt’ monkeys, in which the slender darts do not do the killing but their curare poison tips do. Curare is a



FIGURE 4.2 A macaw opening its wings and held by a group of Huaorani

children sitting on a log (Source: Laura Rival; photographer: John Wright)

poison that also relaxes the muscles of a dying monkey that would otherwise tighten its hold around the tree and be stuck out of reach. To some extent, the extreme contrast between peccaries and monkeys relates to Huaorani dislike, on the one hand, of the forest floor and their repugnance for swamps and lowlands and creatures of such areas and, on the other, of their aesthetic appreciation of the canopy, hilltops and ridges.



Such dislikes result in their rarely meeting the peccaries therefore, but Rival also wants to argue that they find peccaries less interesting, sociologically, than monkeys. ‘If knowledge of animals is primarily guided by direct involvement – and hunting is the Huaoranis’ most common form of involvement with animals – it is also shaped by the cultural (should we say political) choice of being more, or less, involved with certain species’ (Rival 1996:151). Like many societies around the world, the Huaorani have favourite or preferred animals and unfavourite or loathed animals. Whereas the making of spears is done collectively in batches according to needs and the need to give them as gifts, spears remain individual and individualised; they are ephemeral, breaking upon use. They are for killing and are associated with the unpredictable and dangerous nature of affinal links. In this context we can understand why the peccary can be associated with such singular cultural choices. In contrast, the blowpipes, while made slowly with great care and often fashioned by those with great individual skills, are also shared between people of a longhouse. They are used to gather their staple protein food, monkey meat, and are therefore a practical technology of group reproduction. As we have seen, the Huaorani live very closely with known groups of monkeys with whom they share, literally, the fruits of social continuity – from the grandparents peachpalms – in the immediate geography of the longhouse: Hunting is practical knowledge on the basis of which common inferences are formed and shared. It is therefore not surprising that hunting serves as an experiential ground from which other types of social experience and relations are imagined or represented. In the Huaorani myths ... the two hunting weapons symbolise (indexically rather than metaphorically) two complementary social relationships, endogamy and autarky. In this sense, Huaorani hunting symbolism could be fitted in previous studies of animal symbolism in which animals personify human groups . . . or the relationship between humanity and animality. . . . But, in contrast to these representational systems largely based on cosmological constructs, Huaorani technological symbolism is informed by a direct and practical relationship to the world. Is it because Huaorani people, instead of appropriating nature symbolically prefer discovering its affordances? (Rival 1996:161)

In sum, it is the intensively wrought knowledge and technologies of a given landscape, the terrain upon which so much time and effort and concentration is applied; and the aesthetic sensibilities and embodied practices which develop from ‘dwelling’ that unlock the ways in which any given thing can be thought about, what it can mean, what role it can play in thinking and relating to other things. This is what is meant by affordances and, in a sense, Rival is also saying that it takes the establishment of technologies of dwelling to produce the affordances that can then be woven into stories about ourselves, our dilemmas and our dangers. In



this way, Rival, and the authors who provide her theoretical background, have advanced a non-dualistic theory of the relationship between humans and non-human species. Rival’s work does not merely change the theoretical relationship between former concepts such as nature and culture, it also changes the sorts of methodologies required for investigation. As we will argue in the conclusion, her work challenges us to complete similarly styled research in the present day in the West as we attempt to comprehend relations between humans and non-humans at a similar everyday level, involving the interaction of practical knowledge, work and technology.

Conclusion There is much in common between what we have here called the new anthropology of nature and developments elsewhere in sociology. Of course, with the exception of Ellen perhaps, these authors are working on issues broadly consistent with Latour’s notion of hybridity and Ingold’s notion of dwelling. Although Latour’s major claim is that modern societies never completed an ontological rupture with nature but merely produced new hybrids of humans and non-humans, it is noteworthy that anthropologists are making a similar point. Clearly, previous structuralist ontologies that distanced humanity from non-humanity by claiming that the non-human is merely a mirror, an extension or a tool for the social, limited the relevance of anything other than the analysis of mental cognised constructions. Practice, practical knowledge, things, technologies and embodied sensual experiences could count for very little and were, indeed, largely ignored. The significance of these theorists is that they have broken through this obstacle and showed the relevance and importance of these active connections with the world, with the composite, historical and technical content to the notion of dwelling. In the second part of this book we will be considering some of the ways in which the modern West has engaged with the natural world. While change is a feature of all societies, what is of particular interest to us here is not only the claim that we have more or less cut all meaningful ‘deep’ links with the natural worlds, to the extent that there is no everyday connection as is the case with the Huaorani, but that once that disconnection is made it is gone forever. Once gone, in the transition between the natural world and the urban industrial world, migrants can only be assimilated into the richly social and exclusively cultural world of metropolis. In the second part, therefore, we will be investigating not embedded social formations such as the Huaorani, who have been more or less located where they are for many generations, but social formations at various stages of disembeddedness or social formations in which disembeddedness is common if not endemic.



We have found that this alleged modern break with the natural world did not happen, or at least, not in the manner supposed. Instead, older relations relocated and recomposed around new objects, new practices, new social and cultural needs. Whereas Macnaghten and Urry argue the case for a dwelling approach in the context of the contemporary West, by way of investigating the plurality of natures, the only example they give is unfortunate: an image of a sixteenth-century everyday rural scene painted by Pieter Brueghel. One can indeed follow the point of this example and comprehend how it is impossible to detach people from their landscape, only, in the case of contemporary society we are not dealing with a peasantry tied to the land but a mobile society wrought by severe and profound spatial and occupational dislocation. So, in addition to our need to investigate the nature of contemporary dwelling, we must also add to this what we will call embedding practices or naturalisation. This is the subject of Chapter 5. This describes the emergence of individually and collectively felt needs to reconnect with some aspect of the natural world. We argue that it has been endemic in most western countries, at various times influencing the spatial distribution and practices of social classes, the sentiments of nations, and the practices of leisure groups and sub-cultures. Through naturalisation, dislocated and transformed peoples have re-embedded themselves as part of identity building. There is, of course, a powerful aestheticisation process that accompanied naturalisation and we also look closely at that, but once such a naturalisation is underway, the mental preoccupation with the aesthetics of nature give way, to various degrees, to a more sensual, embodied experience. Embodiment is the subject of Chapter 6. The more that nature became the refuge for modern cultures, and the more the natural eclipsed the modern as the paragon of goodness and propriety, the more the body was attended to as a natural, physical and deserving object. We became interested in sensing the world in newer, more acute ways (e.g. winetasting); we became curious about new age claims to the presence and technologies of other forces in the world that required retraining the body; we became interested in the kinaesthetic skills required for fly fishing, surfing and hang gliding; we became concerned for natural foods, then organic foods and then genetically unmodified foods as the proper fuel for our bodies. The reluctance to lead entirely urban metropolitan lives and the desire for nature to be close and personally connected to the individual on a dayto-day basis has resulted in an enduring trend to import nature into the city. The sheer scale of this introduction is matched only by its widespread deployment in the urban home, the suburb, city centres, workspaces and play areas. Gardens and garden suburbs, it will be argued, are one of the most central and enduring blueprint styles for modern living and their status as one of the most common and significant leisures fully deserves more attention. Here is one of the best and most prominent examples of the manner by which human–non-human hybrids have been developed



and embraced by modern cultures. Natural things as detachable from natural spaces and as highly manipulated and fragmented by humanity have been subject to a profound process of aestheticisation. Indeed, it is an aesthetic trend that fully rivals the more edified and spiritual aesthetics of the Romantic sublime. Since this is quite clearly the case and since the garden has received considerably less attention than wilderness and since a majority of people in such places as the USA, UK and Australia are gardening enthusiasts, we will use gardens as the principal example in Chapter 6, on the hybridisation of nature.


5 Naturalisation In previous chapters we have seen how anthropology and history have advanced our knowledge of the human–non-human relationship by investigating people’s mental and physical integration with the natural world. In the West, we are prone to thinking we have lost many of these connections and that once gone they are lost forever. But are they? Are we left with only a modern aesthetic appreciation of nature? In this chapter we shall look first at whether this Romantic-inspired aesthetic appreciation of a universal nature (that somehow excludes people) means that proper dealings with the natural world are confined to the spiritual and the sublime, or whether other aestheticisations are possible that mark the myriad hybrids of humanity and non-humanity. We will argue that there are and, using the concept of naturalisation, we attend to what might be called the ‘re-embedding’ of western cultures into the natural world. In doing this we do not try to account for the growth of environmentalism or even the widespread concern for nature (for an excellent account of the former see Macnaghten and Urry 1998, Chapter 2) but for the variety of ways in which people in modern cultures have been reintroduced and embedded into particular and specific natures. We believe that away from the major tourist sights and areas of outstanding natural beauty people have been attaching themselves in meaningful ways to such things as surf and waves in the ocean; to the waterways and wetlands as birders or anglers or hunters; to ordinary swathes of countryside as dog walkers, lovers and residents; fondly to nurtured and tended flora in suburban gardens; to the Australian outback as patriots. Despite their emphasis on the ephemeral and shallow relations with non-humans that tourism affords, Macnaghten and Urry do offer other routes for investigating the embedded nature of humans and their environment through the concept of dwelling. Since dwelling describes the historically layered nature of such relationships it is important that we take a long historical view of these processes. We can ask how these processes have occurred. Where have they occurred and why have they



occurred? We do not hope to exhaust all the permutations of naturalisation but we aim to link modern social formations such as corporations, former colonies, social classes and nations to specific types of nature. In doing this we find ourselves not in complete agreement with Clark’s (1999:2) view that with growing cosmopolitanism in the western cultures of late modernity ‘the idea of native soil as a territorially fixed parcel of earth from which great communities spring forth – is losing the obeisance it claimed in a more settled era’. Although we must talk of migrations, transported and transplanted peoples, we find the search for a sense of rootedness to be commonplace, almost the corollary of an increasingly mobile society (see Urry 2000), even if at the same time it is possible to speak of ‘more global patterns of identification and responsibility’ (Clark 1999:2). There has been much investment of value in the immediate natures wherein modern people dwell and, as this rediscovery has gained pace, one can certainly justify the claim that like many other things of the everyday, we start to detect all manner of aestheticisation processes underway.

Aestheticisation Although we can point to the dominance of a Kantian aesthetic appreciation of nature, it is also true that in the latter part of the twentieth century one can discern what Welsch (1997) might call an aestheticisation of numerous natures. An important question is whether all such aesthetic appreciations are for nature as nature. For as Budd (1996) points out ‘not every aesthetic experience from a natural object is an instance of the aesthetic experience of nature’: The aesthetic appreciation of nature is not co-extensive with the set of aesthetic responses to natural objects or to aspects of what is found in nature. Rather, an aesthetic response to something natural constitutes aesthetic appreciation of nature only if the response is a response to nature as nature, and what this requires is that it must be integral to the rewarding (or displeasing) character of the experience offered by nature that its object is experienced as natural. Hence, if some expanse of an attractive shade of colour presented by an outcrop of ochre delights, but not as a natural colour or as the colour of a natural object, or the pattern of a snowflake delights, but not as naturally produced, or the iridescent colours of a hummingbird delight, but not as the appearance of its wings, although the experience is aesthetic and provided by nature, it is not an instance of the aesthetic experience of nature. (Budd 1996:207)

Budd also reminds us that the aesthetic experience of nature must not be confused with the aesthetic experience of art: ‘If an observer adopts



towards nature an attitude appropriate to a work of art, regarding it as if it were such a work, the resulting experience, although aesthetic and directed at nature, falls outside the aesthetic appreciation of nature’ (Budd 1996:208). Budd’s next problem was to identify what might count as a satisfactory nature to be the object of aesthetic appreciation. Nature is manifested in a fabulous number of instances: smells, colours, species, natural objects and so on. There are also socio-temporally located individual natural things, amalgamations of interacting individuals and the forces and conditions in which they combine. There is also a sense of nature as kinds, non-spatial and atemporal instances, the essential (genetic) nature to which all individuals belong. Schopenhauer (1969) argued that the aesthetic appreciation of nature was precisely the appreciation of nature as kinds, as instantiated by specific individuals. Natural kinds were non-spatial and atemporal but only perceptible through concrete examples. This would suggest that while the aesthetic appreciation of nature depends upon a spatially and temporally located apprehension the act of appreciation relates to it as an instance of a natural kind. As he argues two ladybirds or sea trout must have the same aesthetic valued in themselves, but the value they obtain is in their sea troutness or ladybirdness, not their individuality. This suggests that it is not necessary for the aesthetic appreciation of nature that it is apprehended in any particular space, only that it is apprehended as nature. It also suggests that it is not necessary for any one instance to be fully installed in relation to others, as is implied in the idea of natural area or habitat. Budd reaches this conclusion himself in respect of the problem of the aesthetic appreciation of nature as nature in late modern conditions where it is difficult to disentangle it from human expansion, management and interference: ‘[M]uch of our natural environment displays for better or worse, the influence of humanity, having been shaped, to a greater or lesser extent, and in a variety of ways, by human purposes, so that little of the world’s landscape is in a natural condition’ (Budd 1996:209). Budd firmly argues that this is not an impediment to the aesthetic appreciation of nature as nature and that wherever natural objects exist they can be appreciated aesthetically as nature: But although a natural item is often not in its natural state or natural location or habitat, or has arisen only through human contrivance or as an intended or unintended consequence of human activity, or is in a scene composed of natural objects but which has not been naturally produced, or is adjacent to or surrounded by non-natural items, or has been positioned where it is, not by nature but by humanity, this does not prevent it from being appreciated aesthetically as natural and does not mean that its appreciation must be mixed. For whether an item is natural is not the same as whether other aspects of the scene or other properties of the item are natural, and it is possible, with more or less difficulty in particular cases, to focus one’s interest



only on what is natural. Whether what you are confronted by is (entirely natural is one thing; what it is about the situation you are appreciating is another. (Budd 1996:210)

Even a caged wild animal in a zoo or the water in a fountain can be appreciated as nature. This is not as difficult as it may seem, at least for those urban cultures for whom nature can only be experienced in surroundings that are heavily contrived by humanity. The aesthetic experience of fish keepers, gardeners or pigeon fanciers is without any doubt focused on the fish, flowers and birds that are the object of their gaze, even as they perform part of the human construction of their settings. Indeed, the extreme artificiality of the urban setting may hone and sharpen the contrast with natural objects, making the aesthetic appreciation more focused and intense. But what is it about natural things, besides being natural, that make them the object of aesthetic appreciation? Budd (1996:211) argues that an aesthetic response to nature can follow simply from it being ‘free from the constraints of understanding, namely the understanding of its meaning as art’. Budd uses the delight we have in birdsong as an example, but he goes further to ask whether there may be ‘aspects or properties that a natural item can possess in virtue of which it can be appreciated aesthetically as natural’? While an exhaustive answer to this is clearly impossible, it is easy, argues Budd to give examples of what these characteristics might be. One might be that it is a form of life. Living things are distinctive in having a history of growth and decline, are nourished through their environment, brave the elements and change with the seasons (Budd 1996:215). This chimes well with the sorts of ways in which people from many different times and locations seem to find delight, pleasure and beautify in nature, or at least those elements and items that are its historically constituted focus. What unites the Huaorani hunter, the Nuer herdsman, the Romantic poet and the urban pigeon fancier is the living, changing and responding qualities of their objects. The objects of the appreciation may be sensitive to cultural determinations of all kinds but the nature of the aesthetic response may be something that is generalised in humanity. Or as Soper (1995:245) concludes, ‘the very shifts of the aesthetic taste in nature speak to something more universal in the patterning of our response to it’. It is this potential claim for a universality of an aesthetic appreciation of nature that allows Budd to discuss nature and aesthetics outside spatial and historical contexts. But while we may acknowledge the legitimacy and usefulness of such as a claim, it is equally important and useful to understand how the aesthetic appreciation of nature has been framed at particular times and places. We can really only document the aesthetic practices of people like the Huaorani and make connections between these and other elements of their culture. We are in a slightly more advantageous position with regard to changing aesthetics of nature in the West.



Kate Soper (1995), in her chapter called Loving Nature, has set out the key changes and the social contexts in which they were produced and challenged. While her object was to contribute to the green transformation of environmental relations, she does so by problematising the assumption that the aesthetic appreciation of nature necessarily means that humans will willingly separate themselves from nature, as it were to consume less of it, in order to protect it: Let us accept then, that the appeal of eco-politics and the grounds for any confidence in its ultimate success is both aesthetic and moral, that it invokes both the delight in nature and the obligation to the future. But these appeals are likely to prove more powerful, so it seems to me, the more scrupulous the movement is in considering their validity, and the implications of discourses in which they have promoted. Particularly in the case of the appeal to nature as a source of aesthetic pleasure and consolation, we need to proceed in awareness of just how problematic it may be to offer a universalistic discourse on the needs or responses of humanity. (Soper 1995:209)

Soper identifies a strong Romantic influence in green thinking that conceives of proper nature as that which is separate, distant and empty of human influence and of a proper appreciation of nature that is solitary, lonely and privileged. Those two elements may be in sharp contradiction to the realities of other aestheticisations of nature in the West. Soper (1995:215) follows Hardy (1965) in identifying ‘a tension between the more universal and the more particular commentary ... in any exploration of humanity’s “love of nature”’. While the universal is not to be dismissed at one level, in order to understand the content of any one aesthetic appreciation at any one time or place we need to ‘look at the role that specific cultural conditions have played in constructing tastes and feelings for nature’ (Soper 1995:216). Kant (1952) provides a reference point for this debate in two ways. First, he argues the case for a universal aesthetic appreciation of nature that is based not on a comparative study of sufficient case studies or empirical examples but on ‘“pure” aesthetic judgement to the effect that nature is “awesome” or “beautiful” (where the implication is that everyone ought to find it so – and since ought implies “can”, is possessed of the sensibility allowing them in principle to do so)’. A given item of nature is not aesthetically pleasing judged as an example of its kind (e.g. that is a beautiful moth), but out of virtue of being itself natural and, as by definition, beautiful (that is a moth and because it is natural it is beautiful). Now, Soper argues that this argument conceals a hidden cultural conception about the natural world, as a totality and as ‘otherness’ which is never acknowledged. This is significant precisely because we can point to quite major shifts in the manner by which nature has been conceptualised in the West – as we saw in Chapter 1. Soper, for example, argues that the ideas of beautiful and sublime are ancient in origin and changeable over



the course of western history. Up until the mid-eighteenth century these notions were expressive of moral metaphor rather more than aesthetic appreciation of landscape, as in the contrast between wild and pastoral (evil and good). After that period the sublime is separated from its binary moral opposite and becomes a separate aesthetic experience. Soper can account for this shift in social, political and environmental terms: Neither Kant nor Burke appreciates the extent to which the aesthetic of the sublime must be related to the revolutionising ferments within human society at the time, or the ways in which it is functioning as a register of the social transformations of the period and the conflictual responses to them. Yet the celebration of the sublime in nature cannot be understood in isolation from the bourgeois challenge to the aristocratic order, and the latter’s support for an Arcadian aesthetic; nor from the way in which the ‘sublime’ becomes a problematic and contested image of its political struggles, where it figures the individual striving, energy and self-mastery necessary to their success, but only at the cost of intimating the more dangerous ‘sublime’ potential of its emphasis on individual autonomy. ... [We] may argue that neither Burke nor Kant shows much awareness of the need to link the fascination with the sublime to scientific enlightenment, the growth of industry and the increasing domestication of nature. Even less do they consider the extent to which their theorisation of the aesthetic of the sublime may be reliant on attitudes to nature engendered by these developments. (Soper 1995:226)

The romanticisation of nature was not then an exercise in pure reason but deeply political and deeply implicated in renegotiating a view of nature based on a very different balance of power between the natural world and humanity. It is a discourse of nature racked by guilt and anxiety and in the face of its destruction and reordering by modernising forces, it was transformed from fear and loathing to an admiration and pity. Moreover, this was not merely a view locatable in time and space, it was also the very particular view of a social elite. As Soper argues, we need to insert a class dimension into any account of ourselves as nature lovers. She illustrates this very well in relation to the way the artist as a member of, and painting for, the social elite depicted the rural peasantry as occupying always a different relation to the natural world. Whether based on classical idyll or nineteenth-century realism, the peasantry or the rural working class were very often depicted as a part of nature, or at least so close to nature that they were ‘incapable of any evaluative relationship to it at all’ (Soper 1995:237). This assumption can also be demonstrated in the work of the Romantic poets whose inability to articulate a view on nature is testament to an admirable and worthy relation with nature. Civilisation provides literacy and expression but only by taking away primordial relations with nature. By these assumptions, the rural peasant or worker were rendered mute and, Soper argues, long after they were themselves dispossessed of



a rural lifestyle, their aesthetic appreciation of nature was to be in doubt as urban tourists: What begins to find expression is a fear lest these new found urbanites (and suburbanites) come to resort en masse to the forms of solace in nature that had hitherto been deemed appealing only to the more poetic soul or thinking man. Thus, in the frequently expressed regrets for the ‘tourist’ invasion of nature, we may discern a tacit recognition that the taste for even its recondite attractions is not, after all, the exclusive preserve of the discriminating ‘soul’. ... Environmentalism needs to be aware of the double edged quality of an eco-elect that both evokes a universal human aesthetic need for nature, and appeals to that ‘rarer’ sensibility which would preserve it from the negative effects of its mass enjoyment. (Soper 1995:241)

It is now possible to put the work of Budd and Soper together to develop an aesthetically informed view of the consumption of nature. We have seen how in Budd’s view the aesthetic appreciation of nature is not hampered by its promiscuous associations with the artificial and the cultural in modernity. Indeed, it has been suggested here that the separation of natural items from a total ‘state’ of pure nature may have created a more intensely sentimental and interactive relation with nature – hands-on pet keeping, gardening, birding and fishing – than the more dispassionate, remote, passive gaze of the Romantic appreciation. The claims about a universal aesthetic appreciation of nature and its actualisation in moments of consumption by the cultivated few create an elitist aesthetic that has, according to Soper, informed the environmentalist movement and bred an intolerance for other aesthetics. It has also prevented us from ‘counting’ ordinary and everyday relations with the natural world as interesting or significant. By attending to processes of naturalisation that create alternative aesthetics of nature as part of key embedding processes in time and space we can begin to write the sociology of nature for groups other than the social and educated elite. We will later develop a diverse range of instances of this from the embedding of the English industrial bourgeoisie into an English countryside, the colonisation of English waterways by organised groups of the industrial working class and the naturalisation of a former colony into its hinterland natures. Naturalisation processes One of the oldest and most enduring markers of social identity, corporate belonging and legitimacy stems from claims to an indivisible association with a particular chunk of nature. When the British think of themselves it is not possible for them to do so, apparently, without thinking of Britain



as a natural entity, composed of a people and the nature that it co-dwells with. In his recent book, Jeremy Paxman mocks what he takes to be England’s mythological obsession of itself as an essentially rural culture, attending to the idea that ‘the soul of England lay in the countryside’ (Paxman 1998:147). For Brooke, (1970) the body of his English war hero is richly inscribed with natural bounties: A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam, A body of England’s, breathing English air, Washed by rivers, blest by the suns of home. (Rupert Brooke 1970:25)

A.E. Housman is no less certain of the centrality of the English countryside to the spirit of English identity: In my own shire, if was sad, Homely comforters I had: The earth, because my heart was sore, Sorrowed for the son she bore; And standing hills, long to remain, Shared their short-lived comrade’s pain. (A.E. Housman 1994:59)

Paxman’s mockery of ex-Prime Minister John Major, who used just such an evocation in a neck-saving political speech, is based merely on the fact that Britain’s had been an urban culture for almost 200 years; that its rural culture ended in miserable displacement and abject urban poverty; that the countryside is currently big agribusiness, big science and as fully mechanised as any factory and because nature is seemingly on the run before suburbanisation, road building and genetic modification. For Paxman this hypocrisy can be explained ultimately by the absence of a civic culture developing alongside urbanisation; by the lure of the country and the country life as a setting for the social elite whether old money, new (trade) money made in the nineteenth century or the industrial and political corporate leaderships of the twentieth century. Farmer James Callaghan and Scilly Island Cottager Harold Wilson were typical Labour leaders who escaped to the country. Artistic and intellectual leadership by Ruskin and Morris was notable for its hatred of the urban. In the absence of any will to create a new modern society based on new cities and new city cultures, in other words to embrace modernism, the English continued to think of themselves as nature, as countryside. Paxman quotes D.H. Lawrence on his return to his hometown of Nottingham, where everything was for him ugly, the opposite of the civic composure that he had found in Sienna. As we shall see however, it is not entirely clear whether this social identity is as mythological as Paxman would have us believe. It is true that most Britons lived on variations of Nottingham



ugliness, but whether they truly ever gave up their rural mentalities and habits is questionable. We shall be arguing instead that social and spatial displacements were not complete or irreversible and that throughout modernity it is possible to see new and spectacular moves to rekindle an association with nature whether as wilderness, countryside or bush. These rekindled associations will be called naturalisation processes and this chapter will be concerned to show not only how naturalisation seems to accompany modernisation but also how it takes different shapes according to different class, gender and colonial configurations. Naturalisation is not merely some form of claim to associate with space or landscape or even land. Because it is predominantly thought of in natural terms such as soil, rocks, mountains, forests, fields, lanes, hedgerows, paths, pastures with cows in, birdsong, rookeries in trees overlooking villages and parish church etc., it confounds such abstraction. It is all these ‘embedding’ things and, as with the notion of dwelling, which is the ultimate end stage of naturalisation, all of these elements grow seamlessly into each other, forming networks of actors both human and non-human. From the most small-scale primordial societies to the most complex postmodern nation states, expressions of self-identity, belonging and legitimacy frequently employ the idiom of a personalised nature. Such claims to a personalised nature, which lay a claim to dwell in a particular, definable chunk of nature, are interesting not merely because of their endurance over time and their survival into more complex social formations, but because they provide a register of moral, political, ethnic and national dimensions to social change. It is very rarely a naturalisation driven by the simple attraction of nature in a realist sense, but of what nature can be constructed to mean and evoke. Of course, naturalisation typically produces an embodied association and a deeply felt aesthetic of particular natures, but this has to be distinguished from the social nature of its appeal in the first place. This rest of this chapter is organised into five sections, each of which seeks to highlight a different form of naturalisation in terms of specific, social, spatial and temporal conditions. In the first, we will briefly consider totemic societies in terms of their naturalisation of corporate and individual identity. In the second, we will look at the larger scale social formations of the medieval period in terms of their totemic heraldic system. We will see how the heraldic system in England was used to galvanise proto-national sociations around key corporations that were overarching of parochial and regional interests. In doing so we will attempt to explain why it is that natural symbols are almost exclusively used and have continued to be used into the present day. Using theories of the nation we will be able to make the link between the relevance of naturalised identities and national cohesion. In the third section, we focus on one of three forms of naturalisation that result, in various ways, from another common symptom of modernity, social displacement. In these, new types of corporations and social



identities are formed through a claim on natural association. We consider, first, the manner in which an industrial capitalist class naturalised themselves into the English countryside in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For a variety of reasons it is argued that the countryside, and especially English nature, became adopted as a quintessentially English identity. Since almost all major economic interests were now dependent on industrial, commercial and overseas investments, the rural and the natural became an empty space into which English identity could be contained and mythologised. The second example also focuses on naturalisation in nation formation, taking colonial and post-colonial Australia as a case study. In the final third example we explore an important but much overlooked working-class naturalisation that gained pace as the railways expanded in the nineteenth century. Working-class coarse fishing organisations took over vast areas of the rivers, lakes and canalsides of the English countryside. Arguably more significant than fox hunting its very emphasis on quietude and solitude has guaranteed its social and historical invisibility.

Totemic naturalisations Nature is so routinely used in modern national symbolism that few have ever questioned its role, but it is at least paradoxical that the totemic symbols of primordial hunter-gatherer or pastoralist clans have been retained as collective identifiers of complex modern nation states to the extent that they have (see Schama 1995 for the role of forests in national symbolism in Europe). Some of these are official national symbols or emblems of nation (the British lion and unicorn, the American bald eagle, the Australian kangaroo and emu and so on) while others are popular signifiers of nation (America’s White-tailed Deer of Bambi fame; the British bulldog; the Australian possum, koala and platypus; New Zealand’s kiwi; South Africa’s springbok). For the 2000 Olympics a feminine marketing totem brought the exotic echidna, in the form/character of ‘Millie’ into use for the first time. In addition, many of the most prominent national organisations and commercial companies adopt animal symbols of nation in order to galvanise public support or brand loyalty. It has been argued that as abstract or imagined communities, nation states lack any firm concrete social ties upon which to consolidate sentiments of national belonging and community. These have to be created and recreated as mythologies of nation. According to Gellner (1983) and James (1996) sentiments of national identity and belonging are invoked through the language and symbolism of social integration in primordial communities: ‘they visualise that abstract society in the imagery of a concrete society’ (Gellner 1983:36). Animal and natural symbols of nation therefore form



part of a repertoire of visualisations of nation states as if they were face-to-face communities. Other examples include the invocations of ‘blood’ and ‘soil’ to infer common kinship and ties to place or locality and they come together in such fictions as ‘fatherland’, ‘motherland’, ‘homeland’. However, the abstract relation of nation to an animal totem contains a particularly rich set of identifiers, which may explain its persistence and popularity. In addition to ties to place (animal range = social boundaries) and land (natural habitat = social tenure), animal symbols can emphasise the natural, taken for granted qualities of nation (e.g. modern Australia is as natural or given as the kangaroo or emu), reinforce the primordial mythologies of a nation’s history (i.e. a nation, like an animal, is rooted in the mists of time) and through their embodied form (often highly stylised to minimise their own subjectivity) provide an unambiguous container for the social identity of abstract social corporations such as nations (Baker 1993). However a comparative analysis of nations such as Britain and Australia reveals differences in the way primordial modes of social integration originate and operate. For instance, it is less easy to maintain the fiction of a primordial past in new and migrant nations such as the USA and Australia than it is in Britain where at least a large number of citizens have descended from prehistoric British ancestors. This was underlined very clearly in 1997 when a team of scientists isolated the genetic sequence of a 9,000-year-old caveman from the Cheddar caves in Somerset. In a publicity stunt they asked volunteers to step forward to donate a sample of genetic material in order to see whether there are any living descendants of the caveman. Any gene samples matching those of the caveman could only be passed on through a female line of descent. Eventually one person, a 47-year-old history teacher called Adrian Targett, was discovered to possess matching DNA, but the astonishing thing about Adrian Targett was that he lived in the village of Cheddar, only 100 metres from where his ancestor was found (Electronic Telegraph 8 March 1997). Britain is an example of what James (1996) calls ‘continuity in discontinuity’: although modern British society is a fundamentally different type of society from medieval Britain, not every form or mode of social integration was abandoned in the formation of the modern nation state. Through the institutions of heraldry for example, the integrative language and symbols of princely European states of the Middle Ages continued. Because it distinguished and legitimised most secular institutions, including the monarchy, elites and major corporations, who played a major role in the modernisation of Britain, animal symbolism survived into modernity, conferring and confirming, no doubt, a common sense of primordial descent and solidarity. In Australia, by contrast, the attempt to assimilate Aborigines through the use of the White Australia policy of the 1940s, demonstrates an ambition to obscure the only possible primordial human past on the Australian continent.



The new Australia could be neither Aboriginal nor British, or indeed, ‘European’ or ‘Asian’ (see Reynolds 1990:127). Because it was an ethnic ensemble, nation formation in Australia was, in part, about creating difference and uniqueness. By creating a nation of Australians and eliminating all other ethnic ties, including those of British descent, Australia was always in danger of creating a rootless and socially confused nation. It will be argued that a process of naturalisation was used to prevent such an outcome. The new Australia had to form quasi-primordial ties to space and territory, over and above mere economic exploitation through agriculture or mining and the formation of quasi-primordial attachments to animal categories was critical. This process naturalised Australians to Australian ‘nature’ or ‘bush’ and, as a result, was able to use the Australian biotic community, particularly animals, as symbols of nation. Whereas there was little authorship required to link animals to a deliberate policy of nation formation in the British case, it will be argued that in Australia, such authorship can be clearly identified in government services and the academy throughout the twentieth century. In order to understand the totemic role animals and other natural symbols play in symbolising modern nation states, it is useful to understand why they were utilised by primordial societies. Although anthropologists have argued that the choice of particular species for clan totems is rather less important than their function as representations of social origin, social identity and social difference, the rationale for choosing biotic and landscape phenomena is important. At least four areas of significance can be discerned: mythologies of social origin, social identity based on descent and kinship, legitimising spatial belonging and practical knowledge/benefit. Australian Aborigines adopted almost any animal, plant or thing, but there was a certain logic in their choice of an element of their material and biotic environment. This was expressed well by Durkheim (1976:233–4): Moreover the animal is more closely associated with the life of men than the plant is if only because of the natural kinship uniting these two together. On the other hand, the sun, moon and stars are too far away; they give the effect of belonging to another world. Also as long as the constellations were not distinguished and classified, the starry vault did not offer a sufficient diversity of clearly differentiated things to be able to mark all the clans and subclans of a tribe; but, on the contrary, the variety of the flora, and especially of the fauna, was almost inexhaustible. Therefore celestial bodies, in despite of their brilliance and sharp impression they make upon the senses, were unfitted for the role of totems, while animals and plants seemed predestined for it.

Most aboriginal cultures of Australia are divided into clan groups, each of which identifies with a particular animal, plant or thing, which is believed to be the original ancestor of the clan. After all, where else could the first members of the clan (or people in general) possibly descend from? The



emergence of clan ancestors from the Dreamtime is a foundational idea in Aboriginal thought, but the idea that concrete social entities such as clans were founded by original ancestors, rather than people in the abstract, is common to many primordial societies. Second, the notion of a relationship of descent from a tangible part of their environment has a clear logic. The clan representation bears a concrete and direct relation to the clan itself and differentiates clan members from others. All members of a clan have a direct and identical relation of descent to their totem. Moreover, the clan consists of a relatively small and specifiable group of people who, even if scattered into different bands on a day-to-day basis (owing to exogamous marriage rules), meet each other on a regular basis, perform religious rituals together and take a common interest in such matters as marriage, law and punishment. In other words, because the clan is a concrete, face-to-face and corporate entity, where most individuals know each other and are interrelated through ties of descent, the relation between them and their totem is immediate and direct. Third, in primordial societies the clan and its totem are spatially coterminous. Typically totems are chosen from the day-to-day landscape and they can underscore notions of territoriality, range or a spatial sense of belonging (Durkheim 1976:234). Although this relationship is vague and indirect in the sense that the spatial distribution of totem species never specifies the territory or range of a clan, it nonetheless serves to locate them together in a common time and space and, as such, provides a powerful basis for ontological security. In the case of Australian Aborigines, the area around which totemic ancestors emerged from the earth is always sacred to the clan they founded and this area also invokes a strong sense of land ownership or propriety and a centre to what was frequently a very large and loosely defined territorial range. Fourth, in many totemic societies, not only are there origin myth connections between totem species and clan, but there is also the notion that the totem ancestors have causal powers and can intervene positively (and, of course, negatively) in the lives of people. Typically, a sacred knowledge of totem ancestors is used to tap such benefits and to avoid sanctions and this practical knowledge is passed down from one generation to the next. In this way a further connection is made between totemic ancestors and people: they are of direct practical benefit to their descendants.

Heraldic extension of totemic identities and the emergence of nation: the case of Britain In modern nation states the links between national symbol or totem is very different. First, in modern nation states there are no such concrete ties as descent or kinship linking all citizens, neither do they know



each other or expect (or want) to. Most citizens are strangers and their relationship to one to another is entirely abstract. There is thus no concrete corporation with which to develop a direct totemic link in the manner we saw earlier. Second, the spatial relation between citizens and their national totems are the opposite to those of primordial societies. As we have noted already, national totems are usually spatially separate from the day-to-day lives of the citizens they represent. Most modern citizens live in towns and their day-to-day range is mostly circumscribed by the city. To some extent, urban landscapes do operate as lower order signifiers of nation: the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, Tower Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, for example, are all used to denote nation, but none is included in official seals or national coats of arms and they are less frequent on corporation coats of arms. Mostly, outsiders, such as tourists, rather than the citizenry itself use urban symbols of nation. The use of more distant animal symbols is not merely a function of supply: animals such as pigeons, sparrows, starlings, squirrels, mice, cockroaches and so forth are common to most cities, but have never been considered appropriate. Finally, the idea that totem species serve some practical purpose in the lives of people is not invoked in totems of nation. The socially complex, urbanised and technologically sophisticated nature of modern societies seems remote indeed from one or two essentially wild animals. Mostly, animals are superfluous, except as food and leisure. Lienhardt’s work on the Dinka of the Sudan remains one of the most detailed studies of the totemic practices. In his conversations concerning the logic behind the choice of totems (which he calls clan divinities), they underlined the importance of practical help: When I asked what I myself should invoke as my clan-divinity, it was halfjokingly suggested that I should invoke Typewriter, Paper, and Lorry, for were these not the things which always helped my people and which were passed on to Europeans by their ancestors? (Lienhardt 1961:10)

So, why should animals continue to be such paramount signifiers of modern nation states? Why not something closer to the spirit of modernity such as an engine, an automobile or plane, a factory, a modern city, a skyscraper or Lienhardt’s typewriter? In order to answer this question we must turn to theories of nation. Of all modern social formations the nation remains one of the least understood. Until recently, with the break-up of the former Soviet Union and the destructive resurgence of former nationalisms in the Baltic, together with the outbreak of nationalisms elsewhere, the nation and nationalism attracted very little theoretical attention. For example, the nation was relatively underdeveloped in the work of Marx, Durkheim and Weber: Marx thought it was an illusory, transitory phenomenon soon



to be replaced; and both Durkheim and Weber took it as natural or given and therefore not deserving of much critical attention (James 1996:179–80). The earliest theories of nation tend to be primordialist in orientation. A primordialist perspective emphasises the deep historical roots of nation and nationalism and explains some of the tendencies of nations and nationalist movements in terms of deep-rooted cultural traits (e.g. the emotional strength of ethnicity), biological and psychological drives (e.g. territoriality, aggression) and the unchanging ‘nature’ of social identity and spatial attachment. It is the continuous welling up of these identities and drives that is ultimately responsible for the inevitable and natural (or given) distribution of nations and their territories. Although such theories may help explain the persistence of archaic symbols of social integration such as animal totems, they are flawed because in almost every case modern nations have no such prehistory, although prehistories were, as part of nation formation, specifically written afterwards. More recent theories of nation place emphasis on its origins in the more recent social process of modernisation. In making a significant and categorical distinction between traditional societies and modern nation states, however, they propose a discontinuous historical process. Traditional or primordial forms of social integration which feature strongly in most nation states are understood in terms of their integrative function but their persistence or re-appearance is problematic for such explanations. In addition to the continued use of animal symbolism, totemic associations and representations, the social integration of nation states is frequently couched in terms of other primordial relations such as face-to-face community (relations of territory or common space; soil) and kinship (relations of blood). These, of course, are fictions in nation states: in fact, almost all are unrelated strangers. It follows therefore, that since such modes of integration do not stem from practice, they must stem from artifice. Indeed, Gellner uses a gardening or cultivating metaphor when distinguishing traditional or primordial societies from the agrarian states that preceded most industrial nation states. Traditional or ‘wild’ societies require no cultivation or gardener: No community is without some shared system of communication and norms, and the wild systems of this kind (in other words, cultures) reproduce themselves from generation to generation without conscious design, supervision, surveillance or special nutrition. (Gellner 1983:50)

By contrast, ‘[c]ultivated or garden cultures are different’: They possess a complexity and richness, most usually sustained by literacy and by specialised personnel, and would perish if deprived of their



distinctive nourishment in the form of specialised institutions of learning with reasonably numerous, full-time and dedicated personnel. (Gellner 1983:50)

The institutions and personnel who maintained this high culture in agrarian states were authoritative, holding some influence over or supporting the centralised state, but they were autonomous and separate and remained ‘mysterious’ and ‘inaccessible’. At this stage, high culture espoused literacy, overarching philosophical, scientific and moral concerns and spatially extended forms of communication. These contrasted with the parochial nature of many spatially scattered sedentary and illiterate ‘low’ cultures associated with village and region. However, with industrialisation this separation was to disappear and open up the possibility of the spread and homogenisation of high culture. The massive task of maintaining and providing this institutional homogenisation – through national educational and communication systems – could now only be achieved through collaboration with ‘political support and underpinning’ and ‘its only effective keeper and protector’ could be the state. As high culture spread, principally through the universality of literacy, literate modes of communication, new transport networks and more mobile labour markets, the low cultures and the parochial social identities based on them were undermined: according to Gellner the conditions were conducive to the emergence of nationalism, which is the expression and celebration of a national high culture. ‘It is nationalism that engenders nations and not the other way round’ (Gellner 1983:55): The great but valid paradox is this: nations can be defined only in terms of the age of nationalism, rather than, as you might expect, the other way round. It is not the case that the ‘age of nationalism’ is a mere summation of the awakening and political self-assertion of this, or that or the other nation. Rather, when general social conditions make for standardised, homogeneous, centrally sustained high cultures, pervading entire populations and not just elite minorities, a situation arises in which welldefined educationally sanctioned and unified cultures constitute very nearly the only kind of unit with which men willingly and often ardently identify. The cultures now seem to be the natural repositories of political legitimacy. (Gellner 1983:55)

According to Gellner then, the necessary collaboration between the institutions of high culture and state produces a territorially and culturally defined discourse of nation. National interests and discourses frame the work of scholars, teachers, writers and artists, and they, in turn, tend to produce nationalised knowledges. Gellner likens nation states to aquaria, each requiring a very careful and controlled mix of inputs. ‘They do share some general traits. The formula for the fully developed industrial



goldfish bowl is fairly similar in type, though it is rich in relatively superficial, but deliberately stressed, brand differentiating characteristics’ (Gellner 1983:52). In brief, since they are essentially similar but formed from different pasts and in different spaces, it is to primordial mythologies of the past, selectively taken and reworked from spatially relevant, prior folk traditions (low cultures) that they turn for the stuff (Gellner’s ‘cultural shreds and patches’) of social integration and social differentiation. Such inventions or imaginings do not need to be initiated or closely scrutinised by state apparatus in order to take place. Since nationalism cannot grasp its essentially modern origins, the tendency to identify primordial origins, natural characteristics and timeless pasts is endemic and emerges consistently and spontaneously in its literatures. According to this thesis then, we should expect to be able to find evidence of this cultural creativity (such as the adoption of animal totems) and for that to be coterminous with the emergence of nationalism. Before we turn to the evidence, we should first consider James’ critique of Gellner. Although James (1996) largely accepts Gellner’s version of nation formation, he takes issue with its ‘great divide’ or dualist version of history, where the transformation from traditional to modern societies is rendered too abrupt and too absolute. James argues that the process of nation formation is uneven, ‘occurring more in the intersection-in-dominance of different forms of integration than the supplanting or complete dissolution of the old’ (James 1996:181). Three forms of integration intersected (albeit with a changing hierarchy of dominance) rather than succeeded one another. First, fully embodied face-to face relations typical of primordial or traditional societies with their emphasis on spatial attachment, local corporation and kinship. Second, modes of integration based on agency extension as carried out by religious organisations, bureaucracies, military forces, postal services, census agents etc. Third, disembodied extension which involves more abstract extensions of social relations, such as those based on mass markets, print and mass media, mass communications, etc. While in James’ view nation formation took place in the same time frame as Gellner suggests (mainly in the nineteenth century), he emphasises the cultural continuities of older social institutions rather than their displacement or, to use his phrase, ‘continuity-in-discontinuity’. James’ thesis therefore does not depend on the post hoc invented natural histories of nation, indeed, he rejects the ‘assertion that the nation is a recently contrived, cultural invention’ (James 1996:xiv). There is not space here for a full testing of these two positions based on the histories of animal totemism in modernity, but it can be suggested that both types of explanation are not, fundamentally, very different. Rather each may be valid depending on certain contingencies. The example of two different nation formations, in Britain and in Australia, could be used to support this. The British case illustrates continuities in discontinuity, where systems of animal symbolism were refashioned and applied in



changing historical contexts. The case of heraldry in Britain shows how traditional totemic antecedents were absorbed first into a medieval political-military system and were then extended into precisely those locations (e.g. universities and trade societies) and activities that brought about the formation of nations. The last part of this chapter shows how the Australian case illustrates aspects of discontinuity. A new nation began to emerge out of its separation from Britain, but it did so in a relatively new land area and with a migrant population that was bewilderingly multi-ethnic. Here was a case in which nationalist sentiments had to be created from the fragments of previous ethnic and nationalist identities. However, it will be argued that Australian nature and particularly animals were used to galvanise a natural history of Australian nationalism. Nature totems and nation formation in Britain There are perhaps three animals that most symbolise Britain: the lion, the unicorn and the bulldog, but of these, the lion is the oldest and most symbolic of nation and is, indeed, the official emblem of Great Britain. The lion features in several positions in the British Royal coat of arms. The three Lions of England are on the shield in the first and fourth quarters, while the Lion of Scotland appears in the second quarter. The crowned lion of England is also a supporter of the Royal coat of arms (or shield). The unicorn, which is in fact the Scottish unicorn, is the other supporter. Ireland (properly only Northern Ireland) is not represented by an animal but by a harp in the third quarter of the arms. The Welsh national animal, the dragon, does not appear at all, Wales having been absorbed by the English crown prior to the unification of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Lion of England represents the English monarch and it dominates the coat of arms in the same way the crown dominates the British Isles. After a similar fashion, because the monarchy or crown is also synonymous with nation, the lion alone represents Britain. The British Lion is therefore widely used in national symbolism. The national rugby union team is called the Lions for example; four British lions defend the national hero Nelson on Trafalgar Square in the symbolic centre of London and ‘to twist the Lion’s tail’ was to defy or insult Britain. Confusingly perhaps, the Lion also symbolises England and is used frequently when England needs to be distinguished from other British nations, particularly in sporting competitions. At this sub-national level the other British nations also use their own totemic symbols. But in England, a lion called ‘World Cup Willie’ was the chosen English mascot of the 1966 Soccer World Cup held in England. Similarly, the English Premier League in soccer is broadcast widely around the world in a weekly TV programme the logo of which is a roaring lion. The British Royal coat of arms is a good place to start the analysis of animal totems in Britain because the ancient representational system of



heraldry, which governs the rights to use armorials, provided an important means of social distinction and integration which links previous ‘traditional’ social formations in Britain and its later modern nation state form. Although the feudal states of mediaeval Britain and the later absolutist monarchies were entirely different types of society, the heraldic system of corporate representation provides an institutional ‘continuity in discontinuity’. As we will see, the heraldic system changed as Britain changed socially, economically and politically. The figurative and totemic orientation of national representation in Britain was not therefore a post hoc invention to conjure up images of primordial descent, but indeed, aspects of the primordial past being reused and refashioned for changing social contexts. It will be seen that through the heraldic tradition, the use of animals as devices for social integration expanded over time to many levels of British society and not simply as a national identifier. However, the predisposition to use animal totems to integrate social corporations is an important form of continuity, as is the almost seamless continuity between its use in face-to-face communities and more abstract imagined communities. The feudal system of social and military integration was used, first, to build stable European regimes and was used again under the pretext of the defence of Christendom, to mount the military crusades against Muslim states and cities in the Middle East. This political-military system was built around the military service of knights, whose grants of armorials of distinction were coupled with heritable grants of land and estates. The symbols on their armour served not only to distinguish the warrior on the battlefield and tournament field, but to further distinguish their families, lands and to a lesser extent their retainers, tenants and serfs. Animals were not the only symbols (or ‘charges’) used. Christian symbols, military equipment and plants and flowers were also used. However, animals were perhaps the most significant and central of the representations. They offered a clear, embodied register of images across a wide range of easily distinguishable species. As such they were particularly apt as tools for social differentiation and social integration. It is for this reason that when coats of arms are abbreviated for corporate logos or badges, it is frequently the animal that is used, as is the case of the lion in the British coat of arms. From the thirteenth to the seventeenth century further social and political consolidation took place alongside the expansion and differentiation of trade and industry and an increase both in the numbers and importance of cities and the emergence of new corporations. Increasingly the military became more centralised, less dependent on feudal service and more in the pay and control of princes and governments. Heraldic officers and heraldry itself changed in these new contexts. The social elite founded universities and colleges rather than funded military operations and these became new recipients of armorials. Other powerful corporate bodies were beginning to form and to require status elevation equal to



their new wealth. Over this period for example, London’s city livery companies became central to the running of the economy and this rise was recognised over this period by the granting of a ranked series of armorial rights. These are noteworthy in their use of emblematic animals, which became metonymic for the trades they stood for. Oxford University was founded in the twelfth century, but some of its oldest colleges were founded later in the thirteenth century. Most of them were founded by wealthy patrons and it became the practice for colleges to adopt the armorial of their founders. Thus the oldest organised college, Merton, took its armorial from its founder Walter de Merton, Bishop of Rochester in 1264. Balliol College was founded by John Balliol who first supported a community of students in Oxford in 1263 and later, on his death, his wife Dergorvguilla provided a capital endowment, formulated statutes and gave the college a seal. William of Wykeham, Chancellor of England and Bishop of Winchester, founded the lavishly appointed New College (formerly St Mary’s College of Winchester) in 1379 – this was the first college to accommodate undergraduates. The arms of William of Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester, were adopted by Magdalen College which he founded in 1453. The foundation of universities at this time across Europe and their significance in the formation of nations has been noted by many and was indicated earlier in this text. It is indicative that the term nation was used in the Middle Ages particularly (although not at all exclusively) to distinguish communities of foreigners at the newly formed universities, in refectories of the great monasteries and at the reform councils of the Church. The self was here defined through identifying ‘the other’ and the mode of identification was explicitly lifted into abstract modality: persons were identified as being part of an aggregate which overlaid the older sense of identity conferred by kinship and place. This new need for selfdefinition was invoked in communities which were both cosmopolitan and face to face; communities which came into constant contact with others. Identification occurred through various means of categorical distinction including place of birth and way of speaking, but these distinctions took on a new generality. This helps to explain the paradox that it was in settings where the working language was Latin and where their pretensions were universalistic, that scholars and clerics almost immediately turned back to more particularistic distinctions, and separated into nationes (James 1996:10). Fifty years following its foundation, the University of Paris acknowledged four nationes and by 1220, Oxford University recognised two (James 1996:10). However, increasingly from the thirteenth century onwards, the small face-to-face communities of scholars and students also lived together in colleges and as the colleges matured and developed their own connections, history and character, so they too became the focus of ‘particularistic distinctions’ and rivalry. Significantly perhaps, all of the Oxford



colleges have an armorial, acquired according to university traditions as part of its foundation rituals and later through official confirmation or grant by the king of arms (the chief herald). As with most armorials, animals feature very prominently: Trinity College with its three distinctive griffin heads; the Queen’s College its three red eagles; Jesus College its three white harts (stags); Green College its serpent or snake and so on. College communities were universalistic in aim, cosmopolitan and ephemeral in composition and abstract in their modes of communication but they nonetheless used such primordial devices to engender social solidarity and distinction and became a foundational idea for the emergence of nation. Although they were not an enduring face-to-face community and were orientated to universalistic purposes, they imaged themselves as the opposite and encouraged current and former members to identify themselves, in part, with their college. As with the later development of nationalism, this system of primordial identifiers is highly flexible and extendable in its applications and does not require invention to explain its origins: at Oxford it was the new activities and the new social arrangements that called into being new forms of identification, but the identifiers were simply borrowed or in this case ‘given’ from different social arrangements. City livery companies The livery companies of the City of London were trade or craft organisations descended from the medieval ‘mysteries’ or guilds, so called because of the special livery or symbolic dress they were allowed to wear. Originally, these organisations were twelfth-century religious fraternities attached to a particular church or monastery, where they met and whose patron saint was adopted as their own. In addition to working and living together, they were mutual protection societies, which looked after their poor and needy and promoted the interests of their craft or trade. They organised apprenticeship, quality control and member discipline and as such were able to restrict membership. As with other guilds they obtained their charter from the monarch but their grants of livery came from the Court of Aldermen of the City of London. Owing to their position in the capital and their monopolistic position in trade, the livery companies grew very rich and powerful. The goldsmiths for example had absolute authority over the quality of gold and silver, which was required to be marked in their hall before it could be sold, hence the word ‘hallmark’. They were also charged, from 1248 onwards, with making sure that coins of the realm contained the correct proportions of gold and silver. The granting of a charter and arms from the monarchy was in part to licence such companies to organise their trades and in part to honour their achievement and standing. Pre-eminence among bearers of arms is



recognised by the granting of supporters, or two animals that support the shield, one on either side. In reviewing the various armorials used by the livery companies one is struck immediately by the use of animals and the sense of identity they can convey to the armorial as a package of signs. The arms of the Company of Grocers were granted in 1428 and features nine cloves, representing their interest in spices. Supporters of griffins were granted in 1532 and a crest featuring a camel was granted in 1562. The Company of Goldsmiths received its first charter in 1327 and its arms are dominated by a leopard’s head, supported by two gold unicorns. Other animals used by the companies include lions (drapers; haberdashers), dolphins and fish (fishmongers), lynx and marten (barbers; skinners), goat (haberdashers), lizards (ironmongers), swans (vintners), griffin (clothworkers), panther (dyers; painter–stainers), roebucks and ram (leathersellers), seahorses (pewterers), elephants (cutlers), horses (farriers) and unicorn (chandlers). These examples illustrate perfectly what the Dinka were trying to point out to Lienhardt: the appropriate totemic device might be something that is useful to the people so represented. Some of the practical associations are obvious enough, the fish and dolphin for the fishmongers (the dolphin being classified as a fish and suitable Lenten food until relatively recently), horses for the farriers, and so on. Elephants that symbolise strength were obvious enough choices for the cutlers and the pewterers’ seahorse was a clear reference to their manufacture of drinking vessels. Some however are more obscure: the vintners’ swans refers to their unique rights to a share of the River Thames swans and the use of the panther by the dyers and painter–stainers is an old pun on the word ‘panter’ which was used prior to panther. Other animals symbolise social relations: for instance, the heraldic lion is used by nine of the ninety-five livery companies still operating in 1986 and alludes to royal patronage and/or membership at one time or another (Pierson 1986:3). Here again, the borrowing or adoption of a patron’s arms and the idea that their business was much more than a parochial, local set of interests is consistent with the nation-making processes of high cultures. Indeed their connection to matters of state and monarchy is clearly represented by the royal or national symbol, as opposed to a representation of the individual patron. The livery companies represent a further elaboration or extension of the heraldic principles of social reward through the granting of unique signifiers, this time in the economic and trade spheres, which became more significant during the Middle Ages. Although animals were traditional devices, their retention was as much to do with the importance of embodied symbolism as it was acknowledging past practice and employing practical totemic symbols. Livery companies were corporations, bodies of individual traders and companies and the physical body of an animal unambiguously represented this. Human bodies were less efficient symbols since they could confuse the representation with their own subjectivity; animals by contrast can be, and were, deemed empty of subjectivity



and therefore ideal ‘containers’ of abstract human subjectivities such as corporations. The human form was used as a heraldic device but only where their subjectivity was minimised. Hence, the wildman or savage was commonly used as a supporter, but since they were naked, often carrying large clubs, their civility and thus humanity and subjectivity was effectively undermined. Mythical humanoid forms such as mermaids and minotaurs have very limited subjectivities since their character and history were fixed within mythological narratives. The continued use of mediaeval, stylised representations of animals, as opposed to more realist representations, has to do with minimising the subjectivity of the totemic symbols. The stylisation of heraldic animals includes their onedimensionality, their smooth, undetailed body surfaces and the narrow range of ‘unnatural’ colours employed, commonly gold or silver. Whereas the totemic symbols of the universities were predominantly English fauna passed down from feudal landowners, the livery companies’ animals were predominantly exotic animals reflecting the growing significance of international trade, commerce and imperialism in English national life. Indeed, the switch from an essentially small princely kingdom to a major international power was accurately depicted in its totemic devices. The totemic symbolism of corporate identity and nation is not the only way that social identity can be naturalised. It can also be achieved/ expressed or performed by spatially locating one’s home or specific social practices in particular types of nature. We will consider several examples of this mode/practice of naturalisation next.

Social displacement I: bourgeois naturalisation in nineteenth-century England According to long established narratives of English social change in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a largely rural English culture was transformed, irreversibly, into a complex urban industrial configuration. More recent narratives of the late twentieth century emphasise a dramatic shifting in urban aesthetic sensibilities toward the countryside, nature, rural traditions and wildernesses. Such a broadbrush characterisation conceals as much as it reveals. In particular it leads to the assumption that modernisation was enthusiastically embraced (England as the industrial leader, the builder of great cities etc.) and that the arrival of a modernised culture superseded traditional cultural forms. In this section we will investigate the paradoxical fact that just as England was emerging as an industrial super nation and beginning to organise its metropolitan culture, its intellectual, political and industrial leadership, along with a hugely expanded professional middle class, began a move back to the countryside, to country living, to an identity with English nature and



landscapes. The speed and confidence displayed in this reconciliation was resolute, undeviating, nemine dissentiente. It was as if there was just about time to patch up the wounds of its mutilated rural identity before they healed over for ever, hidden beneath modern scar tissues of concrete, steel and glass. The cause of such an unswerving naturalisation was identified by Horne (1969) and others (e.g. Weiner 1981) in terms of a crisis of social identity following the specific turbulences of English industrialisation, colonialisation and urbanisation. Was the future ordering logic to be based on its recent industrial and commercial practices, organisations and sensibilities (concerned as they were with wealth creation) or were these new powers to be assimilated into or synthesised with an older establishment with its wider concerns for civil, social and cultural life? Horne characterises these two options as northern and southern metaphors and argues convincingly that the southern metaphor proved to be dominant. Weiner argues that the countryside and the ‘rural’ had become by the early decades of the nineteenth century empty of any negative social and cultural meaning and was a politically benign/neutral space. He argues that the countryside lost its rude and potentially dangerous connection with a peasantry and lost its basis as an economic interest opposed to city and industry. As the nineteenth century progressed, Weiner argues, this benign view of the countryside became the focus for a new mythology of nation, the lovely nature in which all citizens could claim a glorious past. Those on the political right could forge a rural identity by simulating and endorsing a neo-feudal space in the big houses and country estates and by riding collectively to hounds across the lands of all, regardless of ownership. Those on the political left could champion such institutions as common lands, rights of way, village communitarianism and the simple and honest life of the cottager craftsperson. In this way nature as wrought in the English countryside became recast paradoxically as a metaphor for the world’s leading industrial power. When this process of naturalisation began, England was at a cultural crossroads. According to Horne, two sorts of futures opened up before the nation. In one, which he characterises by a northern metaphor, England is ‘pragmatic, puritanical, bourgeois, enterprising, adventurous, scientific and believes in struggle’. In the other, a southern metaphor, it is ‘romantic, illogical, muddled, divinely lucky, Anglican, aristocratic, traditional, frivolous and believes in order and tradition’. The former describes England’s one-dimensional, protestant self-made men and their emphasis on commerce, empire building and success – Isaac Walton’s (1962) ‘money-getting men’. The latter describes England’s equally ubiquitous emphasis on ‘quality of life’, of a balance between business and pleasure; of the importance of education and roundedness; the aesthetic sensibility; the centrality of cultural and political institutions and the communities and organisations that produce cosmopolitanism. Whereas the former has amassed personal power, great fortunes and



formidable reputations as innovators, there was no greater cultural milieu into which such success could gravitate and reproduce itself. By contrast, the latter was held in place by the considerable gravity of social, intellectual and political elites and by all major institutions of government, the professions and the military. The northern metaphor was built by rugged individualists whose single-mindedness and economic rationalism guaranteed both commercial success and social isolation and exclusion. According to Weiner, the intellectual emphasis of the social elite made it all but impossible for such men to circulate in high society, much less to be accepted into it at any level. Hence, the industrial bourgeoisie which formed the backbone of British industry in the midnineteenth century was a relatively short-lived phenomenon. Rather than persist as oafish outsiders they used their money to buy into the dominant southern culture. Whereas their fortunes were amassed in the great cities, out of grime and toil, making brass from muck, the profits were spent on gentrification for themselves and their families. Unlike on the continent, gentrification did not simply mean upgrading one’s city of residence or upgrading one’s neighbourhood. In England it meant moving out of the city, of naturalising oneself and one’s family into the country, into county society and county social life. Moreover, this was not merely a fashionable pose, a backcloth and spatial context for the social elite that could change over time. As we shall see, the attachment to the countryside, to nature and to a firm role in it was taken very seriously and could not be easily faked. This is evident in the biographies of leading industrialists and industrialist families in this period. A good example is Marcus Samuel (1853–1927) a man originating from an East London Jewish family who created one of the biggest oil companies in the world, Shell. After having established Shell, Samuel began to adopt the cultural mores of the social elite, such as buying a country estate (and spending much of his time there) and taking on public office (becoming Lord Mayor of London in 1902). Such activities moderated his thirst for commercial success resulting, eventually, in his loss of control over Shell to a Dutch rival (Weiner 1981:146). Money was acceptable in English elite circles only as a means to other more edifying ends and these took precedence over the affairs of Shell. ‘What were the early goals of which Samuel dreamed’ asks Weiner: Eton and Oxford for his sons; affluence for his more remote descendants, a country house for his family; horses, gardens, angling, watching cricket in comfort, the devotion of subordinates and servants, the respect of acquaintances, the chance to be charitable on a large scale and to give generous hospitality. (Weiner 1981:147)

Whereas businessmen of his type and scale became professionalised, respected and cultural leaders elsewhere in Europe and America,



Samuel turned his business into an amateur affair. Some ‘left business altogether; other times they stayed in business but viewed it ever more as a social duty rather than an economic opportunity’ (Weiner 1981:146–7). Such a pattern set in among England’s industrialist families for whom ‘[T]he transpecuniary objects are often stability and a conventional standards of life with plenty of leisure and long weekends devoted to sport and other gentlemanly pursuits, rather than making one’s way further up the ladder’ (Weiner 1981:147). According to Weiner, Samuel’s career was ‘repeated over and over again’ and such ‘vignettes’ of industrialist families ‘could populate a gallery of British industry’ (Weiner 1981:148). Aside from undermining the chances of industry, commerce and modernisation from becoming the foundations of a forward looking modern English society, Weiner raises important questions to do with the development of this Arcadian bulwark as a cultural phenomenon. Why should this have happened, who was responsible and how did it reproduce itself so effectively and completely? Part of the answer is that from the Middle Ages on in Britain, commercial success among townsmen was typically followed by the acquisition of a country estate. However, Weiner wants to argue that in Victorian England the aesthetic qualities of the countryside were heavily promoted by a generalised return to ruralism. This relates to the changing economic and political nature of rural England. In the nineteenth century, after the enclosure acts and mass migration to the urban centres, England did not have a peasantry or even a significant rural political interest that opposed the city. Landowners’ incomes were increasingly tied to investments in trade, manufacturing, urban land development and building. In other words their traditional role as farmers and their agricultural interests that had historically opposed those of the town had all but disappeared. Unlike the USA and throughout much of Europe, by the middle of the nineteenth century ‘there was no longer a rural society distinctly different from the ‘national’ society based in the cities’. The countryside on the continent was consequently tainted by its ‘barbarism’ and ‘idiocy’ (in Marx’s terms) in a way that had no English counterpart. More than elsewhere, in England the later nineteenth-century countryside was ‘empty’ and available for use as an integrating cultural symbol. Moreover, the England of the southern metaphor was comprised of a cross-section of the population, microcosms of the national character where high, middle and low brow could be found in the same villages, districts and cathedral towns. ‘Working class and lower middle class suburbs might be provincial, whereas much of the countryside is not. Rural villages, or ancient cathedral towns that happen to be far from London are not provincial’ (Weiner 1981:42). In a very important way this politically benign and economically backwaterish space could conjure up a mythology of Englishness as pegged to a cultured, unchanging, undying loveliness



for an urban culture that had seen only development, change, industrial ugliness and economic depression. If expanding towns were the reality of Victorian life, it was not necessarily one that would be appreciated. With such a countryside to counterbalance the city, it was not surprising that it very rapidly came to occupy the national centre ground of aesthetic taste. Fox hunting Without any doubt fox hunting came to be central to the developing aesthetic taste for the English countryside. Fox hunting is certainly the most enduring and precise image used to evoke the naturalisation of nineteenthcentury English society. It was not only a colourful, confident and ritualised claim to the countryside on the part of the most powerful and privileged, but it committed them in the fullest manner imaginable to a close, embodied relationship with the natural world. It embodied the growing confidence in a revived rural community of the well to do, their sociability and, importantly, the excitement and spectacle of the new leisure society. Its spirit of democracy and unity around an enthusiasm contrasted spectacularly with the closed hunting privileges of the seventeenthcentury landed class, whose exclusive rights to enjoy hunting and game had been protected by fierce game laws (Hay 1977:189–253). However, fox hunting was not an old or ancient sport recently opened up to others. It was an entirely new hunting sport whose rise to great popularity and fashion depended critically on the broader enthusiasm for the countryside (particularly from the urban middle classes) and greater access to the countryside from the railways. The new style of fox hunting developed by Hugo Meynell in Leicestershire involved breeding a new hound that could combine the ability to stay on scent with the speed necessary to keep up with a fleeing fox. Such a combination provided an exhilarating ride for horseriders and mirrored well the excitement of deer hunting which fox hunting had come, owing to a lack of deer, to simulate (Itzkowitz 1977: 6–12). Meynell’s innovation and the development of the Quorn Hunt through the 1760s and 1770s attracted a huge following. By the 1780s both the hall and the local inns were full to capacity during the season; harrier hunts across the length and breadth of England were converting to the new style of fox hunting; and it became more prestigious, fashionable and patronised by royalty. By the 1820s it was the most popular sport in England driving a considerable rural industry, an enormous number of sporting journals, magazines and books and an ever more diverse social following that included the clergy, women and skilled artisans. With the coming of the railways the number of people who hunted increased remarkably, often to the astonishment of contemporary observers (Itzkowitz 1977:53), in some places growing by tenfold between 1843 and 1873. The numbers of packs also grew, from 99 in 1850 to 137 in 1877 when the entire country was divided into hunt territories. Between



1851 and 1901 the number of horses rose from 277,00 to 600,000 – a period when the railways were increasing their share of the transport market. After that, growing numbers simply increased the number of times each pack hunted. By 1860 fox hunting was just about the most fashionable topic of conversation in the land and everyone who could took part. Although the sheer fashionability of fox hunting shifted the focus of interest from an exclusively dangerous and excitement-based activity to one of serial rounds of social activities, the fact remained that it was quintessentially a rural activity focused on rural places. Again, one has to remind oneself that by 1880 British industrial and military might was at its height and its cities the largest in the world. However, to judge by the topics and interests that preoccupied the British from then until the turn of the twentieth century, one would not have thought it likely. Looming large among these was a general interest in rustic culture, natural history and pastoral geographies.

Country living According to Weiner, it is possible to identify a long tradition of ‘country writing’ in England but also a change of pace beginning with the romantic and popular appreciation of Alfred Tennyson. After Tennyson the ‘appeal of country writing mounted steadily until it came to form a distinct literary genre’ (Weiner 1981:49). It was especially in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that Hardy was able to counterpose the countryside to modernity itself, ‘pastoral retreatism then blended with nostalgic lament’ (Weiner 1981:52). If it was the cultural life of the social elite that pulled the industrial classes into their rural gravity, it was the hugely popular rustic novels of Hardy and others that pulled the middle classes into the railway serviced retreats in suburbs and branchline villages. A notable proselytizer of rural England was the north Wiltshire/south Gloucestershire writer Richard Jeffries whose work through the 1880s did much to extend the appeal of rural living. In books that prefigured popular Arcadian idylls such as the long-running BBC radio drama The Archers, Jeffries found and cultivated a new audience: Jeffries’s background was likely to appeal to an urban middle class newly attracted to the life of the countryside. His writings marked a watershed between an older rationalisation of the rural status quo, and an emerging urban-centred ruralism captivated by the quaint culture and organic society townsfolk perceived in the country. Jeffries wrote for the urban reader. ‘For the first time in rural writing’, his most recent biographer observed, ‘one is regularly conscious of an audience that is to be guided and even coaxed into the countryside’. (Weiner 1981:54)



The English middle classes had, of course, followed closely on the heels of the courtly, aristocratic and bourgeois naturalisation processes that began earlier in the nineteenth century, but it is often forgotten that Victorian England experienced a massive embourgoisement process too: the middle classes swelled as a proportion of all classes. Between 1841 and 1881 for example, when the nation’s population grew by 60 percent, the 17 main professional occupations increased their numbers by 150 percent (Weiner 1981:15). According to sources used by Lowerson (1995) there may have been 1.5 million middle-class families in 1867 but 2.5 million by 1914. One clear sign of their growth is evident in the demand and growth of professions that served them particularly. So, for example, between 1891 and 1911 the number of actors grew by 150 percent and the numbers of authors, editors and journalists grew by 135 percent. As with trends set by industrialists in the first part of the nineteenth century these professional middle classes began a slow exodus from the city from the late nineteenth century and through the Edwardian years – although it is a process that has continued to the present day. They were helped along the way by the building of the London Underground (whose posters to accompany the launch of a new line or station emphasise not urban but Arcadian rural themes and escape from the city) and by further extensions of the railway system into village England. As the images of these widely exhibited posters (reproduced in Figures 5.1 to 5.6) show, London developed during the first half of the twentieth century by creating rural suburbs and rural lifestyles. Some emphasise the attaction of country living, others point up the superiority of community life in small-scale rural development while others contrast the gloom of the inner city with the colour and life of the rural fringe. Such growth in numbers and spatial transformations created new markets for the new ruralites. In particular these affluent and educated consumers needed information about rural culture, natural history and rural geography. The rise and expansion of such literatures was a feature of the period. The new thirst and interest drove a period of discovery and revelation in a range of English countryside topics: natural history, architecture, archaeology, folklore, geography and history. In-migration and tourism supported the production of local history, natural history and so on. According to Weiner, country matters were more frequently discussed in papers, magazines and on the BBC. Publishers such as Longman and Batsford began to specialise in these new markets and to bring forth series on ‘English Heritage’ and ‘English Life’. The countryside captured the imagination of a very wide cross-section of the middle class from conservatives wishing to admire and emulate the ‘big house’ to the progressives and socialists who aspired to simple peasant living in small, cluttered and cosy cottages. Either way the model for taste and fashion was essentially rural.



Golders Green, 1908 (Source: London Transport Museum; artist: unknown)


What may have begun as rural retreatism and an escape from the urban became something altogether more serious and substantial in the hands of the middle-class socialists such as William Morris. For Morris the rural and the natural were not to be lamented and rendered nostalgic; they were to be rescued and revived and remade as the models for an alternative type of modernity based on communitarianism, craft skills, traditional aesthetics and design and utopian planning. Such planning filtered through – as we will see in Chapter 6 – into the Garden City Movement, housing design and urban planning.



Invade It Yourself, 1915 (Source: London Transport Museum; artists: Warbis Brothers)


Country living was, par excellence, a south-eastern phenomenon and here the typically hybrid culture of the English (mixing both cosmopolitanism and an embedding rural identity) is most clearly visible. However, such a model was reproduced elsewhere: Windermere was a rural centre for north Lancashire towns for example and Ilkley provided a similar focus for Leeds (Lowerson 1995:30). The legacy One of the most important features of this naturalisation process was its enduring nature and popularity. Largely middle-class organisations of the 1930s’ countryside have continued to thrive. The Ramblers Association, a country walking society committed to the up-keep and promotion of



Hop Gardens of Kent, 1922 (Source: London Transport Museum; artist: Dorothy Dix)


country footpaths, began in 1935 with 1,200 members. Its membership has not declined with the advent of mass car ownership but increased from 9,000 in 1955, to 11,000 in 1960, 14,000 in 1965, 22,000 in 1970 and 36,000 in 1980. The figure had reached 80,000 in 1990 and 127,000 by 1999 (Ramblers Association 2000:4–5). Even more impressive is the growing membership of the National Trust, an organisation dedicated to preserve areas of natural and historical beauty. In the stockbroker belt county of



Move to Edgware, 1924 (Source: London Transport Museum; artist: William Kermode)


Surrey, itself one of the earliest areas to receive naturalising urbanites, one in seven of the population is currently a member of the National Trust (Paxman 1999:152). Over the past 30 years its membership has grown from 278,000 in 1971 to 1,046,000 in 1981 to 2,152,000 in 1991 to 2,557,000 in 1998 (Office for National Statistics 2000:182). The English countryside is largely ancient farming lands and the numbers of wild animals are relatively small and mostly nocturnal. By contrast, many birds of all varieties have a daytime presence that supersedes all interest in other animals. England is famous for its eccentric bird-watching following and



FIGURE 5.5 Why Not Live At Sudbury Hill? 1929 (Source: London Transport Museum; artist: Christine Jackson)

the RSPB rate of membership growth has overtaken that of the National Trust. In 1971 it had a membership of only 98,000 but 20 years later this had swollen to 852,000 and in 1998 their membership was in excess of one



FIGURE 5.6 London Transport Opens A Window on London’s Countryside, 1933 (Source: London Transport Museum; artist: Graham Sutherland)

million (Office for National Statistics 2000:182). Although walking and bird watching is popular and within reach of city dwellers, it is also true that in recent times one of the most prominent changes in the social constitution of England has been identified as counter-urbanisation (Champion et al. 1987:27) which might be more accurately and economically called ruralisation. Pahl’s Urbs in Rure (1965), a sociology of Londoners naturalising themselves into rural Hertfordshire, was published in 1965



and in recent years this trend has become the most embedded and institutionalised housing form in Britain. All across England we have witnessed the expansion of almost every village and small rural town (whether new or ancient) in the past 30 years and altogether this constitutes one of the most significant growth areas in housing and population change. For example, between 1971 and 1981 the population of the 52 so-called ‘rural areas’ of Britain grew by 8.8 percent, more than any other local labour market area (LLMA) type. In the south, rural LLMAs grew dramatically (11 percent) in comparison with similar areas in the north (6 percent). The major towns show the exact reverse of course: London declined by − 8.6 percent; major conurbations declined by − 8.3 percent; other large towns declined by − 1.5 percent (Champion et al. 1987:27–8). The age, economic activity and family structure of rural areas in contemporary England shows that this growth is not driven by retirement. For example, between 1971 and 1981 the proportion of the economically active in rural areas grew by 9 percent across Britain and by over 11 percent in the south (Champion et al. 1987: 50–51).

Social displacement II: colonial naturalisation as rituals of nation formation Identification and love of the land and its plants and creatures not only offers an enduring focus for national identity which all Australians of whatever origin can share, but an emotive base for a movement with the best prospects of achieving balance between man and nature. Robert Birrell cited in John Morton and Nicholas Smith 1999:173 Up until 1901 the continent of Australia was divided into a loosely related series of semi-independent British colonies. In 1901 when the Commonwealth of Australia was inaugurated, the federation of former colonial states produced an Australian national entity for the first time. Up until this time, the population of the various states was mainly British in origin, composed of the descendants from the earliest period (third and fourth generation) and more recent migrants (those born in Britain and their children). The extent to which the new Australians felt at home in Australia and enthusiastic about their new nationality was therefore mixed. It will be argued here that the Australian biotic community, particularly animals, played a critical role in establishing a separate and robust sense of nationhood and nationalism. It was largely the academic and arts communities in Australia who ‘invented’ an Australian high culture around which such identifications could crystallise and part of this included a project to naturalise the Australian



people to their land and its natural history. This process (or discourse), which I have elsewhere called Australianisation (Franklin 1996b), was particularly apparent because it reversed a previous process of Britainisation of the Australian landscape: during the early colonial period, animals, plants and landscape forms had been introduced on a massive scale to render a disliked natural environment more acceptably familiar or British. During the early colonial period the Australian landscape and its nature was reported in terms of its primitiveness, its lack of ‘civilisation’ and its strangeness. Moreover, it had an unnerving effect on Britons who failed to find it as attractive as other Pacific landscapes (the more worked-over, gardened landscapes of the tropics and islands). Georgiana Molloy wrote of her disquiet as a newcomer to the Australian bush: This is certainly a very beautiful place – but were it not for domestic charms the eye of the emigrant would soon weary of the unbounded limits of thickly clothed dark green forests where nothing can be descried to feast the imagination. (Lines 1991:62)

This theme emerges strongly in almost every account and the felt need to change the landscape is inescapable. ‘Nowhere else had settlers so utterly failed to identify with their new landscape; nowhere else was man’s environmental impact so patently reprehensible’ (Lowenthal 1976:358). A similar emotional response to the environment influenced early Australian/ colonial poetry and delayed the adoption of the Romantic imagination that dominated the English vision of the landscape: The foundations of poetry and landscape art in Australia were laid down in the closing part of the eighteenth century, and were more Gothic – rational, picturesque or Gothic – than Romantic, even though what was happening in the colonies was contemporary with actively revolutionary movements in European artistic, no less than political, history. (Elliott 1976:136)

Certainly, interpreting Molloy, the biotic community, the trees, flora and fauna were deemed beautiful in themselves, but the qualities that disturbed and unsettled the European mind had to do with the aesthetics of landscape: in England, landscape beauty was founded on a human-constructed (humanised) nature where humans and nature coexisted (but on human terms). Thus, in Australia it was the perceived absence of humanisation of the landscape that was so profoundly ‘wrong’ – true wildness was not romantic, partly because there was insufficient human presence to make that possible. In addition, individual biotic categories were not a readable system of signs as they were in the familiar home landscape. Of course, another paradoxical British



error was to miss the extensive Aboriginal intervention in the Australian landscape. One of the first attempts to Britainise Australia was in domestic and municipal gardens. Large collections of English flora were imported and planted widely (Spooner 1976: 84). Municipal plantings and park layouts tended to favour English trees which in turn Europeanised townscapes (Daly 1988:165). Britainisation extended everywhere in fact: the landscape itself was slowly transformed through surveys, maps and nomenclature of land (Lines 1991:52–3) and even representations of Australian fauna were Britainised. Early landscape painters ignored the distinctiveness of the eucalypt form and painted European trees instead. However, nowhere was the project to Britainise the Australian landscape more systematic than in the formal introductions of British wildlife. The introduction of English songbirds occurred very early on. Such birds were introduced informally and through acclimatisation societies in every state. Songbird keepers and aviarists were recorded early in the colonial period. Aside from the recognisably British lawns, birdsong, plants and trees around homesteads, there was a keenness to establish a rural culture that was modelled on Britain. During the early nineteenth century this hinged on establishing a hunting and angling calender. The period characterised by Britainisation came to a close in the last quarter of the nineteenth century as a result of a number of processes. First was the maturation of an Australian society: some families could count back five generations worth of residency, an Australian ‘establishment’ was well formed and an Australian political, economic and cultural agenda replaced/vied with the British. Nostalgia for Europe could now be framed as something that happened to some migrants. The ‘bush’ was by then a known and familiar landscape and, in a manner reminiscent of Europe 100 years earlier, the extent of its destruction was then perceived as shocking and regrettable and it became the object of an Australian Romanticism. ‘The literary and artistic nationalistic movement of the 1890s also affirmed an Australian view of the landscape in which the Australian bush featured prominently’ (Frawley 1992:223). However, it was not merely that Britainisation faded in the strong Australian sun: it was being actively replaced by Australian nationalism and the effect that had on human–animal relations can be summarised perhaps as ‘Australianisation’. Australian nationalism emerged at the end of the nineteenth century and was tied to financial success in pastoralism, mining and farming. All these rural industrial success stories contributed to the romance of the landscape and Australian nature was gradually drawn closer to a sense of national identity. Animals and plants were directly implicated in Australian nationalism. Australia’s process of separation from British origins and its distinction from other western cultures were achieved, in part, through identification with ‘the unique Australian biota’. Major social, cultural and commercial institutions used Australian nature for corporate identity



including the federal government, all state governments and, later, Qantas. In their collection of commercial trademarks as symbols of Australia, Cozzolino and Rutherford (1987) underline the significance of Australian animals in the nationalisation process. Alongside the map of Australia and the word ‘Australia’, native animals form the single largest category of signifiers. According to Blainey (1987), trademarks were a barometer of nationalism: The new Commonwealth gave birth to scores of trademarks on which stood native animals – even the dingo had his day. We forget that the billboards on railway stations and city streets were mass media in the era before radio and television, and that these advertising hoardings were the shrines of the trademark. Indeed commercial awareness of the value of these insignia influenced the new Commonwealth’s own insignia. In the national competition for an Australian flag in 1901, most of the prize money came from the magazine The Review of Reviews and from Havelock Tobacco. The Southern Cross which appeared on the new flag had already appeared in many well-known trademarks. (Blainey 1987:12)

In addition to an endless procession of native animals in advertising, Australian advertisers came up with a range of mythical animals for Australia, notable among which were the bunyip and the gezeko. National symbolism was overlaid by a popular culture rich in animal/ nation themes in which good citizenship is linked to conservation mindedness for indigenous species: Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, for example, carries a preface which says, ‘Humans, Please be kind to all Bush creatures and don’t pull flowers up by the roots’. And long before this, in 1899, Ethel Pedley prefaced her famous Dot and the Kangaroo with the following dedication: ‘To the children of Australia in the hope of enlisting their sympathies for the many beautiful, amiable and frolicsome creatures of their fair land, whose extinction, through ruthless destruction, is being surely accomplished’. (Morton 1990:30)

Mass national sentiments for Australian animals accumulated: the koala, for example, made its first totemic appearance in Norman Lindsay’s Magic Pudding in 1919. Legislation to protect animals from hunting, particularly commercial hunting, dates from 1860 when certain native wildfowl received a ‘close’ season protection in Tasmania. From the last quarter of the nineteenth century a trend was set in train to protect more and more native species (Bolton 1992:99–105). Australianisation was not simply about preserving the native species that so invoked nation: it was also about eradicating those species introduced by the British during the colonial period. Since the majority of Australian hunters hunt introduced or exotic species that have been increasingly identified as a threat to Australian indigenous species, if not



the Australian environment itself, hunters have been insulated from moral blame. As killers of animals a certain distaste for their sport may be common, but this is pushed into the background by their association with a popular enthusiasm for ‘species or environmental cleansing’. All the while they are killers of European interlopers they are at the same time heroic defenders of a fragile Australian natural/national purity. Australian scientists and government departments promote what Macnaghten and Urry (1995:210) have called ‘a naive realist perspective that assumes that environmental issues progressively come to light simply from the understanding of scientific understandings’. Macnaghten and Urry argue that a ‘sociologically informed inquiry looks to the cultural and political conditions out of which environmental issues emerge, and thereby to a more informed account of the social consequences’. In brief, it is argued here that nationalist sentiments in Australia influence the sorts of values scientists promote, as well as their findings; but both values and findings are disguised within a discourse of pure science. The nationalistic obsession with native purity is easily illustrated, for example, by the language used in scientific and government publications on the environment. This is clearly illustrated in the recent publication Pest Animals in Australia. A Survey of Introduced Wild Mammals (Wilson et al. 1992). It is never clear from such publications why the consequences of human introductions of non-indigenous species are not simply accepted, particularly since eradication measures would prove prohibitively expensive and unlikely to succeed anyway. The extent of introduced species in Australia is one of the highest in the world: ‘[R]ecent records show that about 20 mammals, 30 birds, 21 fish, several amphibians, 500 invertebrates and 1500 plants have been introduced and have subsequently become naturalised, in Australia’ (Australian Bureau of Statistics 1996:260). Introduced animals acquire pest status if they ‘compete with’ or ‘threaten’ any native animals. It may be understandable that humans do not want to see species disappear, but it is less clear why the disappearance of species is any less ‘natural’ than their preservation. An equally plausible, alternative view might be to accept humanity as simply another agent of nature and to accept the changing mix and balance of species as inevitable or given. Such a view might be further supported by a sentimental view, that animals should not pay such a high price for human folly or an animal rights discourse which holds that animals should be protected or left alone, certainly not exterminated simply because they were moved out of their native range by humans. It is certainly the case that over the longer evolutionary scale humans have moved species considerable distances away from their ‘home’ range, as have other ‘natural’ forces such as floods, tides, strong winds and so on. It is known for example that Aborigines introduced the dingo to Australia, yet the dingo is not listed as an introduced species or a pest, even though it is held responsible for the extinction of several mainland animals such as the Tasmanian Devil. One must conclude therefore that the operative



definition of ‘native’ is taken to mean ‘at the time of European first settlement’. Here we see the subtle force that national history exerts on natural history. Native animals and plants appear in such government documents as Australia’s Environment as the subject proper; it is almost as if they were the natural citizenry. Introduced species, by the same token, appear like illegal immigrants and are of interest only in terms of their negative impact on the natives. Consequently, introduced species have to be ‘managed’ while natives have to be ‘conserved’. According to the latest government publication on the Australian environment, ‘[t]he management of introduced species involves two essential components. These are: monitoring of populations and impacts; and the application of control techniques’. In other words, surveillance and extermination (Australian Bureau of Statistics 1992:33). Of course, all environments are managed or at least heavily influenced by human activity and most of the so-called wild areas are becoming nothing more than museumised nature. But this is not a random process. Environmental sciences are strongly linked to government environmental policy, which in turn draws on and reinvents discourses of nation. In brief, the resulting practice is not much more than the management of a national collection of wildlife. As with all collections, there has to be a collection policy, selection criteria and so on. In Australia, the collection policy is tied closely to a nation formation process, but both practices are made to appear natural or scientific rather than based on moral, cultural or political choice. Some scientists fall under the spell of nationalism and see discourses of nature not as the invention of nationalism, but discourses of nation as an artefact of Australian nature: For [Australia] has the highest number of new settlers of any ‘new’ lands, and it has an extremely difficult and unusual ecology. Perhaps this accounts for what outsiders perceive as the obsession Australians have with defining themselves. It arises from a frustration born of the long-felt inability to live in harmony with the land. It comes from the dismay one feels when seeing the extraordinary beauty and complexity of unique environments wither – even from an apparently gentle touch by a European hand – and from the floods and bushfires that constantly remind Australians that the land does not hold them comfortably. It is now clear, I think, that any lasting notion of Australian nationhood must arise from an intimate understanding of Australian ecosystems. (Flannery 1994:390)

Science and governmental scientific organisations have exerted a profound influence over lay practices in the natural environment and that of course, as we have seen, begins in suburban gardens. Planting native species in as pure a manner as possible in Australian gardens (and eradicating the exotica from South Africa, Europe and China), but only those that are native to particular regions, soils and climates, has become something of a register by which the purity of Australianness can be measured (see Morton and Smith 1999:153–8).



Australianisation as the complex manner by which modern urban Australia came to terms with its emerging national identity was achieved, in part, through creating totemic social identification with Australian nature. Animals were the most significant set of signifiers of this identity claim, although Australian flora was widely used too. The Australian biotic community provides a field of signs that specify appropriate naturalisation activities: the appreciation and protection of indigenous species and habitats and the control and eradication of non-indigenous species. The growth in popularity of indigenous species can be related to the postfederation nation-building years, where the search for distinction and identity culminated in the adoption of biotic totems and a reworked reverence for clearly Australian fauna and flora. What symbol could work better in this project than Australia’s unique biotic order? It was robust, attractive, recognisably similar, but at the same time unique: few other symbolic structures were so obviously appropriate to Australia in the early twentieth century. It too was vulnerable to contamination from outside – both from colonial remnant cultures such as the British, or from later migrant groups. The active preservation of Australian wildlife underscores the significance of Australia as a worthy, promotable and legitimately protected idea, but also provides an aching need for the spatially misplaced post-colonials to be in nature: In fact, the term [nature] is systematically ambiguous, being either a general or inclusive term applied to the essential quality of everything or a specific and exclusive term applied only to that which is beyond human culture. Precisely the same ambiguity pervades the mythology of eco-nationalism in Australia, with nature simultaneously positioned, geographically and historically, as the place where Australians are not (the indigenous wilderness) and the place where Australians can find their true selves. Furthermore, it is clear that nature as essence and nature as other are systematically related, respectively signifying adaptation (a sense of being at home in the world) and maladaptation (a sense of being alienated). And as Flannery explicitly states, maladaptation is cultural. To be, like the Mitsubishi Pajaro, ‘perfectly adapted to Australian conditions’ is to be natural rather than cultural. And yet the quest to be natural is itself cultural. (Morton and Smith 1999:175)

Social displacement III: the proletarianisation of English waterways We have seen already in Chapter 5 how rural displacement in the nineteenth century (through such means as the enclosure acts in Britain) and urbanisation did not mark a discontinuity for rural cultures and their associations with the natural world. Gardening was perhaps an activity




Walton’s River Lea at Broxbourne (Source: Adrian Franklin)

that continued through this process and perhaps reached heightened forms as a ‘serious leisure’ (see Stebbins 1992) wherever workers were confined to their working urban environments. Williamson’s grandfather is an archetype of this miniaturisation and intensification of ‘rural life’ in an industrial context. However, the period during which a newly urbanised British population were confined to their new setting has been exaggerated. If we can say that the major movements into the city began at the turn of the nineteenth century and were mostly completed by the 1870s and that working-class rail excursions began midway between these two dates starting with Thomas Cook in 1841 then we can also say with some confidence that the possibility to spend time in the country was only denied to one generation at the most. Of course, early rail excursions were expensive and hardly undertaken with great frequency by all classes, but we do know that they took off with growing enthusiasm and diversity into rural and natural areas. We also know that people like Thomas Cook believed most strongly that the railway was a democratising force and pioneered improvement in working-class travel – often at a personal loss. Travel and leisure had been the preserve of the social elite, but Cook’s vision was of popular travel and leisure, not to special working-class areas but precisely to the rural playgrounds of the wealthy (Withey 1997). Through the keeping of good associational records by the early angling clubs we can glimpse just one of these [re]naturalisation processes. Lowerson demonstrates, for example, that the paradox of spectacular growth in angling in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries ‘was a product of wholesale urbanisation and could only have developed



with the railway age’ (Lowerson 1988:105). Angling remains one of the most ignored aspects of popular culture and the failure to appreciate its significance as a naturalising process reproduces a great divide thesis as between a fully rural and a fully urban culture that emerged, allegedly, by the mid-nineteenth century. As a popular pastime, angling was propelled through modernity by Walton’s Compleat Angler of 1653. Extolling the virtues of the great outdoors, quiet contemplation and fraternal sociability Walton’s popular treatise was foundational in the Arcadian qualities of angling as opposed to its gastronomic qualities. Like his later rival Richard Frank (Frank 1658), Walton organised the Compleat Angler around forays out of the busy trading streets of London into the quiet reaches of the River Lea, a tributary of the Thames. These informal forays by essentially wealthy urban men were sociable and sometimes relatively long in duration. The solitary nature of the fishing spot or swim was balanced by the sociable and noisy nature of nearby inns that the anglers retired to for rest, food, drink and sleep. Almost 200 years later when England was more substantially organised in urban spaces, the institutions of the public house and travel were modified in a number of new ways to facilitate a working-class naturalisation into nearby waterways. The relatively new formal social phenomenon of the ‘club’ that had organised political factions, sports and other leisures in middle-class England was modified by working-class men to purchase fishing rights, to finance fishery management and conservation and to negotiate cheaper rates from the new railway companies. Whereas publicans were formerly often the owners of a fishery or at least well placed near fisheries to benefit from angler custom, during the nineteenth century the pub as the key neighbourhood centre for male working-class sociability became the spontaneous focus for the emergence of thousands of working-class coarse fishing angling clubs. Although angling, like gardening, was highly approved of by the improving middle classes, Lowerson (1988:117) insists that the working-class angling club was predominantly organised by and for the workers themselves, for many years modelled on benefit societies. The earliest examples of organised urban angling excursions back into the English countryside followed some seven years after Cook’s first excursions although they used horse-drawn ‘vans’ initially. According to Callcut’s (1923) history of the London Anglers’ Association, Richard Ghurney placed the following adverts in The Sporting Life in July 1848: The lovers of the favourite sport of angling will learn with pleasure that Mr Ghurney’s Seventh Annual Excursion to West Drayton takes place on Sunday next, July 2nd, starting from the ‘Angel’, Islington, at 2 o’clock in the morning. ... As West Drayton is one of the finest parts of the River Colne, and known to be well stored with most kinds of fish, both in the public and



subscription waters, the picturesque and beautiful scenery of the place, together with the moderate charge at which the tickets for the excursion are issued, must secure a large attendance of the lovers of the gentle art. (Callcut 1923:20–21)

Later in the same season he organised excursions to Teddington, Dagenham, Heybridge, Passingford and Broxbourne on Walton’s River Lea (see Plate 5.7). Soon Ghurney’s innovation was copied by rivals establishing angling excursions for around 2/3d per day as a possible escape for urban anglers. It was not until 1870 that railway excursions became similarly established. The accepted initiator was one Mr L. Clout, the owner of The Berkeley Castle pub, who used his pub to sell tickets to the Amberley Fishery in Sussex. In 1871 two London angling clubs, the Hoxton Bros. and the Good Intent Angling Society, were organising a friendly competition. The occasion was to amass such large numbers that no other than Richard Ghurney of Hoxton and A. Wheeler of the Good Intent successfully applied to the Great Eastern Railway for a special excursion fare. Subsequently, the railway approached Richard Ghurney to suggest they regularise such arrangements. By 1872, Ghurney had extended their privilege to 11 other clubs and they organised a committee to oversee and manage negotiations and financial arrangements that became known as the United London Anglers (ULA). In 1874 other railway companies invited the ULA to inspect fishing stations on their lines. As a result they gradually negotiated new concessions from the Midland, the LB and South Coast, the Great Northern and the Great Western Railway. By these means the ULA carried considerable power over the activities of its members whom they charged an annual membership fee. In 1876 the ULA extended its activities to fishery preservation and used its considerable financial reserves to fund bailiffs and later stocking, but later in 1884 it amalgamated with the West Central Association (WCA) to form the London Anglers’ Association and they were able to negotiate and enforce new rules of conduct, notably over minimum sizes for fish and a close season. The WCA had been the first angling association to rent and preserve waters of its own, having secured 14 miles of the Grand Junction Canal in 1879. This was no great prize as a fishery but it was argued to be ‘a stepping stone for the obtaining of purer waters which will repay for preservation’ by its chief negotiator, Greville Fennell. Thus, by the last quarter of the nineteenth century, working-class anglers in London had cheap access to hundreds of miles of rivers and wetlands, that were increasingly controlled for their exclusive use and through their own organisation were becoming improved and controlled fisheries. This procession of events in London was mirrored widely in most other regions of England, but notably in Sheffield. In Sheffield the growing popularity of angling in the nineteenth century was split along class lines. The wealthier middle-class anglers (less than 1 percent of the town’s



anglers) organised themselves into trout fishing syndicates and clubs whose fees for the remaining pure waters of Derbyshire effectively excluded working-class participation and the stocking of water supply reservoirs near to the town with trout was also aimed at a middle-class clientele (Lowerson 1988:112). Since the local coarse River Don was too polluted, the city’s working-class anglers had to travel ‘at least fifty miles away in Lincolnshire and often much further’ into the fens and waterways of East Anglia. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century towns such as Sheffield were noted by the Fishing Gazette for their angling zeal and popularity: The great burst of angling’s popularity up to 1880 was reinforced by the Fishing Gazette’s adulation of virtually everything concerned with the town. By 1878 it was reckoned to have some 8000 anglers, compared with London’s 10,000. In terms of proportions Sheffield outnumbered the capital eleven to one, with a ratio of one angler to every thirty-seven of its population, as against London’s one for every 400. (Lowerson 1988:113)

As in London, an amalgamated Sheffield Anglers’ Association emerged by the 1870s to organise travel concessions and to acquire access to waters. By 1901 it had 13,700 members and by 1914 it had 500 clubs with a total of 21,291 members. In addition to negotiating half-price tickets they also persuaded railways to lay on additional carriages and special trains. ‘On one Monday in 1877, 1740 anglers were ferried out of Sheffield Victoria station, and in 1893 the association ran 120 special trains for 40,000 travellers in the season’ (Lowerson 1988:117). Beginning with control over lower sections of the Don and Trent they went on to acquire canals and rivers in Lincolnshire. In the early decades of the twentieth century they had rights to no fewer than 120 miles of Lincolnshire waters and acquired rights to further waters through amalgamation with other industrial towns of the north and east. In this way we can see very clearly how coarse fishing afforded workingclass men (but at key fishing matches women and families joined in with the carnival atmosphere surrounding them) the opportunity to escape to the countryside to strips of land and water that were effectively theirs by dint of their own collective organisation. However, we can say more than this: the lakes, slow-moving rivers, canals, marshlands, fens and drains became a countryside, a particular form of countryside (Britain’s lowland waterways) that they clearly dominated. As such this countryside with its associated natural history has a special place in working-class cultures and although it has not been immortalised in the same manner as the middle-class’s beloved upland brookes and chalk streams, we should not forget its profound place in the shaping of twentieth-century sensibilities and in particular the popularity of the notion of countryside, conservation and nature leisures.



The greatest writer for this working-class audience, the creator of the cartoon strip Mr Crabtree, is Bernard Venables. In his book for Batsford’s British Sports: Past and Present series, Venables made clear the connection between angling and naturalisation: Though all anglers have the most profound enjoyment of the physical aspect, for a great many it is the vehicle, admittedly not always consciously, for the expression of an attitude to life. It is also a focal centre from which other paths lead. All sorts of mental and spiritual territories, entomological, ecological, literary, are found to be contiguous to the physical practice of angling. For the angler whom education has made articulate this may be clear, a fundamentally accepted premise; but for great hosts of simple men, it is a poignant thread woven into the fabric of their minds, not enunciated, but giving a warmer and sweeter colour to life. (Venables 1953:8)

In this respect, angling may be even more significant, because as Lowerson reminds us in his ‘Battle for the countryside’ essay (Lowerson 1980), working-class organised walking was often less successful in obtaining access. ‘It is interesting to contrast the relative ease with which access to fishing was achieved by northern anglers’ patient negotiation with the prolonged, bitter and occasionally violent struggle to obtain walking rights over nearby moorland which began at the same time and which spilled over into the party political arena in this century’ (Lowerson 1988:116). Lowerson also reminds us of the relative neglect given to this significance in relation to other forms of ‘rational recreation’ provided through paternalistic channels: Sheffield was generously provided with the standard paternalistic amelioratives of grim industrialism, such as parks, art galleries and libraries, but the most significant attempt by the town’s work-force to provide its own escape from being corralled into them was glossed over. (Lowerson 1988:113)

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century the anglers throughout England struggled to wrest free time for their passion by breaking the keeping of the Sabbath – an activity that was already responsible for the creation of a ‘Sabbatarian war’ between the keepers and the breakers. Isaac Walton, who was referred to as ‘father’ by many angling clubs of the time, provided a model spirituality and religiosity to angling that was used in justifying angling on a Sunday: While the surrey Piscatorials and the Freedom angling club of Sheffield banned Sunday fishing and the Manchester Anglers’ Association discountenanced it, London provided a number of apologists, such as Francis Frances, for whom social utility and a simple pantheism ran hand-in-hand. Against the ‘airy nothings from the pulpit’ were placed the value of sermons and prayers



from stones and flowers, listened to by ‘a poor man on a Sunday in a snug corner on a pollard, with his little family about him’. (Lowerson 1988:111)

However, if we return to our main thesis, namely that the great urbanisation of the British people did not radically undo their ties to the countryside, we may note a further point from Lowerson’s Sheffield material. While urbanisation may have physically placed people in towns and in industrial locations, older patterns of work and leisure persisted and proved difficult to replace with rational work discipline. Fishing paralleled other popular creations in the town, where Monday was also devoted to competitive pigeon shooting in prize matches arranged by publicans for spectators with considerable sidebetting. The town’s distinctive industrial structure, with its key workers employed in small cutlery and engineering workshops working at an older rhythm to self-imposed targets, made the imposition of any factory discipline difficult and even many of the larger works appear to have had to accept a compromise on this issue. The paradox was further heightened by the fact that the peak months for competitive angling, July, August and September, were those that coincided with maximum demand in the cutlery trades. Sheffield’s Edwardian prosperity was built on a fine calculation by many workers of their income needs related to time worked, markedly at odds with any notion that wealth and production had to be determined by an absolute utilisation of all available working hours: In a sense Wiener’s thesis that arcadianism contributed to England’s rapid decline as a mature economy holds true in this instance but, it would seem that in Sheffield an important sector of the work force had never bothered to reach the position from which that decline could begin. (Lowerson 1988:111–12)

Of course, that fine calculation being made by the Sheffield cutlers was based upon the place of leisure, nature and play in an appropriate lifestyle at that time. Even if the industrial structure of Sheffield was not mirrored everywhere in England, the time they deployed in innovating the new sport of coarse fishing, which was reflected in their star status within the pages of the Fishing Gazette, had a profound influence over the style and demand for angling as a working-class sport in the twentieth century. This is illustrated by recent angling statistics. The image of Venables’ midcentury Mr Crabtree is emblazoned on the cover of the National Rivers Authority national angling survey of 1994. In it they reveal that despite the proliferation of other leisures and distractions, the proportion of people who angle has continued to rise. In 1970 there were 1.9 million coarse anglers in Britain but by 1994 there were 2.3 million. Moreover, of these 232,000 also fished for game species and 465,000 fished for sea species. In the USA a similar pattern emerges. Between 1955 and 1985 the numbers of anglers more



than doubled from 20 million to 45.3 million and the proportion of the population over 16 who angled rose from 18 percent to over 23 percent. We have seen how the pervasive modern notion of nature as a space and ontological realm that is separate from the city and the social has provided the means by which nations, classes or class factions can establish and practice social identities and imagine that social relations have a stronger, more enduring, primordial - or literally natural – basis. The paradox is that the distinction between the city/social and the natural was never complete and, in fact, became more blurred in modern times. We can begin to identify hybrids of nature and culture as an increasingly important component of the relationship between humans and other species and so it is to hybridity that we will now turn.

6 Hybridity Disturbance is History. (Worster 1995:74) To begin with, humans modify the world around them on an enormous scale, and have done so through co-evolutionary interactions for many thousands of years. Effectively all landscapes with which humans routinely interact are therefore cultural: and our environment is every bit as much what is made socially as what is not. ... How strange, then, that in another version of the biological imagination (that of classical evolutionary taxonomy) domesticated animals and non-endemics are, somehow, not the real thing. The complexities of biological reality, enhanced by the insights of modern ecology and genetics, make drawing the boundary between what is cultural and what is natural, almost impossible. (Ellen 1996b:14–15) We don’t just talk and dream about our relations with the non-human world. We also actively explore them in the real places of our streets, gardens and working landscapes. By crossing to the sunny side of the road on a winter’s day, or by arranging some flowers in a vase, we both respond to and address the animals and plants, rocks and water and climate that surround us. Those working landscapes – the ordinary places of human production and settlement – are enormously complex places. Their history is, in part, a history of engineering – of how we build bridges, contain water, prune trees and lay sidewalks. But it is also an aesthetic history. It is about shaping, defining and making the world beautiful in a way that makes sense to us in the time and place that we live. (Wilson 1992:89) Grounding this sombre prognosis [the end of nature] is the claim that every corner of the earth’s surface evinces at least some traces of anthropocentric activity, and that every atom or molecule is potentially, if not actually, open to human modification. Effectively, this notion of a massive and irreversible socialization of the bio-physical world justifies a broad-ranging social scientific concern with the substantive dimensions of nature, one which inevitably implies ‘some displacement of the physical sciences from a previously monopolistic position with regard to nature (Macnaghten and Urry



1998:252; see also Adam 1993:400). What the new dynamism of the physical sciences suggests, however, is the possibility of a countermove – a permeation of the boundary between the study of the human and the non-human that passes in the other direction. (Clark 2000a:2)

While Macnaghten and Urry, along with most other social scientists, have established the social signification of natures and natural spaces that were of previous interest only to natural scientists, Clark and others are pointing to the significance of other natures and spaces that are by no means so easily identified with one ontological domain or another. The implication is that natural scientists and social scientists are now increasingly concerned with hybrid phenomena and new forms of life that are less predictable, stable, self-contained and replicable. Humanity cannot be taken out of natural equations and vice versa. The city is a particularly interesting site in which to consider a new sociology of nature. A phenomenon that evokes more than any other a sense of humanity’s spatial and ontological separation from nature is at once absolutely alive with nature and natural relations and natural habitats but more than this, the city is a unique natural configuration or marvel in its own right. It is the complex living home of a single species that ant-like, weaves nature into a superabundance of natural resources and materials, involves thousands upon thousands of natural things as tools, toys, decorations, fantasies and symbols and is comprised of thousands of other species as symbiotes, slaves, friends, decoration and aesthetic pleasures. City dwellers can hardly miss all this and those who have thought and written about it deliver its essential hybrid state. Clark (2000a) and others have used the much worn words of Walter Benjamin and Charles Baudelaire to describe the similarity between the cityscape and the landscape, such that the city can also ‘provide the delights of chaos and immensity’ once reserved for the natural sublime (Clark 2000a:4). This sense of life, set up but also set loose by people in the city, has astonished others. Jervis reminds us of Virginia Woolf’s fascination with the ‘nature’ of the city. In Woolf’s writings on the city, such as her essay ‘Street haunting’; ‘There is a sense in which the city as experience returns to nature; to immerse oneself in this complexity is to “leave the straight lines of personality” and “to deviate into those footpaths that lead beneath brambles and thick tree trunks into the heart of the forest where live those wild beasts, our fellow men”. Woolf’s observations are explicitly those of a woman making sense of her surroundings and in this sense it is “a gendered imagination of the city”’ (cited in Jervis 1998:70). But Woolf does not mean merely that what she experiences is like nature; ‘instead of setting nature against the city’ women may be more likely to ‘find nature in the city’. Elsewhere, in Orlando, for example, Woolf is energised by the natural throb of the city:



Hail! Natural desire! Happiness! Divine happiness! And pleasure of all sorts, flowers and wine, though one fade and the other intoxicates; and half-crown tickets out of London on Sundays, and singing in a dark chapel hymns about death and anything, anything that interrupts and confounds the tapping of typewriters and filing of letters and forging of links and chains, binding the Empire together. . . . Hail happiness! Kingfisher flashing from bank to bank, and all fulfilment of natural desire, whether it is what the male novelist says it is. ... Blue, like a match struck right in the ball of the innermost eye, he flys, burns, bursts the seal of sleep; the kingfisher; so that now floods back refluent like a tide, the red, thick stream of life. (Woolf 1977:183–5, cited in Jervis 1998:71)

Finding this life and a dizzy, exciting confusion of nature in the streets, shops, rivers and parks can be contrasted with what Jervis identifies as a male take on the city and modernity: ‘It is a distinctive means of appropriating the city, uncovering a dynamic sense of order existing in the very drama of surface fragments; this vision celebrated origin and connectedness, against the pessimism of the male modernist novelists and poets of the 1920s, with their sense of impotence and lack of control in the modern city’ (Jervis 1998:71). Such a spectacle of the natural and the social overwhelms the anthropologist but in the future we must begin to tackle through research this hybrid world. In this chapter we will not take on this entire hybrid world but one instance of it, urban gardens and their aftermath. We will investigate why gardens and the social practice of gardening came into significance as modernity emerged and indeed the curious way it shaped and configured the metropolis itself. This is a major task in which the following must merely be to highlight its potential and scope. Gardening is a topic that is just as significant to sociologists as the built environment, the home or leisure but which falls somewhere between science and sociology and thus tends to disappear. To use Ellen’s (1996a) words, it falls between two classificatory classes and is, or was, thereby not ‘the real thing’. But it seems completely wrong to say that the garden, gardens and gardening are not the real thing for they are one of the most important types of object of our world. Eighty-four percent of households in Britain are surrounded by a garden; 67 percent of the British population garden for a hobby; and at over 1 million acres, gardens make up 3 percent of the English land (an area the size of Somerset), an area considerably greater than that given over to nature reserves (MINTEL 1997). And yet it is neither proper nature nor exclusively social. Here is a perfect case to demonstrate the problem of classification and analysis using what Latour would say were modern classificatory devices, ontological domains and disciplinary boundaries. It is also a case study to show how at ease we really are with hybrids of the human and the non-human and how extensively and inextricably our world has become hybridised.



In all sorts of ways nature itself became commodified and aestheticised in the affluent, leisured and mobile mass cultures of the twentieth century. Although we are used to imagining the modern consumer in the archetypal role of flâneur, as a metropolitan phenomenon, the modern consumer was just as keen, as we will discover, to consume the natural world outside and inside the city limits. With the building of modern cities, garden suburbs, metropolitan railway systems, together with the revolution in personal transport, the relatively brief separation of nature and metropolitan culture in the nineteenth century was ended. From now on nature was scattered, fragmented, visible, transportable, relocatable, visitable, modifiable and interspersed with the artificial. Intimately bound up with our everyday life, our everyday spaces, our aesthetic and productive projects and hobbies, even as an order that recommends itself for society and social improvement. Essentially, however it was only ever in hybrid forms with the human. It entered a realm of significant controllability, simulation, manipulation and management across a wide range of different human projects. Globalisation rendered the world’s natures highly accessible, first for the consumption of the exotic other, then as resource and soon after for tourism and other leisures. Television and computers rendered it virtual and produced and copied it at accelerating speeds. The ultimate hybrid is, of course, the modern garden. It is full of objects that are the result of an original natural object and human mental and physical labour; the exchanges and networks of horticultural knowledge; the fashions that select first this colour and then that; the work of plant collectors and botanists who throw yet more species into the melting pot; local networks of gardeners who produce gardens that work in particular soils, pHs, rainfalls and microclimates that can be recreated elsewhere where similar conditions prevail; technologies that are designed to simulate such conditions anywhere. While it is very obvious that the English are a nation of gardeners, responsible for imprinting their passion in every former colony, it is not at all clear how or why this hybridised nature came about within an urbanising and modernising nature. The historical anthropology of this development will be outlined as a precursor to understanding why it became critical to popular culture and transformations in the city itself. Thomas’s early modern England is a good place to start a narrative account of this change in the consumption of nature. Official accounts of the natural world, of its hierarchical and anthropocentric ordering derived from theological scholarship, contrasted rather sharply with folk practices, with their enchanted and aestheticised pagan cosmology and its parallel universe of metaphoric and metonymic creatures and plants. Among other things, England was home to a beneficent tree cult, where forests were exalted and mythologised into central images of English national identity. The equivalent and related (forest) animal was the deer, a symbol of goodness and innocence. Sufficient of this cosmology and



knowledge has survived to acknowledge its similarity to other pluralistic cosmologies of the natural world. Various novelists writing for modern readerships have evoked this half-forgotten connection: Mary Webb recreated such a culture in her Shropshire novels Gone to Earth and Precious Bane of the 1920s and Fay Weldon has enchanted her southern English countrysides with a pantheon of gentle spirits and spiteful imps in such novels as Puffball (1980) and Heart of the Country (1987). We cannot imagine that this was swept under the carpet by the Enlightenment and the rise of the dominant scientific view, for despite its prominence we must question whether it affected the thinking of any but a few in the most exalted intellectual places. The disjuncture was not the Enlightenment but the systematic collapse and dismantling of an ancient ruralbased culture. At least this is one account we can use as a beginning. According to this, the enclosure acts removed people from the land and new industrial cities invited the rural poor into industrial wage labour. A massive population and cultural shift was achieved in scarcely three decades: England became an urban culture. In this account, the cultural gravity shifted irretrievably to the city. Rural English cultures tried to persist in the early nineteenth-century city. There are reports of animal keeping, rural sports and leisures and rural medicines but such practices were relatively short lived as the Victorian cities became experimental sites for the rational ordering of a modern urban culture based on discipline, surveillance, public order, civic development and rational improvement (Daunton 1983; Rojek 1995). Until the coterminous arrival of improved wages, a shorter working week and a rail transport network, this urban working-class culture was, we are to believe, relatively sedentary on a day-to-day basis and leisure was minimal. Thus contact with the natural world was also minimal and contrasts strongly with accounts of eighteenth-century rural work that emphasise that the natural world was both the backcloth to workplace and residence and where the distinction between work and leisure was less distinct. Ingold’s notion of dwelling denotes this embeddedness of the human-natural relation, as portrayed in Brueghel’s The Harvesters (1565) and was just as pertinent to the eighteenth-century case (Ingold 1993:164–71). Brueghel shows that the landscape, nature and humanity were indistinguishable, but in the work of Dickens and other spectators of early nineteenth-century urban living spaces, we are invited to accept that an absolute discontinuity had occurred. Weiner (1981) argues that Dickens developed an anti-industrial attitude mid-way through his writing career and so his descriptions of the period are not the pure observations they are often taken to be. Discontinuity was not simply spatial however, as we have seen, the Victorians sought to replace rural mentalities with a rationalised urban mentality from which as wages and conditions improved an acquisitive, consumer culture based on the proliferation of artificial, manufactured things was to emerge. However the early nineteenth-century city was described as a shocking, polluted, ad hoc and unhealthy alternative to



rural living, a point not missed by its governors who spent a good deal of time away on their estates and on Romantic sojourns. Since residential segregation of the classes had not evolved during the early period of urbanisation and since city living involved social mixing in crowds, in labour markets and through domestic service, the middle classes could not isolate themselves from the pollution and disease that spread so rapidly and therefore realised that the city had to be planned, reserviced and reordered in a more healthy manner. And in order to achieve that, nature in some large measure was incorporated into the planned Victorian city or city suburbs, particularly after 1870. When urban public health reform and improvement got under way it was informed by the view that for cities to work properly, efficiently and healthily, some aspect of nature had to be imported. Open spaces, minimal spaces for air circulation around houses, the planting of trees in avenues and parks; the setting aside of recreational spaces fully natured with trees, shrubs and herbs and landscaped; the partitioning of spaces for exercise and sports; routes and paths for walking or promenading as it became known; the encouragement of all manner of sport and exercise to simulate healthy rural work and the importation of a new population of urban animals (leisure animals in zoos and domestic settings; semiwild animals such as squirrels in parks and duck ponds; pigeon feeding in squares). In other words, from approximately the 1870s onwards the improving English cities began to lose their Dickensian disorder, drabness and stench and began to become rationalised, greened and cleaner, even if air pollution was still a problem. More revolutionary still, urban cultures had embraced the association of recreation–nature–health and as wages improved natural recreations were consumed with as much enthusiasm as for manufactured goods. Indeed, the two were inextricably linked in commodity production and capitalist development. However, if we follow this normative modernist narrative, of the planned, rationalised and ordered city where naturalisation was merely a means to secure better health, we miss some very important points. First, it obscures the presence of a gardening aesthetic that had become extremely widespread throughout England and in all classes between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Keith Thomas suggests that ‘domestic flower cultivation is a social development that deserves far more attention than it has yet achieved’. ‘The cultivation of flowers is an historical phenomenon of great importance to anyone concerned to know how the working classes would use their leisure and direct their emotional energies’ (Thomas 1983:240). Second, it introduces a doubtful sense of passivity on behalf of urban dwellers, as if planners, councils and the enlightened elite were, by their own example of country or estate living, making sound provision for those unable to do so for themselves. But, as we will see, domestic and allotment gardening and gardens were one of the principal forms of



leisure and recreation of all urban classes throughout the nineteenth century, but it was a popular activity governed by passion, enthusiasm and creativity – and despite the multiplication of other diversions in the twentieth century, it has remained so. By ignoring these two points we can all too easily assume that the popularity of the planned Victorian urban parks and gardens gave impetus to discover and consume the real thing, or wilder natures, of which they were merely tame, weak simulations. In other words, the nature which people craved was a pure nature unsullied or affected by humanity. But is this completely true or is the truth more complicated? While the significance of the Romantic movement cannot be underestimated for its promotion of the wild nature ideal, it also has to be conceded that an equally significant construction of nature required the hand of humanity in joint productions or hybrids: nature and artifice was arguably the more accepted and copied aesthetic of nature. Although as we shall see, distinctively modern forces formed it, it could perform that paradoxical link with a stable past, ancient and spiritual precedent and primordial desires. Third, it follows that the paternalistic provision of parks and gardens and other greenings, coupled with their highly public form, suggests a form of consumption rather like any other feature of the modern city. Here the consumer, the man or woman in the street, is a flâneur, feasting on the rich, exotic and rapidly changing visual images that the modern city offered – the crowds, the department stores, the arcades. Nature figures as just one of many changing backcloths to everyday life: leaves coming out on elegant avenues or blossom on fashionable boulevards or leaves blowing about in autumnal park scenes. Flowers can be marshalled in civic displays much like firework displays, to dazzle, to attract and to delight. Flower displays can be changed from season to season, can change according to fashion, colour and architecture. The city can be punctuated with strictly controlled animal spontaneity: duck ponds, squares of pigeons, squirrel displays of acrobatics. Essentially though, nature is cast as a visual thing. The leitmotif being the signs to maintain a visual order: keep off the grass, do not climb the trees, do not pick the flowers, do not feed the ducks/animals. Look but do not touch. It is a nature that in many senses is denied to the consumer. This contrasts, of course, with gardeners and their garden for which there is a thick catalogue of verbs to denote the physicalities of the relationship: digging, weeding, cropping, pruning, grafting, sowing, eating, thinning, training and so forth. As we shall see there are also other sensory aesthetics associated with the garden and gardening. Modern gardening: a globalisation of nature In his book on the English and the natural world, Keith Thomas (1983) tells us that gardening was not new in the sixteenth century. The English



had always grown flowers and vegetables for a variety of reasons: for cuisine, for healing, for deodorising domestic spaces (in the days before modern sanitation), for ritual and festive symbolism and for a variety of other practical and decorative purposes. Moreover, we are to assume from the records that in the early modern period, gardening was a skilful and complex art, the subject of specialisations, experimentation and some commercial development. However, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, ‘there occurred an expansion in flower-gardening on a scale so enormous as to justify our adding to all other revolutions of the early modern period another one: the Gardening Revolution’ (K. Thomas 1983:224). This revolution consisted of a sudden and dramatic boom and enthusiasm for flower gardening as indicated by five related new developments: a growth in the numbers of nurseries as well as their decentralisation from the capital to the provinces; an increased valorisation of gardening as a skilled profession; an enlargement of the gardening bibliography; a ‘vast influx of exotic flowers and shrubs’ and a generalised spread of the provision and passion for flower gardens as a source of recreation and pleasure (K. Thomas 1983:224–31). The prime mover of this revolution was the sudden and sustained expansion of Europeans into the New World and then more or less into the entire world. The age of discovery produced not simply the means to amass vast fortunes and imperial and commercial empires which could foot the bill for what turned out to be quite an expensive revolution, it also produced a generalised excitement about the other, the foreign, the exotic and, importantly, the new. The information on and examples of flowers and animals and exotic humanity that flowed into Europe was one of the first modern shock waves of the new. While animals and humanity were somewhat cumbersome (physically and morally) to possess and consume as novelties (not that this was an impediment to some of the more determined collectors of exotica), flowers and shrubs were portable, morally neutral and reproducible in European gardens and nurseries. Their impact in England was incredible as we shall see, but in Holland, then an international superpower, the new passion produced a flower, the tulip, that became the focus for the entire economy and very nearly wrecked it. This influx did not simply add to Europe’s growing collection of things and influences, it coincided with one of the more advanced Enlightenment sciences, botany. The fusion of horticultural know-how (that had reached the sort of expertise one expects to find in an agricultural society) with botanical science produced new technologies that could not only grow exotic plants outside their indigenous range and grow them ‘to order’, out of season, but alter them, cross them, improve them, hybridise them, standardise them. Europe is still one of the principal global sources for seeds and plants and for a very long time it has exported varieties of food and flower back to the regions of the world where they were first ‘discovered’. However, in its earliest days, the gardening enthusiasm was not the exclusive preserve of science, even though botany was an accepted science very early on and



plant growing and agriculture were to be given the mantle of science later. Plant collecting and plant finding expeditions for example were undertaken by amateurs, typically affluent upper-class individuals combining the pleasures of plants with that of foreign travel and discovery. Flower gardening itself became very firmly established as an amateur recreation, initially among the landed gentry who became willing students of their own gardeners and who corresponded with each other through a new genre of flower-gardening journals, flower shows and visits. However, as we shall see, their gardens were always the most visible or public aspect of the social elite and it was to their gardens that so many tourist visitors were attracted. As the minor gentry and commercial classes took their lead in matters of taste and recreation from the social elite in England, it was not long before gardening had spread as a civilising process through the entire ranks of English society. Although we will want to say that the social and cultural consequences of the gardening revolution were significant, it was also impressive in its own terms. In 1500 it is estimated that there were 200 cultivated plants in England, but by 1839 there were around 18,000 (K. Thomas 1983:226). The passion for improvement, change and fashion produced a dazzling proliferation of varieties within any one type of plant: Keith Thomas documents 320 different types of gooseberry by 1780; in 1629 there were approximately 140 varieties of tulip but 20 years later the figure had jumped to 10,000; in 1800 there were fewer than a hundred varieties of roses but by 1826 there were 1,393 (K. Thomas 1983:233). Equally impressive was the growth of a gardening bibliography that can be measured by the numbers of new titles in each century. In the sixteenth century there were only about 16 new titles but in the seventeenth century there were 100 and in the eighteenth century there were 600. There was a qualitative shift in the nature of illustrations away from a practical means of identification for herbalists and medicinal uses and towards an aesthetic pleasure in their own right. Indeed flowers became increasingly used in the decorative arts (K. Thomas 1983:225–6). This aesthetic appeal was acknowledged by the newly established Floricultural Cabinet of 1833 and its extension to a more popular mass market was clearly identified in its mission statement: The beauties of the Vegetable Kingdom are so varied and striking, that they have engaged the attention and admiration of all classes of society, but all have not alike the objects or opportunity of an equal gratification afforded them. A very numerous class of persons have it not in their power either to possess, cultivate or even obtain sight of many of the splendid productions of the earth. This is more particularly the case with reference to the imported treasures of plants that are transmitted from other climes to this country. ... In the present day, no sooner does any plant of interest expand its bloom, than ‘by the concurring aid of some friend to flowers’, some of the periodicals are enabled to spread its representation through an extent of country, and to a



number almost incalculable. . . . Although the periodicals thus referred to are published at as low a price as the nature of the works will admit of, yet it is a fact, that there is a very numerous class of persons, who are also admirers of flowers, but who are debarred the advantages which others have it in their power to obtain. However by adapting the cost of the present Work to the means of all classes, we intend to put within the power of most persons the knowledge of the existence, the descriptions, and, in many instances, figures of the most beautiful plants’. (Floricultural Cabinet Vol. 2, February 1834:10–11)

The momentum for the mass consumption of flora was in advance of many other types of product and from the late eighteenth century the English market supported several popular monthly gardening journals: The Botanical Magazine (from 1787); The Botanical Register (from 1815); The Botanical Cabinet (from 1815); The British Flower Garden (from 1833); the Botanic Garden (from 1834) and the Gardener’s Magazine (from 1831). Not surprisingly, professional gardening became much elevated by the gardening revolution, a growth in numbers but also in terms of remuneration and status. Keith Thomas documents some critical landmarks: in 1683 a gardener to Lyme Hall in Cheshire agreed a salary of £60, the equivalent income of a ‘well-to-do clergyman’; in 1764 a visitor to Thomas Mawe, head gardener to the Duke of Leeds, found him ‘so bepowdered and so be-daubed in gold lace’ that he thought he was in the presence of the Duke himself. Around that time there were approximately ‘ten professional garden designers, a hundred and fifty nobleman’s gardeners, four hundred gentlemen’s gardeners, a hundred nurserymen, a hundred and fifty florists, twenty botanists and two hundred market gardeners’ (K. Thomas 1983:225). Perhaps the most subtle aspect of the revolution was how, ‘in the early modern period . .. the taste for small-scale domestic flower-gardening gradually established itself as one of the most characteristic attributes of English life’ (K. Thomas 1983:228). This was clear from Worlidge’s Systema Horti-culturae of 1677: ‘Neither is there a nobler or pleasant Seat in England but hath its gardens for pleasure and delight; scarce an ingenious citizen that by his confinement to his shop, being denied the privilege of a real garden, but hath his boxes, pots or other receptacles for flowers, plants etc.’ (cited in Sinclair Rohde and Parker 1939:247). ‘Scarce a person from a peer to the cottager’, noted Henrey, ‘thinks himself tolerably happy without being possessed of a garden’ (K. Thomas 1983:229). It is abundantly clear that a garden and the opportunity for gardening had come to be expected, as part of a dwelling and lifestyle. Indeed, one of the characteristic and singular features of the English built environment – in stark contrast to Europe and Scotland – was the nearly universal provision of a garden, in a cottage-style built form (Daunton 1983). Full participation in the creative, revolutionising aspects of gardening was not confined to the social elite through their command of broad acres,



greenhouses and professional gardeners. Flower gardening produced the ubiquitous cottage garden with its wide range of planting and its contrived rambling wildness and specialisation, the cultivation and manipulation of single types or varieties. Flower shows spread around England during the eighteenth century and encouraged specialisation through the provision of prizes. According to Thomas the prizes were mainly won by lower middle-class or working-class competitors because they had the time and dedication to devote to a single cause, whereas the nobleman’s gardener was too occupied with many. Weavers from London, Manchester and Paisley became specialists in the growing of pinks and auriculas and it was from such cultures that flower gardening became established as a working-class male recreation – a recreation that has continued ever since. These modest specialists made significant contributions both to the techniques for horticulture and to the numbers of new types and varieties available. Through the burgeoning numbers of amateur gardening journals the practice of gardening became a hybrid of scientific and horticultural knowledges. It is no exaggeration to suggest that most advances in plant breeding, experimentation, management and hybridisation were made by gardening amateurs. Nature was endlessly amenable to the modernist ideals of improvement, management, control and democratisation. By the end of the eighteenth century gardening was a national recreation, with national markets and nationwide participation in gardening journals. ‘Only a very wide based demand could have brought prices down to the remarkably low figures charged by late eighteenth-century nurserymen for a large range of garden flowers’, argues Thomas, but apart from the emergence of one of the first mass recreation forms in the modern world, these gardens, whether large or small, were revolutionary because they changed our relationship with the natural world. Gardening books are tantalisingly vague about the relationship of the gardener to the garden. Mostly such books are instructional, useful and practical. However, they are predicated on the assumption that the gardener will spend a great deal of time in the garden simply observing, monitoring change: germination, growth, budding, flowering, fruition, decay, decomposition, seeding, attack from insects and so on. It is the assumption of all gardening literatures that the gardener will be mainly engaged in looking at the garden grow and change, so much so in fact that in the course of researching many hundreds of gardening books, I have never come across advice as to how much time should be spent in the garden actually carrying out observations. The assumption seems to be simply that gardeners will spend as much time as they can doing this. But it is not merely the act of observing change. The assumption is also that such activity is pleasurable and multidimensional in its pleasures. This is because the garden is not simply a rationalised cultural product but a microcosm of nature.



The garden – wherever it happens to be – as a microcosm of nature itself becomes possible by the way it is open to the natural forces of weather, planetary change and the seasons as well as to the mobile and migratory species of birds, animals, insects, fungi, bacteria and so on. The garden focuses attention on a nature far wider than its own physical space and planting. Writing in The Spectator in 1712, Joseph Addison underlines the value of gardens to attract birds and birdsong: I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than cherries, and very frankly give them fruits for their songs. By this means I have always the music of the season in its perfection, and am highly delighted to see the jay or the thrush hopping about my walks, and shooting before my eye across the several little glades and alleys that I pass through. (Sinclair Rohde and Parker 1939:251)

Some 60 years earlier than Addison in 1653, Ralph Austin also wrote of the aural aesthetics of the garden, besides birdsong: And besides, something more this sense may receive from the Orchard by hearing the slow motion of Boughs and Leaves, by soft and gentle aires, sometimes (as it were) with a kind of singing or whistling noise, which will easily induce a sweet and pleasant sleep in summer time (if a man be disposed) in some close cool Arbor, or shady seat. (Sinclair Rohde and Parker 1939:234–5).

Mary Russell Mitford’s garden was very small, ‘in dimensions very like a bird-cage, and might, with almost equal convenience, be laids or hung up in a tree’, but it was the ‘pride of my heart and the delight of my eyes’ (Sinclair Rohde and Parker 1939:293). Her account of this pride and delight stems clearly from the spontaneity of nature and the exposure of even a small plot to natural forces and its composure into sensory experiences (note the avoidance of the visual ‘frame’ pictorial metaphor): I know nothing so pleasant as to sit in the shade of that dark bower, with the eye resting on that bright piece of colour, lighted so gloriously by the evening sun, now catching a glimpse of the little birds as they fly rapidly in and out of their nests – for there are always two or three birds’ – nests in the thick tapestry of cherry-trees, honeysuckles, and china-roses, which cover our walls – now tracing the gay gambles of the common butterflies as they sport around the dahlias; now watching that rarer moth, which the country people, fertile in pretty names, call the bee-bird; that bird-insect, which flutters in the hottest days over the sweetest flowers... that insect which seems so thoroughly a creature of the air . . . those wings in their ceaseless motion, have a sound so deep, so full, so lulling, so musical. (Sinclair Rohde and Parker 1939:294)



Even the smallest garden, therefore, can command the daily attentions of its gardener, who is above all else, watching for change. The most successful and widely read gardening book of the nineteenth century, Loudon’s The Suburban Gardener (1838) emphasises this point: One of the greatest of all the sources of enjoyment resulting from the possession of a garden is, the endless variety which it produces, either by the perpetual progress of vegetation which is going forward in it to maturity, dormancy or decay, or by the almost innumerable kinds of plants which may be raised in even the smallest garden. ... [E]very month throughout the year has its particular operations and its products: nay, it would not be too much to say, that during six months of the year a change takes place, and is perceptible, in the plants of a garden, every day; and every day has, in consequence, its operations and its products. (Loudon 1838:4)

Although Thomas is surely correct to underline the aesthetic nature of the gardening revolution, where the emphasis on cultivation changed from pragmatism and instrumentality to the creation (and encouragement) of beauty, it is also important to recognize the ways in which a garden draws the gardener into its myriad processes of change, what might be called an aesthetic of natural processes. Nature as an active process rather than an aesthetic product. Of course, the idea that nature could be considered an autonomous and incredible realm of natural processes is perhaps only possible after the Enlightenment detached the natural world from god, but it is surely the case that the content of the natural world can be considered wonderful irrespective of its aetiology. Freefloating natural species, constantly responding to their environment produced an aesthetic of natural processes rather than an aesthetic of natural objects alone – on the image of a beautiful flower or garden or butterfly. The latter is an artefact of technological advances in the means of representation, a snap-shot of nature frozen in time, whereas the former is possibly one of the oldest aesthetic activities or responses, an unending cyclical but seldom repeating process of natural growth, death and regeneration. Only by observing and registering change can the logic of gardening works be calculated, but it was also clearly something about spending time in a garden, with its changing backdrop and its sensualities that tied the gardener to the garden. Older nomenclatures for the natural world, ways of naming and thereby knowing and tracking its constituent species, were not killed off by urbanisation, but survived its relatively long and partial transition. To Mary Russell Mitford’s ‘bee-bird’ could be added countless new names proffered by the botanists, the plant collectors and breeders, amateur naturalists, ornithologists and that burgeoning series of nature studies (of both home and abroad) during the Victorian period. The irony of nineteenth-century England was the production of an urban society, never more capable of understanding and




Digging the garden (Source: Adrian Franklin)

knowing the natural world outside its daily orbit. It was through their gardens perhaps that the irony is resolved: possibility of urban culture was rendered bearable only by a universal passion for gardening.

Urban gardening The gardening revolution of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries in England did not merely produce an abstract floricultural aesthetic: it had



much wider social implications. Of particular note was its acceptance and approval as a rational, civilising and improving leisure, inculcating a sense of beauty but also of order. Second, gardening was particularly appealing to townsfolk, tempering and modifying the break with those ancient connections with the natural world resulting from the urbanisation of British society in the first half of the nineteenth century. Third, gardening became the medium for fashion and style in which the entire nation could, to a lesser or greater extent, participate. Rural life and that semi-rural life of the multitudinous small English towns held an almost unique aesthetic appeal among modernised nations. From the landscape wildernesses of Capability Brown to the miniaturised lawns and borders of the worker’s villa, the national passion for gardening and gardens and accompanying human–nature hybridity transcended class cultures and status groups. Although gardens were often the means by which the English created a sense of privacy around the domestic space, there was also a sense in which the garden was a public space, largely open to the public gaze, if not for public visiting. The public face of an English household was first and foremost its garden and it was through the garden far more than the interior that the different classes became familiar with each other and that social emulation via recruitment to a gardening aesthetic became possible. The association of gardening with respectability and moral decorum was established very early on. Nothing could recommend it more strongly that John Lawrence’s The Clergyman’s Recreation of 1714. Far from inculcating a sense of guilt for so much time given over to leisure gardening Lawrence was ‘not in the least ashamed’: To say and own, that most of the time I can spare from the necessary care and business of a large Parish, and from my other studies, is spent in my garden and making observations towards the further improvement thereof. For I thank God this sort of diversion has tended very much to the ease and quiet of my own mind; and the retirement I find therein, by walking and meditation, has help’d to set forward many useful thoughts upon more divine subjects. (Sinclair Rohde and Parker 1939:254)

Although the passion for gardening as leisure was new to early modern England, the idea of the garden as holy or sacred place has ancient roots, not least in the idea of the Garden of Eden as a place of original perfection. The association of gardening as leisure with moral and spiritual improvement was suggested at least by the late seventeenth century. William Hughes, for example, suggests that although we fall from grace and lost the perfect garden given to us as a dwelling by god, ‘yet doubtless by industry and pains taking in that lovely, honest, and delightful Recreation of Planting, we may gain some little glimmering of that lost Splendour, although’, he adds for good measure, ‘with much difficulty’ (Sinclair Rohde and Parker 1939:233).



According to Keith Thomas, ‘by the eighteenth century flower gardening had emerged as a means by which humble men could prove their respectability’. Gardening, it was believed, had a civilising effect on the labouring poor. It attached a man to his home and it spread a taste for neatness and elegance. Hence, the landlords’ practice of building model cottages which had the whole of their garden in front of the house so that they could be inspected by the passer-by (K. Thomas 1983:234). Reformers such as Chadwick, Howard and Booth extolled the virtues of gardening as an alternative to the pub and by the turn of the twentieth century providing gardens and allotments was considered the sign of a good employer for the same reasons that a good gardener was considered a good employee (Williamson 1982:104). Early nineteenth-century model housing built by reformist landowners produced picturesque gothic rural cottages, such as at Blaise Hamlet, Bristol, where the emphasis was as much on the garden and its seamless connection to the natural world as it was on model dwellings for workers, but it took some time for the idea to be established as a norm in the city. In the first part of the century the dominant type of domestic space, according to Daunton, was the enclosed court, small private cells arranged around semi-communal non-gardened spaces. These were paralleled by the middle-class townhouse, which in the 1820s (e.g. Bloomsbury in London) had no private garden but shared instead semi-public communal gardened spaces in the squares between them. Their lavish planting and generous proportions served to emphasise their quality as a getaway, a romantic urban oasis – a point exploited by the makers of the film Notting Hill. Daunton traces a transition from the Bloomsbury townhouse to homes on the Ladbroke Estate in the 1840s which combined private gardens with a communal garden, to the first villas (detached or semidetached) and their encapsulated private gardens which became increasingly the norm after 1850. William Morris inspired the first garden suburb in England – Bedford Park, in West London, which was started in 1875. ‘Its leafy streets of cosy, redbrick houses with their gables and tile hanging are the epitome of the Old English style. ... Bedford Park was a place where [according to an opinion of the time] “Men may lead a chaste correct Aesthetical existence”’ (Quiney 1986:132). Paternalistic capitalists and progressive landowners were leaders in the housing reform of the English working classes and it was they who produced the first miniaturised villas. Of these, Blaise Hamlet in Bristol, which was started in 1811, remains the model. However, their efforts pale into insignificance in comparison with the huge wave of so-called ‘bye-law’ housing in the last quarter of the century, which was built privately but to very tightly regulated local municipal specifications. These were the regimented rows of terraced housing which dominate the Victorian hearts of all English cities and towns. Despite regional and civic variations they all shared the belief in the necessity of a garden for all people – in many cases both to the front and back of the house.



To some extent the gardens and yards of English bye-law housing owe their existence to sanitation beliefs at the time. It was believed that good air circulation was necessary for good health although this was arguably built on beliefs to do with the health-giving benefits of rural, natural living rather than on good science. Thus in Liverpool, for example, a bye-law of 1890 stipulated that ‘the width of the open space at the back of the house was to be no less than the height of the back wall of the house; and it was to abut upon an open space or street on three sides’ (Daunton 1983:25). Open space regulations did away with the courts, but even where they were permitted to be let, they became unpopular and hard to let or sell. In Birmingham, England, the new bye-law villas on the new suburbs were under enormous pressure of demand shortly after they were built while the stock of courts became very nearly abandoned. From the consumer point of view, the provision of more circulating air may have been less attractive as a proposition than the tangible benefits, aesthetic appeal and status potential of a garden. These were consumers who had experienced within living memory the most dire housing conditions combined with hunger and unemployment; bad times. The provision for more space, more privacy and the potential for a leisure space for children’s play and gardening was seen as an improvement in a society driven by the notion of improvement and progress. However, in a poor society where there was a finely graded status ranking, there developed a keen sense of a social acceptability in the notion of respectability. Thus the occupation of a house with a well-kept garden could become the outward sign of respectability, containing as it did, notions of hard work, orderliness, tidiness and the appreciation of beauty. The bye-law housing boom terminated around the turn of the century and in the lull that followed architects and local governments reacted against their grim, regimented rationality. Nature had been given a firm place in the city but once established, it seemed to demand more space and a space less confined by grids and rows. London and local government took the lead once more: So when the LCC’s Housing Branch architects started to design suburban estates they remembered Bedford Park and how Morris had written in Art and Beauty of the Earth of the necessity of changing England ‘from the grimy back yard of a workshop into a garden’. In the 1890s the design of the LCC’s few small cottage estates progressively moved away from the plain uniformity of the unadorned terrace towards a more varied group of houses in short rows. (Quiney 1986:132–3)

Gardens became an even greater feature of the state built homes following the Great War. The ‘homes fit for heroes’ policy addressed an acute housing shortage in the 1920s, but rather than build cheap accommodation to lower standards, the standards were jacked up even higher than the bye-law homes:



By building the new houses to a standard previously reserved for the middle classes, the government would demonstrate to the people just how different their lives were going to be in the future . . . the housing programme would persuade the people that their aspirations would be met under the existing order, and thereby wean them from any ideas of revolution. The new houses built by the state – each with its own garden, surrounded by trees and hedges and equipped internally with the amenities of a middle class home – would provide visible proof of the irrelevance of revolution. (Swenerton, Homes Fit for Heroes, 1981:81, cited in Daunton 1983:293–4)

Such homes were explicitly better and modelled on the new garden-city ideals. Paternalists such as Edward Cadbury and his Bournville garden city aimed to create a more happy and contented and thereby more loyal and productive labour force. The garden was in a sense a key element of this scheme both in terms of an open, curving, spacious and leafy country village-like layout as a context for all homes and in terms of the extent of the gardens provided for each home which in plot shape, structure and extent resembled more the rambling grounds of a middle-class country residence. The austere, regimented and gloomy nature of the bye-law homes were soon superseded and surrounded by the open, light and leafy nature of the garden-city inspired development. Trees, lawns and shrubs were planted all over the development rather than in tightly delineated public parks; the extent of the plantings in each home softened and broke up the lines of the building as opposed to the humble cowering planting of the bye-law front garden (frequently reduced to the small space occupied by a narrow hedge); the occupants of the garden suburb were less surrounded by the cold public space of Victorian England and more by a semi-communal, natural space in which the occupants were themselves naturalised, a social space that looked back to a rural Arcadia. It is tempting to explain the emergence of the modern English built environment, consisting largely of cottage-style houses, as the result of sanitary and political reforms and interests, in combination with critical economic factors such as land prices and rents. In this way, urban gardens might be considered as an epiphenomenon of the urban reform movement. However, these factors cannot adequately explain why the European and Scottish tenement (apartment) blocks did not prevail in the newly rationalised modern English city. After all apartments offered a better return on land rents and offered all sorts of building economies of scale over the cottage unit. As Daunton (1983:58) argues, the English style was unusual and remains an unsolved puzzle. Could it be, for example, that it was the central (and relatively unusual) position of the garden in English cultural life that influenced the shape of modernising cities? Daunton’s analysis of the emergence of bye-law housing and gardencity styles following the breakdown of the older cellular court pattern considered and found wanting all explanations based solely on rents, incomes and the pattern of land ownership. He argues instead that



bye-laws were used in some cases to prevent certain housing forms, especially the cellular form of courts and back-to-back housing, and in others to ‘freeze the form of development and make subsequent change more difficult. The bye-laws might take a given house type for granted and seek to remove the worst abuses, rather than to require its disappearance’ (Daunton 1983:84). Both sorts of strategy, prevention of cellular/court forms and maintenance of cottage styles are consistent with a view that there were cultural and aesthetic factors involved in the emergence of the English built environment. As Daunton argues: ‘Any physical environment will create a particular lifestyle, a cultural definition of housing form. Cultural variables must therefore be reinserted into the argument’ (Daunton 1983:88). Accordingly, he investigates the housing cultures of the English working class, mapping kinship, family and community factors onto the uses and preferences for rooms and spaces. Unfortunately, this investigation was restricted to a consideration of interior spaces and public spaces. Those semi-public, semi-private spaces of the small working-class gardens were left unexplored. However, since it was the garden more than anything that distinguished the bye-law and subsequent English urban houses from those that came before and from those built in other modern nations, it would seem, on the face of it, to be significant. What cultural factors might have promoted the garden as a central design feature? First, it must be supposed that the councils that shaped the housing bye-laws included precisely the sorts of people – paternalists, religious leaders and reformers – who had underpinned gardening and gardens as an appropriate rational recreation for the working classes. The passion for gardening among the English middle classes and its imputed benefits were, as we have seen, keenly recommended to all. In their capacity as councillors no less as paternalistic capitalists, they were in a position to provide more gardens as a desirable component of living space. Second, as we have seen from the period prior to the nineteenth century, the gardening revolution had established a gardening aesthetic at all levels of society and although the migration trajectories and housing careers of the nineteenth-century working classes were complex, it is certainly the case that urbanisation in the early part of the century could not have eradicated that desire. It was this desire that provided part of the demand appeal for the new housing forms and it was the healthy demand that maintained and elaborated the garden as a feature of English urban life. It has to be remembered that almost all of these homes were privately rented and, from what we know, renters were fickle and would move in order to gain improved living conditions (Roberts 1973). The provision of desirable features such as a garden could result in high demand, a feature that was of prime concern to builders and investors. Third, although both the bye-law and the garden-city cottage were new housing forms, they were both nostalgic (but improved) simulations of



traditional rural working-class homes or cottages. In this way rurality and a rural life in close proximity to nature was imported into the town. Historically, English towns were trading and administrative centres and were characterised by a mainly wealthy and high-status population. Historically, town and city homes emphasised their difference from the country; elaborate and multi-storeyed terraces developed along the street frontages in the strictly limited spaces of walled cities; the former gardens of the mediaeval period tended to be absorbed by building extensions and new buildings. The working class courts of the early nineteenth century were the result of a similar process: an original set of terraced houses would have been extended around three sides of their former garden area leaving a court area in the middle and a passage back out to the street. In other words, the new bye-law and garden-city cottages were entirely novel to the Victorian city but were based on a housing culture that pre-dated the nineteenth century. But importantly, the Victorian period and its aftermath broke down the distinction between town and country. The variation in bye-law housing style across the country can be accounted for in terms of the vernacular architecture of rural cottages in urban hinterlands that became favoured by the bye-law creators precisely because they were local people. What they had in common was their increasingly suburban openness, a city phenomenon which would became greener and leafier the older it became and the presence of gardening, gardeners and gardening culture: ‘Its most committed form, membership of the Royal Horticultural Society, rose from 2,500 in 1894 to 14,500 in 1914 (Lowerson 1995:13).

Garden cities and beyond There can be no greater legacy of the gardening revolution perhaps than the garden city itself. A revolution in natural aesthetics and the embedding of this close relation with nature in popular culture and lifestyle became so significant that it shaped the modern city and modern urban lifestyles to the end of the twentieth century. Garden cities were eccentric in their early, experimental Bournville days but as we have seen they grew to dominate the English and American architectural and planning movement. The first UK state housing building period between 1918 and 1939 was almost completely rendered in that style; private estate developments or garden suburbs followed fashion and street names changed from the regimented street, row and roads of the Victorian bye-law development to avenues, closes, crescents, drives – even gardens – and other organic or rural references (granges; meads, glebes, walks, greens); new towns appeared in the garden-city format both before the Second World War and afterwards. If the bye-law villas and cottages moved the country into town, the larger garden cities went a step further and moved the city back to the country producing an hybrid of nature and



culture. An advert for the garden city of Milton Keynes, UK, shows an Arcadian picture of a man fishing in a pool with trees forming an arbour through which may be glimpsed the only building, an old windmill. Underneath the caption reads: ‘In Milton Keynes we are outnumbered by trees 15–1’ (Finnegan 1998:37). Ebenezer Howard was the founding father of the garden-city concept. In his Tomorrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform of 1898 (republished in 1902 as Garden Cities of Tomorrow), Howard established his core ideas – largely for urban reform. He is remembered for his advocacy of planned living spaces and communitarianism, but this professional contribution as a planner, architect and urban theorist conceals the extent to which the gardening revolution was carried through and extended in his work. In documents relating to his plans and ideas, no less than in descriptions of the garden-city concept in urban sociologies, the origins of the idea are masked: it seems as though the desire for garden spaces, proximity to nature and the hybridisation of nature and city derives from the brilliant visionary, Howard, when in fact such a desire already existed. Howard’s contribution was to fuse the gardening aesthetic with the social utopia. Although he is considered a revolutionary for advocating not only the planned city but also a different city, it is clearly the case that his ideas were formed as much from the negative experiences of dramatic city growth as from the positive aspects of the bye-law housing movement. The greening of the late nineteenth-century city and its key new phenomena, parks and gardens, were simply extended and elaborated by Howard with a socially utopian twist that invokes again the idea of Eden. Gray (1983) sums up the garden-city concept very well: Garden cities . . . would combine all the benefits of both town and country with none of the disadvantages. They would have modern industry and

Welwyn Garden City, 1920 (Source: Adrian Franklin)




housing, provide secure employment and all the services of the modern town or city, and yet enjoy the healthy atmosphere of a country setting. The builtup area would contain a considerable proportion of parks and greenery; the houses would all have gardens, and be within a short distance of woods and open fields. In such an environment, tuberculosis, typhus and other diseases endemic in the pestilential conditions of the big cities would be eradicated. For the first time, the town dwellers would be able to engage in the healthy pursuits of gardening, sports and country walks. At the same time, the garden cities would be of sufficient size to offer all the familiar forms of urban entertainment. (Gray 1983:20)

Considerably more people could expect to have their own gardens, a point not missed by the burgeoning gardening press: ‘As modern building proceeds, it becomes more and more evident that some garden space is wanted by nearly every household, and it is very gratifying to notice that the old back-yard, that is, a paved space where washing could be dried but nothing grown, has disappeared from the new towns of this century’ (James 1940: ix–x). Howard’s garden cities were utopian to the extent that they were planned to produce a self-sufficient community and commonwealth for their respective residents – an aspiration that never truly developed. This was partly because they required enormous capital to build and only local or central governments had the means to implement them. Howard’s success was underpinned by a passionate belief in his principles by a large and powerful following in Britain, which formed the Garden Cities and Town Planning Association and which subsequently built the two model cities at Letchworth before 1914 and Welwyn in the 1920s. The garden city concept also crossed the Atlantic: In the United States a group of architects, notably Clarence Stein, popularised Howard’s approach. Working with local authorities and developers, they constructed several places across the country including Garden City, New York, outside of Manhattan, and Baldwin Hills, California, which is located in Los Angeles. Ebenezer Howard lived to see the opening of the New York community in 1928. (Gottdiener 1994:302)

In Gottdiener’s view Howard sits alongside Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright in conceptualising new urban environments in the twentieth century and although North American examples of Howard’s influence lack both the utopian and the industrial content, his ideas are still put into practice by developers of large suburban residential projects (Gottdiener 1994:303). The lasting residue of Howard’s concept is mixing humanity with nature rather than perfecting humanity through rational planning. It has become such a culturally given, taken-for-granted phenomenon that it is hard to see its very specific cultural aetiology.



The same is true in contemporary Britain from the end of the Second World War until the 1980s, but it is not surprising perhaps that the British state used Howard’s principles to build hundreds of garden-city projects. The garden-city idea became the cornerstone of post-war reconstruction via an all-party support for the 1946 New Towns Act. These were typically planned to reduce pressure on the larger metropolitan centres and London in particular is ringed by them. By the 1970s when critics began to appear, iconic garden cities such as Milton Keynes became cast as the opposite: they were bywords for planning blight, concrete jungles, rootless suburbia and small town anomie. In a recent book Finnegan (1998) explores this paradox using a narrative approach to the city, teasing out the narrative conventions and cultural implications of its multiple tales. In doing so, we are given a rare glimpse not only of the idealism of Howard’s enthusiasts within the Development Corporation but the serial waves of residents who left London to be newcomers in a new town. Their stories provide an important test of the durability of garden-city concepts but also the extent to which the garden and the garden-city as a human–nature hybrid has endured as a prominent aesthetic in Britain.

Paradise mislaid? Tales from Milton Keynes Planning for Milton Keynes, a north Buckinghamshire London overspill town, was begun in 1967 and it was largely completed by 1992. Housing and employing over 150,000 people, it was the largest urban development project ever undertaken in Britain. In commemorating Milton Keynes’ 25th anniversary, The Times newspaper labelled the project ‘Paradise mislaid’, sensing a consensus view among its readership that it was a project gone wrong – a readership exposed to such critics as John Osborne who called Milton Keynes a ‘gleaming gum-boil plonked in the middle of England’ or Dave Rimmer who described it as ‘unbearably new and depressingly desolate. The Times summed up Milton Keynes thus: Milton Keynes was the last desperate throw of a generation of British planners who were distasteful of the traditional British towns and cities and had the political power and public money to fashion the environment to their will. (The Times 24th January, 1992, cited in Finnegan 1998:41–42)

Such a view is hard to square with the opinion of its developers whose press briefing paper of 1990 described it as an attractive city:



Set in undulating North Buckinghamshire countryside and blessed with two rivers, a canal, streams and a cluster of small villages brought together by a network of old lanes and historic highways, the Designated Area provided a rich foundation on which to build a city to which people would respond with pleasure. The corporation aimed to provide a multicentred city – so that existing centres like Bletchley, Stony Stratford and Wolverton did not lose their identity – which was open, mobile and accessible, with a central area planned to give richness and variety with none of the noise, pollution, traffic congestion and inconvenience common in older cities and towns. The main road system should be attractively landscaped to present various changes of scene while off the main roads local character should be maintained by a sympathetic blending of the new with the old. (Finnegan 1998:29)

On the face of it Milton Keynes sounds an ideal compromise between the rural aesthetic running deeply through British culture and the necessity of dealing with the congestion that makes the city impossible. Moreover, it went further than Howard did in hybridising town and country, humanity and nature: ‘Milton Keynes is a low-density city, dispersed rather than radial, and with the country in the city rather than surrounding it’ (Finnegan 1998:39). As Finnegan unravels the narrative tales it is clear that Milton Keynes became the butt of jokes and criticism not because it was a horrid place to live – which of the critics had ever lived there? – but because the idea of planning and modern architecture had produced a vocal and influential circle of critics in the quality press. Milton Keynes was simply the last and the biggest project on which to vent their spleen. The anti-modernism of the mid-1970s to early 1980s produced a stodgy nostalgia for all things mediaeval and old: crafts replaced design; natural dyed clothes replaced high-tech fashions; even the ultimate modern car, the Mini, was produced in a wooden shooting brake style called the Mini Countryman. Before the birth of the postmodern neo-traditional style that was to dominate British architecture in the 1980s and 1990s therefore, Milton Keynes was conceived in a clatter of derision: it was principled but desperately unfashionable. Partly, of course, fashions were beginning to change in respect of the aesthetics of nature. The critic of Milton Keynes singled out ‘the environment’ as a privileged nature under threat from the hybrid garden city. From the early 1970s environment emerged as an aesthetic discourse of nature that was, ideally, to be kept separate from humanity. Detested by the chic set of London and the rural elites (who had a traditional claim to living in ‘the environment’), Milton Keynes finally began to find supporters – among its residents. The longer they lived there, the more roots they put down, the more exposed to its growing planting of trees and shrubs and flowers they became, the more they liked it. In the face of the barrage of national criticism local residents were equally vocal in their rebuttal. Such views recount how,



‘far from soulless concrete, Milton Keynes has now emerged as a notably “green” city. . . . Local writing about Milton Keynes townscapes “celebrates their wildlife, light, the sky or the uniquely pointed beauties of particular localities”’ (Finnegan 1998:50). But how representative were the views of the local literati? Finnegan was surprised by the extent to which her respondents placed emphasis on the natural aesthetic of Milton Keynes; indeed, it was one of two main themes in their accounts. Milton Keynes emerges as a ‘green city’, ‘nature within, rather than opposed to the city’ (Finnegan 1998:164): The second major theme in the personal accounts is a striking one, for it emphatically delineates the ‘country’ characteristics of Milton Keynes and, ultimately of urban living more generally. Given the deep-seated myth of the classic opposition between ‘town’ and ‘country’, this is somewhat unexpected. (Finnegan 1998:160)

Finnegan marshals a battery of evidence for this conclusion. Typically, respondents were surprised and delighted by the hybrid city: Wonderful ... trees, shrubbery, flowers . . . three million trees ... it is the thing that makes Milton Keynes different to anywhere else. Greenery, greenery, we are in a city and yet, five minutes up the road we are in the centre getting a loaf of bread from Sainsbury’s. (Finnegan 1998:161)

Another respondent saw Milton Keynes reverse the normal relation between city and nature: I think we need all the trees we can get, quite honestly, it is the one thing I liked about Milton Keynes, its trees and parks policy. I went to Little Linford Wood on Sunday for their open day and they were talking about how ... MK is built in a park as opposed to the other way around, which I thought was an interesting notion. (Finnegan 1998:161)

Finnegan’s respondent, Sally Vincent, elaborates this point when she observed that ‘it always seems that at the back of the house is either a field or a park’ (161). Other respondents emphasised how the city is arranged such that ‘you can be in the countryside within about five minutes’ walk’ (Finnegan 1998:161). By 1986 Milton Keynes could inspire a romantic poem from the local poet Anita Packwood that identifies its hybridity as an aesthetic object. The poem mentions ‘the point’ which readers might think to be a lighthouse or a promontory, but which Finnegan tells us is a multi-screen cinema and nightclub. In true hybrid style, Packwood has ‘Myriads of daffodils, Dancing slightly in the evening breeze’ juxtaposed to a new nightclub for humans (Finnegan 1998:163):



Softness settles over Milton Keynes Everywhere gentle spring softness Like a fairy tale land Everything sparkling Serene, silent, beautiful Myriads of golden daffodils Dancing slightly in the evening breeze The new ‘point’, distinct dominant Dazzling, gleaming in the glow Of sinking sunlight Streetlights already on Sprinkling light over small estates So picturesque and new Small young trees swaying Wearing their new summer styles Majestic multitudes green Sky pure powder blue With pale pink ribbons Soon to be serenaded by starlight (Finnegan 1998:163)

This poem is naïve, but touching nonetheless. One can immediately relate to the author’s delight in familiar buildings and plantings, set beneath a gloaming sky. One can even understand how such a sugary, miniature landscape is rendered universal through its place beneath sky and stars and its subjectivity to the greater order of seasons and weather. But it has borrowed a rustic pastoral style for a new, planned city precisely to make the point, presumably, that any creation of buildings and configurations of plantings can be aesthetically pleasing; and, importantly, that all pastoral landscapes are ‘man’ made. One suspects the ‘point’ to be a deeply ugly building, part of Osborne’s ‘gum-boil’, but how stable or inevitable is that view? How contingent is that judgement upon proximity, familarity and experience? For outsiders then, the poem cannot work well; we find it difficult to suspend our disbelief; we can neither create a hindsight that might give Milton Keynes the patina of age and heritage, nor conjure up the necessary familiarity to create a rose-tinted image of it as home. We cannot see this side of Milton Keynes as nature; it remains for many years a generic ‘new’ town or a derogatory blot on the landscape; but after a relatively short period its residents create a nature to be appreciated. This poem is useful in pointing up the difficulty in grasping the meaningfulness and beauty of the modern ‘ordinary’ and of entering the aesthetic lifeworlds of ordinary people. The ordinary setting and lifestyle of people only 100 years ago is immediately prone to romantic gloss and although the ordinary house, garden and environs of the small housing estate has yet to be aestheticised by a generation of poets and writers, we cannot infer that its residents remain



aesthetically neutral and unmoved. All the evidence is rather the opposite: that in the miniature landscape of backyards and gardens people have created settings that are centrally important in modern cultures.

Even more hybridity Although we can document this growth of hybrid environments such as garden cities, noting as we pass the extensive nature of the garden suburb idea in many western societies, and even in the UK a recent trend toward re-ruralisation (Champion et al. 1987), the future of the western city promises even more hybridity. The search is now on to produce not only more sustainable growth of cities making their environmental impacts benign but also to avoid, in large capital cities, an inevitable suburban sprawl. Some new urban designs seek to make the distinction between town and country more indistinct. For example, Roxanne Warren’s urban oasis concept combines relatively high-density population centres with very high densities of preserved natural and planted vegetation (Warren 1998). The urban oasis concept removes the noise and pollution of the automobile in favour of automated people movers (APMs) connecting areas of dwellings or stations with the centre, other stations and peripheral car parks. One of the effects this has on the urban environment is to remove the roads and highways that dominate the contemporary city and that make it difficult for wildlife to be in or move through it. Towns would lose their noise and bustle and be more like rural locations. Parks would be a redundant concept since the natural environment would surround and link all human habitations. The building of oasis-type hybrids of city and country would, of course, alter the relationship between humans and non-humans. The perpetually disturbed nature of land in most contemporary cities means that the more specialist and demanding species are outcompeted by what Clark (2000b) calls weeds, those species that have literally become ‘world-wide weeds’ because they are adapted to disturbance and change. Oasis-type settlement structures would favour more settled native and local ecosystems and natural climax vegetation could in theory coexist once again alongside human centres. Although, as we saw in the introduction, a series of animals have learned to live in the cities, according to Clark (2000b) these too can be thought of as weed species, living off the byproducts and disturbances of humans and animals. However, the oasis concept would drastically alter the make-up of animals that could live alongside humans. Given the hugely emotive relationship between wildlife and modern cultures, there are already many ideas to enhance such hybrid living spaces. In particular, as Wolch et al. argue:



Efforts are increasing to alter the nature of interactions between people and animals in the city, and to change everyday practices of urban planners and environmental designers, and to defend more forcefully the interests of urban wildlife. Ultimately these efforts constitute a nascent transpecies urban practice, as yet poorly documented and undertheorized. (Wolch et al. 1995:746)

Clearly there is much that can and is being done in this direction, particularly in the USA. Wildlife can thrive, even in cities criss-crossed by busy highways, providing people are sympathetic to it and are properly educated. The White-tailed Deer has spread deeply into suburban eastern USA as a result of benevolent residents and much the same is true for the fox, badger and hedgehog in the UK (Witham and Jones 1987). However, educational programmes stressing resident participation have begun in the USA in addition to children’s programmes and courses on how to encourage and look after wildlife. Wildlife is now for the first time ever a component of urban planning, although it has beginnings back in the 1970s with the US Endangered Species Act which required all urban and rural developments to file a report on its impact on threatened or endangered wildlife (Wolch et al. 1995:746). Planners and developers are now also aware of the additional value that adjacent wildlife can place on properties. For example, Harney (1995) found that wildlife and native habitat was now more attractive to home shoppers than proximity to golf courses and tennis courts with this expressed by a willingness to pay premium prices. King et al. (1991) found in their study of Tuscon, Arizona, that proximity to native ecosystems significantly raised the price and the ‘willingness to pay’ over and above other valued open space areas such as landscaped parks, golf courses and large natural areas. Producing human settlement in a manner likely to produce a viable interrelation with wildlife now follows several strategies: zoning, public acquisition, transfer of development rights, environmental impact statements and wildlife impact and habitat conservation linkage fees (Wolch et al. 1995:747). More significantly, larger scale developments have become informed by these trends and it is from these variants of the oasis idea that we may see even more hybridised forms than the garden city idea at their heart: Environmental designers draw on understandings from conservation biology and landscape ecology to propose new metropolitan landscapes fit for occupation by wildlife as well as people. ... At the regional scale, wildlife reserve networks and wildlife corridor plans are currently in vogue, and examples can be found in many metropolitan areas. Wildlife reserve networks are systems of one or more core reserves (that is undisturbed ecosystems) linked through movement corridors that provide connectivity in the landscape matrix, allowing (in theory) even animals with large home ranges to survive and travel through metropolitan landscapes. Reserves and corridors must be surrounded by buffer zones which permit only gradually more intense human



land use. Wildlife corridors serve not only as movement paths between ‘mainland’ habitats beyond the urban fringe but as methods to connect gene pools and achieve overall landscape connectivity. (Wolch et al. 1995:748)

From Finnegan’s tales from Milton Keynes to the oasis design and wildlife corridors, hybrid worlds of ecosystems, animals and humans are an increasing element in contemporary life. However, for all that, they are limited for our purposes: they are tales of a modern city, not the small lifeworld of home and garden. Although the gardening aesthetic expanded to an all-encompassing, sumptuous scale in the garden city itself, its residents’ tales of their own gardens are overshadowed by those of the city’s planners, conservationists, teams of gardeners, landscapers, foresters and nurserymen. In relation to their work the residents are passive if appreciative. We need to look more specifically at modern gardening as a phenomenon to appreciate just how significant this hybridity has become. Modern gardening: the universal leisure Give me an ’ome among the gum trees With lots of plum trees A dog or two and a barbecue With flowers down the side And Vegies up the back All in Burke’s backyard (Theme song to Burke’s Backyard)

Don Burke’s primetime Australian programme is not exclusively about gardening, but it is exclusively about what happens in the garden, or as Australians call it, the ‘backyard’. This top-rated programme (ranked 15th out of all TV programming in Australia and first in terms of infotainment programming, with viewing figures of 1,735,000 nationally) has become popular in the UK and USA for precisely the reason that gardening (and doing things in one’s garden) is among the most significant leisure activities in the western world (The Australian May 31, 1999:12). This has remained the case for at least the past 30–40 years when leisure data have been collected. After television watching, Parker (1976) found that gardening was the most popular leisure pursuit for men occupying on average 12 percent of their leisure time – rising to 22 percent during the peak summer period (Parker 1976:124). For women, gardening was also one of their most popular leisure activities. According to Wilmott and Young (1973) about 14 million of the 18 million homes in Britain had a garden. Altogether this accounted for around 620,000 acres, a land mass the size of the county of



Dorset. On the basis that gardening was more popular among the higher socio-economic groups and that embourgouisement (growth in the middle-class composition of society) was spreading, it was predicted that gardening would become even more significant by the end of the century, heralding a rise in the demand for gardens and garden products (Wilmott and Young 1973:224). Subsequent studies in the 1980s confirm this prediction. For example, in 1984 Pahl shows that expenditure on gardening equipment rose from £235 million in 1974 to £600 million in 1980. It is most likely that this growth was associated with the aesthetic appeal of gardening rather than with instrumental reasons such as producing food. The Thorpe Report on vegetable growing in allotments, for example, shows that over the period from 1944 (when around 10 percent of British food was grown in allotments) to 1969 food growing for household purposes was in decline. Allotment holders were getting decidedly elderly, their associations were not recruiting younger people and they were finding it more difficult to let vacant plots (Pahl 1984:99). The aesthetic gardening traditions of Britain focus around the Royal Horticultural Society. It has encouraged not merely the art and passion for gardening, it has promoted new plant development, more gardening activities (such as gardening courses for children) and the opening of more private gardens for public access. As free time becomes more pressured than ever the growth of its membership from 114,500 in 1914 to 250,000 in 2000 demonstrates the robust place of gardening in British culture. By 1994, 51 percent of British men and 45 percent of women had participated in gardening in the four weeks prior to interview. After the age of 30 British men and women participate more avidly: 62 percent of men between 45 and 59 and 65 percent between 60 and 65; 57 percent of women between 45 and 59 and 54 percent between 60 and 65 (Office for National Statistics 1996:218). A mid-1990s survey showed that 37 percent of their London sample had done some gardening recently in comparison with less than 10 percent of New Yorkers (Stockdale et al. 1996:7). New York is not typical of the USA, of course. However, a 1998 survey by Leisure Trends Group found that gardening was not in the top American ten leisure activities, although it was the tenth favourite activity (6.9 percent of the sample said it was a favourite leisure activity) (Leisure Trends Group 1998). According to American Demographics (June 1996:7 cited in Gardening, February 6, 2000), around 40 percent of American gardeners in their sample grew flowers and 33 percent grew vegetables, although lawn care is the most significant gardening activity. By the year 2010 the number of gardening households is expected to grow by 17 percent, a projection which correlates with America’s ageing population. In line with the general shift away from gardening as a form of household provisioning and towards more aesthetic criteria, we should not be surprised to see that women gardeners in this American survey outnumbered men gardeners.



Such a view is also suggested by several other sources cited in Gardening, February 6, 2000. The Better Homes and Gardens (a DIY/gardening mix) readership survey found that 71 percent were women. In a survey conducted for the US Organic Gardening Magazine, 34 percent planned on doing more gardening over the next few years while over half intended to maintain their current effort. According to Marketing Tools Magazine (May 1997:34), the most avid and high-spending gardeners are white, university educated and middle class, a group that is represented substantially in the baby boom generations. Their survey found that contemporary US gardeners also garden predominantly for aesthetic reasons (70 percent), because they find it relaxing (66 percent) and because they enjoy being out of doors (70 percent). A 1996 study found that gardening was among the two most preferred leisure time physical activities in all subgroups of the US population (Crespo et al. 1996). It is not only in the Anglophone world that gardening is a principal pastime. In Belgium for example a 1983 survey found that gardening was the most popular hobby, practised by 40 percent of the sample (Govaerts 1989:80). Despite the general shortage of land in Japan (or perhaps because of it?) gardening/horticulture has enormous and stable appeal with over 40 percent of the population participating in it through the 1980s (Koseki 1989:129). Although we are able to find evidence for sustained if not rising interest in gardening it is clear that what people mean by gardening and what they find appealing about it has been subject to many changes over the second half of the twentieth century. In the next section we will shift attention to the changing nature of gardening in the later part of the twentieth century, in particular by considering aspects of its political economy and shifts in its styles and fashions. In doing this we will see that a gardening relationship with the natural world does not exist independently of social and cultural contexts, even if the generically active association that gardening encourages has remained relatively constant. The aesthetics of modern gardening According to John Brookes (1985), the typical English small garden (most were small) up until the mid-century was an amalgam of two traditions. First is what he calls ‘the labourer’s cottage garden’, a small, rambling, spontaneous affair with a mix of commonly grown plants. As the rural labourer was urbanised he gardened ‘more with produce in mind’ (mostly from necessity as we have seen) but the style of the cottage flower section remained. The second derives from a middle-class, smaller, suburbanised simulation of the grander gardens of the aristocracy, with emphases on lawns, border plantings and architectural and decorative features. As wages rose after the war, as food became more freely available and cheaper and as the horticultural industries became more consolidated, concentrated and standardised the two traditions grew together and



became entrenched and unchanging for almost 30 years. During the 1980s this orthodoxy began to break down in response to a series of labour market-related, aesthetic and environmental changes. In particular the long tradition of amateur enthusiasm, knowledgeability, specialism and association reasserted itself and challenged the standardisation that had crept into gardening, especially via the rationalisations of the universal garden centres, from the chemical industries and seed companies. The suburban garden According to Brookes (1985) and Wilson (1992) the suburban garden follows a certain basic form. As food production was replaced by more aesthetic considerations, the key element of aesthetic appeal derived from what Wilson (1992) calls pastoralism. In the mid-eighteenth century, under the leadership of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, English landowners rejected the formal geometric styles of planting in favour of a more natural or wilderness style. It is characterised by mixed groups of trees in clumps breaking up unmown or roughly grazed meadows of grasses and wild flowers. The entire effect required extensive landscaping to achieve the natural simulation of much larger landscapes: entire ranges of hills, upland and moors were favoured models, although humanity was not rejected in this scheme. The clumps and extensive areas of trees symbolised wild forest but they also attempted a gradual civilising of the landscape with more human intervention and presence towards the house and immediate grounds. Even when such a project is restricted to the large English parklands of great houses, the effect is less than successful. Far from conjuring an entire pastoral landscape it more frequently managed to produce what Wilson calls ‘the woodland edge’. In botanical terms the woodland edge, ‘where forest and meadow meet – is the most complex and textured ecosystem of all. There the numbers of species is greatest, the degree of cooperation and symbiosis the most advanced’ (Wilson 1992:96). Whether or not we agree with Wilson that ‘the edge’ had some psychological appeal as a dwelling space or not, it is easy to see how that edge can be simulated on a smaller and smaller scale while retaining the three essential features, the blurred boundary that the edge describes (much overlapping and intermingling), the relative density of the plant community and the transition from tall to tiny plants. Of course, the cottage garden was a relatively dense planting but it lacked two essential, defining features: field/ meadow and trees. After all, as a rural phenomenon in origin the cottage garden itself was surrounded by fields and trees. The most significant aspect of the pastoral garden for our purposes is its appreciation of the inevitable link between human and other natural species and spaces, the impossibility of maintaining a strict border and the desirability of hybridity. In placing great emphasis on the ‘edge’ these gardens demonstrate an aesthetic of significant attachment, that nature was not other, but part of the human sense of dwelling. Nature was not, in other words that domain



where humanity was absent, but precisely that domain where humanity was present and interacting with other species. In a sense the suburban garden was the rendering of the pastoral garden on the scale of the cottage garden space. In its most simplified and standardised form, as a small lawn with flower borders with perhaps a lone shrub or tree, it has been ridiculed as an icon of suburban aesthetic lethargy. For Wilson, the creative aesthetic of the English pastoral exported to the USA where it was ‘brought under control and stylised beyond recognition’: There, edges are not so much about diversity and interrelationship as they are about separateness. In the suburban landscape the edge is typically the property line, an assertion of conformity to the ideology of the home as private domain. (Wilson 1992:96)

However true this may be, it says more about American suburbia than suburbia per se. In the UK, for example, these smaller versions persisted for so long precisely because even when miniaturised, the essentially natural aesthetic had very widespread appeal. At the most extreme, the Japanese bonsai enthusiasm shows that the pastoral idea can be reproduced even in the confining space of the Japanese home or window ledge. A walk around a typical working-class, lower middle-class or upper middleclass suburb in England, whether in London or in the provinces, does not invoke standardisation, even though the basic pastoral form is unmistakable. Rather, one is immediately struck by the diversity, the difference and the creativity involved. To be sure, there are neglected gardens and the spartan gardens of the busy young family or those who have little time for gardening. Some are reduced to lawns and borders or lawns and hedges. In some where the lawn area has been retained but concreted over it is rarely the case that the concrete is left without potted plants to add a natural dimension and often even these recreate an edge-like diversity. Gardening requires gardeners who are reasonably fit with time on their hands and not all modern households are in the lifecycle stage consistent with these requirements. However, it would seem that a great majority manage to produce some form of garden throughout their adult lives. Perhaps what is most surprising is the overall high standard of gardens in the UK, regardless of class and income, standards which are set locally and by which individuals judge their own and others’ efforts. Here again, we must model in the historic place of a gardening aesthetic in British life. Central to that culture is the tradition of self-help journals, commercial and public broadcasting with accompanying literatures of all kinds. It has always been possible therefore to find encouragement and advice at every quarter. For many people The Complete Guide to Home Gardens produced by Associated Newspapers Ltd from the 1930s to the 1960s became the Bible on all matters related to gardens. The much-ridiculed suburban front garden was the subject of considerable advice and in this regard



the advice given is very far from standard. When ‘planting his little front garden’ it avers, the amateur is encouraged to consider the following five points: 1 To create a pleasant appearance from the road; 2 To create an inviting appearance to those entering from the road. Fragrant flowers alongside the path or between the cracks of the paving will assist here; 3 To provide easy access to the front door and side door (without any encouragement to tradesmen’s boys to cross the grass instead of using the path); 4 To create a pleasant picture as seen from the house windows; 5 To plan a garden that will be kept in good order. It is particularly essential that the front garden should be neat at all times. ( James 1940:14)

Moreover, during the peak period of suburban expansion the advice encouraged creativity and variation and discouraged conformity. What should one do with boundaries for example? For hedges in front gardens, the amateur is advised to try something a little more original than the monotonous privet hedge, so common in older gardens. The small-leaved Lonicera nitida makes quite as thick and close a hedge as privet, grows quite as easily, and is becoming more and more popular. For this reason I hesitate to advise its use, since it threatens to be just as monotonous as privet. I would rather suggest ... the use of Sweet Briars, which are very fragrant all through summer and are also generous with their flowers of buff and crimson shades. ... Another way to finish the front boundary of a little garden is to build a low wall, behind which a low border is banked. In the high border can be grown bushes of lavender or a similar dwarf evergreen shrub, which will gradually grow over the top of the wall. If preferred the wall top itself can be planted with aubretia, arabis, wallflowers or antirrhinums, making a floral boundary instead of an evergreen hedge. ( James 1940:14)

In countries where a long-standing gardening tradition is not widespread suburban gardens could become subject to different forces and influences. The picture Wilson paints of the classic American suburbs built in the 1950s and 1960s is a good example. Wilson is an invaluable and rare combination of horticultural and popular (human) cultural expertise. His book The Culture of Nature (1992) is a timely and thorough investigation of the relationship between modern Americans and their natures, but he is particularly valuable for his analysis of gardening as a natural relation. We will be drawing on his work extensively in the next section. Whereas the past weighed heavily on the aesthetic development of gardens and gardening in modern Britain, gardens in America took their cues from the progressive nature of modernisation. Whereas English gardens required a genuine mimicry of a traditional pastoral nature to produce that picturesque forest edge, a mimicry that depended upon a relatively dense and chaotic rambling and textured layering, following no specific pattern, American



gardens were influenced not by nature per se but by technology, standardisation, multiculturalism and rationalisation. In America even gardens became subject to the forces that created mass cultures and consumption. Indeed, the Ford motor plant which gave us the automobile and personal freedom also provided the logic of the suburb, which in turn seemed to require a similar response from a gardening public and horticultural industry. If English gardens reproduced an idealised interactive relation with nature, in modern America gardens reproduced the ideal of human domination and control. At all costs, the garden must respond to the technological, chemical and labour inputs and produce a high-quality, standardised output. At the same time the garden became an extension of recreational space, a rational backdrop for eating and other leisures. In this sense it aimed not to recreate nature but the more formal recreational parks, where ultimately success is measured by the promotion of human leisure activities. Although the English passion for gardening was already well advanced by first settlement on the eastern seaboard, the ethnic diversity of modern America meant that enthusiasm for gardening was variable, the lands that became developed for suburbs in central and western states were not uniformly suited to growing a diverse or familiar range of plants and as the suburbs grew dramatically after the Second World War, they were settled for the very first time by people who were uncertain about the new spaces they occupied. ‘These complex displacements and resettlements – and North American society in particular thinks of itself as mobile – have contributed to a jumble of landscape design styles’ (Wilson 1992:90). Newcomers to the suburbs may have inhabited nothing but small, gloomy and gardenless New York apartments or they may have come from the hundreds of towns that had grown to significant size in industrial development of the first half of the century. But even from such places it would be a mistake to assume much depth to their gardening cultures. For example, Middletown, an industrial town in the Midwest was (very unusually) the subject of a sociological community study in 1925 which was repeated during the depression year of 1935. The authors, Robert and Helen Lynd, noted several significant changes to home leisure between these two years: In the 1925 study the heavy loss of function of porch and back yard with the coming of the motor age was noted. In 1935 four changes in Middletown’s back yards were apparent: the development of back-yard grills for cooking al fresco picnic suppers; the coming of back-yard furniture, whereby back-yards had been fitted up, as a local news note characterised it, ‘like outdoor living rooms’; the revival of back-yard vegetable gardens; and the development of a mild mania for flower gardening. (Lynd and Lynd 1937:250–51)

The oxymoron in their fourth observation might be corrected to ‘sudden and passionate craze’ to judge by their elaboration of the phenomenon, but it is its suddenness that is noteworthy for our purposes.



There are at least five ingredients to North America’s jumble of modern garden hybrids. First, American suburban development created an entirely new and unknown living space. Unlike England or much of Europe, North America remained a largely rural society until the midtwentieth century. Whereas two thirds of the English population were urbanised by 1850 (and in gardened cottage-style homes by the 1880s), it was not until after 1960 that we can begin to speak of American society as urban. By 1970 ‘almost 70 percent of US citizens lived in the suburbs which became, ideologically at least the dominant landform on the continent’ (Wilson 1992:90). At the time, these suburbs seemed to acquire a mantle of normality, a quintessential icon of modern living, but such perceptions mask an underlying liminality: The suburb stands at the centre of everything we recognize as ‘fifties culture’. Beneath its placid aesthetic appearance, its austere modernism, we can now glimpse the tensions of a life that for many had no precedent. Until these tensions were brought to the surface in the 1960s, the suburb was a frontier. There were no models for a family newly disrupted by commodity culture, any more than there were for garden design in a place that had never existed before. It was as if nature and our experience of it were in suspension. Things were unfamiliar in the suburb, and it’s no surprise that people who could afford it fled whenever they could. Weekends and summer holidays were often spent not in the ersatz idylls of Don mills, Levittown or Walnut Creek but in what was imagined to be nature itself: newly created parks and lakes and recreation areas. Here at last, out of the car window, or just beyond the campsite or cottage, was an experience of nature that was somehow familiar. In fact it seems that this holiday place – and not the suburb – was nature. (Wilson 1992:100)

Second, the suburb, suburban living and domestic space is built around the motor car and high levels of personal mobility. ‘The car has encouraged – indeed insisted on – large scale development: houses on quarter acre lots, giant boulevards and expressways that don’t welcome bicycles or pedestrians, huge stores or plazas surrounded by massive parking lots’ (Wilson 1992:91). Such rationalisation produces a polarisation of time between work and shopping out of home and an intensive use of the home, increasingly, as a leisure site. The use of the car for almost all trips away from the home has further made it a private oasis and the neighbourhood increasingly irrelevant in people’s day-to-day life. Third, suburban developments are made in such a way as to erase all senses of locale replacing them with a sense of the modern and progress. Whatever regional, local, biotic or cultural specificities existed beforehand, they were cleared in favour of an instantly recognisable standard suburban development. It is the opposite of the ‘tradition’-sensitive design work that informed the building of Milton Keynes in the UK. In the wake of large-scale development, top soils, drainage patterns, plant and animal communities are irrecoverably removed, soils are compacted



and rendered problematic for many types of horticulture. A complete gardening makeover is required and that provides the basis for the development of a fourth ingredient, a specialised and standardised gardening technology and flora for a universal suburban garden. Whereas prior to suburban development, most locales had encouraged local nurseries to rear plants best suited to its soil types, pH, drainage and climate, suburbanisation requires the opposite, the search for common denominator plants and hybrids. Frequently, some local native plants and trees would have been on the independent local growers’ stock lists, but they were slowly to disappear as the gardening market became concentrated in a fewer number of superchains with their national stock lists and their outlet, the garden centres. Plants have had to be found that will tolerate the aridity, soil compaction, salt spray from roads and increasingly toxic air and water. The new plant had to be fast growing, adaptable to propagation in containers and showy. Because showy typically means exotic, native species were doubly damned (Wilson 1992). These were joined by another part of the suburban gardening aesthetic, the evergreen: ‘The junipers, spruces, yews, and broadleaf evergreens planted throughout the temperate regions of the continent say “green” and thus evoke nature over and over again.’ Again, native species that drop their leaves in winter become untidy and wreck all attempts to clothe a home with stable natural designs. Fifth, despite standardisation and rationalisation, suburban gardening aesthetics did emerge around several influences: the English pastoral, modernism and what has come to be called California style. The English pastoral is a ubiquitous aesthetic in the USA, but its central focus has shifted (or simplified) from any notion of a forest edge towards a perfect lawn. Lawn care and maintenance is the main gardening job and the lawn, stretching down seamlessly to the sidewalk and over to the neighbour’s lot, dominates the garden landscape. The lawn has come a long way from the multi-species meadow of the English park; hardy, tolerant grass breeds that respond well to weedkillers and routine doses of chemical fertilisers. The lawns are set in context by the foundational plantings of shrubs that are also kept to soft consistent lines through constant clipping. The lawn is also the centre of a massive lawn economy. Besides the chemical back-up, lawns have spawned an ever-developing technology: mowers, clippers, edgers, weed wips, leaf blowers, fertiliser spreaders, watering devices. This has become a masculine domain, which became fully formed perhaps with the arrival of the sit-on mower, another garage device that required a mechanical manager. Wilson argues that as men relaxed on their lawns and motor mowers, women had been displaced as the principal American gardeners around the rural spaces of kitchen gardens and barnyard (Wilson 1992:97). Modernism was another option that found expression at all levels of American society, although it derived mainly from architecture rather than horticulture and thus tended towards the elite end of the market.



Nonetheless, its ideas were important and relevant here. According to Wilson, the garden became an extension of the living space (Wilson 1992:101) and design work was closely linked to the character and needs of clients. Thomas Church’s Californian designs made connections between the garden and the home, blurring the boundary and smudging lines. In his work we begin to see the origins of architectural plants, plants which have strong structural and aesthetic kinship with built structures. Such gardens de-emphasised the centrality of blooms and used plants to create moods other than the picturesque: shade gardens appear, minimalist gardens and gardens that link the home to the surrounding environment both built and natural. Critical among this movement was borrowing and hybridisation: influences came from Japanese and Moslem gardens, from the Mediterranean and Mexico. Sensitivity to form and locality produced in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright a rejection of European orthodoxies and the introduction of indigenous plantings. His work in the prairie region attempted to blend built form into natural surroundings and the garden was a significant means by which it was achieved. From there an interest in native gardens developed in the USA and was later adopted with great enthusiasm by Australians and New Zealanders. Garrett Eckbo extended these ideas to a more rigorous use of ecological principles in landscape architecture. While much of this modernist movement in gardening remained avant garde and of little influence over the mainstream, it did slowly gather support and provide leadership for the destandardising movements of the 1970s onwards. However, one variant of modern styles, the Californian style, became an icon of modernising America, particularly for coastal, warm and western regions. The Californian style was an epiphenomenon of its mixed ethnic base populations and geography. A legacy of Spanish architecture and gardening aesthetics, a white waspish elite who built successful industries and retired there, a working class comprised of Japanese and other migrants who tended the gardens of the wealthy adding their own knowledge and aesthetic sensibilities and an orientation across the Pacific to Asia and Asian cultures: ‘The spare use of stone, the presence of water, the textural possibilities of wood and gravel: these are Japanese design strategies that have had ... far reaching influence on North American gardens’ (Wilson 1992:104): There is a similar history in plant use. Juniper and yew and false cypress, euonymus, azalea, weigela, spiraea, honeysuckle, and scores of other plants in common use today all originate in the temperate forests of Japan and China. ... Junipers in particular proved to be adaptable to virtually every North American climate and along with a small number of indigenous Californian species have become the most common garden plants. Most importantly these Californian species have been able to survive the droughty conditions of the modern city and suburb. (Wilson 1992:105)



Although we can identify variations in modern American gardening, it became subject to modernising forces to a more marked degree. Its style of suburban development, combined with the erosion of localism, the absence of robust and ubiquitous gardening traditions, the elaboration of convenience gardening backed up by standardised plants and rationalised, national market-orientated garden centre commodification produced an enduring and long-lived set of modern gardening forms. However, the modernist gardens of the avant garde were not the only sources from which challenges to this consumerist gardening aesthetic.

Destandardising gardens The environmental and ecological movement which gained apace in the 1970s identified the suburban gardening regime as environmentally inappropriate, damaging and unsustainable. They pointed to the environmental consequences of such gardens for water tables and catchments, not least from fertiliser and pesticide run-off. But the concerns of a ‘risk society’ went deeper than air and water pollution. The use of chemical and genetic technologies in contemporary agriculture gave grounds for serious concern and resulted in the recruitment of the relatively young and inexperienced alternative movements to gardening circles: this time to grow not enough food but safe foods. Fruit and vegetable and gardening and the mixed garden came back in vogue once more. Amateur gardening in the UK and elsewhere was predicated on plant collecting, experimentation, hybrid proliferation, and local specialism and gardeners found that the new horticultural regime had rationalised seed and plant lists to a mere fraction of those offered ten years before. The cry to maintain diversity was underlined by another chorus demanding taste: not only had agriculture companies placed profit before taste in developing and supplying farmers with varieties that stored well and provided top yields, increasingly, the older, tasty varieties were being cut from supplies to the amateur. The relatively sterile acres of lawn and low shrubs that characterised suburban gardens everywhere was also under fire from the gardening media establishment who championed many of these objections. Aside from the fact that they made little sense in most places and provided limitations on what could be done with backyard spaces, a new sensitivity to suburban wildlife became firmly established. Gardens were not merely a token green space for societies that had destroyed nature, gardens could be extensive enough, sufficiently interlinked and planted in such a way to provide a sustainable habitat for a range of local wildlife. English urban gardens are now recognised as critical habitats and strongholds for many species of animal, bird and plant. The recent reluctance among gardeners to use chemical fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides together with a desire to encourage wildlife has shifted the balance of



relationships between humans and non-human animals. At one time the countryside provided a refuge from predation by humans but now, as the rapidly rising numbers of urban foxes in England and White-tailed Deer in the USA testify, suburbia is a relatively safer place than many intensively farmed countrysides (see Franklin 1999:46–7). The native garden movement in Australia was tied in with most of these new demands: native species were more drought resistant and adapted to local soils; native species did not require fertiliser or pesticides, but attracted birds to control outbreaks of pests; native species were resistant to fire; native species were symbiotic with native birds, moths, butterflies and marsupials. Hence in Don Burke’s Information Guide vol. 6 (1994), he tells us: ‘Getting rid of lawns and planting shrubs means more nesting and hiding places for Australia’s dwindling small bird population.’ The other key contemporary media gardening team on the ABC is headed by Peter Cundall. An abrasive Englishman and northerner, Cundall typifies the new breed of horticultural adviser: organic methods and fertilisers are de rigueur; alternatives to chemical agents are experimented with, demonstrated and always preferred; gardens are to be tailored to particular places and needs and the range is limited only by our imagination; gardens cannot be understood or successfully managed without a keen knowledge of the garden as a complete micro-ecosystem; the consequences of gardening do not end on the fence line; gardening is a creative, innovative tradition of association and self-help that need not rely on the garden centre. Through the 1980s and 1990s, organic domestic gardening became the orthodoxy, largely through an enlightened older generation of gardeners rather than champions from the alternative movement. The soil associations around the world began to expand their promotion of organic growing methods by establishing seed banks to foil the large companies. But organic methods meant more than substituting organic material for synthetic. Organic horticulture challenged the western aesthetics of gardening in many ways, often by drawing on lessons from peasant and swidden horticulturalists around the world – and from the European past. It was from such logic that Geoff Hamilton’s (1990) Ornamental Kitchen Garden originated. Geoff Hamilton was Britain’s leading voice in gardening through the 1980s and 1990s. In the late 1980s he began one of his most influential projects, to grow a completely new type of garden where fruit, vegetables and flowers were grown together rather than in separate areas; where plants were not sown or grown in rows but in patches and interplanted with other species; where yield and variety were higher and where the entire effect was to be beautiful. A series was made about the making of this garden from a blank garden space in winter to the finished effect in high summer and it attracted top viewing figures. Hamilton went beyond organic gardening with this project, in particular in rejecting alternative pesticides made from less persistent plant origins. Why, he asked, use a chemical that will kill all insects regardless of whether they are useful



or pests? ‘No, the only way is to co-operate with nature and let natural methods keep pests and diseases in check. Apart from a few physical barriers, I’m going to suggest that you chiefly rely on growing really strong, healthy plants that will be able to shrug off pest and disease attack. You should also provide the conditions that suit a variety of natural predators that will do your pest control for you’ (Hamilton 1990:13). A talk with a naturalist had me convinced. I discovered that it isn’t necessary to fill your gardens with stinging nettles and thistles in order to attract butterflies and you don’t have to grow native oaks to get birds to nest. Native plants are by no means essential to build up a population of wildlife that will help control pests and diseases and fill your days with delight too. Just grow as wide a diversity of plants as you can; all mixed happily together and let nature do the rest. (Hamilton 1990:14)

If this was not the way all gardens were to move overnight, it was the birth of a new period of non-conformity, innovation and change in England. The fact that Hamilton’s garden was in Rutland, UK, was significant: it was this local variable that was placed back into the gardening hybridity. Locality, too, must be a consideration in deciding what can be grown well. If Hamilton’s ornamental kitchen garden revolutionised standard and slightly stiff approaches to gardening in the UK, Jackie French’s Wilderness Garden, subtitled Beyond Organic Gardening, was the product of the younger and alternative generation’s approaches to gardening. In Australia, it was possible for communes and those wishing an alternative, back-to-the-land lifestyle to do so quite cheaply and easily. A large spread of land with good soils and water and a warm climate was within the grasp of most poor people willing to give it a try and many did. For Jackie French the work involved in producing an ornamental kitchen garden with the order for it to be ‘first and foremost a thing of beauty and a place of leisure’ (French 1992:14) is flawed. Hamilton’s garden manages to have the highly tended, orderly look even though it avoids standardisation. On the front cover Hamilton’s model garden is shown to be perfected mixed beds and lawn on a small intensive scale; Hamilton poses for camera while leaning on his fork. French, by contrast, begins her book with a warning: ‘Beware of the gardens of the righteous!’ Or ‘How never to weed, feed or dig your garden again, and throw away your lawn mower’ (French 1992:1). Like Hamilton, she has her own garden in southern New South Wales as a model for her Australian readership: Our garden is about one hectare. It feeds us, the birds, the wombat, and about 40,000 other species. Weeks go by without us doing any work in the garden at all, except to harvest. By most standards it is a mess, but it is a beautiful and productive mess. (French 1992:2)

Against Hamilton’s premise that his audience want to spend their time tending a garden, French is the opposite, that we have too little time these



days: ‘A garden should be no more than ten minutes’ work a week, not counting, picking and lawn mowing.’ A series of high-density planting strategies combines with organic principles, plant diversity, mulches and no-dig methods lie at the heart of her modus operandi. Using cheap, recycled household material guarantees that her garden is a hybrid of plants and consumer durables: fruit being grown in banks of used tyres; organic slug bait in used margarine tubs. Most important of all, French avers, Australians must learn to garden in a way that makes sense in Australia: We need to develop new styles of growing things that suit our country. Australia has different soil structures and pest and predator relationships. Our plants respond to heat and light and pests and drought in ways that have hardly been studied. Here lack of water or harsh heat governs what we can grow; whereas in northern climates the limitations are set by available sunlight. We need to model our growing methods on the bush around us, not on the outdated stereotypes from Europe and the United States. We need to go beyond growing methods when labour was cheap. (French 1992:12)

The difference between Hamilton and French is not merely to do with climate and biology. Typically, Australians have bigger, quarter-acre blocks of land or more and this has encouraged labour-saving plantings in the way that the tiny English garden has encouraged labour intensity. As Hamilton observes: ‘But gardeners do have the time, and indeed it’s in order to spend time growing plants that we garden in the first place. In any case, on a small scale the extra labour involved is minimal.’ Gardens, nature and society The line from Hamilton to French describes the arrival of a new gardening regime that rejected and upturned the suburban garden of the 1950s and 1960s. In place of standardisation we have the emphasis on diversity and choice; in place of the universal garden, plant and horticultural product we find an emphasis on the local, the specific, the contingent; in place of a modern aesthetic predicated around lawns and shrubs (gardens full of lines, borders, divisions) we find a postmodern aesthetic of de-differentiation, blurring, (gardens with inter-planting, a mingling of the decorative and useful, literally messy and disordered); in place of reliance on the scientist and horticultural adviser as the source of a rational logic for gardens, new logics arrive from within a risk society. First, there is the risk of human contamination and pollution from the very materials that were to make agriculture a secure source of food. The garden is changed so as to provide a secure safe source of organic produce and drops out of chemical dependency and complicity in environmental harm. Second, there is the risk that gardens become yet another means of destroying nature as wildlife. Gardens can instead work with



nature, encourage nature and in so doing produce natural solutions to gardening problems. The environmental and risk discourses are not merely to be understood as the means by which gardens changed, it is also implicit that they produced a more natural garden, as if the new forms were lesser products of the human hand and lesser products of the human mind than the old. Environmentalism and the sorts of reflexivity born of the risk society became the basis of heroic social movements, they were ideas that begged action. There is much to admire in their achievements but as with many social movements they tended to simplify and to dichotomise in order to make clear what needed doing. In their scheme the suburban garden became a synthetic, man-made object of culture and because it was an unnatural thing to do with nature, it was wrong; it went wrong because it was a wrong thing to do in the first place. Gardens were historically conceived as essentially natural entities. Up until very recent times, it could be conceived, gardens were composed of essentially natural processes, wrought with essentially natural materials. Such a view of course understates the essential presence and management by humans, as though while in the garden they were nature themselves, performing a natural role. Gardens were to home as nature was to culture, a fundamental opposition and dichotomy. However, this opposition is completely ridiculous. From any point of view the garden is a hybrid of nature and humanity, and even that simplifies the assembly of objects into too crude a classification. Modern gardens from the sixteenth century onwards began to have a global metropolitan quality, gardens became showcases of plant collections and, in a sense, plant collections became one of the first kinds of consumer commodities, the subject of fashions, passions, competitions, investments – even in extremes, currency itself. Against nature, plants from a perverse range of ecosystems and climates were grown on one site – often challengingly – and unsuitable new technologies, greenhouses, hotbeds, watering systems, soil chemistry all contributed to create these hybrid global gardens. The sheer diversity of plant species around the world provided the basis for professional plant collectors to send back seeds and cuttings for reproduction and sale. However, very early on, flower gardening itself became defined as a particularly apt, improving, rational recreation and gardens became metaphors of an ideal order: caring patriarchs, producing an order in the face of potential chaos; lovingly changing and shaping their charges; using rational scientific principles as the guiding star. As we have seen such a view permeated a critical mass of England’s social elite (yet more networks): paternalist capitalists, the church and local government recommended and encouraged gardening to a mass culture. We have also seen how this was taken to extremes in the case of England where, through control over the operation and regulation of the housing market it became characterised by its gardens in a dramatic series of innovations, from model housing between 1800 and 1850; bye-law housing



between 1870 and 1900 and from the garden-city concept between 1920 and 1970. In each successive case, the garden element became more prominent. Although gardening became extensively commodified and used in social surveillance and regulation, it was further shaped (in ways that remain to be fully fathomed) by the labour and exchanges of its amateur networks. Through the exchange of information, expertise and technological procedures, the original plants were transformed out of all recognition. By as early as 1830 practically every growing plant was a hybrid and every group of plants had been expanded into hundreds if not thousands of varieties. Some types of plants such as standard roses or fuchsias were entirely created for aesthetic purposes; some plants were clipped for barriers or hedges; others were sculpted into ornamental and decorative shapes; some plants were fused with others to create shady arbors. Plants it seemed could be gardened in such a way that all manner of statements, moods and displays could be achieved. Clearly then, at the point when the classic suburban garden came into being it was very far from being distinctly natural or nature. However, by exactly the same token, the classical suburban garden was very far from being purely synthetic, a point which recent critics seem to miss. Wilson rails against the absurdity of this artificial creation, with its endless elaboration of technologies of lawncare, pest control, watering systems, garden furniture and barbecue cookwares as if the entire object was not a natural relation in the first place. We are encouraged to think that in the suburb gardening itself was reduced to a household chore, so much had garden space become an extension of household space. Like so many chores, it was inherently unstimulating – the image Wilson paints of the long suffering on their sit-on lawn mowers up and down the land conveys this impression. Gardening appears to be reduced to controlling, keeping down, maintaining. Fighting against natural growth rather than creating a relation with it. In the classic suburban garden, there seems to be no growing element to it. From foundation planting of shrubs and the laying of turf, there is nothing for the subsequent owners to do but clip and mow and dispose of the waste. The low maintenance garden. But had gardens really become predominantly like that? One must suspect not. In the first place, the consumerism of the classic suburban garden needs to be emphasised. Consumers flock to prime-time gardening television and radio for a continuous input of gardening articles. Why would they if all they did was clip, mow and dispose? The contents of Burke’s Backyard shows us that they are interested in a much wider range of issues and activities. The show divides into five generic types of content. The first, called ‘In the garden’ comprises articles and feature on plants themselves (particularly how to grow them), gardening techniques, garden styles/ design and indoor gardening. The second is called ‘Pets, backyard and native animals’ and has articles on every kind of animal from worms and insects upwards. The third section is about life in the garden and extends gardening into crafts, recipes, making things and food and nutrition. The



fourth section is called ‘Conservation and the environment’ and explores the links between the garden and the environment and the relation between plants and habitats. Finally, there is a section called ‘People and places’ which takes us to key people (garden designers, master gardeners etc.) organisations (botanical gardens, National Rhododendron Garden, Royal Easter Show etc.), gardens of famous people (e.g. Beatrix Potter) and famous places/gardens (‘An Englishman’s home’, Longford Hall, Adelaide). One of the defining characteristics of gardening magazines is their essentially mobility: they are acutely aware of themselves as attempting not to teach people how to produce the perfect garden or acquire the necessary skills, but to change and alter their gardens, to do new and different things. The restless, unsettled, innovative and inquiring origins of modern gardening in botany, dilettante science, amateur association and horticultural competition continues to define contemporary gardening, moving it forward constantly, improving, inventing, introducing, sharing – always changing. In the context of so much movement, garden collections and plantings often become tired and unfashionable before they reach the end of their lives; one garden design is always conceived during the time of its predecessor. It is not surprising therefore that on Burke’s Backyard ‘gardening makeovers’, where the team go out on location to an ordinary person’s garden to recreate it, are the most popular segment (Burke 1994: Introduction). Could gardeners be perverse enough to keep their gardens unchanging while finding garden makeover compulsory viewing? One suspects not. Second, far from being a necessary part of the suburban gardener’s complacency, the garden centre became the perfect vehicle for a more mobile, transformative approach. Garden centres are predicated on displays of new materials, designs, plants and technologies and in this sense they are unlike their predecessor, the independent plant nurseries and seed merchants. If anything the latter were merely responsive to demands whereas the garden centres attempt to create desires. Much of contemporary garden centre space is given over to current technological hardware rather than plants and seeds and this highly profitable line of business depends, as with any other capitalist business, on finding ever new systems, materials, designs, techniques. In recent years, for example, we have seen weedmat and light-screening technologies to cut down work on weeds and alter the growing conditions of the garden. We have seen, in succession, greenhouse technologies, hydroponics, raised beds and mulching technologies; conservatories have been added to homes, pergolas have been raised, hotbeds have been resurrected from the Victorian garden while the organic revolution has produced technologies for composting, worm farming, liquid feeding, biological pest control and no-dig methodologies. Third, a related point – gardening has always been subject to fashion. All aspects of gardening are fashion prone: colour, style of garden, plant types, the mix of projects within any one garden, structures and materials, water



Garden centres now promote ‘native plants’, formerly considered weed or pest species (Source: Adrian Franklin)


features etc. The classic suburban garden as typified by Wilson would always fall victim to changing fashions, but at particular risk would be the foundational plantings, plantings of summer annuals and plants associated with particular features (pergolas sell climbers; conservatories promote cactus and ferns; greenhouses hugely increased orchid growing). Through a consumerist gardening regime, the emphasis is therefore not merely on change and makeover, it is also laid on design, garden creation and on growing, nurturing and management. According to Wilson the classic suburban garden is predominantly lawn and shrubs and far from being a useful, useable space, it is kept in a clipped and mown state in order to convey the correct impression of orderliness and respectability to neighbours and visitors. Such a view suggests that the relationship between the gardener and the plants is simply one of control and routine maintenance. One might object to this view on aesthetic or empirical grounds. Just because a garden is simplified to lawn and shrubs does not mean that the garden can be reduced to a signification. Even on their own, lawns are very evocative of the pastoral aesthetic and they need only the merest depth and texture around them to evoke the forest edge so loved by the English wilderness garden or park. More mundanely, lawns prompt association with fields, cultivation, pastures and to societies with powerful orientations to the cultivated countryside, lawns can convey a



sense of tradition, safety, familiarity and an order that is more universal than orderliness (of homes and households). Lawns are not unchanging, they are one of the most responsive plants to the spring and their colour changes during summer, autumn and winter, providing a subtle natural barometer of change. Lawns are also highly sensual and our embodied experiences of lawn cannot be ignored. Lawns are associable with softness and luxury; they are one of only two natural surfaces upon which modern humans willingly lie down (and thus they connote sexuality, particularly, perhaps, the sexuality of youth); lawns are the surfaces upon which most key western sports originated and upon which modern parks are laid and are therefore to be associated with pleasure, leisure, free time and again perhaps, youth. Further, lawns are sensual because they have a characteristic smell after rain, during the summer, after they are mown. And such aromas assist in the associational translations of a relatively small grassy space to a range of aesthetic pleasures and places. For these reasons, it is a mistake to assume that lawns are aesthetically dead zones. Owners of lawns are likely to gain a great deal of pleasure from them without being, as it were, in constant horticultural association. One can also object to Wilson’s rejection of the suburban garden on empirical grounds. Where is the evidence that gardening has been reduced to a chore like housework or to reactive maintenance rather than proactive creation? In fact the evidence we have already seen seems to point the other way. Typical leisure surveys are based on participation in a given range of leisure over a period, typically a few weeks prior to the survey. These all show that gardening is a common activity but they say little about the quality of the experience. However, we have seen that the surveys by Crespo et al. (1996) and Marketing Tools Magazine (1997) and Leisure Trends Group (1998) all found that gardening was a favourite leisure. Crespo et al. found that it was among the top two preferred physical activities in every subgroup of the US population. According to Marketing Tools Magazine (cited in Gardening 2000) gardening was most unlike housework: 70 percent of respondents said they gardened for aesthetic reasons, 66 percent because they found it relaxing and 70 percent because they enjoyed being out of doors. According to a survey by a British gardening TV programme New Eden, one in four women prefers gardening to sex and 4 percent admitted having had sex in their garden (Electronic Telegraph 1420, 15 April 1999). The idea that millions of mindless Americans maintain slavishly a wasteground of lawn and shrub is wrong. Rather, their gardens are projects, things that have to be imagined and then designed, planted and grown: in this way the relation of the gardener to the garden and its plants is very different. During the growing seasons, individual plants and gardens change dramatically over relatively short periods of time. If suburbanites occupy working lives where much is unchanging, routine and humdrum, then their gardens can provide the opposite: things that are constantly changing, developing, budding, blooming – all the verbs we



identified at the beginning of this chapter. Better than automatic goods, these things have the mystery of life, they run the gauntlet of existence among potentially hostile conditions, they provide the excitement of germination, the assurance of growth and the promise of flowering and fruiting. In the growing season gardens are always in a state of transition. Gardeners are not complacent, indeed they are caught up in the performances and dramas of their plants and the conditions in which they must live and these are dramas in which they have written the plot, if not the screenplay.

7 Embodiment The cloud passed: the moon shone bright and firm again. In the morning, when the sun rose, it could still be seen as a pale disc low in the sky. Mabs waved to the disc as if to a friend, when she rose early to help with the cows. Lights flashed behind the Tor; she could not be sure why. She had noticed the phenomenon before. ‘Something’s going to happen’, she said to the moon, feeling a small excitement grow within her. (Weldon 1980:86)

One of the most profound shifts in late modern cultural change has to do with the questioning of the Cartesian dualism between mind and body and by extension mind and nature and culture and nature. Cartesian thinking provides one of the blueprints for the development of modernity: a secular, progressive, rational and controlled project, separated from but parasitic on the natural world: We can understand Descarte’s vision of the body as a machine as part of the more general movement within religious cultures that stressed the rational capacity of human beings to grasp the world and to understand it through non-religious means. This secular world was to be controlled simply by the use of neutral technology. Descartes therefore drew a significant distinction between the soul and the body, regarding the body simply as a machine directed by instructions from the soul. (Turner 1996:9)

Thus the mind is separated from the body, the body is subordinated to the mind and cognitive rationalisation became dominant. According to Turner, Cartesianism operated within three domains. ‘Within the area of thought and rational inspection’; superstition, spirits, magic and other forces were banished, ‘leaving the rational mind dominant in the field of consciousness’ (Turner 1996:10). In this way, people became alone in the world. Not only did the world become disenchanted from a spiritual and magical world, but those remnants of animism that connected humans and animals (and other elements of the natural world) – even during mediaeval Christendom – on a common plane of existence were shattered on logical grounds. Although our bodies told us we were just like them,



Cartesianism preached that we were unique because we alone had a soul. Animals only seemed to be like us because we were still stuck with the mechanical body, whereas that was all they were. Second, the emotions, sexuality and affective life were controlled through ‘the regulation and discipline of the human body’. Various regimes of discipline were devised, from the extraordinary emphasis on work as one of the few legitimate acts of the body, to the banishment or mannering of body processes such as excretions, noises, functions and posture, to the ritual disciplines of diets, purges and other technologies. Third, Cartesianism was imposed wherever western nations created colonies, an insistence, in other words, that no proper human can be allowed to operate otherwise, and therefore there was set in train a creeping globalisation/universalisation of western Cartesian dealings with the natural world. Modern cultures were predicated on the maintenance of these boundaries and the implications of this for human relations with the natural world have been profound. In particular, relevant and useful knowledge of the world was only possible in a mindful manner, through abstraction, modelling and mental experimentation. Modernity favoured and developed a mental understanding of nature over and above an embodied, sensual or spiritual understanding. These were, after all, the sorts of knowledge that science and other enlightenments were to replace. Modern sociology and anthropology were also influenced by a cognitivist approach to the understanding of humanity. What counted as interesting and relevant knowledge about people were their thoughts, what cognitive and rational sense they made of the world, and, for our purposes here, how elements of the natural world around them were used as tools of communication – symbols, metaphors, metonyms of and for the social. Ultimately what counted was the production of social facts. Cartesian philosophy came through to contemporary sociology via the philosophical chain linking Locke and Kant but it was not without incident. Feuerbach criticised German Cartesian thought through his sensualism, a view of humanity that recognised inner projects of the sensual self alongside external projects involving transforming nature. The body is evident in the sociology of Karl Marx who was influenced by Feuerbach: a body of ‘species being’ with material needs satisfied by the labouring body; a practical body collectively at work transforming nature; a real body inextricably involved with the real stuff of the world. Frederik Nietzsche was far more heavy handed with Cartesian thought. In the opposition between Dionysian and Apollonian drives, he established a tension between rationality and control and the need for sensuality, ecstasy, excess and uncontrol. Whereas the Dionysian rational order was safely ensconced and protected in the ordered city, the Apollonian sought refuge in the opposite, in wild nature. This is perhaps why it is that nature has seemed like the most appropriate space for this escaping Apollonian spirit, as we shall see later. The future somehow lay in the



freeing up and exercising of the embodied passions. Postmodernity, therefore, is in some sense, by definition, the reassertion of the body and of sensuality. Although sociology was relatively fast to identify postmodern change, it was relatively slow to acknowledge the social significance of the body. In contrast to anthropology, which quickly homed in on the significance of the body in terms of its symbolic and ritual loadings and in terms of its potential dangers on the borders of nature and culture, Turner argues that sociology set off on an entirely different, disembodied trajectory. Classical sociology was predicated on questions specific to the emerging industrial capitalist societies of its day. It asked ‘what are the defining characteristics of urban, industrial society?’ and ‘how can humanity survive such a problematic, alien and anomic environment? (Turner 1991:6). Not surprisingly the sociologies of Weber, Pareto and Parsons ‘took economics and law as models for the formulation of the basic notions of actor, action, choice and goals’ (Turner 1991:7). Although with Marx the body was of conceptual interest, it was overshadowed by bigger questions of historicity, namely: ‘How do societies enter history?’ After Marx social change became firmly fixed as the principal task facing sociology, a route that was bound to bypass what Turner (1991:8) calls ‘the question of the body as an historical issue’. Moreover, once Weber had distinguished between the sociological significance of action as opposed to the asocial embodied nature of behaviour, the body was bracketed off or externalised from the ‘actor’ into investigations of the organic and lost to other disciplines such as medicine, physiology and psychology. From the legacy of Nietzsche and the work of Foucault the body became an important historical question in the 1980s. After all, as Foucault argues, it was through the body (surveillance regulation, discipline, punishment etc.) that the modern order was established and maintained. To this list of formative writers we must also add Elias whose civilising thesis hinged on the establishment of body control, manners, etiquettes and the management of violence through self-control and a growing state apparatus. However, as leisure theorists have maintained, Nietzsche, and other writers who challenged the Cartesian modern order, have done so often via calls to release the body from the panoptic grip. Leisure provided the space in which to explore desires, pleasures and hedonist sub-cultures. Rational approved leisures such as sea bathing, alpinism, dancing and music all formed the basis on which less approved ‘behaviour’ could and did develop. During the twentieth century Cartesian rationalism lost ground to explorations of the body in terms of desires and pleasures, sexuality, consumption, style and sub-culture. Since the 1980s there have been various further challenges to the cognitive, rational and mental norms of modernity. In modern art for example, the abstract modernism and minimalism of the mid-century produced for some an impossible reduction of experience to what can be



thought. Modernism seemed only interested in the idea, the concept, the refined, the rational and distilled ‘essence’ – culminating perhaps in Robert Ryman’s square canvasses of white paint; indeed an entire career spent painting white squares of paint. A pure concept much misunderstood and disliked, of course, by the middlebrow. As Collins (1999:145) said of minimalism: ‘To see something there instead of nothing much required a massive effort’. It was through the work of Francis Bacon, Damien Hirst and Jake and Dinos Chapman that this rarefied, sterilised, white atmosphere was punctured by the assertion of an unsanitized and mentally unstable body. Through disturbingly fleshy, grotesque and organic images of the physicality of life, these artists forced people to think of their carnality. Bacon depicted depravities, bodies unbeautiful, monsters and haunting nightmares. Bacon saw that modernity could not banish the body as a sight for uncontrol, decline, illness or deviation, but also that notwithstanding attempts to control and tame the body, its failure was inevitable and the modern body would become the site of chaos and decline. Modernity wanted progress, perfection and made death and illness seem like failure. Artists such as Bacon seemed to be saying we must live with nature as it is, with all of its imperfections, warts and all. But more than that, following Goya, it was fairly obvious that when viewed through the atrocities and other outcomes meted out on the body, the orderliness of modernity was an illusion and the essentially grim condition of the embodied self was significant, eye catching and compelling. More crucial than the cool and safety of the rational, inner soul. The modern art of high modernity valued control, simplicity and order in a manner that looked for poise, cool, intellect and beauty – modernity had tried to banish the body, the grotesque and the underbelly of an ordered society beneath its smooth clean surfaces. Artists of the 1970s and 1980s took Bacon as a powerful influence extending his work to explore the body in a multitude of ways. The works of Gilbert and George, for example, belong to a late modern genre that has exposed not just the ordinary but the seamier side of life, including a fascination with the ‘grim’. The Tate Gallery in London includes their Gordon’s Makes Us Drunk (1977), Happy (1980), Deatho Knocko (1982), Death Hope Life Fear (1984) and Naked Eye (1994) and more recent work focuses on forbidden subjects such as faeces and sperm etc. Human Shits of 1994, for example, features two phallic looking turds in the foreground, with Gilbert and George standing naked behind them. Indeed Gilbert and George’s art is always sculpture in which their own bodies are the subjects if not always the performative medium. Human dealings with the natural world are also exposed, particularly the grimmer and shocking aspects. Here, for example, Damien Hirst exposed the hidden and forbidden side of meat eating with graphic displays of flayed beef cattle heads, an entire body a Great White shark (a protected species), sections of a dairy cow and calf or a dead sheep preserved in formaldehyde entitled Away from the Flock. The body was particularly big in the late 1980s, starting in New York:



Perhaps its rise in the first place was due to the obsession in the early 1980s with the idea that nothing was real and everything was an illusion. Then at the end of the decade there was a sudden combination of really bad realities that shook artists up – AIDS still going on, the Gulf War arriving, and the art market collapsing and all the money going down. (Collins 1999:229)

In other aspects of popular culture the body has also featured far more as a site of interest, relevance and importance. The body has become something we attend to more and more in the negotiation of individualism, everyday life and social identity; body self-control, self-management and self-protection has become more important in alternatives to medicine, in healthcare regimes and general well-being and fitness; the body is now the medium through which an expanded range of contemplative, religious and therapy practices operate; the body is now the focus of a much broader range of leisure activities concerned with such things as mobility, suppleness, pain relief, relaxation, coordination, risk, excitement, aerobic exercise, strength and so forth. As a result of all of this, the technologies of the body have expanded considerably and we have perhaps entered a more sensually orientated period (see Lupton 1996; Shilling 1994; Shilling and Mellor 1996; Turner 1996). Sociology and cultural studies provides a register of these changes. Turner first published his book The Body and Society in 1984, Shilling’s The Body and Social Theory was published in 1993, the journal Body and Society was launched in 1995 and in 1998 the British Sociological Conference in Edinburgh was entirely given over to ‘Making Sense of the Body’. Despite this, many areas of sociology have been slow to model the body into its analysis of social identity, social change and social relation and some have even argued that in late modernity the essentially natural body has become colonised by the social – a transition that places even more emphasis on ‘mind over body’. According to Shilling, for example, Giddens’s sociology still betrays a Cartesian leaning. Although Giddens freely admits to the increasing relevance of the body in contemporary society, in his concept of reflexive modernity the mind is still dominant, more dominant: Giddens’ analysis suggests that the body has become colonised by society and the reflexively mobilised self. . . . People remain essentially minds in these writings on modernity, it is just that society’s colonising powers now provide humans with unprecedented opportunities to ‘live in’ the realm of cognitive reflexivity. (Shilling 1996:6)

According to Giddens the body is less an externality ‘given’ by nature, and has become reflexively mobilised, ‘drawn into the reflexive organization of social life’ (Giddens 1991:7, 98). Whereas in traditional life the body was largely a part of nature, it is now so easily manipulated, controlled and



changed that it has become part of the social project of the self, determined and socialised by the self. The essential idea here is that ‘the body might be moulded in line with narratives of self-identity’ which are in turn ‘dominated by the demands of procedural rationality’ (Shilling 1996:7). This view of the self in late modernity has received widespread criticism. Craib (1992) calls it ‘oversocialised’ and ‘overrationalised’ and Shilling gathers together the work of Veblen (1953) and Mestrovic (1993) to argue that embodied dispositions may lie out of reach of thought and reflexive control; that the body may be a pre-modern shaper of identity in opposition to modern rationality; that sensual experiences may distance people from social norms and provide the basis for a challenge to them (as expressed for example in Hall and Jeffersons’ (1976) work on youth culture and Brumberg’s 1988 work on diet and exercise). Of course the same sorts of objections have been made against Habermas and other cognitivist theorists of the modern, but at least these views are now seen as at least problematic. Indeed, when we now turn to recent theorising on nature and society we find a variety of embodied accounts.

Nature, society and embodiment Macnaghten and Urry (1998) place much emphasis on producing an embodied account of nature and society. There are several senses in which embodiment is important. First, nature is not a pre-given thing which everyone experiences in a similar way; it is always experienced as a localised phenomenon, written into local cultures in particular ways with local frames of reference and experienced as a local phenomenon, a local context for life. Apart from a few highly mobile cultures most of us are located in particular localities for long periods of time. During long periods of residence, particularly formative periods such as childhood and early adulthood, localised natures are part of the materials used to produce a sense of home, belonging, attachment and familiarity. It is in our day-to-day embodied experience of our local nature that these sentiments are produced and adhere to our self-identity. This is also why Ingold objected to the notion of landscape as a place outside of the social, as an essentially visual phenomenon. Instead, as we have seen, he prefers the Heideggerian concept of dwelling which situates people in a lived, working landscape, a landscape with their past inscribed upon it in terms of plantings, hedges, walls, paths, buildings, memorials and so on. A landscape that in other words consists of layers of human intervention, building and occupation/presence. Such a view is consistent with Schama’s Landscape and Memory (1995) which argues for locally/nationally specific constructions of nature and a continuity of their nature-place myths and thus for the survival of pre-industrial nature values in modern cultures.



Second, nature is experienced/consumed in sensual terms; knowledge of nature is mediated through our sensory apparatus and is significant in structuring our aesthetic response and evaluation of different natural configurations. The natural world is apprehended through its sounds, its smells, its tastes, its textures and its colours and shapes. Third, it is through our senses that new ways of apprehending nature and the natural have been organised socially. Macnaghten and Urry (1998) talk about the impact of the Enlightenment, scientific procedure, new technologies, modern leisures and the technologies of social control and power as having a profound effect upon the hierarchy of the senses and the sensing of the natural world in particular. Whereas in traditional societies great emphasis was given to multisensed experience; to oral accounts of the world, story telling and auricular skills; the aesthetics of touch proximity and social intimacy and a less inhibited and restricted olfactory sensibility, they argue that in modern societies the visual has become dominant and sidelined other senses. Although Macnaghten and Urry wish to produce a fully embodied sociology of contemporary society and nature, they are persuaded, particularly by Bermingham (1986), Fabian (1992), Foucault (1970), Heidegger (1977), Jay (1992), Lefebvre (1991), Rorty (1980) and others that the visual, or what Fabian calls ‘visualism’, has dominated the sensing of nature in the West and should properly be included in a list of globalising trends. For this reason sixteen pages of their chapter called ‘Sensing nature’ is given over to vision while just over six are given to the other senses, of which barely one page is given to the auditory. First they argue that the visual was a bias inherited from philosophical traditions dating back at least as far as Aristotle. Visuality was developed during the mediaeval period through the architecture of stained-glass windows, the growth of heraldry as a complex visual code, through fifteenth-century innovations in linear perspectivism, the science of optics, the fascination with mirrors, an emphasis on the spectacular rituals of public life and the invention of the printing press (Macnaghten and Urry 1998:109). Visualism as an apprehension of nature became entrenched in the scientific practice of disciplined observation; a development that undermined any scientific claims based on the mere experience of travel and its written or oral account. Observation sanitises experience of nature by removing other senses and feelings, as if truth itself is merely what can be seen. This was fixed in such orderings as the Linnaean classification that was based solely on observable structures. Race was another concept of nature that was ‘read’ visually and directly (and tragically) from the mere ‘surface’ of nature. Travel itself was influenced by its former connections to science and discovery. Adler shows how travellers were less encouraged to give emotional accounts of their experience than eyewitness statements and accurate descriptions of visual aesthetics, ‘[E]xperiences of beauty and the sublime, sought through the sense of sight’ (Adler 1989:22, cited in



Macnaghten and Urry 1998:112). According to Urry (1995) this generated what he calls a comparative connoisseurship of nature among the upperclass few who were in a position to travel and, literally, collect experiences of nature. The visual consumption of nature was consolidated by further developments. The package tours of Thomas Cook (from 1841 onwards) innovated guide books, the identification of scenic sites and the railway carriage as a platform from which nature could be taken in continuous panoramic vision. New technologies such as photography, postcards, maps, piers and promenade walkways focused attention on vision, even to the point of establishing a vision-rich mode of ‘leisurely walking’. The romantic vision of nature was focused around the visual even though it gave rise to other emotional embodied responses such as fear and awe. It also defined a subset of appropriate natures, opening up areas of mountain, moorland and rugged coast as well as arousing interest in nature leisures, caving, alpinism and backpacking. This spectacularism of the romantic gaze popularised the marginal wildernesses and uplands, but they could also be brought home and domesticated through art and souvenirs and also by creating simulations through landscape gardening among the rich and bequeathed to others in municipal parklands. According to some gardening analysts (e.g. Pugh 1988) ‘gardens were intended for visual consumption’ (Macnaghten and Urry 1998:113). However, with the technologies of mass tourism and with the proliferation of photography as the legitimate representation of nature in place, the natures of the romantic gaze became the focus for holidays and trips from an increasingly wide spectrum of society. From early in the century when the first National Parks were built to the New Deal developments of parkways into specially designed areas of natural beauty in the USA, it became clear that such numbers needed to be organised. With few exceptions it was the ordering of their visual senses and visual itinerary that became the principal of management in natural areas. The Blue Ridge Parkway described by Wilson (1992) is a 470-mile long tourist route linking five mountain ranges in Virginia and North Carolina, built in the depths of the depression in the 1930s. The Blue Ridge Parkway pioneered many of the techniques of landscape management taken up by the tourist industry in the 1950s and after. One of these techniques is signage: like railroads, the Parkway is periodically marked my mileposts, their purpose being to orient motorists vis-à-vis their itineraries and to aid road maintenance and administration. ... Other road signage, especially at the entrances is standardised to underline the special qualities of this specially created environment. Gouged wood signs point out road elevations, local history, and the names of distant features of the landscape. Other diversions organize the motor tour: parking over-looks, short hiking trails, local museums, campgrounds, and parks spaced every thirty miles. In this way the planners designed tourist movements into the land itself. (Wilson 1992:35)



Macnaghten and Urry note that visitors to natural areas are themselves the objects of surveillance and control by rules of conduct and routing, but, more importantly perhaps, we can see how tourists and visitors are confined to a visual experience, often to visual sites/experiences that have been selected, framed and interpreted (while others may be obscured, bracketed off or ‘protected’). Tourists are so used to collecting sites in a fleeting and restless manner that one can understand how this has become a significant way of interacting with the natural world. Even those who prefer making their own routes are to some extent ‘managed’ visually by the maps they use, the selection of features deemed relevant and the pathways deemed legitimate. The reduction of nature to visual representations and an increasingly ocular mode of sensing it directly in countryside leisures describe perfectly the manner by which many people in the West experience it as tourists. Visualism, the dominance of the visual, partially disembodies relations with the natural world. The pressures of tourism combined with management strategies to minimise environmental damage further renders anything other than the gaze as problematic: picking wild flowers, making off-track forays, disturbing rocks or forest or foreshore litter and so forth minimise the acceptance of touch and taste. The continuous flow of tourists into prescribed routes and places enables birds and animals to keep their distance and so render such places virtually soundless. The scope to gather, taste and smell nature is so reduced that tourism effectively inhibits their activation in anything other than the simulations and hands-on features of visitor centres. We must not confuse ‘nature’ or the natural world with the natures of tourism however. To a great extent Macnaghten and Urry’s Contested Nature is heavily shaped by their concerns about the contested nature of nature tourism and managed natural areas. This is its principal weakness as a social theoretical contribution to the sociology of nature and no doubt derives in part from their specifically ‘northern’ focus on such areas as the Lake District. Although the Romantic movement was successful in shifting the popular notion of a ‘proper’ nature as that which is uncontaminated by the activities of humanity or modernisation (the Romantics were as concerned with the rationalisation and industrialisation of agriculture as they were with industry) they ignored or in Williams’s words ‘had little to say’ on the ‘mundane’ natures of the interstitial zones between the wilderness and the city. Indeed in Urry (1995) and Macnaghten and Urry (1998), these natures are dispensed with in an analysis of areas that are disqualified as tourist areas (e.g. they have an ugly industrial or agricultural building nearby). Macnaghten and Urry‘s nature is typified by Elizabeth Bennett’s tour, in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, to the Peak District and Pemberley with her aunt and uncle, rather than her own everyday rambles in the immediate countryside of her home. Finely dressed/presented for the tour, everything of nature and artifice is consumed in a visual manner: from scenic viewpoints, from the carriage,



inside Pemberley or walking in the gardens. However, the everyday Elizabeth in her familiar lanes and hedgerows is entirely different. Upon hearing horses galloping she fell prone to a sudden and joyous burst of playful running; in solitary troubled walks she picked and smelled wild flowers for consolation; day-to-day walking meant walking in rain through the mud and feeling her way through the other changing textured surfaces of the English countryside. Jane Austen’s classic Romantic novel built these contrasting embodied natures into a narrative of modern times whereas Macnaghten and Urry have neglected one at the expense of another. For many modern hunters and anglers, dog walkers, birders, food gatherers, lovers and strollers – whether local or from the surrounding towns – the natures of these interstitial zones are not mundane, sullied or reduced but fully formed around the actions of people and industries in specific environments and communities of their own. Theirs is a nature in which humanity is included. Indeed, the intensively worked agricultural landscapes of the world, including many areas of Europe back to Neolithic times, form the ancient/traditional background and prehistory to modern hunting, angling and gathering practices and a wide variety of uncommodified and unorganised nature leisures. In other words, there are natures in which modern people interact, form a part of, which are not necessarily aberrations of modernity or marketable as touristic attractions. On the contrary, one can trace strong threads of continuity and one would consist in the ways nature is sensed and accessed in such practices (see Fine 1991 for a discussion of ‘mushroomers’ in the USA; see Donnelly 1994 and Kellert 1985 on birding; see Franklin 2000 for hunting and angling; see also the US Survey for Consumption of Wildlife Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service 1991). Importantly, these are not dominated by visualism, at least not to the same degree as touristic nature leisures; indeed they are predicated not on the collection of ‘views’ but on the manipulation and collection of other things in which different configurations of senses become operative and which may be season and lifecycle related. They are predicated on an intimate knowledge and familiarity rather than the one-off, dispassionate visit. After many years of being obscured by the more grand and remote tourist natures, the natures of the everyday are now increasingly recognised by conservationists and writers. For example, the recent nature documentary Living Britain is explicitly about the hybrid natures of contemporary Britain. It shows foxes living on municipal rubbish dumps (an inevitable natural uncrowded niche affording them privacy and security), otters thriving around North Sea oil terminals on Shetland, Red Kites and hedgehogs making a population come-back in suburban gardens, and the significance of railway lines as habitat for rare plants and animals. People are now modelled into the natures of postmodernity, not bracketed out. In Nature Boy the hero David is found living in an industrial coastal town but walking frequently to fish, swim and get away to the birds and animals of nearby mudflats



and coastal heath. However, this is only to speak of those everyday practices which have some considerable continuity. We will introduce later the idea that an entirely different set of embodied practices have emerged in recent years and these have been deployed to penetrate beneath the surfaces and superficialities of modern ‘visual natures’, to slow down the go-faster world (the fleeting, restless attention span of the tourist, for example) and to explore new areas of sensing the world. In doing so we need to invoke nature less as a discursively constructed site or region, with its creators, managers and its visitor–consumer – Macnaghten and Urry’s recurring Lake District for example – and understand nature also as a spatially disembeddable, fragmentable notion (in time and space). We need to see not only relations with the natural world from the point of view of tourists and nature leisure participants, but also the natures of the city, the everyday – through foods, the desire for natural fabrics and other materials and the preference for naturally produced as opposed to synthetic products such as cosmetics and medicinal services. These changing consumption habits have dramatically reorganised the production and management of nature but it is typically from the heart of the metropolis that such desires originate. They affect how we feel (the aesthetic and performance of well-being, for example), what we taste and how we organise taste, what we smell and how smell is organised, the desire for touch and tactility. In addition to being the source of sublime experiences of the visual, nature has been expanded upon to be very nearly synonymous with good, better, perfection, ideal, sacred. Once mantled in these terms, of course, nature stimulates further experimentation with new technologies of access and retrieval. In sum, we could almost argue the opposite to Macnaghten and Urry: visualism and its close association with cognition, rationality and knowledge is perhaps no longer dominant in the hierarchy of the senses. As science, cognition and rationality became seen as barriers, obstacles and limitations to human well-being, so the centre ground that vision occupied in high modernity gave way to the development of other senses, technologies and aesthetics. As Thrift has argued ‘nature is both an important site for these body practices and ... a more important site as all kinds of new body practices produced by contemporary societies have taken hold and extended our grip on the world in particular directions’ (Thrift 1999:6): I want to suggest that nature has become a, perhaps the, key site of contemplation and mysticism in the modern world, a set of body practices usually associated with hermits and monks from times of yore rather than with, say, the inhabitants of a city out on a day trip. (Thrift 1999:5–6)

Thrift reveals an inspiration from four sources: from a reconceptualised ethology in which behaviour is always emerging from within complex multi-agent networks rather than preformed (Clark 1997; Deleuze 1988;



Elderly birders listen out for the Reed Warbler, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset (Source: Adrian Franklin)


Margulis 1998; Margulis et al. 1999; Pearson 1997, 1999); from renewed interests in the significance of the non-cognitive dimensions of embodiment (95 percent of embodied thought is non-cognitive though 95 percent of academics’ thought concerns the cognitive dimension); from actor network theory (which has focused attention on the affectivity of objects); and from the genealogy of body practices (debts to performance theory, Foucault). Thrift uses these inspirations to argue that contemplative and mystical practices have been applied to expand an awareness of the present (in a go-faster world) as well as to re-enchant an allegedly disenchanted modernity. Despite the popular image of the world as a frenetic, go-faster place in late modernity, it is a mistake, Thrift argues, to believe that faster technologies determine a fast speed aesthetic. On the contrary, over the past 150 years ‘a sense of body practices which constitute and value the present moment rather than spearing off into the future’ has developed (Thrift 1999:6–7). Several examples of this are offered, beginning with the recognition of the sixth sense, kinaesthesia, an awareness of interactive sensual movement, a sort of combined wired-together sensual awareness of our body, different from one taken solely from an individual sense receptor. Second, contemplative practices survived into modernity through some Christian and mystic practices and were transmuted into new technologies such as Alexander Technique and the Feldenkreis techniques. Third, new technologies of human movement, body measurement, physiology, ergonomics, etc. focused greater attention to our embodied presence and performance in the world around notions of comfort, efficiency, training and performativity. These all fix attention on the body in the present, a specific condition of being resulting from the application of body technique. Fourth, photography produced a fixed space and time for the body, ‘which is able to capture transience’. Fifth, we have become much more



aware of the socially interactive codings of the nature of body movements, body postures, gestures and from there into new refinements of body practices, new body etiquettes, ‘a whole new corporeal curriculum of expressive competence’ (Thrift 1999:8). As a result of all of these the body has become a site of quite intensive attention, technology and selfmastery. They ‘stretch out the moment, most especially by paying detailed attention to it. They expand the size of consciousness, allowing each moment to be more carefully attended to and invested with more of its context’ (Thrift 1999:8). At the same time a series of linked mystical practices have emerged to re-enchant the secular, rational world of modernity and they too entail an embodied response and technology. Both seem to require the stimulation of the body in order to work their effect: ‘It is stimulation that produces tranquillity and it is stimulation that produces trance’ (Thrift 1999:8). Thrift points to four notable mystical practices. First, mystical communication involves mental and physical techniques such as meditation, prayer, Romantic nature mysticism, cathartic elements of performance, nineteenth-century forms of Asian-influenced mysticism and the more recent proliferation of New Age religions such as Wiccanism, paganism, Satanism. ‘Not least in all of these traditions is the approach to nature as both the focus and the object of mystical energies. For example, New Age thinking often stresses grids of power like ley lines, nature goddesses, and the like, as well as the importance of particular sites as magical territories able to conjure up communication’ (Thrift 1999:8–9). Second, ritual and performativity based on ‘mystical experiences ... brought forth and animated through the power of body posture, schedules of recall and spatial juxtaposition’ (Thrift 1999:9). Third, body practices that amplify passions ‘producing “oceanic” experiences’, trances and highs from music, dance, theatre, opera, mime, art and so on. Fourth, some of these practices have been transmuted into therapeutic forms such as massage therapy, music therapy, body-mind centring: What I want to argue is that these contemplative and mystical developments which, taken as a whole, are widespread in modern western societies, constitute a background within which Nature is apprehended and which provides quite particular experiences of what Nature is. They form . . . an embodied ‘unconscious’, a set of basic exfoliations of the body through which nature is constructed, a plane of affect attuned to particular body parts (and senses) and corresponding elements of Nature (from trees and grass to river and sky) (Massumi 1996), ‘the sense and recognisability of things . . . do not lie in conceptual categories in which we mentally place them but in their positions and orientations which our postures address’ (Lingis 1998:59). (Thrift 1999:9)

Thrift’s notion of ‘exfoliations of the body’ derives from theorizing the body as the medium by which humans are connected with other things



which in turn creates and defines space itself. The idea derives from writers such as Gil (1998) and Deleuze (1998): The body ‘lives’ in space but not like a sphere with a closed, continuous surface. On the contrary, its movements, limbs, and organs determine that it has regular relations with things in space, relations that are individually integrated for the decoder. The relations imply exfoliations of the space of the body that can be treated separately. Relations to a tree, a prey, a star, an enemy, a loved object or desired nourishment set into motion certain privileged organs including precise spaces of the body. Exfoliation is the essential way the body ‘turns on to’ things, onto objective space, onto living things. Here there is a type of communication that is always present, but only makes itself really visible in pathological or marginal experiences. Nevertheless the ordinary experience of relations to things also implies this mode of communication. Being in space means to establish diverse relationships with the things that surround our bodies. Each set of relations is determined by the action of the body that accompanies an investment of desire in a particular being or particular object. Between the body (and the organ in use) and the things is established a connection that immediately affects the form and space of the body; between the one and the other a privileged spatial relation emerges that defines that space, uniting them as near or far, resistant, thick, wavy, vertiginous, smooth, prickly. (Gil 1998:127, quoted in Thrift 1999:5)

Again, Thrift suggests that it is the entire sensualised body, which through kinaesthesia is more than just a limited set of response sensors to external stimuli. Rather, the body ‘calls up’ relationships with external beings and objects and communicates with them through specific embodied configurations, postures, exercises, stances, meditations, observations and so forth. This represents a considerable advance on Macnaghten and Urry’s claim that the visual remains the most powerful means of apprehending nature, opening up a richer analysis of people and nature. Visualism implies a passive, receiving subject while Thrift’s embodied subject is both receptive and active. These ‘immersive practices’, he argues (‘very tentatively’), are ‘producing a new vitalism, a stance to feeling life (in the doubled sense of both a grasp of life and emotional attunement to it) which may explain many of the strong and sometimes even fanatical investments that are placed on the natural. They constitute a biopolitical domain ‘arising out of a heightened awareness of particular forms of embodiment which, in turn, allow certain forms of signification to be grasped ‘instinctively’ (Thrift 1999:10). Finally, Thrift argues that this biopolitical domain has been strengthened by three developments. First, certain body practices have defined privileged kinaesthetic spaces such as walking. Walking occupies a particularly important place in contemporary leisure (walking trails, walking gear, walking holidays etc.) but according to Thrift the background to all this cultural development is the body practice of modern walking that ‘becomes a natural practice’, ‘a means to contact the earth’, ‘a means of gathering still’. He cites Lingis (1998:70) who makes clear how walking is



very different from tourism: ‘When we go out for a walk, our look is not continuously interested, surveying the environment for landmarks and objectives’. The ordinary everyday walks around our homes entail the same significance: ‘[E]ven when we are on our way somewhere, for something, once launched we shift into just enjoying – or ending – the walk or the ride.’ Perhaps this is why there has been such strong reaction by local people wherever everyday walking areas are threatened by development. It is not because an amenity is being denied them (there are presumably plenty of other walking spaces) but because it is during their ordinary walks in specific places that contact is made and a personal natural space is created. Second, practiced walkers and other practitioners such as surfers (see Stranger 1999), hunters and anglers (see Franklin 2000) experience what Thrift wants to call ‘expectations’ and ‘anticipations of a “natural experience”’. Such practices involve styles of body locations that call up the desired experience, styles that are specifically tuned into a ‘natural’ experience, to nature’s rhythms, sequences and choreography. Third, during such practices the body ‘attends to configurations of objects which are in line with its expectations and which produce particular exfoliations/spaces and times’. In sum, Thrift reminds us that the embodied spaces and practices relevant to a sociology of nature are not confined to those spaces deemed ‘natural’ or commodifiable as natural attractions or their attendant, passive and visualistic practices. We need to cast the net wider to more sites and practices such as eating and health, to religious activities that focus on nature, and to sports, hobbies and leisures. We will look at some of these in the rest of this chapter. We will see that an examination of a less restricted range reveals a very wide range of sensing and a less hierarchical sensualisation of nature. Whether or not these add up to a new vitalism as Thrift suggests will need more research. However the new kinaesthetic spaces, ‘dance floors of nature’, confirms Thrift’s claim that embodiment has been directed at experiencing nature (as opposed to merely seeing, watching, and observing).

Nature, consumption, body The early twentieth century established orientations to the consumption of ‘nature’. Romanticism launched a nature tourism in new National Parks, in wilderness areas and in activities such as alpinism and walking. Other influences include the allure and adventures of colonial living, often perceived to be a cheek-by-jowl existence with exotic, dangerous or at least pristine natures. Occupations in the colonies were dominated, in the popular imagination, by the adventurer, explorer, pioneer, prospector etc. and colonial histories were punctuated with gold rushes, land subdivisions, discoveries and conquests. Such activities generated a



dramatic new demand for a new technology for living in temporary and ephemeral locations and it gave rise to the somewhat paradoxical leisure aesthetic that came to be called ‘camping’ (Warde and Hardy 1986:1–7). It also gave rise to a form of improving youth leisures that could be justified as training in the sorts of skills and experiences appropriate to colonial nations: scouting and guiding, brownies, cubs and woodcraft folk. While the Romantics established a thoroughgoing anti-modernist discourse among educated circles, the acceptance of modernity, of progress, technological advance, new synthetic materials, products and medicines was widespread. States of pathology caused by modernity, for example, cooping up bodies genetically predisposed for a ranging, hunting and gathering existence in metropolitan offices, schools and factories, were acknowledged and dealt with through regular immersions in nature: The camps are the principal events of the [woodcraft folk] movement ... for camp life combines the general romance of the movement with the material delight of sleeping in tents, of making fires, bathing in sun and water, tramping over the hills, and singing around the fire. The leisure-time group becomes for a little while, the full-time tribe with its own laws, practices and traditions. (Paul 1938:15)

Progressive modernism and modern consumerism dominated western popular culture and everyday aesthetics and were seen as legitimate and moral even if the price to pay was the gradual despoliation of nature. After all, as Franklin (1999) argued, progressive modernism was firmly focused on democratising consumerism, on advancing life chances for all humanity and for the eradication of ills caused by uncontrolled nature (diseases, famines, floods etc.). Some animals could be sentimentalised, protected, cherished, aestheticised but only providing that sufficient others could be produced in ever more intensive factory conditions for perceived human nutritional needs. A tenderhearted view of nature coincided, somewhat uneasily, with an uncompromising modernism. After the 1960s, however, we start to see that tension resolve increasingly in favour of nature: modernity becomes increasingly seen as an unacceptable price to pay and a return to a more natural way of living was widely subscribed to. Nature and natural were substituted for modern as the key synonyms for good and goodness. Why was that? Clearly, to some extent it was felt that the modern experiment had failed. This is evident in growing disillusionment with modernism as a means of providing better living conditions, better health and nourishment and secure employment and life chances. The serial rounds of new things created by modernism had always been disturbing and potentially frightening, but the reality had thus far (with the exception of modern warfare) been beneficial. The fiscal crisis of the 1970s leading to the breakup of welfarism and the Fordist economy created precisely the sort of conditions that favour nostalgia for a perfect, simple, Arcadian world, unspoilt by greed and advancement and material envy. Those who were



to rediscover such (perennial) thoughts, were themselves the students of the Romantic age, but unlike the Romantic leadership they were not about to retreat to hermit-like lifestyles in the bush, hills or coast. They were, of course, the generation that tried to change things. After the 1960s a highly educated vanguard generation began to question the scientific, technological and economic foundations of modernism and to rely less on ‘expert’ knowledge. Indeed, trained in critical reflexivity, this generation undermined the privileged knowledges of modernity (science, medicine, technology) and began to experiment with alternative knowledges, to identify alternative aims and means (such as self-help, communitarianism and organic farming), to build expanded zones of choice as well as new ‘low’ and ‘lite’ technologies. By and large the basic mantra of the post-1960s, postmaterialist generation was that nature was more trustworthy and beneficial or at the very least safer, more sustainable and aesthetically pleasing. Inglehart tries to simplify what is in effect a very complex turn in postmodernity by arguing that new styles of consumption which favoured natural alternatives were based upon a generation for whom basic goods, health and life chances were assured; that the materialist struggle had been won. Their sudden and dramatic search for alternatives had more to do with increasing lifestyle choices that had hitherto been narrow and restrictive. Only those in a position of secure material means could afford or desire to demand the icing on the top: the extension of rights, new civic freedoms and consumer choice. While Inglehart’s exhaustive empirical testing of postmaterialism shows a generation effect, it fails to explain the particular direction postmaterialism took and to take stock of the wider (necessary) cultural milieu in which that effect became worked out. These so-called postmaterialist beliefs and strategies were entrenched during the 1980s and 1990s by two important new developments. First, the arrival of a risk society, the belief that modern societies were no longer able to control, regulate or even identify (sense by whatever means) the risks it routinely created through new and dangerous technologies. A whole series of risk society scares ushered in the risk society age – Chernobyl, Mad Cow Disease, Bhopal, Villa Parisi, the poisoning of the Danube, AIDS, GM foods. If regressive unfathomable outcomes are the result of more sophisticated science, particularly science that falls into the hands of commercial, political and military competition (as opposed to its ideal role as the champion of human progress) then ‘more science’ is unlikely to be a viable or an attractive solution or future. Particularly so perhaps to that generation brought up to believe in science as a morally upstanding force. In a modernised society and culture this logic is likely to be very wide reaching in its consequences. If science is generally abandoned as the critical hope for a better future and if at the same time science becomes named as a key obstacle to that future, the way is cleared for a substantial search for alternatives. The alternative society was a generic name given from the 1960s for this search and the search areas



became almost any time, place or knowledge without a scientific content. Thus in the 1970s’ West, key themes were western mediaevalism (enter much curiosity about pre-industrial crafts, clothes, medicines, foods, lore, religion etc.), non-western cultures (enter much travelling, observation, description and learning of ‘other’ ways; the Beatles trailblazed into Indian transcendentalism; Castaneda trailblazed Mexican alternative drugs; Jean Liedloff found continuum from Yecuana Indians’ methods of breast feeding and childcare); and non-western technologies (Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, marshal arts, shamanism). Nature emerges from all this as the leitmotif of postmodernity. Since all that preceded or was left untouched by science (and therefore ruined or sullied) was nature and since, by extension, all unscientific technologies and knowledges and consumption developed in and from a state of nature, it followed that the critical way forward was to stray as little as possible from a purely natural way of life. Prior to the arrival of risk society, nature itself posed most risks to humanity, and science was the means by which such risks could be controlled. With risk society the threats from nature are largely tamed and controlled, but in acquiring the means of controlling nature science looked set to replace nature. This was seen to be a potentially dangerous development that throws the baby out with the bathwater as well as introducing an entirely new moral question: should nature be removed as a key regulatory system for life on earth? Second, the arrival of neo-liberal politics effectively removed the modernist welfare state infrastructure that was responsible for identifying and dealing with risk as well as regulating and controlling science. As Crook (1997) argues, the regulatory function of the welfare state turned into a cheaper advisory function and, in turn, this forced individual citizens and consumers to make choices about their safety: what to consume, how much, how produced? Bauman (1995) notes that postmodernity forces everyone to take responsibility and to confront morality in acts of private moral decision making. So, a crisis in material conditions forced reflexivity and choice making, not Inglehart’s benign material security. Consumption became a moral and a political act by definition. The new forms of consumption did not emerge evenly across the social spectrum. Indeed, it was among the intellectual, creative and welfare sectors that new directions emerged first. Under the conditions specified earlier, the mood shifted from a general blind, trusting consumerism and conspicuous consumption to one of extreme caution and innovation. Clearly, as people made consumer decisions their choice was frequently between greater or lesser degrees of technical and synthetic processing, between more or less raw nature. Beginning with what Savage et al. (1992) have called ascetic consumers in the middle class, an entirely new way of consuming was established. The sorts of goods sampled and condoned were those made of natural materials, produced using low energy, low-tech processes (hand made carried an entirely new cachet), goods made by craft, third world or indigenous producers; natural products



newly discovered or from overseas with nutritional, health or therapeutic properties. Peasant goods and foods were particularly valued because of their low-tech, self-sufficiency mode of life; their wholesome, unprocessed but deliciously fresh foods; their simple, unhurried but basically physical lifestyles; their thin, wiry, long-lived bodies. The ascetic middle-class consumers were highly educated but relatively low paid, they were teachers, creative and artistic and caring professions. They travelled into interesting if not luxurious overseas destinations and they began to think globally. Since the 1960s these groups had pioneered an entire range of fashionable new tastes. It is not at all clear that they were materially secure (mainly dependent upon the shrinking welfare state) indeed, over this period their incomes had declined relative to private sector and other salaried professionals. If anything their penchant for the simple, natural goods may have been driven as much by ontological insecurity and change, material insecurity and declining spending power as by changing values; by dwindling choice not by more. The sorts of new goods and styles of consumption pioneered by the ascetics had, in turn, an appeal among a wealthier, educated professional subgroup called the postmoderns. These are the very busy creative professionals in design, architecture, media, and new businesses such as information technology and printing. They have more money and little leisure time but they view themselves as open, adventurous, cutting edge, educated and fashionable. They quickly colonised these forms of consumption and in so doing established them as more mainstream, (less loony left), more smart set. From their patronage such styles were quickly taken up by mass taste media and made their way into mainstream consumption groups, very often profiting from the ideas by marketing and selling the products, lifestyles and services. While almost every area of consumption was affected by the new morality of nature, wherever consumption was directly related to the body, in eating and in medical and cosmetic services for example, it became especially relevant and successful. In the next two sections we will look briefly at the arrival and impact of natural or whole foods and natural medical practices and cosmetics. Wholefoods The idea that wholegrains, pulses, fresh fruit and vegetables were especially good for health can be found prior to the 1960s, but again, such categories of food were not marketed or sold as ‘other’ to unwhole, processed or synthetic foods as they were from the 1970s onwards, neither were they the basis of an entirely new diet or social movement. While they featured in post-1945 texts on healthy eating and were entrenched in guidelines for British school dinners for example, they were not singled out as generically different from other foods in a balanced diet. Certain whole foods were singled out for particular body functions: the discretely labelled wholemeal breads, dried foods and pulses, for example, promised



regularity, healthy bowel movement or the treatment of constipation. Among these prunes and beans were front runners. Of all the foods that contained high levels of vitamin C, it was blackcurrants and oranges that became the particular bulwark against colds and scurvy. Earlier in the twentieth century smoking tobacco was widely advertised as particularly good for curing throat and lung complaints. In the UK such medicinal or dietary foods were frequently sold from special sections in pharmacists. Swedish wholegrain dried breads, for example, were sold exclusively from chemists until relatively recently. The emergence of whole ‘natural’ foods has early precedents, albeit on the fringes of mainstream dietary norms and practices. In the late eighteenth century the British physician, George Cheyney, advocated ‘a return to nature’, eating foods that he deemed easy to digest. These foods included raw foods rather than cooked foods, such as fruit, seeds, milk and vegetables, thereby eschewing the excesses and overstimulation of ‘civilisation’ (Lupton 1996:70). Wholefoods also feature in those late nineteenth-century discourses about the inappropriateness of meat eating, that our dentition and buccal architecture suggests an evolution from eating tough roots and other plant materials requiring substantial mastication and a long gut to break down essentially plant-derived foods (Tester 1992). Those who joined the ensuing Vegetarian Society (established 1847) devised a meatless diet scarcely different from the sorts of foods offered in contemporary wholefood shops. Indeed when the post1970s wholefood revolution took off in the 1960s and early 1970s, it was to the Vegetarian Epicure (Thomas 1972) and the George Bernard Shaw Cookbook (Shaw 1970) that many turned. Also formative were certain periods of development of nutritional science in Britain. Formed out of concerns for the health of ordinary working Britons at the end of the nineteenth century, particularly in relation to their fitness for military and industrial functions, nutritional science directed a flow of discourse down to the person in the street (as opposed to the largely middle-class vegetarian circles) through public advice, information and regulations. By these means, food was closely linked to widespread concern and attentiveness to the body through the moral desirability of health and fitness. As early as the 1920s, reflexivity in relation to personal health was established though its first phase, the discovery of essential micronutrients and their relationship with particular disease pathologies: The phrase ‘protective foods’ was devised in 1918 and used to encourage consumers to single out specific food products for their nutrient components. These at first included eggs, milk, butter and leafy green vegetables containing vitamin A, but the term was later extended to include foods rich in other vitamins and minerals such as organ meat, fish, fruit and wholegrain cereals (Whorton 1989:90). Food that was processed and refined was denounced as unhealthy and artificial, and food reformers called for modern industrial diets to be replaced by more natural foods. During that period, the advice provided



by nutritionists changed rapidly as more and more research was carried out. For example, fruit and vegetables were first regarded as delicacies, but when their vitamin content was discovered they were represented as vital to good health (Aronson 1982:53). (Lupton 1996:71)

In the USA at this time, consumers became gripped by a variety of warnings, recommendations and advice that lead to health food fads: Popeye cartoons from this period highlight the fad for spinach, but there were other fads for raisins, yeast, vitamin C and tonics. In the 1970s nutritional science moved from protective foods to a concern for food associated with chronic diseases of adult life, particularly diabetes, heart disease and cancer. As a result, foods became commonly represented as a pathogen, a source of disease and ill-health ‘harbouring health-threatening substances [such as] cholesterol, fats, salt, additives and preservatives, inciting allergic reactions, behavioural disorders ... and juvenile delinquency’ (Lupton 1996:77). Because high levels of food pathogens became associated with the food-processing industries, fast foods and indulgent/pleasure foods, they became shrouded with anxiety and fears. These fears were sufficient to force a crude boundary in popular conceptions of food and health, namely between those foods that occur or are produced naturally and those that are contaminated by the intervention of industrial, chemical and other ‘food science’ technologies. In a confusing marketplace where such pathogens lurked behind cheerful advertising and unknown provenance, supermarket shoppers erred on the side of caution and bought into the natural food discourse. The more the consumer shifted onto the natural side of the food boundary, the more producers shifted their product lines and marketing into conformity. The result was a major reconfiguration of the food industry and the western diet. In addition to nature carrying the least risk–maximum benefits consumer option, naturalness created the possibility of purity, purists and a culture of purist practice. Through the perfect natural diet, health and fitness could be maximised and by making the right choices the consumption in this area invoked the idea of an embodied inner perfection and purity and the outer, visible glow of vitality and fitness. Much of this impacted on those responsible for the choice of diets and food intake for others, particularly growing children. Clearly the link between food and health added a more significant burden of responsibility, and entrenched the mood of caution and safety. While childcarers picked their way through the minefield of advice and competing claims for natural purity and perfectibility, a younger group pioneered a more cultic version which was tied to other social movements for environment, third world health and development issues and new age lifestyles. Such a culture emerged very rapidly in the West, but far from remaining a fringe phenomenon it powered more dramatic shifts towards a natural health diet. Vegetarianism was one among many ‘pure’ varieties of new ‘natural’ food diets that took off at this time. From Asia macrobiotic diets combined



simple wholegrain foods with technologies of self-balance, producing a compelling notion that eating was far more complex and important than mere nutrition; it was a skill to be mastered as part of the deeper mysteries of life and selfhood. Equally, biodynamic foods combined the idea of purely natural, uncontaminated ‘organic’ growing techniques with a beneficial synchronisation with other ‘natural’ moments and cycles, such as full moons. Raw food diets from Scandinavia and Japan were also vaunted as more natural: natural bacteria and important trace elements as well as vitamins were to be preserved only by avoiding cooking. Most important of all, were the growing range of unprocessed, unrefined foods that were first of all discovered by ascetic consumers who travelled the peasant backwaters of the world and then imported by a complementary petit bourgeois establishment, the wholefood shop owners. Aspects of a peasant lifestyle was in all respects something of a model for the alternative pure natural food movement: it was small scale; it was based on intensive handwork; it was self-sufficient, local and communitarian; it was embodied and muscular and, most important of all, it was low tech. The wholefood shop was a heroic institution of the alternative lifestyle movement and later new age, catering for much more than the supply and promotion of wholefoods. It was the local centre for information on all alternative activities, especially perhaps the women’s movement (which bought into a gendered version of nature through ecofeminism for example), the environment movement, anti-nuclear movement and communitarianism. Although eclectic there was an approximate unity to the alternative movement in its rainbow shades. The commitment to a wholefood diet was an important dimension to this unity. Frequently run along ideal collective or cooperative principles, the consumer participated in their wholefood shop by bringing in recycled packaging and by packing wholefoods themselves from bins and containers. Moreover, the eating of a wholefood meal was a symbolically rich expression of solidarity for a multitude of political causes and in this sense food had become politicised. In Britain the number of health food stores grew from 100 to 800 in the 1960s. ‘By the 1980s, 1200 such shops were taking £80 million a year’ (Driver 1983:104). By 1997, the major health food chain, Holland and Barrett, owned 410 outlets in the UK, turning over £90 million in the previous year (Electronic Telegraph 27 June 1997). In addition there were other related businesses supplying natural breads and cakes, organically grown vegetables, manufactured ‘natural’ foods such as organic cheeses, tofu and tempe and naturally brewed beers, soft drinks and fruit juices. The English Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) was hugely successful in reversing scientific developments in brewing and brewed products and produced a mass return to premodern styles and methods of manufacture and storage. CAMRA more or less forced the larger brewery companies to change their image and premier product range, as well as reinforcing a return to natural basics in pub refurbishments. Wholefood shops had a similar effect on the supermarket companies which were steadily losing sales. By



the mid-1980s supermarkets were producing their own range of natural breads, stocking key lines of wholefoods, as well as the more fringe lines such as tofu and organic products. A similar expansion of ‘natural foods’ has occurred in the USA, with the additional vibrant new form of outlet, the ‘natural food supermarket’ (Kaufman 1998). Increased consumption of wholefoods showed up clearly in the UK National Food Survey. Indexing quantities of wholemeal bread consumption to the year 1980 for example, consumption in 1961 was 58, in 1971 it was 78, in 1984 it was 118 and in 1987 it was 151. In Australia the National Nutrition surveys show that the alternative protein icon of the wholefood movement, ‘legumes and pulses’ more than doubled from five grammes per person per day in 1983 to 11 grammes in 1995 (Central Statistical Office 1989:121). In the 1990s the natural food revolution became not only mainstream, it became more extreme. Largely as a result of a series of serious and sustained food scares the critical issue for consumers became not whether a product was natural but whether it was produced by fully natural means. While definitions vary from country to country and the means of certification range from voluntary codes to associational or nation state accreditation systems, the term organic came to stand for this fully natural means of food production. To begin with, food poisoning from food sources began to climb dramatically from the 1970s onwards: in the UK there were 149 poisonings per 1,000 people in 1971, 231 in 1981, 338 in 1986 and 674 in 1991 (Central Statistical Office 1993:102). A series of scares and panics involving salmonella, listeria and E-coli poisonings were continuous events throughout the western world and in almost every case they were linked to largescale factory or otherwise intensive food-producing units, a decline in regulation and the endemic nature of these micro-organisms to particular forms of production and processing (see Franklin 1999). Second, and partly related to the first point, a scandal broke out in relation to the scale and range of additives in meat, milk and vegetables that could have health repercussions for humans. Livestock were routinely and systematically pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics and fruit and vegetables were revealed to be subjected to a wide range of chemical and radioactive processes to increase shelf-life and allure. Risk-monitoring special interest groups emerged such as the Pesticide Trust in 1988 and Parents for Safe Food in 1989 (James 1993:205). The presence of hormones in meats and the fundamental dangers to health from the use of high levels of antibiotics caused a nervous public to switch consumption from non-organic to organic produce. The growth of organic foods was slow at first and became what is known as a top-shelf or marginal line on the supermarket shelves. However, the BSE scandal was sufficient to raise demand for organic foods considerably. Several factors were important. First, the BSE or Mad Cow Disease issue showed that contemporary industrial farming methods could be dangerously devised and inadequately regulated for safety. Second, the government cover-up undermined the



regulatory and advice-giving function of the state: what had been a trusting population used to a paternalistic and benevolent state became disaffected and untrusting. Third, BSE had resulted in a truly massive and disturbing result: the slaughter of an entire national dairy and beef herd and the science fiction horror prospect of animal diseases crossing the species barrier to create a new human disease (see Franklin 1999). Fourth, the incident produced a tension between the EU and the UK as to whether, following the slaughter, British beef was safe to eat. Further doubts and further damage ensued, this time to export earnings, resulting in trade boycott stand-offs between France and the UK. By mid-1990s the organic foods boom was well under way. According to the British Economist Intelligence Unit (1996) sales of organic foods were strong and growing healthily by 1994. In that year organic sales were worth £120 million, but a year later the market had grown to £150 million. The sales base was now so secure and strong that they predicted a 40 percent growth (in constant prices terms) to 1999. By early 1999 those predictions looked like an underestimate. Instead, sales were expected to exceed £500 million by 2000 (Brown 1999). At the National Conference of Organic Foods and Farming in January 1999, Tesco supermarkets chain reported a 100 percent increase in sales of organic goods over the past year, with over £1 million of organic products sold each week. It was the single fastest growth area of their £18 billion business and it was expected to grow by 100 percent for the next two years at least. According to representatives from Sainsbury’s it was uncertain what the limit to the growth of organic foods was: British farmers could not produce enough and sales were currently dependent on overseas producers. The supermarket Waitrose claimed that 8.5 percent of its vegetables were organic, together with 10 percent of dairy produce and 40 percent of baby foods. Altogether, they sold 600 lines of organic foods (Clover 1999). Similar trends are apparent from the USA: between 1989 and 1994 sales of organic foods have grown by 20 percent per annum and as demand grew, proportionately more land was certified as organic (Dunn 1995:7–12). In Scandinavia and Germany consumption of organic foods is very strongly entrenched. For example, around two thirds of all Danes and Swedes are purchasers of organic foods. In Denmark around 25 percent of consumers bought organic vegetables and around 20 percent bought organic bread and dairy products (Borch and Wellov-Borch 1999:276–9). According to Michelsen (1996) the strong demand for organic foods in Denmark occurred after 1993 when supermarkets began to sell them. However, the driving force behind this move was a concerted effort by three key players: the farmers; the state which has supported farmers with marketing, product innovation and organising producers; and the largest supermarket chain which provided a large and secure initial demand. As a result of this widespread growth in organic food consumption, farmers have been unable to keep up with demand. Despite the fact that



the acreage for organic produce in the UK rose from 50,000 hectares in 1998 to 75,000 in 2000, with more than 1,100 farmers converting from regular to organic in 1999, the major problem has shifted from marketing organic foods to producing them. The strength of demand and competition was such that in March 1999, Sainsbury’s took the unprecedented step of pledging to buy organic milk at premium prices for the next five years from a consortium of Devon dairy farmers willing to convert their operations to organic. In addition to farm conversions to organic production we have seen a very dramatic increase in organic methods among gardeners. Gardening experts all around the world, including central media columnists and TV gardeners, have presented a united front with respect to organic methods and this lead has been followed by the gardening suppliers and manufacturers. There are now organic alternatives to every aspect of modern gardening available from chain horticultural suppliers. The speed with which organic gardening took off was dramatic. In England, organic farming was originally championed by the Henry Doubleday Research Association and in 1961 they had a membership of just 470; by 1991 their membership had grown to 18,000 (James 1993:205). Perhaps the most important sign that organic consumption has arrived is the challenge, currently underway, to produce an organic cola drink. In 1999 the British manufacturer Whole Earth launched an organic cola flavoured by African cola nut extract and Mexican Agave cactus juice that is used to make tequila. According to Whole Earth, parents struggle to ween children away from the conventional high-caffeine cola drinks and their product with its ‘gentle lift’ is more apt for the organic consumer (Elsworth 1999). Up until the organic food revolution of the 1990s, the fears driving the growth of natural whole foods were well summarised by Lupton (1996:89): The nature of contemporary developed societies is such that most people cannot identify the source of the foods they buy in the supermarket, for production and processing occur elsewhere, out of their control. As a result, ‘modern, ordinary supermarket food products tend to acquire some mysterious, alien quality’ (Fischler 1980:945). Hence the panics over food contamination, which serve to emphasise the lack of control most people have over the content of the food they eat. While the processing (cooking) of food once denoted its civilising, its conversion from wild to domesticated food, such processing now breeds symbolic danger: ‘The peril we fear in food is no longer biological corruption, putrefaction, but rather chemical additives, trace elements, or excessive processing’ (Fischler 1980:946). The act of incorporation of such food then becomes problematic for the equilibrium of the subjectivity of the consumer: ‘if one does not know what one is eating, one is liable to lose the awareness of certainty of what is oneself (Fischler 1988:290). (Lupton 1996:89)



While this is all well and good and underlines the significance of the symbolic and ritual content to foods in late modernity, one must be careful not to reduce consumer behaviour merely to the social construction of symbolic danger. To be fair, Fischler, whom Lupton draws upon extensively, was writing in 1980 when food scares and fears were perhaps less founded on tangible harms and harmful episodes. Either way, a trusted organic production regime has wiped out the uncertainties of which Fischler spoke and reintroduces the embodied connection between nature, food, health and self. Natural cosmetics If it became more important to ingest only natural, beneficial and pure foods, exactly the same argument applied to other absorbing surfaces of the body such as skin, lips and hair. Since the technologies of body modification in the West involved a considerable application of dyes, perfumes, astringents, detergents and oils the modern cosmetic industry was also ripe for challenge. When legislation required the labelling of ingredients to foods and cosmetics, some tried and trusted cosmetic brands that had been marketed for their gentle, natural, soothing and aesthetic virtues – recipes that had added charm precisely because of their secret, almost magical formulae – now looked less enchanting and more like scary concoctions of chemicals. Further, the notion that such formulae needed extensive testing before they could be deemed safe for humans distanced them from their former romance. Finally, when it became widely known that such testing was performed on live experimental animals such as rabbits, beagles and monkeys – often on sensitive areas of their body – their claim to be a source of gentility, softness, femininity and civility was somewhat exposed. The timing of the challenge occurred at approximately the same time as the wholefoods innovation and while these shops offered some alternative soaps and creams, largely imported simple peasant preparations from Asia and the Middle East, the main challenge came from one extraordinary source with the perfectly apt new name of Body Shop. Body Shop combined the demand for a range of normative cosmetics with the demand for natural origins and a benign, victimless science, a socially responsible form of trading, and a commitment to environmental goals such as recycling and natural packaging. In introducing more natural products in their cosmetics, they also performed the ethnic turn: many of their products were the result of searching the peasant and indigenous margins for new sources and bases for their products. They introduced Vitamin E Cream, Tea Tree Oil, Banana Shampoo, Aloe Vera Lotion, Babassu Oil for White Musk Lotion, for example. These innovations simultaneously promised natural contact for the most sensitive areas of the body and the enchantments and mystery of indigenous use of plants for the body surface.



It began in 1976 as a small wholefood-like store in Brighton, England, and although it has become a major international organisation, its shops have retained a semblance of that neo-traditionalism favoured in the late 1970s. Brighton was a fitting place for such an idea to take off since it had a long history as a health resort but also a reputation for indulgence in other sensual body pleasures (see Shields 1991). Indeed Brighton in 1976 was a leading centre of alternative Britain, unrespectable, indulgent and racy. Its founder, Anita Roddick, combined alternative new age values and politics with the astute petit bourgeois business sense often found, somewhat paradoxically, in a movement that promotes selfhood. In the 1980s Body Shop expanded rapidly through franchising and became an international high street success story and much copied by clone-type businesses such as Red Earth in Australia. Indeed, Body Shop is responsible for completely changing the face of cosmetics and toiletries in the West: hardly any product is marketed without some strong nature referent. In 2000 Body Shop described itself thus: The Body Shop International PLC is a values driven, high-quality skin and hair care manufacturer and retailer operating in 47 countries with over 1,500 outlets spanning 24 languages and 12 time zones. ( 2.5.2000)

In the wake of such business success Body Shop has maintained its image as alternative and politically correct through the funding of splashy, selected causes in third world development, animal rights, animal conservation, environmentalism, human rights or legislation change. Recently for example, (November 1999) it was a leading force in the successful campaign to ban the testing of cosmetics and their ingredients on animals in the UK. It uses these legitimacy claims widely and loudly in its marketing, maintaining and extending the demand for a more ‘natural’ modernism. The association of nature with small-scale, face-to-face, village life – the ‘peasant’ model that informs the romance of the alternative movement – is clearly taken up by Body Shop in its selection of causes and marketing images. For example it underlines its commitment to this through what it calls its ‘Community Trade programme’, ‘which creates sustainable trading relationships with communities in need around the world. The goal is to help create livelihoods and to explore trade-based approaches to supporting sustainable development by sourcing ingredients and accessories from social and economically marginalised producer communities. ... The Body Shop now trades with over 30 Community trade suppliers in 19 countries and Community trade now accounts for almost 10% of its total ingredient and accessories purchasing’ ( Body Shop has therefore overtly brought the western consumer closer to nature in the sense of safe and ethical materials to use on our skin and hair, in terms of simpler means of sourcing and making material and in



terms of linking the western consumer to the natural areas and indigenous people with whom they now trade ‘directly’. They have successfully shifted cosmetic technologies away from an almost exclusive use by adult women to a more routinised use by children and men. Body Shop values retain the importance of beauty and well being but in linking it to health and safety and ethics it has extended its relevance beyond female beauty. The emphasis on the body as the sacred site that powers the demand for nature was further emphasised in its recent launch of Naked Body, its first consumer magazine. Not surprisingly, this magazine gives information on their products but it also makes the connection between bodycare and physical and mental health. Some of their products such as essential oils and aromatherapy technologies are directly linked with alternative or complementary medicine and it is to its core technologies, practitioners and its development that we shall now turn. Alternative medicine Much of the alternative natural and organic food boom centres on consumers insulating themselves from harms deriving from synthetic and modern processing and manufacture and is thus as much about prevention as it is about accruing the benefits of a purely natural diet. We have also seen that a much greater proportion of baby foods are organic in UK supermarkets than other categories of food and the adoption of organic or at least wholefood diets has been widely prescribed for some lifethreatening illnesses (Coward 1989) suggesting that at-risk groups and those facing illness may be even more driven to consider natural alternatives. For individuals who are currently experiencing illness or pain and are therefore experienced in the consumption of orthodox medicine, precisely the same sorts of fears may drive them to seek more natural or alternative medicines and therapies. Western medicine has been criticised for similar reasons to modern food production: it relies too much on synthetic chemical interventions (bio-medicine); trials for new medicines rule out screening of long-term effects; pharmaceutical medicine and scientific medicine in general is aimed at the symptoms rather than the causes; it relies too much on invasive procedures such as surgery and it is extremely ineffective in many important areas, e.g. back pain, some cancers, long-term pain management, arthritis (Coward 1989) and it may cause as much suffering and illness as it cures. In addition, western medicine has disempowered the patient’s participation in their own healing in favour of all-powerful professionals (Lupton 1996). Although Coward is surely correct in pointing to the mythological status of alternative ‘natural medicine’ as somehow ritually purer than a demonised scientific medicine, it is not merely because people have come to distrust and banish scientific interventions in their lives. According to Berliner (1984) there are eight factors that enable us to locate the emergence of alternative medicine.



First, there have been profound differences in the disease structure of modern societies. When scientific medicine took off around the beginning of the twentieth century, the main focus was on diseases of bacterial and parasitic origin and although it is questionable whether it was scientific medicine or improved sanitary measure that was responsible for their control, it is certainly the case that very few of those diseases are serious medical problems of recent times. Scientific medicine peaked in terms of its success and relevance between 1920 and 1950 when a substantial number of medical advances against these diseases were made. In recent years, however, there are three factors that diminish its relevance and scope. There has been a shift towards diseases of older people and a decline in infant mortality. There has been a significant increase in mortality and disease that does not have a biological origin e.g. accidents, suicides and there has been an increase in the ‘number of deaths from diseases which have a strong social component and a multifactorial aetiology such as cancer, heart disease, cirrhosis and arteriosclerosis’ (Berliner 1984:40). Since scientific medicine focuses almost exclusively on research into biological factors, the growing relevance of non-somatic, social and environmental factors has been left to other ‘alternative’ practitioners to develop. Alternatives have homed in on the increase in chronic disease palliation and upon the whole person and their environment as the key to their approach. In other words, alternatives are less natural as an other to the science of scientific medicine than concerned with a different object. Scientific medicine is concerned with the malfunctioning organ and developed specialists to deal with each case in isolation from the patient whereas alternatives are typically concerned with the suffering patient as an outcome of the cultural and psychological environment they occupy. Second, a changing demographic structure has opened up areas of healing at which scientific medicine and its institutional arrangements are typically less proficient. Most importantly, an aging population produces enormous demands for habilitation, rehabilitation, supervision and care over a long period. Diseases are more typically associated with nonreversible, chronic conditions, not those that can be cured by invasive techniques and specialists: ‘Alternatives to scientific medicine tend to focus their efforts on the alleviation of pain, and the involvement of patients in their own care and have spurned the use of hospital-based high technology services, so they are usually less expensive than scientific medical treatment’ (Berliner 1984:42). Third, the previous two points highlight an increased need for the interaction and involvement of the patient in the healing process. However, scientific medicine is not predicated on primary care, which focuses on the whole person, but on the disease organ and its recovery. The elite nature of its scientific and research orientation makes mere care boring and less heroic. Scientific medicine encourages the passive patient and tends only to see sick people in hospitals: ‘The physician rarely gets to see healthy people or find out in what circumstances they best retain their



health’ (Berliner 1984:44). Alternatives home in on precisely what scientific medicine is structured to ignore: psychology, nutrition, environmental, epidemiology and occupational health. Fourth, scientific medicine is institutionally predicated on the hospital, especially in the USA. Studies have shown how hospital institutionalisation strips the patient of their subjectivity, their social surroundings and their daily routines: ‘Whatever role these factors have in the disease process are intentionally removed’ (Bevliner 1984:45). Invasive procedures require long periods of recovery and the use of hospital bed and technologies for this purpose are a necessary part of the economy of scientific medicine, irrespective of the patient’s needs. In the USA where hospital care is more systematic than in the UK, there is twice the amount of surgical and diagnostic procedures with no difference in overall health (Berliner 1984:45). Alternatives avoid hospitalisation and actively use the social universe of the people they heal. Fifth, the technological basis of scientific medicine has two profound limitations. On the one hand, there are technologies which have been a failure or a risk in themselves, e.g. the birth control pill, radiation, chemotherapy and areas of surgery. These failures propel the search for more effective and safer technologies and this is where alternative medicines make strong claims. On the other hand, scientific medical procedures that can produce benefits also go wrong very frequently in the rushed, fatigued and understaffed conditions of most modern hospitals. Iatrogenesis or death at the hand of a doctor is a major cause of hospital deaths and latrogenic disease (disease caused by previous treatment) is a major cost to health budgets (Vincent and Furnham 1997; Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2000). Sixth, scientific medicine employs a machine model of the body in which organs are merely independent parts that can be replaced, patched up, removed or rebuilt and the increasingly costly nature of such healthcare has prioritised the functioning of organs as opposed to the overall quality of life and experience of the patient. Some procedures can be very long and painful and distressing; some people are forced to live on until machine-supported life is no longer possible; many people are kept from a semblance of normal life for very little quality of life gains. Under the machine model of the body death has come to be seen as the failure of medicine and possibly also of the patient to manage or afford the sorts of services that will keep them alive. Alternative medicine views death as part of the lifecycle and therefore an important social ritual to be observed with dignity. As we will see later, pagan religions have also identified death as important and valuable and as valid as life, a stage to be celebrated not hidden in a shroud of shame and stigma. Seventh, as demographic and disease structures of modern societies change and as improved health turns less on fixing problems than on preventing them in the first place, scientific medicine is losing ground to preventative alternatives. The recent Futures magazine that predicted key



changes to the year 2035, argued that exercise and diet will increasingly come to replace medicine in the organisation and management of health. To that we may add existing alternatives such as stress management and self-management. Finally, in purely cost terms, scientific medicine has become so elaborate and maintained by high-cost technologies that insurance-based healthcare in the USA and Australia and the National Health Service of the UK have faced major financial crises. In the USA especially, escalating costs have seen more and more people unable to afford healthcare and turn to cheaper alternatives or self-care. As a result of these factors, the search for alternative medicine has thrown up or rediscovered a wide range of natural alternatives. Earliest forms occurred in the 1890s. Later forms resulted from the more global interests of the 1960s onwards. These quite deliberately took place outside the orbits of western dominance, in China and other parts of Asia, from India, the Mediterranean basin and Africa, as well as from premodern America and Europe. The sorts of medical technologies included in recent attempts to measure its growth include relaxation techniques, herbal medicine, massage therapy, chiropractic care, megavitamins, self-help groups, imagery techniques, commercial diet, folk remedies, lifestyle diet, energy healing, homoeopathy, biofeedback and acupuncture (Eisenberg et al. 1998:1569–71). Perhaps more significant than the breadth of provision was the speed and strength with which they were taken up. According to Eisenberg et al., alternative medicine in the USA increased rapidly in the 1990s and is rivalling mainstream medicine in terms of both numbers of visits and spending. Between 1990 and 1997 Americans who used at least one of 16 alternative therapies increased from 33.8 percent to 42 percent while the probability of using an alternative therapy increased from 36 percent to 46 percent: Extrapolations to the US population suggest a 47.3 percent increase in total visits to alternative medicine practitioners, from 427 million in 1990 to 629 million in 1997, thereby exceeding total visits to all US primary care physicians. .. . Estimated expenditures for alternative medicine professional services increased by 45 percent between 1990 and 1997 and were conservatively estimated at $21 billion in 1997 with at least $12.2 billion paid out of pocket. This exceeds the 1997 out-of-pocket expenditures for all US hospitalisations. Total 1997 out-of-pocket expenditures relating to alternative therapies were conservatively estimated at $27 billion, which is comparable with the projected 1997 out-of-pocket expenditures for all US physician services. (Eisenberg et al. 1998:1569)

The USA is not unique: 10 percent of Danes used alternative therapies in 1987; 33 percent of Finnish people were users by 1982; and 49 percent of Australians had used an alternative therapy in the 12 months prior to 1993 (Eisenberg et al. 1998:1569). MacLennan et al. found that in Australia $AU621 million were spent on alternative medicines in 1993 as compared



with $AU360 million for patient contributions for all classes of pharmaceutical drugs purchased for the year 1992/3. Doran (1999) shows how attendances at the Hobart Natural Health Expos and the Health, Mind and Body Expos grew through the 1990s. There were only 400 attendees at the 1991 Natural Health Expo but by 1993 attendance had grown to over 1,200 and was sustained in each successive year. Similarly, the Health, Mind and Body Expo attracted only 500 in its opening year, 1995, but by 1999 it attracted close to 3,000. Whereas the first featured only 15 practitioners, by 1999 there were 65. Other local studies in Australia confirmed the steady growth of alternative medicine. For example, between 1994 and 1999 massage therapists advertising in the Melbourne Yellow Pages grew from 330 to 719. A similar study in Tasmania for all alternative practitioners advertising in the Yellow Pages showed 10 in 1979, 21 in 1984, 60 in 1990, 90 in 1995 and 183 in 1999 (Doran 1999:45). Membership of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS) also grew from 3,000 members in 1994 to 7,000 in 1999 (Doran 1999:30). According to US data alternative therapy is largely used for the treatment of chronic conditions including headaches, back problems, depression and anxiety and the fastest growing types of therapy were herbal medicine, massage, megavitamins, self-help groups, folk remedies, energy healing and homoeopathy (Eisenberg et al. 1998:1569) although nearly half of all visits to alternative therapists were to chiropractors and massage therapists (Eisenberg et al. 1998:1572). Nonetheless, these data are consistent with Berliner’s (1984) largely structural account of the growth of alternative medicines and therapies and here we see that natural therapies are not merely compelling because they oppose science, but because they fill sizeable gaps left by scientific medicine. A similar argument might be made for the growth of alternative pagan religions in recent years. Although it too lays great emphasis on restoring a more appropriate natural life, in many ways its opposition to science and technology is not in a binary opposite form. Rather, science is seen to have obscured nature in its meteoric rise in modernity and particularly as it was embraced fully and exclusively by popular culture. What we are tending to see in recent years in addition to the downside of science in terms of risks is the downside of the scientific or Cartesian emphasis on the mind, mental capability and the solving of intellectual problems. As with medicine many other human problems of late modernity have to do with moral, spiritual and embodied problems about which science has little to say. Environmental questions, questions concerning a proper ecology and questions concerning how humanity is to live in the world and act towards the natural world are compelling and urgent and although science has attempted to assert an opinion in these matters it has done so more because nature was part of a disciplinary sub-division allocated to them rather than because they can answer them scientifically. With new age religion we find people searching in areas that seem more relevant to these new questions.



Nature, the body and religion(s) Once in the wind of morning I ranged the thymy wold; The world-wide air was azure And all the brookes ran gold There through the dews beside me Beheld a youth that trod, With feathered cap on forehead, And poised a golden rod (Housman 1994:61)

We have already seen how A.E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad underscores the significance of the English countryside (and dwelling within it) for constructions of regional and national belonging and identity. However, naturalisation processes take people closer and into the natural world itself and this is frequently perceived as enchanted, alive, communicative and powerful. His poem, The Merry Guide, is one of a number that express an enchanted perception of nature and this recurs elsewhere in modern English literature from Mary Webb’s (1917) Gone to Earth to Fay Weldon’s (1980) Puffball. Nature seen as an enchanted, mystical, potent and therefore important domain has a long history that evidently does not depend upon conversion, apprenticeship or ritual initiation to exist. Although it has left myriad literary traces it seems to be capable of spontaneous eruption as a practice or belief. Such a spontaneous eruption or revival is currently under way and provides another, deeper embodied relationship with nature. Scepticism about Cartesian rationality and its externalised nature, combined with the view that nature can restore imbalances created by modern lifestyles and technologies and that humans are linked (in ways not fully understood) to nature, has predisposed many people in the West to take one further step: to recast the relationship between humanity and nature in religious and mystical terms. By such means nature and humanity are reunited through a religious and ritual association, an understanding of the mystical nature of nature is sought and a craft of practice is developed to accrue the benefits of an enchanted world. It is perfectly logical for those who blame modernity for a range of pathologies and misunderstandings to return to a way of life and a knowledge of the world that predated modernity and the religion (Christianity) that promoted both the separation of humanity and nature and the instrumental relationship between them. This revival of paganism and other new age religions has had relatively few clues as to how pre-Christian religions operated and although there seems to be a strong nostalgic desire to rediscover and reestablish primordial religions and rituals of Europe (especially in places such as Norway), the more accurate anthropological records of putatively similar types of religiosity, together with familiarity with religions from the eastern civilisations, has encouraged a willingness to produce



hybridised versions, even to make the content of these religions very flexible and indeterminate. What they all share, however, is the assertion of an embodied relationship with nature. The body is unambiguously ‘nature’, the technologies of ritual and magic take an embodied form (and require the learning and practice of many body skills) and the body is the medium of communing as well as one of the main beneficiaries of religious practice. Pagan and new age religious forms and movements have expanded considerably since the 1970s. In almost all cases nature is an integral part of the cosmology and does not sit in an inferior hierarchical position relative to humanity, but is simply an integral part of it. Through a variety of embodied techniques, these pagan religions seek access to what is perceived to be a force running through all nature and seek to become open to it and attuned to it. The Pagan Federation in Britain, for example, invites membership from all people who can abide by three key principles, one of which is ‘Love and Kinship with Nature. Reverence for the life force and its ever renewing cycles of life and death’ ( In this section we will examine this growth in new age/pagan nature religiosity, analyse its historical and modern antecedence, review the reasons given for joining and describe briefly their key tenets and practices. According to the Pagan Federation online (2000), the most important of the British pagan organisations, ‘membership has grown remarkably [in recent years], and is now around 2,500 with Pagan Dawns [its journal] circulation at 4,500’ ( These numbers would be greater still if they included what Bouma (1997) includes in the category ‘new age’ religious groups. In his study in Australia this group included Wiccans (witches), scientologists, Satanism, paganism and spiritualism and with 30,000 people affiliating to these in the 1996 census, they were the fastest growing set of religious groups. According to The Australian of 16 October 1999, the last census revealed 727 followers of animism, 554 druids, 4,353 pagans, 1,849 wiccans, and 2,091 satyrists. In the USA the scale of interest can be gauged, albeit indirectly, by the size of the market for new age products: the new age book market is worth $100 million, there are 1000 new age magazine titles and there are specialist new age radio stations (Possamai 1998:263). Our knowledge of modern paganism derives from a growing number of studies in America (e.g. Adler 1979; Berger 1999), in England (e.g. Luhrmann 1989) and in Australia (e.g. Hume 1997; Possamai 1998). Although witchcraft and paganism has a long and chequered history in Europe and America, all these authors agree that modern forms do not share a continuity either with pre-Christian religions of Europe or with subsequent forms that continued into the Christian periods. Some modern Wiccans and pagans claim an historical or a genealogical link with previous practitioners but there is little or no depth to these claims. All authorities agree that modern forms are entirely different in that they



were invented or recomposed from a number of previous and contemporary traditions, by known founders in the twentieth century. Modern-day Wicca derives almost exclusively from its founder Gerald Gardener and his followers, who appear to have assembled its core ideas and variations from a range of new religious sources in the nineteenth century (Kelly 1991). These inspirations included spiritualism, theosophy and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Beginning in 1848 in the USA, spiritualism created a widespread enthusiasm for contacting and communicating with the deceased. In itself it had little to do with nature or nature religion, but it contained the idea of interactive possibilities between the living and a spirit world, the transmutability of souls and a communicative technology and created a curiosity for eastern, animist and other religious forms outside the Christian West. Theosophy was a more explicitly open ended, exploratory tradition of study and enlightenment focused on the supernatural, ancient religion and lore and the possibility of human psychic powers. The Russian-American Helen Petrova Blavatsky introduced the idea of a synthetic religion based on sources from Hinduism, eastern mysticism and western mysticism. The synthesis included the notion of an overarching unity to the universe, the divine nature of all things and a singular immanent and transcendent divinity. Under this synthesis magic was a natural phenomenon or force and therefore a part of the laws of nature. These same laws were the same for all levels of existence in the universe, thus introducing the idea of a non-hierarchical chain of being. New Thought was another late nineteenthcentury variation on these themes, but concentrated on refining methods of creating physical effects from thought. With New Thought this was particularly focused on well-being and health, self-healing and self-advancement. As Hume (1997) notes this legacy is particularly prominent in contemporary new age philosophy and practice. Hume (1997:23) suggests that Charles Leland’s Arcadia or the Gospel of the Witches of 1899 inspired some of the earliest interest in a pagan revival. Part popular anthropology, part folklore, Leland’s account of witchcraft and magic in Europe (and especially Italy) was put together as a result of extensive travels with the help of an Italian gypsy woman. He claimed to have discovered an old religion that included such elements as hereditary witches and witchfeat (poems, incantations), belief in the goddess Diana, divinations, religious objects and spirit invocation. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (OGD) added a rich theatricality of ritual and graded initiations, largely from the masonic traditions, to these spiritual and magic foments: The OGD added its own fundamental principle: the power of the magical imagination by which a desired outcome can be attained through seemingly magical means using visualisation and the concentration of will. The OGD had a system of degrees; each based on ritual initiation and a program of training in occult and magical work. (Hume 1997:25)



So, by the turn of the twentieth century, these traditions emerged from intellectual middle-class circles, rather than from rural backwaters where they had survived in some form and were therefore also tinged with elements of a Romanticism that revered wild nature and wild, uncivilised (and pre-civilised) humanity. Gerald Gardener (b.1884) had spent much of his life in the Far East as a tea and rubber planter. In the mid-1930s he retired to the English countryside where he continued his interest in the occult. In 1949 he published High Magic’s Aid (1993) and in 1951 after the Witchcraft Act was repealed he publicly declared himself to be a witch. According to Hume, Gardener had a talent for the dramatic and created modern Wicca borrowing from most of the traditions and sources noted earlier. He even created a seductive prehistory for his own invention, his initiation into the last active coven in England. Key concepts such as the duotheistic god and goddess, the notion of degrees of initiation and his compendium of witches’ rituals and magic (Book of Shadows published as A Witches Bible Compleat see Farrar and Farrar 1995) are clearly taken from other sources: the latter for example are taken from Rudyard Kipling, Charles Leyland, the Key of Solomon, the Order of the Golden Dawn and others. Until recently, modern Wicca was very small scale, refusing to attempt to recruit new members. It seems that new initiates came largely from within the social circles of existing witches and up until the 1960s most could claim a line of connection to those initiated by Gardener himself. Although nature was clearly an integral part of their cosmology it was not until after the 1960s and the emergence of an ecological movement that it became more central. After the 1960s these religious cults and their beliefs and rituals were seen by some as consistent and commensurate with ecological and environmental beliefs, providing them with an heroic historical precedent, a cultural identity that they might not otherwise have as well as a politically correct ‘global village’ eclecticism. ‘Some say that Paganism is the “spiritual arm” or “spiritual side” of the ecological movement and has become actively involved in social and environmental issues, aligning itself with some indigenous belief systems (such as those of the North American Indians and Australian aborigines)’ (Hume 1997:44). Hume summarises contemporary pagan views on nature in the following way: The earth is regarded as sacred, a living entity with its own indwelling spirit, and the expression of the pagan relationship with the Earth is one of deep connection, of stewardship, and of reverence for the Earth as our Mother goddess. There is a desire to feel more attuned with nature and natural forces. Some feel the earth is actually conscious, thus extending the Gaia hypothesis (which views earth as a living organism) and because it is pantheistic, the earth is also divine, hence the desire to live in harmony with the nature. Ecological awareness becomes a religious duty. (Hume 1997:44)



Paganism offers a religious underpinning to more secular concerns for the environment but it also offers a more consistent religiosity for religious people who have joined the ecological movement. Margot Adler (1979) found that pagan association with contemporary environmentalism in America was a major reason for becoming involved, but equally, Hume’s study of Australia shows that some pagans joined because they felt that Christianity was incommensurate with their environmentalism. Paganism also complements the essentially active and embodied aspect of the ecology movement. To many environmentalists perhaps, their heightened concern for nature, their fear for its future and their closer identification with particular nature (through involvement in road protests, for example) involves the development of commitment, sentiments, attachment and emotion, while at the same time the rejection of the modern world order. It is a major shift in ontology and consciousness which leaves them open to the possibility of making new connections between them and nature. Since pagan cosmologies emphasise the existence of a power or force (life force) connecting all of nature and since this is not a manifest being with human communicative skills, since divinity is in everything, it follows that the practitioner must train their body and their senses in order to experience it. For this reason we find that the body is frequently specially prepared in pagan ritual. This is evident, firstly, in the special relevance of nakedness. Clearly clothes are not nearly so natural as the naked body and the naked body is more vulnerable to natural sensation if not sensing than the clothed body. Wicca meetings are often conducted without clothes, pagan festivals often involved naked dancing and important initiations and rituals are frequently conducted nude. Similarly, there is a less inhibited attitude to public sex and sexual intercourse is conducted during the initiation of higher grades of witch. Second, great emphasis is placed on contemplating nature as a way of general attunement and in preparation for rites of passage. Third, paganism and witchcraft involve an embodied technology for connecting with and influencing natural forces. These include the practice of magic, the use of symbolism, shamanic states of altered consciousness, meditation, visualisation, spells, dream catching and so on. Some are highly esoteric while others like the craft of the hedge witch is merely an exploration of the usefulness and the cultivation or cropping of useful plants. Fourth, many of these practices and rituals, especially for example the important Wiccan ritual called drawing down the moon, creates an embodied ecstatic experience where the participant’s sense of self and of their environment are temporarily fused in an experience Czikszentmihali (1975) has called ‘flow’. Fifth, the emphasis on creating a more ritual life and calendar involves the collective embodied presence in a range of ritual purposes. Many of these provide expression and recognition of the value and significance given to nature in late modernity that is otherwise ignored: ‘Rituals are performed to celebrate the seasons, to honour the deities, to attune with nature, to attain self-realisation, to initiate participants into



the mysteries, and for magical and healing purposes’ (Hume 1997:113). Sixth, in addition to being ‘tunable’ to nature and the life forces and trained to master the means of affect, the body can also be taken over by or temporarily inhabited by deity indicating that it is the body itself rather than a concept like the soul that is the fundamental essence of being. Whereas in Christian traditions the materiality of the body is relatively insignificant, disposable and ephemeral, the materiality of nature in Wicca is critical because it is the particular configuration of interrelationships between embodied species that constitute life. This is why living bodies, death and putrefaction are all important in Wicca because they signal the flows of nature through each individual. In sum, neo-pagan belief and ritual has built a layer of embodied relations with the natural world modelled closely on animist and other indigenous and eastern religious traditions, including materials from European prehistory. The openly innovative hybrid religions and the flexibility for individuals to determine their own pagan religiosity should not be dismissed as chaotic or pure fantasy. There seems to be a coherence in what Possamai (1998:268) has called perennism, ‘a syncretic spirituality which interprets the world as monist, and whose teleology for its actors is the integral self, and whose soteriology is sought through gnosis’. Although the numbers of practising pagans, witches etc. are not large, there are indications that they are growing. However, this may be less important than the way these beliefs, particularly with respect to ‘nature’, have become more widely defused in contemporary society through new age culture, ecologism, feminism and ecofeminism, animal rights and animals protection, through enlightened ‘green’ business philosophy and even to the extent that they have influenced Christian belief and practice. It may be that although thoughts and views about nature are variable and mystical (and therefore as yet unknowable), an important rupture or disaffection with Cartesian thought, Christianity and modern science may have been effected. Nature sports and the body Most sociological accounts of what we might call ‘nature sports’ such as hunting and angling seek to decode them as social constructions rather than as embodied activities. For some they act out power relationships in the country and embody particular configurations of social class (Tester 1989). Others have noted their gender constructions and explained them in terms of the need to socialise and reproduce masculinities (Dahles 1993). Elias (1993) saw the significance of fox hunting as a demonstration of civility and an appropriate ‘civilised’ demonstration of repugnance for hands-on violence, since the hounds had taken on the role of killers and the hunters the role of disembodied spectators. The hunt had literally become a spectacle rather than a kinaesthetic, natural experience. Franklin (1996b) constructed Australian hunting sports as embodying, first, a



national origin mythology of the self-provisioning bush survivor and, second, a more recent national environmentalism in which pest species are being cleansed from the native bush. Despite the relevance of these social constructions is it appropriate that these complete the analysis of such sports? Arguably there is at least another type of question that has to be answered: why, given the current moral climate of opposition to such sports are they enjoying such robust popularity in precisely those societies that generate the maximum opposition? (See Franklin 1999.) One answer is that they provide an embodied experience of nature that has been eroded by the visualism of tourism, conservationism and environmentalism: here are activities that place people and their bodies back into nature, not set off to one side, nervously hoping to have as little impact as possible. There are two possible sources of an embodied discourse for nature sports. the first derives from Isaac Walton’s influential book, The Compleat Angler, and the second derives from Darwinian and neoDarwinian thinking on the body and nature. Walton’s Arcadia In a previous paper (Franklin 1996a) Walton’s The Compleat Angler (1653) was analysed as a subtle critique of the postEnglish Civil War puritan order. If properly addressed through the sensual pleasures of angling and the angling landscape, nature provided a necessary counter-balance to the one dimensionality of the capitalist social order. For Walton, nature was an appropriate altar for Christian worship and angling was a fitting opportunity to reintegrate the humbled body into the purifying materiality and rhythms of creation. In The Compleat Angler, the restful, still and quiet body required for angling are made to contrast favourably with the noise and strife of the commercial city; the direct, beneficial body contact with the undisputed materiality of nature is made to contrast with the abstractions and deceits of business and progress. Indeed, Walton singles out the one-dimensional character of the puritan dissenter – ‘men of sowre complexions; money-getting men’ – as a major social problem of the age. Angling was to deliver a return to a sane, peaceful, slow, embodied aesthetic of Arcadian Christianity (Walton 1962). That this book has been in continuous publication since 1653 is testament to the appeal of its nostalgic rural idyll. And it is in comparison with the ordering of everyday life that angling and hunting find much of their appeal. Walton preached the therapeutic virtues of acquiring natural history and an appreciation of the aesthetics of wild flora and fauna; the benefits of quiet contemplation and meditation that the intensely engaging patience of angling provides; and the healthiness of an outdoor pursuit requiring an early rise, a healthy jaunt through the countryside and plenty of fresh air. In Walton, it is the physicalities of angling which are emphasised. The benefits of contagion with soil, banks, flowers, dew. The rewards of handling natural materials in the construction of rods, baits, lines and tackle. The healthiness of fresh air, fresh fish, pure water and



outdoor companionship. Angling and hunting books have extolled these embodied virtues ever since and, we must conclude, they have held their attraction with most discernible groups of city dwellers from businessmen and professionals through factory and office workers, commuters, and the new service class. Consider for example the following from an angling text of the 1960s: I fish because I love to; because the environs where trout are found, are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because, in a world where most people seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion. (Traver 1960, quoted in Paxman 1995:3)

Thus the angler was not simply someone who enjoyed angling; an angler was someone who rejected the modern world in some way and belonged to a fraternity, a leisure cult that worked in order to angle. The embodied hunter: Darwin and the ‘killer ape’ legacy In the nineteenth century, following the revelatory work of Darwin and later Raymond Dart’s discovery of our ‘killer ape’ hominoid ancestry, the animality of humanity came to be seen as over-constrained and weakened by civility and city life (Cartmill 1993). Neo-Darwinian proponents include Haekel, Nietzsche, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and Baden-Powell. In various ways Neo-Darwinism identified and emphasised the human body (but particularly the male body) as a remnant of hunting and killing species-being, which, unless exercised in an authentic way, was in danger of weakening and pathology. The antidote to metropolitan physical malaise was the frequent return to nature, the ultimate test of which was to join in battle with natural predators or fight enormous fish. Such a discourse is most famously associated with the Second World War and Nazism, but Cartmill shows how it was also deeply influential in enshrining and extending hunting and fishing as leisures in the post-war period in the USA and elsewhere. Neo-Darwinism opposes and seeks to reverse the process whereby ‘[man] had been wrenched from the natural world by the creation of civilised societies that require institutional regulations of violence’ (Turner 1991:14). In the twentieth century hunters and anglers were positively encouraged to use guns and other killing technologies providing they were used against animals. From the late nineteenth century urbanites began to become anxious about their lack of contact with nature (see, for example, Stratton 1986) and an outlet for their animal species-being. Cartmill argues that a complex of neo-Darwinian ideas provide a motive explanation for the growth and popularity of modern hunting. Moreover, because this account is anchored to changing anxieties about the body in the early twentieth century, it promises to make more sense of the hunting and angling literatures.



Body and nature Despite the murderous blood-lust attributed to hunting by its critics and as implied in Cartmill’s (1993) characterisation of neo-Darwinian leisures, it is almost impossible to find an example of a hunting or angling writer who speaks of the urge to kill or the pleasures or satisfaction from killing animals. Although the slaughter of animals is riven with taboos in the West, and subject to much euphemistic language and spatial seclusion (Vialles 1994), one might expect the full-blown Darwinian hunter to be able to let it all out as part of his therapeutic self-expression. According to a later paper however, Cartmill (1995) found that hunters emphasise the embodied and aestheticised experiences of nature rather than the pleasures of the kill: But the most literate hunters, the ones who are apt to write books and columns about the joys of hunting generally agree that the chiefest of these joys is the pleasure of a temporary union with the natural order. ‘I must know,’ writes one sporting columnist, ‘that I am part of and have common bond with, the wilderness’. Another calls the hunt ‘a Promised Land’ that keeps the huntsman from being ‘isolated from the natural world’. Valerius Geist describes hunting as an ‘intercourse with nature’. ‘The human being,’ wrote the hunting philosopher Ortega y Gasset, ‘tries to rest from the enormous discomfort and all embracing disquiet of history by “returning” transitorily, artificially to nature in the sport of hunting.’ Hunting said Ortega ‘permits us the greatest luxury of all, the ability to enjoy a vacation from the human condition’. (Cartmill 1995:784)

Cartmill scoffs at this arguing that ‘this rationale is a product of the way we define hunting, in terms of a symbolic opposition between the wild kingdom of nature and the polluted domain of human culture and history (ibid:784). Well, perhaps, yes. However, Cartmill is anti-hunting and his analysis is biased by this view. In seeking to insist on an intellectualised and ethical content for an appropriate relation with nature he fails to accept the content of their embodied, sensual experience. For our purposes, however, it makes no sense to treat hunters’ apparent love of nature as a rationale for something completely different. Ironically, this aesthetic of nature belongs to the Romantic tradition – of Rousseau rather than Byron. Nature is beautiful and perfect but one must learn to live in it, with it: the emphasis is on holism, instrumentality and interactive relationships with the natural world. Thoreau’s Walden (1965) and Leopold’s Sand County Almanac (1949) exemplify this. The critical point is that a connection between body and nature is being made. It is argued here that the attraction of hunting and angling lies in the sensual depth, complexity and integration of this natural relation. While smell, touch and hearing have been sidelined in modernity, particularly in the



sensing of nature, it is argued here that in conjunction with sight they are honed and integrated in the development of hunting and angling skills. It is argued that the thrill and pleasure which hunters and anglers often find difficult to express adequately in words derive from the purposive exercise of a fully sensed engagement with the natural world. Whereas the more commonplace visual sensing is intimately connected via symbols and signs with an intellectualisation and mental engagement, the nature of hunters and anglers is less understood or conceptualised than perceived or felt. It is nature objectified or triangulated through the different senses. A sense of hearing and the mastery of the sonic content of specific natures are central to hunting but it features in some angling forms to the same extent. Hunting and angling opportunities are precisely located at times when poor light (and therefore vision) offers protection to most animal species. Even in better lit conditions, vegetation provides almost perfect cover for many species and hunters have to rely on sensing them by other means. The calls of birds have to be studied to discern their location and by their imitation to lure them into gunshot. Command over the sounds of nature – for hunters need to know more than the sounds of prey species–is a stock standard component of all hunting literatures. Leopold’s accounts in Sand County Almanac are punctuated with the calls, songs and warnings of nature: To arrive too early in the marsh is an adventure in pure listening; the ear roams at will among the noises of the night, without let or hindrance from the hand or eye. When you hear a mallard being audibly enthusiastic about his soup, you are free to picture a score guzzling among the duck-weeds. When one widgeon squeals, you may postulate a squadron without fear of visual contradiction. (Leopold 1949:61)

However, hunters also combine their sensing of nature with those of dogs: A special problem arises where the belts of alders widen, and the dog disappears from view. Hurry at once to a knoll or point, where you stand stockstill, straining eye and ear to follow the dog. A sudden scattering of white throats may reveal his whereabouts. Again, you may hear him breaking a twig, or splashing a wet spot, or plopping into the creek. But when all sound ceases be ready for instant action, for he is likely on point. Listen now for the premonitory clucks a frightened partridge gives just before flushing. (Leopold 1949:64)

According to Robert Finch (1987), Leopold has been ‘imitated by hundreds of writers’, partly because he styled an embodied experience into prose and partly because the prose style established an instrumental aesthetic of nature that opposed the more passive romantic gaze. The same can be said of Isaac Walton and although the sound repertoires of fish are more limited than birds or mammals, the angler is placed in a sound environment



of great significance. Just as bright light may give away the hunter, anglers must control their own vibration; mastering quietness was emphasised by Walton and his legacy: No life, my honest scholar, no life so happy and so pleasant as the life of a well-governed angler; for when the lawyer is swallowed up with business, the statesman in preventing or contriving plots, then we sit on cowslip banks, hear the birds sing, and possess ourselves in as much quietness as these silver streams, which we now see glide so quietly by us. (Walton 1653, quoted in Paxman 1995:16)

The pages of American and British fly-fishing journals are filled with the mysteries of detecting trout and coordinating the delicate technology during the poorly lit conditions of the evening rise and night fishing. When vision goes the anglers cast their flies to sounds, some splashy rises, others delicate sips. But even during daytime fishing the visual capabilities of fly fishers are highly honed. Cove (1986), for example, teaches that a trout feeding on nymphs under water can still be detected on the surface, since its characteristic movement causes a momentary flattening of the ripple on a lake. For many the ultimate test is sea trout fishing at night. Here, with vision impossible and sound only of minor assistance, the angler must feel their relation with nature: Apart from some auditory assistance – the whirring of a piece of grass caught on the fly during casting; a fish that makes its presence known by splashing at the head of a pool, and so on – night fishing is carried on almost entirely by the sense of touch. The feel of the line in the air tells the distance cast; the feel of the fly in the water informs how it is fishing in a fast ‘run’; ... only by feel is the touch of a drifting leaf distinguishable from the gentle nudge of a big fish – a fish that may be caught if cast to again. (Falkus 1977:152)

Touch and vision combine in angling especially but also reaction speed, which against a flushed grouse or striking trout, produce a subconscious coordination of the senses. The catching of trout in fast mountain streams with a fly offer only split second windows of opportunity often in conditions where the fly is unseen and the line is a blur among the eddies and refracted light. Anglers take a long time to be successful fishers on such waters, but even then they are not sure exactly how they perceive the take of the fish. Gierarch captures this paradox well. ‘At some point the setting of a hook takes on an instinctive quality. At some point you stop thinking, “Hey, I think I just got a hit,” or “Gee, that kind of looked like a trout.” The wiggle or flash and the jerk in the rod hand seem to happen simultaneously, automatically, the same way you drop a hot frying pan without having to think, “Boy, that really stings.”’ (Gierach 1986:29) These literatures indicate that hunters and anglers sense themselves into the environment of animals and tune their bodies into the timings, signs, speeds and species-being of their quarry. Such is the difference between the sensory



perception and speed of humans and prey animals that the former has to develop a special adaptation, often in conjunction with specific geographies. In this way hunters in the West can be compared with hunters anywhere. It is never easy, but the degree of difficulty is what provides the tension balance and thus the excitement and thrill. In short, hunting brings about the coordination of the senses in the context of local spatial and biotic knowledge. Sight, smell and touch are constantly employed in negotiating a path towards quarry and it is also in contriving physical proximity to animals (to within shooting or casting distance) that tension and excitement are produced (see Elias and Dunning (1986) for a discussion of tension creation and tension release).

Excitement According to Elias (1994), the civilised body was gradually socialized and rationalized. By the twentieth century most people found violence generally repugnant (Mennell 1992; Shilling 1994). If this were so, the popularity of hunting and angling at the beginning of the twenty-first century remains somewhat exceptional. Hunting and angling are earthy, sensual and intimate with nature. By contrast the civilised body ‘is perceived and managed as increasingly social, and more of its dimensions and functions are defined in opposition to the biological or natural spheres of life’ (Shilling 1994:164). I have argued that hunting and angling are characterised by a sensual integration, by the loss of specific sensual control in favour of multi-sensual reaction or intuitive sensing. By contrast the civilised body is rationalized, involving ‘the progressive differentiation of the body: it is seen as less of a “whole” and more as a phenomenon whose separate parts are amenable to control’ (Shilling 1994:164). Moreover, ‘historically, individuals have been educated at an early age away from aggressive expressions of pleasure, into the ordered, mediated, cerebral and relatively passive pleasures of spectating’ (Shilling 1994:165). Embodied violence has been replaced by sports, ‘individuals watching mock contests in which the rules are carefully established to maintain an appropriate “tension equilibrium”’ (Shilling 1994:166). Elias’s (1993) essay on fox hunting thus identified a civilising or sportising process whereby hunters were removed from the act of killing. However, what remains unclear is why hunters should sportise one hunting code and leave all others (shooting and angling in particular) relatively unchanged, apparently still as violent, in the late twentieth century. For it remains quite obvious from the pages of The Field, for example, that fox hunters are also, in the main, anglers and shooters. Other analyses of fox hunting have suggested that it was not a sportised version of previous food-gathering hunts but a replacement for the ‘sustainable’ form of deer hunting which emerged in the early



eighteenth century. Because of the extreme scarcity of deer then, organised hunts had practiced recycling individual, semi-tame deer (‘carted deer’) – sparing them at the end of each chase in order that they may run on another occasion (Itzkowitz 1977). Fox hunting developed from this simulated form of deer hunting with the exception that the plentiful fox was actually killed at the end of each successful chase. In the view of Itzkowitz, therefore, fox hunting represented a more not a less violent form. Such a claim is more consistent with a view that hunting has remained somewhat uncivilised in its proximity to the natural world and in its relatively unorganised form of excitement. It is this emphasis on excitement that dominates most of the hunting and angling literature. As we have seen, the very nature of these sports produces a pleasurable tension balance much like other sports. Against the odds of superior sensing, poor light, faster reaction times and speed in quarry animals, human hunters are only able to succeed by developing sensual coordination and motor skills. Against the predictable figurations of play in modern sports, hunting and angling are unpredictable and played out over an indeterminate time and space. Surprise features in the excitement of these sports but also the need to eliminate it through readiness. Readiness and the anticipation of action creates a more or less continuous excitement and in those forms where prey animals have to be sensed first before beginning a hunting sequence, a heightened tension grows as the hunter homes in. Finally, hunting and angling failure is commonplace and accepted, but without it there would be less tension and the release less pleasurable. Game foods have not been staples for a very long time. However, game is a very prestigious and prized food in the hunting and angling literatures, the bodies of which were commonly displayed as trophies or prizes prior to cooking, as a testament to the skill and accomplishment of the sportsmen. For Walton, angling was a perfect compromise between the need for a peaceful civil society and the individual need for excitement and fraternity. Walton himself was a relatively new convert to angling and it is this discovery of an intellectually satisfying art that produces tension, excitement and tension resolution that comes across so well to the reader. To the layperson angling appears to be the very opposite of a sport: sedentary, essentially passive and potentially dull. But Walton is at great pains to argue otherwise. As Koller put it: ‘His great achievement . . . was to convey the sense of angling as a sport – a sport that was unique in the way that it combined exciting action with contemplative pleasure’ (Koller 1967:22). In his definitive account of British angling in the midtwentieth century Bernard Venables, the creator of the angling strip cartoon Mr Crabtree, began the account with the subject of excitement. He found it impossible to believe the first ancestor to fish with a rod and line did so only with ‘food as the main motive’ (Venables 1953:1) and he argues that the excitement of angling never diminishes with age or experience:



I remember a friend who, having at last caught a monstrous pike, said he had a feeling that his life was over. But that was only a moment of anti-climax after the hours of delirium that can follow a capture such as his. He fishes still, watching his float down its swim as palpitantly expectant as he did when a boy. That is the thing – the boy in the angler never dies, but remains as full of awe, delight and excitement as he was when he caught the first prickling little perch. The old man will tremble as deliciously watching his dry fly float over a fish or seeing the shudder of his float as will his grandson. (Venables 1953:4–5)

Hunting in places such as the USA, Australia and New Zealand is not merely exciting in itself, it takes place in exciting landscapes. In late modernity we commonly conceive the forest, outback or bush to be fragile, or delicate, but in the hunting literature, those who stray off trails or tracks to hunt perceive it very differently. These areas are exciting because they are dangerous, scary and unpredictable. When combined with quarry who are naturally geared to avoiding predators or capable of defending themselves against humans, hunting produces a tension balance between the safety of the hunter and the safety of the quarry. Wholeness In contrast to the fragmented nature of modern life, accounts of hunting describe a complete or whole activity, one in which the hunter must master and put into practice everything involved. It is a form of self-provisioning requiring many skills. Much of the literature is concerned with the mastery and practice of skills as diverse as orienteering and navigation, first aid, camping and provisioning, equipment making and servicing, skinning and filleting and so on. However it is not simply mastering and executing the skills, they must be coordinated, largely through the body, in a reflexive strategy. Some of the most Arcadian writings on hunting come from the pens of North Americans for whom the wilderness, and utilitarian occupations within it, are central to the national psyche and social identity (Farson 1983; Leopold 1949; Nash 1967): A true angler is generally a modest man . . . is quietly self-reliant and equal to almost any emergency, from splicing his rod or tying his own flies, to trudging ten miles across a rough country with luggage on his back. His enjoyment consists not only in the taking of fish: he draws much pleasure from the soothing influence and delightful accompaniments of the art. (Norris 1865, quoted in Paxman 1995:14)

Several dimensions of hunting can be identified which engender the idea of wholeness, aside from the sensory coherence alluded to earlier: temporality, self-sufficiency and responsibility.



The temporal dimensions of hunting divide into whole ‘days’, ‘camps’ and ‘trips’. Hunting sports are typically ranged over a long day; during dawns and dusks when many animals are most active the hunter is also most active; the heat or brightness of midday can be slack times for resting. In between, there are many logistic and servicing jobs to do. At the end there is food and drink and early nights. Camps are a complete temporary living space, which have to be made and remade. Trips are circular journeys, a series of camps and every time, a unique narrative. Hunting is also typically an exercise in self-sufficiency. Unlike other sports, there is a strong tradition of making the equipment one uses by hand. The literature values highly those hunts where self-made equipment proves effective. Guns are typically made by specialist craftsmen, but increasingly they can be assembled and set up by the knowledgeable hunter. Cartridges, decoys, hides, whistles and so forth are frequently home made; dogs are trained at great length by their owners and there is an endless list of secondary gadgets and tools which are made by hunters. Anglers make up their own rods, tie their own flies, make their own lures and a long list of other gadgets and devices. Also emphasised is the utilisation of hunting byproducts. Antlers are fashioned into hunting knife handles; the feathers and furs of hunted birds and mammals form the main materials used in tying fishing flies; fur hats, rugs and hide laces are commonly made. Hunters make much of their responsibility in killing and preparing animal foods, arguing that the consumption of meat in the city has become something of a confused, abstracted and hypocritical affair. By contrast the hunter makes the decision to kill, decides which animal to kill and takes responsibility for its death and the redistribution and consumption of its body. Far from cloaking themselves in the sort of guilt and shame that surrounds the killing of domestic animals, hunters typically assume the higher moral ground. Stress is strictly given to taking only that which can be eaten or afforded by the animal population; the only articles on the act of killing tend to be instructional on how to do it properly, which is instantly and painlessly. Recipes, filleting and butchery, smoking formulae and other preservation techniques form a substantial component of the hunting literature. As with most activities associated with the hunt, it is the hunters themselves who normally prepare and cook game or fish.

Spatial locatedness Those theorisations of hunting which reduce it to naturalization processes emphasize space only in the abstract sense of ownership belonging or social identity. While this is important, the hunters themselves tend to emphasize their knowledgeability and love of place in terms of its



particularities. These tend to be embodied experiences and are expressed in visual terms, colours, landscapes, light and shade, but also in terms of smells and tactile experiences. It is also about knowing where things are (local bush foods, birds’ nests, the location of water, wallows, snakeinfested areas etc.) and how they change over the season. Hunters cultivate an association with particular areas because in hunting the knowledge of these particularities become greater than a sum of the parts and is a tangible factor in the successful hunt. As we have seen, hunting and angling are wilderness activities in some areas but mostly they are practised in areas between the wilderness and the city. These are not merely farming landscapes, they are the strips of river and the patches of scrub or heath; the disused canals, the undisturbed coastal flats, the gravel pits and reservoirs created as towns expanded. Such areas are typified by specific populations of flora and fauna and game and fish populations can flourish. Rabbit populations in the UK have grown dramatically in response to a declining rural working class; dramatic increases in pigeon populations have resulted from extensive agriculture. Many wetlands close to industry teem with wildfowl and fish. In introducing Leopold’s Sand County Almanac, Finch underlines this point: By and large these shack essays recount experiences that are Adamic and archetypal: of Leopold, the weekend explorer, discovering, recognizing, celebrating the richness and drama of a New World. The fact that these discoveries take place, not in some unspoiled Edenic wilderness but on a rundown sand farm that has been abused and misused through human greed and ignorance for over a century, makes his achievement even more impressive. Leopold conveys a sense of natural abundance where most would only see a diminished environment. (Finch 1987:xviii)

Leopold himself speaks for many hunters and anglers in underlining the treasures that are locally theirs by virtue of their familiarity and knowledge: Few hunters know that grouse exist in Adams County for when they drive through it, they see only a waste of jack-pines and scrub oaks. ... Here, come October I sit in the solitude of my tamaracks and hear the hunters’ car roaring up the highway, hell-bent fro the crowded counties to the north. ... At the noise of their passing, a cock grouse drums his defiance. My dog grins as we note his direction. (Leopold 1949:56)

Similarly Gierach, a self-styled trout ‘bum’, fishes more or less permanently in the very best rivers and creeks in Colorado and Montana. However his first love is the ordinary little stream, the St. Vrain behind his home:



Most of the fishermen I know ... have a creek like this somewhere in their lives. It’s not big, it’s not great, it’s not famous, certainly it’s not fashionable, and therein lies its charm. It’s an ordinary, run-of-the-mill trout stream where fly-fishing can be a casual affair rather than having to be a balls-to-the-wall adventure all the time. It’s the place where, for once, you are not a tourist. (Gierach 1990:59)

Conclusion It would be possible to add considerably more sections to this chapter as part of a complete account of the assertion of an embodied relationship with nature in late modernity. Naturism or nudity has a long history back to the early part of the twentieth century and before but it has never been more popular and it is spreading in terms of naturist spaces and numbers of people despite the skin cancer scares of the 1970s and 1980s. There is a long list of nature leisures and sports that have burgeoned in late modernity: bird watching, diving, surfing, orienteering, caving, bush walking, socalled ‘natural horsemanship’, gardening and so on. Then there is an equally long list of craft skills that have deliberately turned the clocks back to pre-industrial technologies and synthetic materials and retrained the body in the use of natural materials: potting, basket weaving, knitting, weaving, tapestry, corn dolly making, archery, paper making, printing and natural dying and so on. Clearly, these growing activities share in common the desire to bridge the distance that modernity and Cartesian rationality created between humans and non-humans. We have seen in this chapter how modernity came to favour the visual as a medium of empirical investigation and knowledge of the world and how that in turn mediated our sensing of the natural world in rational recreation, particularly through the technologies of tourism which became a dominant mode of experiencing nature in modernity. We have also seen how visualism distances the observer from objects under view and encourages a fleeting, restless, processual character to experience. However, as Thrift argues, the very condition of modernity with its emphasis on rationality and cognition creates distances and barriers to understanding the very things that happen to our body. Just at a time when we can talk of a postmodern ‘speeding up’ of modern life (based on major advances in rational cognitive systems) it has also, paradoxically, created the desire to slow experience down to the momentary, and to develop technologies of the body to heighten and savour the universe of sensation. We have seen in recent years the gradual dismantling of the Cartesian/ Apollonian body as an irrelevant, secondary, embarrassing appendage requiring constant order and control. The post-Cartesian body is a fully fledged Dionysian creature, justified in indulging, pleasuring, training, developing, honing, healing and so on.



New technologies of the body have emerged in a new vitalism in which experience and perfection were located in sensed, embodied terms. According to Thrift, the natural world has been particularly significant in this process and in this chapter we have investigated several key sites where the relationship between the body and nature has become the focus of more attention. We have seen how nature has taken on a meaning broadly opposed to the rational scientific order of modernity: nature can oppose the rather limited focus of modern medicine by offering a complete range of healing techniques and medicines; nature is the benign unaltered state of our food and other substances we use on our bodies; nature is the model of the world that best fits an ecologically sensitised sensibility as opposed to the economic rationality of development and nature is the plural and complex mystery that offers the most open and unending ‘fit’ for the exploration of spiritual issues in late modernity. Rational leisures were a key medium for the control of the modern body, but as we have seen in the section on angling and hunting these ancient and enduring embodied leisures have recruited a huge following in late modernity. We also point to studies of other rational recreations such as surfing to point out that they have also developed a highly sensual, ecstatic centre to them, that, like hunting and angling form the basis of a common community bond and identity.

8 Politicising Nature We can never speak about nature without, at the same time, speaking about ourselves. (Capra 1975:77) The advantage in seeing values as residing in nature is that it provides an immediate sense of ontological security and permanence. The natural world provides a rich, variegated and permanent candidate for induction into the hall of universal and permanent values to inform human action and to give meaning to otherwise ephemeral and fragmented lives. (Harvey 1996:157)

This chapter concludes the book through an analysis of the meaning and origins of the politics of nature. We have already seen, in various places, references to the growth, spread and significance of nature politics. According to Crook and Pakulski (1998) for example, green politics is no longer confined to the heroic stand against corporate capitalism by small groups of colourful ecowarriors: it has become so significant as to be routinised in mainstream political life. This is not to ignore or sideline the many active political groups that are fighting on behalf of a variety of natures, but merely to show how successful they have been in making the environment and nature a key issue. Even though green politics has become an endemic political theme, nature politics is continually rejuvenated by fresh issues, new organisations and campaigns and at this level direct action groups play a critical role and are seldom out of the news. There are too many to enumerate, but in recent years we have seen action with respect to GM foods and agriculture, road protests, the live animal export protests, campaigns against hunting in the USA and Australia, the campaign to ban fox hunting in the UK, Maclibel which served to highlight the relationship between modern fast foods and environmental concerns, numerous and continued action to protect whales and dolphins, action to protect Peregrine Falcons and Red Kites in the UK, the Spotted Owl in the USA and the Orange-Bellied Parrot in Australia, the ongoing campaigns to save the Tarkine Forest in Tasmania and the giant redwoods in the USA. We have already seen the extraordinary proportions



of people involved either directly in action or as members of active organisations such as Earth First, Greenpeace, RSPB, PETA and the National Trust (Hutton and Connors 1999; Wall 2000). Around 10 percent of Americans ‘report membership of one or another environmental organisations’ (Kellert 1997:192) and English towns contain anything up to one in seven people who are paid-up members of the National Trust (Paxman 1999). Even acts of mere consumption, activities that might once have been understood as entertainment, now have a clear political dimension: zoos routinely inform their customers of the good conservation and protection work that their entrance fees support and the once Disneyesque sea worlds emphasise their conservation goals in mission statements, websites and advertising. Clearly, these are used to motivate a public keen to do their bit and the extent to which ordinary people feel keenly about the nature on their own backdoor is illustrated by the generalised social composition of many smaller protest actions against developments and animal issues (see Franklin 1999). Recent international survey research showed very high numbers willing to accept lower living standards in order to protect the environment. On a scale where zero equals no willingness and 100 equals complete willingness, the USA scored 51, the UK scored 49, West Germany scored 53, the Netherlands scored 58, Russia scored 52, Japan scored 51 and Australia 52. In another question soliciting respondents’ environmentally orientated political participation, New Zealand came first with a mean score of 20, Australia and Canada scored between 10 and 15, with most other western and advanced industrial nations scoring between 10 and 15 (Bean 1998:28–35). Equally a recent analysis of international attitudes to the question of animal rights shows dramatically why animals figure so prominently in the political domain. In their response to the statement ‘Animals should have the same moral rights as humans’ extremely large numbers were in agreement. On a scale where zero equals no agreement and 100 equals complete agreement, the UK scored 55, West Germany 56, Italy 56, the Netherlands 45, the USA 44 and Australia 42. The West European mean was 50, the mean for former members of the Union was 57 and the mean of former Anglo-colonies was 48 (Franklin, Tranter and White 2000). As we see later, these data confirm what has gripped the imagination of journalists and others reporting from nature political actions: such high levels of support derive from all age groups; they are not particularly high among the young and tertiary educated; and in every country sampled the highest levels of support are recorded for non-tertiary educated people and older people (Franklin, Tranter and White 2000). The idea that the politics of animal rights is peopled only by a loony left fringe of the sort that Tester (1992) identified can no longer be sustained. We can also say that such widespread support regardless of age, gender, space, and education suggests that we need very broadranging explanations for it. In turning now to consider such explanations



we shall start with perhaps the very broadest sort of explanation that derives from socio-biology, namely that our love for animals and thus our support for them and their habitats derive from genetic predispositions to maintain a close relationship that has welled up persistently over the course of our so-called separation from nature, but which has now reached flood proportions in response to the so-called environmental crisis. Such a view has been strongly stated in numerous books by E.O. Wilson and Steven Kellert and they have coined a term for it, biophilia (Kellert and Wilson 1993). It is worth spending some time considering this hypothesis which derives from the genre of ‘deep ecology’ if only because it is hugely influential, selling very well in the new age book stands and fulfilling a quasi-academic justification for environmentalism. It argues that we need not think of environmentalism as a luxurious, icing-on-the-top form of activity in the modern world but one that is driven from the mysterious depths of our genetic content. Its claim for scientific credibility is crucial for building more mainstream support in a politics that had until recently been dominated by radical fringe sections of society. Biophilia is indeed one of the most conservative theories possible.

Biophilia Biophilia, if it exists, and I believe it exists, is the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms. Innate means hereditary and hence part of ultimate human nature. (S.R. Kellert and E.O. Wilson 1993:31) These diverse expressions of biophilia have proved instrumental in building a self-concept, developing a nurturing connection to others, and creating a harmonious relationship to the vast and varied universe. Collectively, these affiliations with the natural world have nourished the progress of our species’ physical and mental health, our intelligence and emotional capacity, and a sense of spiritual hope and well being. These various adaptations suggest why the multiple threads of biophilia have become encoded genetic tendencies in the human animal over the long course of human history. In the process, these proclivities have passed through the individual, and entered into the beliefs and behaviour of human groups, and eventually diffused into the values and norms of societies. (Kellert 1997:163–4)

Wilson reminds us that as a species we were formed in the ‘deep history’ (99 percent of our species’ existence) of our past as hunter-gatherers, with all the expertise and knowledge of nature that requires. ‘In short, the brain evolved in a biocentric world, not a machine-regulated world. It would therefore be quite extraordinary to find that all learning relating to that



world had been erased in a few thousand years, even in the tiny minority of peoples who have existed for more than two generations in wholly urban environments’ (Kellert and Wilson 1993:32). One has to suspend one’s disbelief at the suggestion that the mentality and sensibility of the hunter-gatherer will, regardless of changing circumstances, persist in dominating the conscious and unconscious life of all people for all time. But this is what Wilson and Kellert want us to believe and to accept as the explanation for the continuity in our attraction to the natural world. It is all the more difficult to believe when, as they argue, biophilia was a function of hunting and gathering and evolved to provide adaptive advantage in such an economy: During the long course of human evolution, we valued nature and living diversity because of the adaptive benefits it offered us physically, emotionally and intellectually. And people continue to need rich and textured relationships with natural diversity in order to achieve lives replete with meaning and value. (Kellert 1997:3)

Or again: The key point at the outset is that our species evolved these values of nature because they enhanced our capacity to survive and prosper physically, emotionally and spiritually. (Kellert 1997:6)

Wilson spells out the process, which he calls biocultural evolution, in more detail: The likely answer is biocultural evolution, during which culture was elaborated under the influence of hereditary learning propensities while the genes prescribing the propensities were spread by natural selection in a cultural context. ...[A] certain genotype makes a behavioural response more likely, the response enhances survival and reproductive fitness, the genotype gradually spreads throughout the population and the behavioural response grows more frequent. (Kellert and Wilson 1993:33)

If biophilia emerges selectively as an adaptive advantage to huntergatherers, a theory that is at least plausible, it is not at all clear why they insist on its persistence in conditions where it was no longer an adaptive advantage. Such would indeed be the case after the Neolithic revolution and the spread of agriculture. Agriculture is at one level the opposite of hunting and gathering. Whereas the latter use knowledge of diversity to increase their chances of producing food and other resources, the former develop (evolve) and use technologies that simplify nature, that concentrate all attention and effort on the growing of a highly limited subset of species. Simplification of nature is not merely concentrating learning on



how to grow a highly restricted range of species, it is also controlling and keeping away or eradicating other species. It is innovating storage, trade in goods and land, improving seeds and techniques and the politics of materiality. It seems that the reason why Wilson puts so much emphasis and importance on ‘deep history’ is to override and negate the influence of more recent history, but if learning skills and deep-seated predispositions are tied to the adaptive advantages of particular economies then we would expect to see others replace biophilia and we would have no basis whatsoever in asserting its universality, inevitability and eternal place in our species-being. Over the much longer time span of this alleged ‘deep history’ presumably there is time for ‘hard-wiring’ of our genetic makeup but it is not clear, given that agriculturalism has been a rapidly growing technology for approximately 17,000 years, why it should override the very obviously new demands of changing circumstances. After all, other species such as dogs have transformed beyond recognition from the original wolf. Dogs were domesticated from wild wolves from around 14,000 years ago and over that time the wolves’ body and genetic predisposition have been changed from hunter-gatherers to adapt to the wide variety of pastoral and horticultural economies of their human symbionts. Now they are shepherds, guards, watchdogs, cattle dogs, retrievers, pointers, harriers, ratters, fish-retrieving dogs and so on. When Wilson talks about the evolution of our brain he talks about it as if its evolution is over, moulded only under the circumstances of hunting and gathering, but it is not at all clear why it should not change, even along diametrically opposed pathways. It is also unclear why Wilson and Kellert assert that love and affinity with nature and, even more problematically, with natural diversity, should have provided our ancestors with adaptive advantages. This is surely a highly emotive and selective reading of the anthropology of hunter-gatherers. Aside from the fact that concepts such as love and affinity are highly charged with a western emotional content that may or may not have any parallels with hunter-gatherers elsewhere, it is not clear that Wilson and Kellert have gone to the anthropological record and systematically derived their concept from a solidly demonstrated comparative research. Had they attended to the anthropological record in these matters they would have found matters far more complex. The love of natural diversity that may be read from some cultures is certainly not universal. As we have seen, views about the natural world vary enormously even among neighbouring groups in the same ecosystem. Hence Descola’s comparison of three Amazonian societies in the same region revealed one in which the model of nature was characterised by harmony and cooperation and in another the opposite: secrecy, deception and suspicion (Descola 1992). The limited anthropological record used in this book alone reveals other problems. Wilson and Kellert insist on a universal aesthetic of nature: nature is good in an all-round manner:



Our affinity with nature certainly facilitates material progress – we reap rewards of food, clothing, medicine, and various ecological services from various aspects of natural diversity. Yet our inclination to connect with nature also addresses other needs: intellectual capacity, emotional bonding, aesthetic attraction, creativity and imagination, even the recognition of a just and purposeful existence. Each of these engagements with natural diversity enhances our potential for attaining lives of satisfaction and security. (Kellert 1997:6)

But is that what anthropologists have concluded? The answer to this is no, nature is not conceived in this all-embracing functionalist manner, indeed it is in nature that models of difference and moral diversity are to be found. Two examples will suffice to cast doubts on their universal aesthetic. First, as we have seen with Rival’s study of the Huaorani, nature divides into some species with whom they are very taken, such as monkeys, and others that they detest. Local monkey groups are a constant topic of conversation; their meat is marvellous; they are like the Huaorani themselves and therefore attractive and interesting. Monkeys are admired and highly valued and even though they are hunted, the Huaorani say they merely ‘collect them’ or ‘blow them’ (Rival 1996). By contrast White-lipped Peccaries, which elsewhere in the region are highly prized game animals, are entirely loathed by the Huaorani and killed wherever they encounter them in a murderous frenzy and with weapons normally reserved for fighting with neighbouring human groups. Some parts of the forest (and its associated species) are good, such as high ground and the canopy itself; other parts of the forest (and its associated species) are deemed bad, such as low ground and marshy areas. Again, there is no functional or necessary basis for these choices since other groups value them in an opposed way. In other words there is not a necessary or given link between nature and humanity, certainly the relationship is not one of mere adaptive advantage. Second, consider Evans-Pritchard’s well-known work on the Nuer. The Nuer are fixated on their cattle to the extent that they comprise the aesthetic centre and focus for their lives; their own kinship terms are given in a bovine idiom; they despise other neighbouring groups who have no cattle; and most surprising of all, they despise and almost always avoid hunting and eating the prolific local game. Instead of an affinity with life itself or (a different concept) natural diversity, the Nuer along with most other groups has a very hierarchical notion of nonhumans and their aesthetics are not expressed in terms of use values but in moral terms. Further, although Kellert and Wilson do not explicitly draw on the rhetoric of Black Elk and others claiming to speak for indigenous peoples, it is evident that the biophilia hypothesis is informed by their claim to be caring towards their environment. While there is no doubt that some primordial cultures did express such a generalised respect for the natural world; this in itself does not equate necessarily with love or the importance of natural diversity. Just as likely in animistic



cultures of North America (where there is a widespread notion that animals and plants possess spirits that can adversely disturb the lives of people) is that due care and respect is due to each individual not out of a generalised reverence for life (a very abstract western notion of course) but out of fear of the consequences. In a reply to Black Elk, Ellen (1986:9–12) argues that there is no evidence to suggest that indigenous people were themselves environmentalist by virtue of ‘collective wisdom, consummate skill and empathy with the natural order’. Instead Ellen emphasises the extent to which all human cultures modify and change the environments in which they live, with stable or less stable ecologic outcomes arising from population pressure rather than ecological awareness. If Wilson and Kellert had read widely about the pattern of classification and aestheticisation of nature in the anthropological record; about the analysis of nature as enmeshed in symbolic and mythological human productions, then they would have seen the socially constructed nature of human understandings of the natural world. To take just one example, in Willis’s book Man and Beast (1974) it is made abundantly clear that the three very different African societies he compares have formed an appreciation and understanding of the nature into which they are embedded that entirely mirrors the social structure of the people concerned. Nature is understood in social terms and not the other way around, for this is surely what Wilson and Kellert imply from the biophilia hypothesis. Key human values have been learned from necessary ecological values as derived from their formative environments. Here is Kellert again: [O]ur inclination for affiliating with life functions today as it has in the past as a basis for healthy human maturation and development. ... [Different expressions of biophilia] describe the natural world as a source of material utilisation and exploitation, physical beauty and appeal, empirical knowledge and understanding, communication, mastery and control, moral and spiritual connection, and fear and repression. (Kellert 1997:3) Yet our inclination to connect with nature also addresses other needs: intellectual capacity, emotional bonding, aesthetic attraction, creativity and imagination, even the recognition of a just and purposeful existence. Each of these engagements with natural diversity enhances our potential for attaining lives of satisfaction and security. (Kellert 1997:6)

Perhaps Kellert has expressed this most forcefully in his book, The Value of Life, where one can detect an otherwise uncharacteristic trait to answer his critics: This book has an inherent bias: that the basic values of living diversity have an inherent and evolutionary basis characteristic of all people independent of culture and history. . . . [A] culture’s long-term physical, emotional, and intellectual adaptability depends on the satisfactory expression of these values. To



equate diversity of values with an infinite cultural capacity to construct unique conceptions of the natural world is to confuse content with underlying structure – ignoring how perceptions of nature orbit about a restricted core of inherent values of nature and living diversity. (Kellert 1996:132)

This paradoxical and confused argument claims that contemporary love for nature derives from an evolutionary past and is a necessary part of our development, but it is clear that in fact, the argument flows the other way, namely, contemporary concerns for, and expressions of value in nature are being projected back into deep history, about which Kellert and Wilson know very little, and across the length and breadth of human diversity, about which they also appear to know very little. Their preparedness to insist on tautologies, such as in the above quotes means there is very little to be gained from learning from anthropology. A more honest exegesis of their thesis runs like this: We currently love nature in such a profound way, and so deeply ingrained and ubiquitous is this love for nature (poetry, aesthetics, art, pets, zoos, wildlife passions, angling and hunting passions etc.) and so important is it for our spiritual, mental and physical health that it can be fairly deemed a behavioural trait. Behavioural traits such as this could not have arisen in modern conditions and so therefore it must have very ancient, primordial antecedence. In other words it is an evolutionary adaptive behaviour that, like our bodies, requires exercise and expression. The entire edifice of the biophilia hypothesis is built not on historical processes or careful anthropology but upon an awareness of current practice and values. Here again, the argument runs into trouble. That it has drawn on contemporary white middle-class American values in nature (that are widely shared it is true with similar groups in other countries) is only too obvious. The rhetorical content of the biophilia hypothesis as expressed in Kinship to Mastery (Kellert 1997) is scarcely different from the ideology of rational nature recreation that emerged with the romantic movement in America and Europe, and spawned the muscular Christianity, scouting and outdoors movements that have been with us ever since the 1920s (see Cartmill 1993). In particular an association with nature was considered essential or at least beneficial for good mental, physical and spiritual health: The notion of biophilia emphasises that healthy and diverse natural systems represent less a luxury than the potential for helping us realise lives of satisfaction and meaning. Celebrating our connections with nature inevitably renders our experience richer and more rewarding. Natural splendor is still the crucible in which our physical and mental well-being is forged. (Kellert 1997:4) Disconnection from nature often characterises modern life. Contemporary society frequently fails to recognize the significance of maintaining rich and healthy ties with natural diversity. The illusion emerges that humans can live apart from nature, somehow transcending the need for experiencing natural



diversity with access, intimacy, and care. Thus a vicious cycle develops: denying the importance of natural process and connection encourages apathy and destructive excess, further estranging people from their fundamental physical and mental dependence on a healthy living environment. (Kellert 1997:7–8)

There are two points that follow. First, the authors faithfully reproduce this ideology, widely subscribed to by white American society, in an unreflexive manner. Perfectly healthy, mentally balanced, useful and happy people are produced in the metropolis with practically no significant contact with the natural world. One thinks here of those cultures of the great metropolis’s whose lifeworld is the city, whose aesthetic sensibilities are dominated by the excitement and challenge of the city. There is no evidence to show that crime and other social pathologies correlate with segregation from nature and indeed, as we know, recent rural depressions in the USA and Australia have resulted in the sorts of pathology they talk about where our youths have abundant access to the natural world. Of course, the US surveys of wildlife, leisure and consumption do show very clearly that black inner-city populations are very low consumers of wildlife and nature leisure but this reflects more the poverty and different aesthetic sensibilities of black cultures. Other metropolitan affluent non-consumers have very low rates of crime and social pathology. Of course, since their argument is a biological/genetic one, there can be no exceptions driven by historical or spatial or social or cultural contingency, but the argument advanced here against Kellert and Wilson is that historical contingencies are central to any explanation. We have been very critical but is there anything of value in the biophilia hypothesis that fits with some of the arguments made here? Is there any instinctual or biological connection to be made in an embodied account of our relations with the natural world, for example? After all, our sensual apparatus were indeed formed to link us into the natural world in an embodied sense. Is that still alive as a glimmer that builds, with experience and practice, towards a naturally driven aesthetic of nature and hence its widespread appeal? It certainly seems so and, as we shall argue, the fact that it can seem so is part of the social trope that makes nature so enchanted and magical. However, that is as far as it goes. What we find attractive, secure, reassuring, calming, spiritual etc. in nature is entirely given in our discourses on nature; they are cultural creations, literally written and composed, introduced to and read by almost all young and developing people in the West. Modern discourses of natural beauty, the sublime and spirituality were made quite explicitly in relation to its putative opposite, modernity itself (but also in a sense in relation to natural areas sullied by modernisation). The discovery of a sense of belonging, home and identity in nature belong to essentially modern discourses of nation, region, locality, sub-culture and other loci of social identity. The point is nature has been framed in this most recent period in a variety of



ways where our nature is always good relative to other regions, nations, and places such as cities, activities such as modern technology and production. We have already seen that Keith Thomas (1983) commences his history of relations with the natural world at a time when the opposite applied. Nature was nasty, brutish, rude and unpleasant and the city was the aesthetic high point and focal point for people’s lives. The contemporary biophilia is therefore firmly rooted in modern times. However, as we saw in relation to naturalisation processes (Chapter 4), relatively new and fragile social bonds, such as between citizens of nation states, are made to seem more substantial, timeless, enduring and primordial in character through creating aesthetic and spiritual links to its nature. Nothing is quite as convincing as a trope for identity, belonging and solidarity as an embodied, spiritual and aesthetic relation to a particular chunk of nature. Interestingly, of course, these discourses are not driven by environmentalists or environmental philosophy, yet they have the unintended consequence of binding a wide range of people to the environmentalist cause. In sum, biophilia is a reductionist concept, ‘the idea that the whole of human endeavour (including attitudes and behaviours) can be reconstructed simply on the basis of genetic information (Harvey 1996:166). Other variants of deep ecology, for example those of Callicot (1989) and Naess (1989) also circumvent a sociological account not by genetic reductionism but by what Harvey calls ‘the Leibnitzian conceit’ where a monadic self ‘internalises natural values’. The science called in to validate such a move is not biology but physics and ecology. Summarising Callicot, Zimmerman sets out this position clearly: Callicot claims that quantum physics views the universe as an internally related cosmic ‘web’. The dualistic view of the ‘I’ as residing inside a skin bag and thus separate from everything else has been undermined by the insight of contemporary physics (and ecology) that in some sense the world is my body: I and the world interpenetrate. Since we have traditionally assumed that the ‘I’ is internally related to all of nature, then we can arguably regard nature, too, as intrinsically valuable. (Zimmerman 1988:4, cited in Harvey 1996:166)

According to the deep ecology view human subjectivity pales into insignificance against a more appropriate view of the self as a ‘juncture in a relational system’ and Naess and followers imply that ‘value norms arise relationally with respect to the broader biotic community of which we are a part’ (Harvey 1996:168). This line of logic falls apart the instant we realise that the course of human history has not been determined by the internal needs of some abstract entity called ecology (the broader biotic community) but often, rather, the opposite. However, the critical point is not whether these arguments are sound so much as whether they are influential. Whereas good social science arguments are difficult to read and understand outside the discipline and therefore sell to a tiny



audience of practitioners, quasi-scientific explanations that make bold groundsweeping claims in topical issues become popular best sellers in the alternative society/new age sections of bookshops and thereby also become significant for political recruitment. We must therefore attribute some considerable impact to such theories, even if they are flawed. Rather than call upon theories that reduce the intensions of humanity to their biology or their ecological connectedness, it makes far more sense to consider positive human interventions in the natural world as arising from social, cultural and historical processes and contingencies. Here we will at least be able to explore the likely processes leading to action on the nature question as well as examine the social dimensions of support empirically. We will first consider postmaterialism as an exemplar of this empirical tradition and one that has claimed a great deal of success in explaining and analysing the social basis of a nature politics.

Postmaterialism From the late 1970s Ronald Inglehart proposed a new theory of late modernity, that he has since decided to call a postmodern process (Inglehart 1977, 1990, 1997). He used social-psychological theory to identify that older political values were based on materialist values in which material wealth and physical security were emphasised. In wealthy advanced societies he identified a new politics that was based on aesthetic and intellectual fulfilment, self-expression, lifestyle choices, rights and quality of life. Having made the key material resources for modern living relatively easy to obtain for a large proportion of the population, their political expression and activity turned from the more bread and butter issues to ones of quality, lifestyle, identity and choice. ‘According to the theory, this orientation towards postmaterialist values then forms the basis for new political alignments of the kind that are given expression through green political parties and environmental organisations’ (Bean 1998:22). Thus using the 1990–1993 World Value Survey, Inglehart was able to demonstrate a correlation between postmaterialist values and intent to vote for green parties in Europe: As we move from the Materialist to the Postmaterialist end of the continuum, the percentage intending to vote for the environmentalist party in their country rises steeply: from 0 to 8 percent in Britain, from 2 to 17 percent in France, from 4 to 20 percent in Sweden, and from 2 to 27 percent in Western Germany. Pure Postmaterialists are five to twelve times more likely to vote for environmentalist parties as pure Materialists are. (Inglehart 1997:243)

Inglehart’s thesis has been well received and confirmed in multiple tests by other theorists (Bean 1998; Cotgrove 1982; Crook and Pakulski 1998;



Franklin and Rudig 1992; McAllister 1994; McAllister and Studlar 1995; Papadakis 1990, 1993; Rohrschneider 1990). However, the relatively loose fit between theory and voting behaviour is evident, as other predictors of environmental voting have been found besides postmaterialist values. These are typically social structural factors such as gender, age, education, social class, religiosity and place of residence (Bean 1998:35). Although the postmaterialist thesis may ‘work’ in polls and surveys, even in quite tough tests across a wide range of nations (his latest major test boasts 43 societies in the subtitle) its value in explaining orientations to the natural world is very weak. This point is very forcefully and completely made by Macnaghten and Urry (1998:78–103) who survey a wider range of studies and related types of theory. Such studies assume that responses to survey questions are accurate, measuring the real rather than the ideal: That attitudes and beliefs form consistent, integrated and self-contained wholes; that since around 1970 many people have developed a fundamentally new paradigm of attitudes and core beliefs which can be characterised as ‘environmental’; that opposing these beliefs are a distinct set of beliefs and values that are ‘anti-environmental’; that environmental improvements will come about if more of the population adopt the former than the latter; and that survey research is adept at capturing this distinct and opposing world views. (Macnaghten and Urry 1998:87)

Moreover, these authors suggest that environmental realism is tacitly assumed and worked into these research approaches. By this they mean that real and tangible risks exist and that these accurately underlie people’s concerns, anxieties and environmental alignments and commitments. Macnaghten and Urry refer to such studies and the genre of analysis as ‘polling culture’, a methodologically impoverished, anthropologically illinformed and yet perversely ubiquitous style of research that has become endemic in both pure research and within political organisations. These data reflect only on environmental issues and attitudes and, therefore, ignore anything like a complete range of expressions on the natural world. This is a problem since it is not clear what areas of personal and local experience forge particular naturalisations and political alignments. At the same time these environmental data include relationships and attitudes to objects specific to urban and industrial areas – the so-called brown environmental issues as opposed to green environmental issues. Finally, these polls rip opinion from the very specific and contextdependent circumstances of their emergence and so in addition to presenting them as fixed and stable, they conceal the really interesting facts: the circumstances leading to their formation. It is for this reason that in their research into sustainability as the key human/nature issue, Macnaghten and Urry used a different, qualitative methodology. Although they found that people would report the same sorts of concerns as found by Inglehart et al., broadly supporting a postmaterialist thesis, they also



found that there were important mediating effects that would prevent such attitudes translating into active support of changed behaviour. People were very involved and motivated by local, immediate issues and these were frequently converted into direct political participation. But in relation to the bigger environmental issues they found a lack of necessary trust in the state and big business to be at the same time promoting development and environmental sustainability. Respondents were also pessimistic as to the difference they could personally make and believed that their political action would be ineffective. Again, there was an overriding air of pessimism and structural difficulty. Third, they felt that the information published by the various agencies was very likely to be distorted or wrong and were therefore ambivalent, especially at the global level. This contrasted very sharply with local issues where their direct sensing of changing conditions could lead to high commitment and action. In another study they found that awareness of environmental issue was very high but that it was in the local sense and impact that it had most effect and meaning. In addition, environmental issues were of particular salience where they disturbed a person’s sense of identity, as mothers, as rural dwellers, as global or British citizens: ‘Identity thus provides a framework in which to contextualise oneself in relationship to nature, and thus to interpret the associated risks and issues’ (Macnaghten and Urry 1998:245–6). As we have seen through chapters on naturalisation, hybridisation and embodiment the moments and sites of identity construction are very commonly articulated through the natural world and it is through such conduits and personal and group identities that political reaction, motivations and actions are cultivated. In contrast, Inglehart and others feel generalised value shifts produce a rational, mental and unmediated response. This is surely a major weakness. Macnaghten and Urry also made use of their notion of contested natures in focus group interviews to open up the very muddy terrain of competing moral, ethical, rational, symbolic, local, global understandings of nature. ‘Thus again, this points to the need to engage with people’s own sense of nature and the environment, including the historical and cultural significance of the countryside and rural living, and with the moral sense of nature that informed much of people’s concerns with animals, especially with younger groups’ (Macnaghten and Urry 1998:246). Further: To conceive of environmental issues in global, instrumental and rational terms is simply one out of a number of possible ‘natures’. Moreover it is likely to ignore people’s moral attachment to local places such as the countryside, as well as the symbolic significance of particular issues (such as the use of veal crates, or concern over the extinction of species such as tigers, whales or bears). (Macnaghten and Urry 1998:246)

We shall report more on the particular salience of animals for the postmaterialist thesis in following sections and the essentially moral, ethical and symbolic dimensions of nature in the next section on postmodern theory.



Finally, Macnaghten and Urry’s research sheds light on the question of why levels of concern for environmental issues appear to be in decline. Against official interpretations that it is associated with a lack of awareness, they found that awareness was strong, but so also was ambivalence born of a fatalistic belief that economic and political short-termism will dominate policy and practice. This lack of an optimistic future prevents awareness from developing into concern and personal action. In the next section we will elaborate on the significance of these repondents’ lack of faith in contemporary neoliberal economic and political insitutions. We will argue that the love of nature and a generalised support for nature and environmental order encodes a yearning for the restablishment of social order and the ontological security that would bring. Animals and postmaterialism In a recent paper Franklin, Tranter and Wood (2000) analysed international data on responses to the statement: ‘Animals should have the same moral rights as humans’. In theory we would expect results similar to the environmental question: Postmaterialist values emerged on a number of fronts, but one of most significant concerned the extension of civil rights and social inclusiveness, or the breaking down of boundaries drawn on the basis of ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, age, and so forth. They were marked, that is, by acceptance of the equal moral subjecthood of former ‘others’. While this extended recognition began with humans, it was not necessarily restricted to them. The links between postmaterialism and environmentalism which Inglehart and others using his schema have shown are among the most robust of his findings, and environmentalists have been concerned with such non-human others as endangered species, battery hens, intensively reared pigs, forests, ecosystems and particular natural places. For postmaterialists, in fact, principles of ecological harmony became almost models for change. (Franklin, Tranter and Wood 2000:3)

However, the data show that the postmaterialist thesis has very little predictive power over the nature of response. Almost all of the predicted responses in a sample of wealthy western countries turned out to be wrong: We have given Inglehart every advantage here, in that we chose data, countries, variables and method to maximise the possibility of postmaterial effects appearing. Yet still we found little backing for his theory and more trends counter to it. Support for the extension of animal rights is substantially established in all four countries, and in all cases that support is spread among all age groups and among those with materialist as well as postmaterialist orientations. Rather than the expected concentration of support from tertiary educated people we found the opposite. Since postmaterialism is otherwise well supported, then if the link we drew from it to animal rights is granted there must be something specific to this issue that is discrepant with the theory. (Franklin, Tranter and Wood 2000:9)



In precisely those groups (postmaterialists, post-war generations) we found less support than in opposing groups indicating that there is something going on between materialist groups and animals that is also forging a changing moral and social relation. Drawing on Franklin’s (1999) theory of animals and postmodernity an alternative explanation is offered: Franklin argued that many animal rights activists first collapsed the distinction between humans and animals but then restored it by demanding the complete separation of animals from humanity. This demand runs counter to the main trends in human-animal relations in late modernity, which have entailed a blurring of boundaries and the emergence of more companionate, protective and empathetic relations. These trends also enact a granting to animals of forms of moral subjecthood, but rather than the apartheid that is explicit in strict animal rights they imply what might be called ‘species multiculturalism’, or a politics of sentimentalization, reconciliation and mutual discovery. They entail, that is, neither the zoocentrism of strict animal rights nor the anthropocentrism of a priori privileging of the human, but hybrids of the two. Nor were they confined to Tester’s young radicals, but were relatively popular and diffused (Erlichman et al. 1995; Electronic Telegraph 1995; Macnaghten and Urry 1998:66–7). (Franklin, Tranter and White 2000:8)

The new empathetic, close and embodied relations that Franklin discerned appear to make more sense of these data than Inglehart and so the differences in their theorising are critical: Two differences stand out, on the issues of ‘security’ and ‘misanthropy’. Postmaterialism is a theory of ‘existential security’, resting on ‘the fundamental difference between growing up with an awareness that survival is precarious, and growing up with the feeling that one’s survival can be taken for granted’ (Inglehart 1997:31). That is why postmaterialist values should be separable by age, education and class. Franklin, however, drew on the ‘ontological insecurity’ which a range of writers have attributed to the fragmented and fugitive character of postmodern labour markets, neighbourhoods, communities and family and domestic relations. Noting that these aspects of socio-cultural change are scattered in affluent societies, and suggesting that pets fill the emotional spaces formerly met by enduring human relationships, Franklin argued that the extension of moral subjecthood to animals would span dimensions such as education, class, gender and age. These opposite responses to ‘security’ imply different versions of what it is to be human. Franklin has blurred the boundary between nature and culture which Inglehart has retained in his Maslovian distinction between physiological and non-physiological needs. That difference recurs in the issue of ‘misanthropy’. (Franklin, Tranter and White 2000:10)

Franklin identified ‘misanthropy’ as a frequent and deepening view attaching to environmental discourse (see Aspinall 1976; Furedi 1998; Masters 1988). It refers not to a dislike of people per se but to a view of



humanity as a species that has become out of control, violent, malevolent, ecologically imperialistic and unsustainable, hence misanthropists’ support for such things as population control and, in extreme cases, advocating the abolition of modern medicine so as to bring humans back within biological checks. As Einarsson (1993:82) argues ‘most ecowarriors’ see humanity as ‘a foreign negative element’ or ‘a cancer on the environment’: Consistent with what we found in our analyses, misanthropic views tends to be associated with less rather than more education (e.g. Cartmill 1993). Since it entails a shift from anthropocentric privilege to zoocentric inclusiveness it is inaccessible on Inglehart’s account, for whether it is put in Maslovian or post-Maslovian terms, postmaterialism is by definition anthropocentric. We are then left with two possibilities. Either our link from postmaterialism to animal rights is precluded, in which case we have identified a limit to the applicability of Inglehart’s thesis, or analysts who do draw the link (e.g. Aslin and Norton 1995) beg the question, for when the distinctiveness of humans is at issue, a theory in which the human is privileged from the start cannot be adequate. (Franklin, Tranter and Wood 2000:8)

Clearly, the reduction of the nature–humanity relationship to genetics in the biophilia thesis (or to ecological network in ‘deep ecology’) or to the emergence of generalised postmaterial values in postmaterialist accounts (and to a disembedded rational response to environmental risk in what Macnaghten and Urry call ‘polling’ approaches) exposes not only the sorts of problems with many influential theories so far considered, but it also helps us to home in on the sorts of approach that might be more useful. Another recent theoretical variant relates the increasing willingness to question the nature–culture great divide and Cartesian views on animals and nature to the rise of cosmopolitanism (see Beck 2000; Giddens 1999; Urry 2000). Cosmopolitanism is the growing sensibility in late modern globalized cultures, of the need for acceptance and interest in ‘the other’, indeed it welcomes cultural complexity, promiscuity, instability and change. According to Beck, for example, environmental risks have produced the widespread view that humanity and the natural world are now inextricably and irretrievably dissolved into each other, that there is no longer a ‘clear distinction between nature and culture. Today if we talk about nature we talk about culture, if we talk about culture we talk about nature’ (Beck 2000:145). As an explanation of new attitudes and practices with the natural world, cosmopolitanism has certain advantages over postmaterialism. First, it is not tied to particular age or generation groups that we have seen do not fit the evidence, particularly with respect to animals; cosmopolitan cultures pre-date and postdate postmaterialist politics. Second, cosmopolitanism is not necessarily tied to economic capital or material well-being and although there is an implicit correlation with education, the tie is weak with cosmopolitanism arising as much from ‘experience’, ‘exposure’ and the metropolitan everyday. The international



evidence on attitudes to wildlife (Serpell 1994) and animals in general (Hills 1993) would seem to fit cosmopolitanism more because of the association between non-anthropocentric views and urban living. On the evidence marshalled by Franklin et al. (2000a and 2000b) which contrasts attitudes to the moral equivalence of humans and animals between European nations, former European colonies, former Soviet bloc countries and Japan we have the opportunity, albeit rough and ready, to view the difference that cosmopolitanism makes. If it is roughly accepted that the degree of cosmopolitanism in Europe is higher than in former colonies such as Australia and Canada, that former Soviet bloc countries are now in an anti-cosmopolitan, nationalistic mood and that in Japan, with its history of cultural insularity and xenophobia, cosmopolitanism is weak, then we would expect Europe to score highest with regard to the animal rights question, former European colonies to score below Europe, the former Soviet bloc countries to score below former colonies and for Japan to score lowest of all. However, the data do not show such a predicted pattern, almost the reverse. The former Soviet bloc countries score highest followed by Japan, then Europe and last, by a fair margin, the former European colonies. Of course, this is not to suggest that there is no relationship between cosmopolitanism and attitudes to nature and animals, but it suggests strongly that there may be more to it than cosmopolitanism alone. Rather than correlating materialism or cosmopolitanism, the willingness to support notions of moral equivalence seems to feature most in those countries that have undergone dramatic social and cultural instability/disorder and least in those countries that have remained relatively stable/ordered.

Nature, humanity and modernity Numerous writers have argued that environmental politics masquerades under the mantle of scientific certainty and that environmental politics appears ratified by the pure and socially uncontaminated domain of scientific procedures. Such environmental realism, it is argued here, conceals a huge social content. Although we will be arguing that there is a social content necessary to understand why a politics of nature should have emerged when it did from the mid-1970s onwards, there is also a social content necessary to explain why this new politics was so universal, so powerful and so entrenched. It can be argued that this universality, potency and entrenchment related directly to the embedding processes explored in the second part of this book. We have tried to identify the historical foundations of this by investigating key forms of naturalisation processes whereby important loci of social identity became translated onto different chunks of the natural world; by analysing the ways in which these naturalisation processes have been consolidated by a variety of embodied practices which have,



to quite a remarkable extent, employed new technologies to extend our sensate relation with nature; and by analysing the extent to which nature and culture had become so intertwined in projects of hybridisation that it had become very difficult to imagine a humanity that was not at the same time and inextricably ‘nature’. As we have seen with the work of Macnaghten and Urry, environment and nature politics issues mean so much more when they relate directly with natures into which people are embedded. The project of modernity, if we can call it that, was, paradoxically, not the move that was to distance ourselves for all time from the natural world but the reverse. It was the move that was to remove all physical, intellectual and symbolic barriers. After a long history of maintaining a separation, humanity and the natural world dissolved into each other. By initially separating people from their historic dwelling places in the modern world and by creating Frankenstein monsters in the shape of the metropolis, nation states and factory/office lifestyles, modernisation evidently created an insatiable desire for a reunification, at least among large numbers of people. Paradoxically, modernisation also created the means to make this possible on a scale never before attained, both in terms of moving nature from ‘natural’ starting points and creating new hybrid natures elsewhere and in terms of transporting people to natural environments with ever increasing frequency and ease. The processes we have described have taken place over a long period from approximately the mid-nineteenth century until the present, but it was not this onward march of modernisation–naturalisation that precipitated the arrival of a nature politics so much as a social crisis at the heart of the modern order. Modernisation had been an exciting, dizzy affair in which change had created much pain and suffering, but always, modernisation could claim to be a moral force in the world. Initially by taming the unpredictable and awful nature of nature itself; by eradicating diseases and illnesses that cripple, blind and kill; by preventing floods; by avoiding famine; by protecting against fires, storm and tempest. However, as a civilising, improving and democratising project which placed humanity at the centre of the universe and valued human life in ever more inflated terms (longevity, life expectancy, material conditions, etc.) political life was entirely consumed by these essentially human concerns. Here are the concerns of democracy: life chances, health, welfare, education, improved cities, housing and infrastructure, leisure, sport and tourism for all. The poverty of Inglehart’s approach, that seems at the same time so North American in its onedimensionality, is its emphasis on materialism and not what we might label this list of projects, a civilising modernisation. Most important of all it needs to be established that modernisation was not merely the unfolding and rolling out of new products, technologies and material conditions. Or at least it did not have merely a material manifestation. It was, at the same time, an essentially moral movement. We saw for example, in the garden city movement in Chapter 6, the exercise of powerful moral arguments and the need to provide good, decent and healthy housing and



aesthetically pleasing and uplifting living conditions for all. It is with the experience of living through the reversal of modernisation (or the modernity project) from the mid-1970s onwards that the crises of postmodernity can be identified. Giddens (1990, 1991) and others identify the way in which the new post- or late modern conditions disturbed forever projects to create moral communities around stable and sedentary new-built environments; disturbed employment and industrial policy that was to provide the material base for such a lifestyle; disturbed established familial, marital, neighbourhood relations that had coalesced in many areas of twentieth- century modernity (see Franklin 1986; Furedi 1998). More mobile and less enduring capital formations together with collapsing rural and former industrial sectors created labour markets, in new places with fewer local solidarities. Labour in turn was required to be more mobile, less tied to place or to particular skills, jobs or careers. Changing conditions for women in the workplace, in labour markets, in politics, in relationships and in the home all impacted on the nature of everyday life creating instabilities and insecurities as detraditionalisation processes advanced. The family was destabilised by greater freedom to separate and divorce; family structures changed in relation to new work and career pressures resulting in later, smaller or childless families. Local solidarities between grown siblings, their parents and their own children were undermined by all of these trends, leaving older people not at the hub of a growing family around them but as remnants of former clusters, often very isolated from both kin and former friends. Added to this, job and career security had been undermined by a weakening of other workingclass institutions such as unions and paternalistic relations in some industries and farming. Novels such as Mortimer’s Paradise Postponed (1982) catalogued these new conditions of postmodernity with grim realism during the Thatcher and Reagan years. The turbulent, churning and fugitive nature of postmodernity and its detraditionalising pathways gave rise to general conditions of ontological insecurity. At all levels of society from the dizzy lifestyles of the new finance and design sectors through the newly pressurised jobs in public services to the long-term unemployed living in dilapidated outer estates or inner-city ghettos, these conditions had an impact of profound social destabilisation and uncertainty. Ontological security was defined by Giddens as ‘a sense of continuity and order in events, including those not directly within the perceptual environment of the individual’ (Giddens 1991:243). Of course, critics will say that the history of modernity has always been punctuated by profound social disturbances such as wars, famines, persecutions, depressions and so on. All this is true, but at the same time the period in which theorists of postmodernity wrote was preceded by a period of relative social stability built around a long boom and increased (unprecedented) social and economic planning – in short a widespread regime of modernist order. Furedi also makes the point that when liberal economics and the private sphere established itself in the



nineteenth century it ‘coincided with the emergence of co-operatives, trade unions, mass movements and other collective arangements. Today the absence of such arrangements is a widely recognized problem’ (Furedi 1998:67). It is an argument advanced here that such an order was built on the privileging of humanity relative to the natural world; the moral state of humanity in the early part of the twentieth century and after the effects of two world wars was so torrid that the modern welfare state projects could only be seen as morally defensible. It was not directed at creating wealth per se but a social order in which democratic, material, aesthetic and lifestyle standards could be attainable as of right. All the while that babies were dying premature deaths, that old people were dying of hypothermia, that working-class children and women were undernourished and that basic living conditions were unhealthy the modernity project could and was seen as heroic and deserving. If, in creating better human conditions, the natural world was treated more as a limitless resource for it, that air and water pollution grew worse or that animals suffered for our good, then that was a price that people were prepared to pay. It was, of course, regretted in a number of ways but all the while it could be balanced against equal if not greater human suffering, particularly if the sufferers were ‘others’ such as blacks, migrants, the disabled, refugees, famine victims and so on, then the politics of modernisation could roll on like a juggernaut with morality quite clearly on its side. However, when this modernity project (as we want to continue to call it) ground to a halt in the 1970s, when its multiple projects of good works were wound down, had their budgets cut, privatised or abandoned in the 1980s and 1990s, we argue that a sense of social order and moral uprightness went with it. A generalised deregulated economy created wealth in new, unequal ways and did not redistribute it in the old way, hence when the economy boomed as it surely did once unfettered by the multiple demands of a welfare state, a situation in which the environment was being degraded at a rapid rate combined with the absence of any moral counterweight. Clearly this was not so easily exonerated. New questions could be posed: the environment (or ‘our’ environment) was being destroyed for what, for whom, for what purpose? The modernist goal of sustainable social order had been replaced by a social disorder that was in danger of also being unable to address the growing question of environmental disorder. Naming the social disorder by its effect on nature or ecology also framed the mythical model by which order could be restored: In this emergent world of ‘ecology’, nature is portrayed as a holistic, self-regulating and fundamentally peaceful system in relation to which violence can emerge only from outside. For those who believe in the nature myth, it is axiomatic that human life can be continued in a viable way only if the economic system is subordinated to – ‘in tune with’ – the ecological one. In this newly dominant environmental consciousness, nature is asssociated with the sacred and sublime. (Alexander and Smith 1996:259)



In the absence of the greater human good, development and environmental degradation by undemocratic global corporations could be less easily condoned, particularly since such social entities and events were now out of reach of control by local or national political means. Here was a truly external evil. It has been suggested that the language and symbolism of risk, nature and postmodernity can only be made sense of through a cultural approach, of the sort associated with the late Durkheim (Alexander and Smith 1996:257): Durkheim explored the manner in which human beings continue to divide the world into sacred and profane, maintaining that even modern men and women need ritual experiences of a mystical kind. Whereas the sacred provides a social representation of the good in relation to which actors seek to build communities, the profane defines an image of evil and establishes a zone of pollution from which humans strive to be saved. ... With the rise of scientific, technological and industrial societies, the terrifying threat of premature death by disease has largely been neutralised but the human experience of anxiety and risk has not been mitigated. In a world of continuous revolutionary social transformation, devastating wars, and ecological horrors, there remains ample motivation to continue to assuage and explain suffering through the construction of symbolic, highly charged and cognitively simplified myths, even when such ‘religious’ ideologies are constructed in decidedly post-metaphysical ways. (Alexander and Smith 1996:257–8)

It seems likely, therefore, that new politics arose not in postmaterialist conditions but more accurately postmodernist conditions, although Inglehart now appears to recognise the necessity of this. Certainly, the intellectual leadership of most western countries, those largely tertiary educated people who had grown up and were formed precisely by these changing times, were the ones most likely to be associated and aligned with such new politics. The environment was a major issue not least because such green issues as forest and natural vegetation depletion gathered pace at the same time as science was beginning to ring alarm bells over ‘brown’ environmental issues such as water quality, air quality and chemical contamination. Clearly, the media were held by many to have fanned the flames of panic and despair in the new risk society creating a new folk panic over dubious scientific claims (Furedi 1998; Lupton 1996). However, the mechanism for the raising of such issues also relates to the changing role of the state and the changing nature of moral regulation. According to Crook (1997), when this modern ordering or organised risk management broke down in the postmodern West, citizens as consumers and concerned residents were faced with ethical and risk anxieties that had hitherto been ‘taken care of’ by the state. The treatment and consumption of the environment and animals are good examples of what Bauman (1993, 1995) describes as the required increase in reflexive



morality. But individuals were not alone: they were beset now by state-driven advice and information: Organised risk management retreats, but does not disappear, as states explore ways of shifting costs and responsibilities. That the most attractive way of doing this involves a neo-liberal emphasis on the freedoms and responsibilities of the individual has been noted by many commentators. ... [T]he development of neo-liberal risk management involves a transformation of state activity rather than its elimination. To exaggerate, state agencies become information and advice bureau rather than agencies of regulation and control. (Crook 1997:14)

According to Crook (1997) and others, the neo-liberal regime of risk management produces more risks because the state is cut back from its safeguarding functions and more information and advice is provided for the individual resulting in a generalized, heightened if not overloaded sense of risk and anxiety: Beck’s (1992) risk society. Crook puts it very well: The regime tends to the over-production and under-control of risks. The provision of advice and information means, precisely, the ‘production’ and communication of risks in ever-greater numbers. To put it crudely, if you establish an apparatus for the identification of risks, it will identify as many risks as it can. However the only mechanisms available for the control of these newly identified risks are the risk-calculations and lifestyle modifications open to the individual or the increasingly strained and under-resourced controls associated with the organised regime. (Crook 1997:14)

Of course, mediating the proliferation of information on environmental risks were organisations (and media) that monitored them in political terms and through them ordinary citizens could learn what they meant and could learn how to act. In these ways, we can see how nature became a moral issue of great, almost universal concern to all individuals. That such levels of concern for the environment have dipped in recent years may well be a function of the limits to which media and state-driven anxieties (as opposed to those directly confronting an individual in their locality) can be sustained (or be considered politically advantageous to advertise). However, what we have seen in recent years has been a considerable boom in the focus on animals as an object of nature, a register of environmental risk, a social panacea and as candidates for moral subjecthood. Animals are always somewhat different because of their more extreme moral and symbolic loading and it is for this precise reason that we are able to locate the changing attitudes and practices towards animals, as a subset of nature to particular social and moral change. Recent work in a representative region of Australia by Franklin and White (2001) has used content analysis of a major newspaper and correspondence analysis over the period 1950–1999 to show that the content of stories featuring animals correspond to predicted trends in Franklin’s late



modern thesis. First, animal stories show the predicted trend in an increasing zoocentric content and a marked decline in anthropocentric contents, but in both cases the late 1970s shows a dramatic point of change. Second, the proportion of stories that are clearly sentimentalised grows dramatically from the mid-1970s from 2.2 percent in 1949–1953, to 3.8 percent in 1964–1968, to 8.6 percent in 1984–1988 and 21.3 percent in 1994–1998. Clearly, sentimentalised stories featuring animals have been around for most of the twentieth century, but this pattern of growth is quite clear and fits well with the notion that animals have been brought into a closer form of relationship with humans, particularly from the period after the 1970s when the security and predictability of human social relationships declined. This certainly accords well with other qualitative data mobilised by Franklin (1999), for example trends in the naming of pets, transformations in pet diets, elaborations in veterinary care and other services. Third, animal stories with a ‘risk’ content were found to rise dramatically from this date and the ratio of stories showing animals ‘at risk’ to those showing animals ‘posing a risk’ increases over the period from 0.4 in 1949–1950, 0.3 in 1964–1968, to 1.0 in 1974–1978, but to 3.0 in 1979–1983. Fourth, matching a similar finding from Macnaghten and Urry, it was found that local native animal issues were thrust into the media limelight in the past 30 years. As the most immediate and local example of human action against wildlife and the naturalisation of social identity into totemic forms, local native animal stories evoke a greater sense of social identity in the locality than animals from elsewhere and always provoke strong feelings. In the period 1949–1953 native animal stories were only 17 percent of all animal story content but at the critical point from 1979–1983 we find it leapt to 25 percent and in the most recent period from 1994–1998 they comprised almost one third of all stories. Finally, in a country where hunting has always been seen in a favourable light, calling forth a highly prized origin mythology of the heroic early settler as a self-sufficient, self-provisioning bloke living off the land, it is interesting that the predicted decline in hunting coverage in the papers was so dramatic, particularly when we already know from hunting firearm licence sales that hunting had increased steadily over this period (see Franklin 1996b). However, hunting animal stories were a very regular storyline in the early period, averaging 2.2 percent of stories in the 1949–1953 period and surviving as a regular content until the 1970–1978 period. However, after that, despite the growth in hunting as a sport in the state, hunting declined to zero and has stayed at zero. Franklin and White’s data provide overwhelming evidence for the claim that a postmodern effect can be clearly detected and, as we have seen earlier, animals were something of an Achilles’ heal for the otherwise successful postmaterialism thesis. Support for animal rights was not confined to those with postmaterial values. Animals have been embraced by a far broader social base than other nature issues and we argue that this



has to do with more generalised social experiences as well as the fact that most people, regardless of income, have access to companion animals whereas the same is not true of nature tourism and other forms of attachment to the natural world. In focus group studies and in the analysis of international data on attitudes to animal rights, we find very strong support among all age groups but with the non-tertiary educated groups providing the strongest support. We know from other studies (e.g. Salmon and Salmon 1983) on the timing of/reasons given for pet recruitment that they correlate very closely with social crises, loneliness and social isolation and the need for friendship and company – precisely those conditions associated with ontological insecurity. It seems likely that the particular vicissitudes of postmodernity affecting non-tertiary educated groups (less secure work, lower wages, long-term unemployment etc.) may have created particularly strong and important bonds with companion animals, although it has to be said that the differences between them and more educated groups is not great (i.e. not more than 10 percent in any country sampled). Again, this is consistent with the notion that in postmodernised societies, ontological security is experienced by all social groups to some degree and that most commentators have identified interpersonal relationships as being the hardest hit. The politics of nature, it would seem, is therefore as much woven into the way we try to understand ourselves in late modernity as in any time or place studied by other anthropologists. We must be weary of reducing all of the material and evidence we have collected to one overarching narrative of social change, moral danger or inner species-being. As Harvey warns: Discourses about nature internalise a whole range of contradictory impulses and conflictual ideas derived from all of the other moments in the social process. And from that standpoint, discussion of the discourse of nature has much to reveal, if only about how the discourses themselves conceal a concrete political agenda in the midst of highly abstract, universalising and frequently intensely moral argumentation. (Harvey 1996:174)

This is nowhere better illustrated than in the antipathy between environmentalism or ecologism and animal rights. As two examples of nature politics we have often seen them clash over their diametrically opposed foundations: the absolute rights of animals to life and to be left alone versus the absolute ‘correctness’ of particular environments and ecosystems and the necessity for them to remain in a pristine and pure form. Indeed, we have seen a variety of instances in which nature embodies quite difficult, moral questions. However, it is clear that in general terms nature in late modernity continues to be advanced as a moral force in our lives and a compelling metaphoric world of order and chaos, morality and immorality. In late modernity a clear sense of moral direction is impossible, attempts to discover one are racked with contradictions and political certainty is illusory.



As the conditions that gave rise to such uncertainty deepened, nature has been portrayed as an essentially (and eternally) good, benign, naturally harmonious and beneficial force in the world. The more that humanity in the particular guise as an unregulated, free-market, neo-liberal, asset stripping and short-termist force is seen railed against it, the more it seems that the majority of ‘us’ are metonymically represented by nature itself. Humans become equal victims of the profane forces of unbridled capitalism and disorder in a retake of classical mid-nineteenth-century angst out of which sociology itself emerged. In taking sides with nature we are finding a way perhaps of promoting ourselves, values of community, long-term planning and regulation, providing security, ensuring long-term health and so on. Herein lies the political power of nature as a container of social identity, as a paragon of goodness and as a model of order. Such a view is not at all new although the rise of modern ecology underlined both its harmonious and ordered attributes. ‘A virtuous relation to nature is closely tied to communitarian ideals of civic virtues’ (Harvey 1997:179) and essentially similar views were expounded immediately after the English Civil War (see Franklin 1996b) and at regular times afterwards. We may end therefore with the observation that while we are seemingly becoming more rather than less embedded in a variety of natures and that human–non-human hybrids are proliferating, nature still seems to be called upon in times of great social and political stress. This is why we must be optimistic, along with the historian Schama, that it is precisely because the natural world is so closely tied into notions of social identity, social origins and social order that we will continue, albeit it in a messy and contested manner, to love and maintain it as sacred. In the earlier part of this chapter, it was argued that modernity had moved humanity into a closer and more direct relation with the natural world. This has happened in a number of ways. As we saw in Chapter 6, a close association with nature was recommended to all as part of the urbanisation/industrialisation process, where the urban bourgoisie used gardening and park building as a mode of moral and physical surveillance and control. We have also seen how hybridisation involved the globalisation of the natural world in efforts to exploit all possible gains from hitherto parochial and exotic natures. Having disturbed, uprooted and fragmented these natures, they were then recomposed around a growing world industrial economy. Modernisation then made the West dependent, for its style of life, upon a secure provision of a global natural diversity, for ever enlarging consumers’ grasp and reach. At the same time these conditions sensitised the consumers of the West to a nature far wider than their immediate locality, creating for the first time the potential for a global environmental politics. However, globalisation and naturalisation processes also fragmented, transposed and hybridised natures, removing individual species from their ‘natural’ environment and replanting them in numerous other places. In the case of the Australian gum trees, they are now naturalised



in every continent from western North America to Hawaii to Portugal. This sort of acclimatisation means that the alleged wilderness areas are tightly managed zones, in a manner no different from other forms of gardening. There are pest problems (e.g. unwanted Australian possums in New Zealand forests); weeds (e.g. South American pampas grass in Tasmania; Australian woolpack plants on English chalk downlands) and collection decisions (should the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service encourage rainforest that was so widely destroyed and checked by Aboriginal fire technology but which is now popular with modern tourists and locals, or try to preserve the natural environment ‘they’ inherited after 40,000 years of Aboriginal burning, an environment dominated by the fire-loving gum trees and dry schlerophyl forest?). Such issues are no longer managed by the state but released into the public domain and chewed over by assemblies of people with a greater or lesser involvement in nature politics – from one-day protest groups to local and national campaigns and to international pressure groups. We must follow Latour (1993) in declaring the boundaries between humanity and nature to be a fiction, impossible to identify. We are now cultures and formations of humans and non-humans. This is surely the plain truth that binds all of us, in whatever configurations, to the natural world and ties our life chances to its.

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Index Aborigines 24–3 Adler, A. 186 Adler, M. 213 Aestheticisation 84–86 Alexander, J.C. and Smith, P. 6, 30, 47–9, 249–50 Alexander, J.C. 28, 39 Alternative medicine 207–212 Anglers 124–131 Animal rights 36 Animals 43–4, 251–253 Animism 64 Anthropology 15, 24–31, 60–83 Anti-hunting legislation 2 Aronoff, M. and Gunter, V. 45 Aronson, N. 200 Aslin, Heather J. and Tony W. Norton 244 Aspinall, J. 244 Australia 118–124 Australian Bureau of Statistics 123 Baker, S. 93 Barry, J. 61 Baudrillard, 45 Bauman, Z. 197, 250 Bean, C. 240, 241 Beck, U. 3, 15, 30, 47–50, 58, 245, 251 Benjamin, W. 58 Benton, T. 6, 41, 42, 43, 51 Benton, T. and Redfearn, S. 2 Berger, I. 213 Berger, J. 5 Berliner, H.S. 207–9 Bermingham, A. 186 Bhaskar, R. 41 Biophilia 232–240 Biopolitics 193–4, 230–255 Blainey, G. 121 Bloch, M. 13, 15, 72–3 Body 184–5 Bodyshop 205–7 Bolton, G. 121

Borch, L.W. and Wellov-Borch, L. 203 Bouma, G. 61 Bourneville 149 Braun, B. and Castree, N. 6, 13 Brookes, R. 90 Brown, D. 162–3 Brueghel 69 BSE 202–3 Budd, M. 84–86 Burke, D. 171 Burningham, K. and Cooper, G. 6, 41–46, 51 Bye-law housing Callcut, W.G. 126–7 Callicot, J. 239 CAMRA 201–2 Capek, S. 45 Capra, F. 230 Cartesianism 180–182 Cartmill, M. 34, 220, 245 Central Statistical Office 202 Champion, A.G., Green, A.E., Owen, D.W., Ellin, D.J., and Coombes, M.G. 117–8, 158 Chase, A.K. 89 City Livery Companies Clark, N. 9, 11, 14, 58, 60, 84–86, 133, 158, 190 Clover, C. 203 Collins, M. 183–4 Cosmetics 205–27 Cosmopolitanism 245–6 Cotgrove, S. 240 Country living 110–113 Cove, A. 222 Coward, R. 207 Cozzolino, M. and Rutherford, G.F. 121 Craib, I. 185 Crespo, C.J., Keteyian, S.J., Heath, G.W. and Sempos, C.T. 162, 178

INDEX Crook, S. 49–50, 52, 197, 250, 251 Crook, S. and Pakulski, J. 230, 240 Czikszentmihali, M. 216 Dahles, H. 217 Daly, J.A. 120 Daunton, M.J. 136, 141, 147–50 Davis, M. 11 De Landa, M. 11 Demeritt, D. 7 Descola, P. 13, 15, 60–67, 68, 234 Descola, P. and Palsson, G. 62 Dickens, P. 6, 23, 41, 42–5 Donnelly, P. 189 Doran, B. 211 Douglas, M. 28, 30, 39 Douglas, M. and Wildavsky, A. 30 Driver, C. 201 Dunlap, R. and Catton, W. 24, 45 Dunn, J.A. 203 Durkheim, E. 15, 23, 24–31, 39, 60, 94–5 Dwelling 6–7, 56–59, 69–72, 185–6 Earth First 1 Eder, K. 6, 12, 30 Einarsson, N. 245 Eisenberg, D.M., Davis, R.B., Ettner, S.L., Appel, S., Wilkey, S., Van Rompay, M. and Kessler, R.C. 210 Electronic Telegraph 93, 178 Elias, N. 30, 31, 217, 223 Elias, N. and Dunning, E. 223 Ellen, R. 15, 62, 67–9, 80, 132, 134, 236 Elsworth, C. 204 Embodiment 17, 53–55 England 89–91 Erlichman, J., Vidal, J. and Keeble, J. 244 Evans-Pritchard, E.E. 235 Fabian, J. 186 Falkus, H. 222 Farson, N. 225 Feuerbach 181 Finch, R. 221, 227 Finnegan, R. 152, 153–8


Fish and Wildlife Service/Bureau of the Census 10, 21 Flannery, T. 123 Foucault, M. 186 Fox hunting 109–110 Frank, R. 126 Franklin, A.S. 2, 12, 34, 49, 171, 194, 195, 202, 203, 217–8, 231, 252, 254 Franklin, A.S. and White, R. 251–3 Franklin, A.S., Tranter, B. and White, R. 231, 243–5, 246 Fraser, A. 2 Frawley, K. 120 French, J. 172–3 Frisby, D. and Featherstone, M. 24 Furedi, F. 244, 248–9, 250 Garden cities 150–158 Gardening 16, 132–179 Gardening and urban design 145–151 Gellner, E. 23, 55, 92, 97–9 Giddens, A. 58, 184–5, 245, 248 Gierach, J. 222, 228 Gil, J. 193 Glacken, C. 34 Globalisation and gardening 135 GM foods 230 Gottdiener, M. 153–4 Govaerts, F. 162 Gray, F. 152–3 Greenpeace 1 Hall, S. and Jefferson, T. 185 Hamilton, G. 171–2 Hannigan, J.A. 45, 46 Harvey, D. 13, 230, 239, 253, 254 Haudricourt, G.A. 65 Heidegger, M. 186 Heraldry and nature 95–105 Hey, D. 109 Hills, A.M. 246 Horne, D. 106 Housman, A.E. 90, 212 Howard, Ebenezar 152–4 Howard, R. 152 Huaorani 73–80 Hume, L. 213–7 Hunting 217–228 Hutton, D. and Connors, L. 231 Hybridisation 16, 60, 132–179



Inglehart, R. 4, 240 Ingold, T. 8, 13, 56, 57, 68–72, 136 Itzkowitz, D. 109, 224 James, A. 165, 202, 204 James, M. 153 James, P. 55, 92, 93, 99 Jameson, F. 58 Jay, M. 186 Jervis, J. 133 Kant, E. 87 Kaufman, P.R. 202 Kellert, S.R. 189, 231, 232–3, 236–8 Kellert, S.R. and Wilson, E.O. 232–3 Kelly, A. 214 Kirkpatrick, J.B., Gelfedder, L. and Fensham, R. 11 Koller, L. 224 Koseki, S. 162 Landscape Lash, S., Szersznski, B. and Wynne, B. 12, 47, 52, 60 Latour, B. 6, 9, 12, 58, 60, 80 Leach, E. 28 Lefebvre, H. 186 Leisure Trends Group 161, 178 Leopold, A. 220–1, 225, 227 Lévi-Strauss, C. 28, 31, 43 Liendardt, G. 96 Lines, W.J. 119, 120 Lingis, A. 193 Live animal exports 2 Living Britain Living Britain 9–10 Locke 181 London Anglers’ Association 126–127 Loudon, J.C. 144 Lowenthal, J. 119 Lowerson, J. 111, 113, 125, 128–30, 151 Luhrmann, T. 213 Lupton, D. 200, 204, 250 Lynd, R.S. and Lynd, H.M.L. 166 Macallister, I. 241 Macallister, I. and Studlar, D.T. 241 Maclibel 230

Macnaghten, P. and Urry, J. 4, 5, 7, 12, 23, 24, 30, 34, 38, 49, 52–4, 56–8, 60, 81, 83, 122, 132, 185–88, 241–3 Margulis, L. 191 Martell, L. 6, 41, 42–4 Marx, K. 42, 46, 51, 96, 108, 181 Masters, B. 244 Mazur, A. and Lee, J. 45 McLeod, R. 2 Mennell, S. 30, 233 Mestrovic, S. 185 Michelsen, J. 203 Milton Keynes MINTEL 135 Misanthropy 244–5 Mortimer, J. 248 Morton, J. 121 Morton, J. and Smith, N. 118, 123, 124 Moscovici, S. 1 Mr Crabtree 130 Murcott, A. 30 Murphy, R. 30, 41 Naess, A. 239 Nash, R. 225 National Trust 114–115 Naturalisation 16, 83–131 Nature As environment 5–8, 15, 47–50 City and 5, 9–11, 133–4 Consumption 194–229 Contested natures 8, 52–53 Definitions 21–4 Politics 17–18, 230–255 Tourism and 7–8 History 31–38 Civil war 34 Leisures 10, 13, 21, 182 Modern art 183–4 Modernity 248–255 Nation 36–37, 54–56, 95–105 Morality 47–50, 248–255 Orderings 49–50 Colonialism 118–124 Sports 217–228 Nature and media 2–3 Nature Boy 3–4 New Age 192 Newby, H. 45

INDEX Nietzsche 181–2 Office for National Statistics 115, 117, 161 Organic food 203–205 Outhwaite, W. 41 Paganism 12, 192, 212–217 Pahl, R.E. 117, 161 Papadakis, E. 241 Parks 137–8 Paul, L. 195 Paxman, J. 90, 115 Pie in the Sky 3 Pierson, L.G. 104 Politics of nature 230–255 Possamai, A. 61, 213, 217 Postmaterialism 4, 240–246 Pugh, S. 187 Quiney, A. 147–9 Radcliffe-Brown, A.R. 28 Ramblers’ Association 114 Rambling 113–4 Realism 6, 39–47 Reynolds, H. 94 Richardson, D. and Rootes, C. Risk society 4, 47–50 Ritvo, H. 1 Rival, L. 13, 15, 72–80, 235 Road protests 230 Rohrschneider, R. 241 Rojek, C. 136 Romanticism 5, 14, 20, 35–6, 87–89 Rorty, R. 45, 186 Royal Horticultural Association 151 RSPB 116–7 RSPCA 1 Ruralisation 117–8 Salmon, P.W. and Salmon, I.M. 253 Savage, M., Barlow, J., Dickens, P. and Fielding, T. 56, 197 Sayer, A. 41 Schama, S. 5, 36–7, 56, 92, 185 Schicker, L. 10 Serpell, J. 246 Shaw, G.B. 199


Shaw, W.W., Mangun, J. and Lyons, R. 10 Sheffield Anglers’ Association 127–8 Shilling, C. 184, 223 Shilling, C. and Mellor, P.A. 184 Shoenfeld, A.C., Meier, R.F. and Griffin, R.J. 45 Sinclair Rohde, E. and Parker, E. 142, 143–4, 147 Social constructionism 6, 39–47, 217–228 Soper, K. 6, 40–1, 86–89 Spooner, P. 45, 120 State of the Environment Unit 11 Stockdale, J.E., Wells, A. and Rall, M. 161 Stranger, M. 194 Swanson, G.E. 30 Taskscape 69–72 Tester, K. 12, 35, 36, 39, 42–5, 199, 217, 231 Thomas, K. 7, 31–8, 54, 137–41, 147, 239 Thomas, R.H. 199 Thoreau, H.D. 220 Thrift, N. 13, 190–4, 228 Totemism 24–31, 92–105 Traver, R. 219 Turnball, C. 61–2 Turner, B.S. 30, 180–1, 182, 184, 219 United States of America, Fish and Wildlife Service/Bureau of the Census 189 Urry, J. 12, 84, 188, 245 Veblen, T. 185 Vegetarianism 200–201 Venables, B. 224–5 Vialles, N. 220 Vinvent, C. and Furnham, A. 209 Visualism 13–14, 186–188 Wall, G. 231 Walton, I. 35, 106, 218, 222 Warde, C. and Hardy, D. 195 Warren, R. 158 Webb, M. 55, 136, 212 Weber, M. 96, 97



Weiner, M. 106, 107–9, 110 Weldon, F. 136, 180, 212 White, R.D. 2 Wholefoods 198–205 Whorton, J. 199 Williams, M. 44 Williams, R. 5, 6, 21–3, 36 Williamson, B. 147 Wilson, A. 5, 163–6, 187 Wilson, E.O. 17 Wilson, G., Dexter, N., O’Brien P. and Bomford, M. 122

Withey, L. 125 Wolch, J.R., West, K. and Gaines, T.E. 10, 159–60 Worsley, P. 30 Worster, D. 132 Wynnes, B. 4 Yearly, S. 45 Zafimariniry Zimmerman, M. 239