2022 journal article

A People's Future of Leisure Studies: Political Cultural Black Outdoors Experiences


By: A. Sene-Harper*, R. Mowatt* & M. Floyd n

author keywords: Outdoors; recreation; nature-based; African American; social justice
Source: Web Of Science
Added: February 7, 2022

Public lands and the outdoor opportunities they afford are imbued with a long history of cultural and political contestations between the White settler colonial regime, Black and Native Americans. These contestations are grounded in starkly different values and beliefs systems pertaining to the landscape and human-nature relations. Despite the contestations, whiteness continues to dominate the narratives about public lands and its institutions. Furthermore, the ideology of wilderness - as a place of refuge, the antidote to urban living – remains the main frame of reference to explore outdoor experiences. Thus, as researchers continue to espouse this ideology of wilderness, they effectively suppress the experiences and values that African Americans and other people of color hold towards nature and historically shaped by their social and political realities. The history of slavery, post-slavery and Black dispossession, have conjured up innovative Black diasporic cultural practices of resistance, survival and self-determination. Through hidden outdoor spaces they have forged a culture of resistance, built social structures centered on African traditional practices, and engaged in alternative modes of environmental stewardship. The Black outdoors culture today have roots in this robust legacy of resistance and political struggle for self-determination and provide inspiration for outdoor recreation and environmental education programs that culturally and politically relevant to African Americans. In this paper we engage in an investigation on Black peoples’ political outlook of the outdoors and/or their political outlook on engagement with those spaces both historically and presently. In doing so, we first call attention to the need to critically examine diversity practices designed to accommodate a multi-cultural society and how they contribute to a cultural hegemony. We also review the history of research on outdoor experiences putting into sharper relief the Euro-centric values that dominate the analysis and maintain the cultural power of white racial identities. Finally, pulling from African American literary works, we propose Black-centered interpretations of nature centered on their cultural worldviews and political resistance against hegemonic models of dispossession, abstraction and commodification. The aim here is to advocate for the co-existence of multiple cultural imaginaries of nature defined by the social and political realities of different racialized people, thus responding to the call for different paradigms of outdoor recreation highlighted in this special issue.