2022 journal article

It's both experience and context, and that's just leisure


By: K. Henderson n

UN Sustainable Development Goal Categories
4. Quality Education (Web of Science)
Source: Web Of Science
Added: February 28, 2022

I agreed to write this discourse response when it appeared that the pandemic might be waning slightly, and before social justice protests became nation and world-wide. I had heard Mat Duerden present his paper at the 2019 NRPA Conference and I appreciated his logical and scholarly presentation of experience design/management. However, despite his well-articulated thesis and evidence of how well it was working at his university, I was no more convinced than before that this direction was the way to go in expanding and understanding our field. I thought it would be reasonably easy to react to the arguments Duerden (2022) presented, although I had some discomfort with whether or not I could add anything new to the discussion. In light of everything that has happened in 2020 related to Covid-19 and the continuing discussions of racial inequality and white privilege, I now wonder if a discussion about what we call leisure is really important in the big scope of the world in which we now live. It seems that issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), human health, and ecological sustainability ought to be where leisure scholars put their energy. I was even more convinced of this needed approach after reading many of the critical commentaries that appeared in the recent special issue of Leisure Sciences (Lashua et al., 2021). The authors of these commentaries challenged readers to re-think everything about leisure. Lashua et al. suggested that perhaps leisure should be re-appraised regarding what has been “uncritically accepted, environmentally unsustainable, and systematically oppressive during normal times” (p. 5). Therefore, although I applaud Duerden’s (2022) efforts, I believe more than ever the focus of leisure studies/sciences ought to be re-thinking how it contributes to a broader social and environmental agenda. It is not a matter of context or experience, but both and how they contribute to human and community growth and development. Duerden indicated that leisure ought “to play a role in helping individuals find meaning and fulfillment across the contexts of their lives” (p. 167) I do not dispute this idea, but I think professionals need to look upon the broader social implications of leisure. A focus on individual experience is not enough. The needed meanings of leisure must go beyond designing experiences to encompass questions about whose experience and what the consequences of such experiences are. The discussion is not an either/or question but both/ and. It is not about changing terminology or names of departments, but about the milieu of community life and how leisure contributes to social and environmental outcomes. I have been an advocate for focusing on making leisure a better understood concept for years. I have argued (e.g., Henderson, 2010, 2011) that leisure studies is not dead and that what researchers, educators, and practitioners need to do is to elevate its