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Governing the Wild

Ecotours of Power

Stephanie Rutherford

Publication Year: 2011

Take four emblematic American scenes: the Hall of Biodiversity at the American Museum of Natural History in New York; Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park in Orlando; an ecotour of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks; the film An Inconvenient Truth. Other than expressing a common interest in the environment, they seem quite dissimilar.

And yet, as Governing the Wild makes clear, these sites are all manifestations of green governmentality, each seeking to define and regulate our understanding, experience, and treatment of nature. Stephanie Rutherford shows how the museum presents a scientized assessment of global nature under threat; the Animal Kingdom demonstrates that a corporation can successfully organize a biopolitical project; the ecotour, operating as a school for a natural aesthetic sensibility, provides a visual grammar of pristine national nature; and the film offers a toehold on a moral way of encountering nature. But one very powerful force unites the disparate “truths” of nature produced through these sites, and that, Rutherford tells us, is their debt to nature’s commodification.

Rutherford’s analysis reveals how each site integrates nature, power, and profit to make the buying and selling of nature critical to our understanding and rescuing of it. The combination, she argues, renders other ways of encountering nature—particularly more radically environmental ways—unthinkable.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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p. vii-vii

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Introduction: Governing Nature

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pp. ix-xxvi

In the Hall of Biodiversity at the American Museum of Natural History in New York is a glass case embedded in the floor of the exhibit called “The Crisis Zone.” Housed within this case is a number of extinct or endangered animal specimens, the most notable among them being a giant Bengal tiger. Its eyes are alert, round, steady; it regards the viewer almost in ...

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1. Ordering Nature at the American Museum of Natural History

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pp. 1-42

When you enter the American Museum of Natural History in New York from the 77th Street entrance, you encounter a profoundly striking diorama depicting the Dutch colonization of New Amsterdam (now Manhattan). A group of men are foregrounded, two Indigenous and two European. The Europeans, one brandishing a rifle and the other with ...

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2. Disney’s Animal Kingdom: The Wild That Never Was

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pp. 43-88

In 1992 Michael Sorkin published a picture of the sky over Disney World in his edited volume entitled Variations on a Theme Park: The The New American City and the End of Public Space. He did so to illustrate that the sky was the only thing that could be pictured without violating the copyright that the Disney Corporation has placed on the park. To Sorkin, ...

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3. Wolves, Bison, and Bears, Oh My! Defining Nature at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

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pp. 89-138

In October 2006, I embarked on an ecotour to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in Wyoming: a seven-day excursion into “yesteryear’s frontier.” On the last day, I sat in the van that had transported our ecotour all over the two national parks, pondering our trip. I gazed out the window, half listening to our guide explain the impact of brucellosis, an ...

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4. Science and Storytelling: Al Gore and the Climate Debate

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pp. 139-182

In the last few years, it seemed there was the potential for consensus, or at least uneasy quiet, in the climate change debate. After decades of vacillation, obfuscation, and the production of uncertainty around this issue, particularly in the United States, the mounting scientific evidence appeared to have opened a political window of sorts, bending the weight ...

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Conclusion: Being Otherwise

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pp. 183-203

These days it is a tricky business to critique efforts at environmental regulation. Given the predictions of climate change, biodiversity loss, and species extinction, it seems impolitic to challenge programs that appear to ameliorate human effects on the world. In many respects, those of us—myself included—who are environmentally minded find ourselves ...

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pp. 205-206

It has become commonplace that acknowledgment pages begin with the comment that one never writes a book alone. Although it risks cliché status, it nevertheless remains true. There are teams of people who deserve many thanks for the part they played in the production of this book, from the editorial staff at the University of Minnesota to the colleagues, friends, ...


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pp. 207-212


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pp. 213-230


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pp. 231-250

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About the Author

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p. 251-251

Stephanie Rutherford is assistant professor in the Department of ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816678464
E-ISBN-10: 0816678464
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816674473

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2011