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Swamplife

People, Gators, and Mangroves Entangled in the Everglades

2011
Author:

Laura A. Ogden

Swamplife

Alligator hunters, mangroves, and the (mis)adventures of the Ashley Gang in the Florida Everglades

Drawing on a decade of fieldwork with hunters in the Everglades, Laura A. Ogden explores the lives and labors of people, animals, and plants in this most delicate and tenacious ecosystem. Swamplife offers a unique insight into the hidden life of the Everglades—and into how an appreciation of oppositional culture and social class operates in our understanding of wilderness in the United States.

Tangled swamps; alligator hunters; outlaws: Here is a multi-species ethnography that is really fun to read. The book just asks to be taught.

Anna Tsing, author of Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection

Little in North America is wilder than the Florida Everglades—a landscape of frightening reptiles, exotic plants in profusion, swarms of mosquitoes, and unforgiving heat. And yet, even from the early days of taming the wilderness with clearing and drainage, the Everglades has been considered fragile, unique, and in need of restorative interventions. Drawing on a decade of fieldwork with hunters in the Everglades, Laura A. Ogden explores the lives and labors of people, animals, and plants in this most delicate and tenacious ecosystem.

Today, the many visions of the Everglades—protectionist, ecological, commercial, historical—have become a tangled web of contradictory practices and politics for conservation and for development. Yet within this entanglement, the place of people remains highly ambivalent. It is the role of people in the Everglades that interests Ogden, as she seeks to reclaim the landscape’s long history as a place of human activity and, in doing so, discover what it means to be human through changing relations with other animals and plant life.

Ogden tells this story through the lives of poor rural whites, gladesmen, epitomized in tales of the Everglades’ most famous outlaws, the Ashley Gang. With such legends and lore on one side, and outsized efforts at drainage and development on the other, Swamplife strikes a rare balance, offering a unique insight into the hidden life of the Everglades—and into how an appreciation of oppositional culture and social class operates in our understanding of wilderness in the United States.

Awards

2013 James Blaut Award from the Association of American Geographers

Swamplife

Laura A. Ogden is associate professor of anthropology at Florida International University. She has conducted fieldwork in the Florida Everglades for the past decade and is coauthor of Gladesmen: Gator Hunters, Moonshiners, and Skiffers with Glen Simmons.

Swamplife

Tangled swamps; alligator hunters; outlaws: Here is a multi-species ethnography that is really fun to read. The book just asks to be taught.

Anna Tsing, author of Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection

Swamplife is thoroughly compelling. It works at the cutting edge of theory without straying far from an extremely grounded, rich, and page-turning narrative style. There are few books like it in political ecology.

Paul Robbins, author of Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction

Useful for anyone interested in the Everglades local history and related topics.

Choice

Ogden's touching tales from the Everglades leave you nostalgic for a lifestyle irrevocably lost.

New Scientist

Swamplife offers a fascinating account of the richly intertwined lives of outlaws, hunters, alligators, snakes, and mangroves in one of American’s most cherished landscapes.

Environmental History

Brings together a number of disciplines that could be usefully developed in further studies. But not just academics can relish this book. Any visitor to southern Florida, a place that Ogden notes has been reconstructed for the tourist trade, will see its alligators as marvelous and mysterious creatures that permeate the state’s real and mythic past. Their hoped-for future, as well as ours, will be made that much richer as a result of Ogden’s book.

IMPACT

Expertly combines oral histories with traditional sources, primary and secondary, to bring a fresh perspective and a new understanding to the well-trod Everglades landscape.

Florida Historical Quarterly

Swamplife is an exciting and enjoyable work that challenges readers to reconceptualize the Everglades and to think more broadly about how a space is imagined and reimagined over time. Using rich oral histories and extensive secondary sources, Ogden successfully guides us not in parsing out the truth of the Everglades’ history, but in understanding the many truths that compete, coexist, and create this entangled landscape.

Tampa Bay History

Ultimately, Swamplife is an insightful exploration of the cultural, ecological, and historical life of the Everglades, and suggests that behind each triumph of wilderness conservation is a hidden tale of displacement, subversion, depopulation, and transformation. Swamplife is an excellent book, and Ogden’s unique theoretical and methodological approach makes it an important selection in the emerging interdisciplinary field of posthumanities.

Journal of Ecological Anthropology

Swamplife

Map of Southern Florida and the Greater Everglades Watershed
Map of Everglades National Park
Acknowledgments
1. The Florida Everglades: An Entangled Landscape
The Queen of the Everglades
2. Landscape Ethnography and the Politics of Nature
The Notorious Ashley Gang
3. Earth, Fire and Flesh: Territorial Refrains
The Theatrics of Everglades Outlaws
4. The Travels of Snakes, Mangroves, and Men
The Gang Vanishes into the Mysterious Swamp
5. Searching for Paradise in the Florida Everglades
The Story Doesn’t End with the Ambush on the Sebastian River Bridge
6. Alligator Conservation, Commodities, and Tactics of Subversion
Epilogue. The Bill Ashley Jungles: Trace Impressions of a Forgotten Landscape
Notes
Index

Swamplife

UMP blog - The Florida Everglades: A land of alligators, outlaws and so much swampy, cinematic excess

This movie poster from the film Shark River manages to cram almost every single Everglades-related stereotype into one “vivid color” tableau. It is really quite remarkable, reflecting, in particular, the racial binaries common to American landscape politics in the early 1950s. Here, we see, a generic looking “Indian,” wearing a headdress and face paint that surely no person ever wore in the Everglades, standing in proud opposition to gun-toting white people who are trudging through the swamp. In this Everglades, indigenous people are naturalized as “of the swamp,” (a process that glosses over Seminole and Miccosukee peoples’ lived histories of war, resistance, and ongoing disputes about the Everglades’ future and management). On the other hand, whites are simply outlaws who are “out of place,” endangered by alligators, mosquitoes, malarial vapors, you name it. As for the blonde “white goddess” staring off into space . . .
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