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Governing the Wild

Governing the Wild

Ecotours of Power

Stephanie Rutherford

Shows how iconic representations of nature—from museum to theme park—define our ideas about saving the natural world

288 Pages, 6 x 9 in

  • Paperback
  • 9780816674473
  • Published: November 1, 2011


Governing the Wild

Ecotours of Power

Stephanie Rutherford

ISBN: 9780816674473

Publication date: November 1st, 2011

288 Pages

8 x 5

"From Disney amusement centers and natural history museums to Al Gore’s global warming spectaculars and American national parks, Stephanie Rutherford traces out the historical contingencies behind ‘green governmentality.’ Using this notion as her analytic of power, she develops an insightful analysis of how contemporary cultural politics and global markets help govern the wild and constitute the self in the U.S. through environmentally-driven consumer experiences." —Timothy W. Luke, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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.

Stephanie Rutherford is assistant professor in the environmental and resource studies program at Trent University.


Introduction: Governing Nature

1. Ordering Nature at the American Museum of Natural History
2. Disney’s Animal Kingdom: “The Wild Was Never This Wild”™
3. Wolves, Bison, and Bears, Oh My! Defining Nature at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
4. Science and Storytelling: Al Gore and the Climate Debate

Conclusion: Being Otherwise