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Undoing Nature: The John Muir Trust's “Journey for the Wild”, the UK, Summer 2006

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I take as a point of departure for a discussion of the idea of nature the John Muir Trust's much publicised Journey for the Wild which took place in the UK during the summer of 2006. My objective is to explore how, at the same time that the “wild” was performed as a political category through the Journey, replicating the binary nature/society, prevalent norms of nature that depend on that binary, including, ironically, those of John Muir himself, were “undone”. I work with Judith Butler's (2004, Undoing Gender) ideas of “doing” and “undoing” gender and what counts as human, and her link between the articulation of gender and the human on the one hand and, on the other, a politics of new possibilities. Taking her argument “elsewhere”—unravelling what is performed as “wild” and what counts as “nature”—and using as evidence the art of Eoin Cox, the actions of journeyers, extracts from their diaries and from Messages for the Wild delivered to the Scottish Parliament, I suggest that the idea of a working wild points towards more socially just political possibilities than a politics of nature defined through a binary.

Keywords: Judith Butler; social nature; the John Muir Trust; the wild; visual art

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada;, Email:

Publication date: September 1, 2008


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