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(Troubling) spaces of mountains and men: New Zealand's Mount Cook and Hermitage Lodge

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Abstract:

In this paper we trace one pervasive expression of hegemonic New Zealand national identity that developed around the sport of mountaineering from the 1880s, culminating in Sir Edmund Hillary's historic first climb of Mount Everest in 1953. The image of the masculine mountaineering hero, developed on and around New Zealand's highest peak, Mount Cook, is, however, inherently unstable, and we focus on two sites of potential disruption. First, we examine the experiences of white mountaineering women on Mount Cook. These women both embraced the masculinist identity of hero and destabilized it. Women's mountaineering points to the active and complex construction (rather than simple reproduction) of imperialisms, nationalisms and masculinities. Second, we examine the role played by the Hermitage Lodge situated at the base of Mount Cook. Narratives about mountaineering too often ignore the huts, lodges, the places of staying behind. The roles performed by women (and some men) who never had the opportunity and/or the desire to climb but instead 'kept the home fires burning' and supported the efforts of others can be examined as a way of productively challenging the entrenchment of national identity around the masculine mountaineering hero.

Keywords: GENDER; MOUNTAINEERING; NATIONALISM; NEW ZEALAND

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14649360122194

Publication date: 2001-06-01

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