The proposed research, currently titled "The Outdoors, Difference, and Identity in the United States," investigates wilderness as a concept and venue for regulating racial, sexual, gender, or ability difference in American society. The project will study how non-traditional outdoor professionals navigate the outdoor industry, with a particular focus on non-white, LGBTQ+, and/or disabled professionals, as well as how media, cultural discourse, and representation reflect and shape the image and demographics of outdoor places, recreation, and the associated industry. It will also study the religious and spiritual dimensions of outdoor recreation, with a particular focus on participants’ experiences outdoors as challenging societal norms around identity and relationship with places and non-humans.
This research is influenced by my experiences and observations as a queer, mixed-race woman from an immigrant family; an outdoors recreationalist of twenty years; a commercial river guide of thirteen years; a member of two diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) task forces in the Grand Canyon river community; and a member of the A-DASH (Anti-Discrimination and Sexual Harassment) Collaborative, which is a national collective designed to offer both institutional and individual support, resources, and training in changing culture in the outdoor industry around hostile work environments and workplace harassment and violence. By examining how and when difference encounters the norms of the outdoor industry, which is overwhelmingly white, heteronormative, and able-bodied, I am able to investigate the racial, gendered, sexual, and ablized structures, practices, and cultures that inhibit diversity in outdoors work, particularly as one moves up the hierarchy to leaders, managers, and owners.