Spectres of Nature in the Trail Building Assemblage

Authors: Jim Cherrington, Jack Black

Year: 2020

Publisher: International Journal of the Sociology of Leisure

Categories: Trail building, Nature, symbiotic real


“Through research that was conducted with mountain bike trail builders, this article explores the processes by which socio-natures or ‘emergent ecologies’ are formed through the assemblage of trail building, mountain bike riding and matter. In moving conversations about ‘Nature’ beyond essentialist readings and dualistic thinking, we consider how ecological sensibilities are reflected in the complex, lived realities of the trail building community. Specifically, we draw on Morton’s (2017) notion of the ‘symbiotic real’ to examine how participants connect with a range of objects and non-humans, revealing a ‘spectral’ existence in which they take pleasure in building material features that are only partially of their creation. Such ‘tuning’ to the symbiotic real was manifest in the ongoing battle that the trail builders maintained with water. This battle not only emphasized the fragility of their trail construction but also the temporal significance of the environments that these creations were rendered in/with. In conclusion, we argue that these findings present an ecological awareness that views nature as neither static, inert or fixed, but instead, as a temporal ‘nowness’, formed from the ambiguity of being in and with nature. Ecologically, this provides a unique form of orientation that re-establishes the ambiguity between humans and nature, without privileging the former. It is set against this ecological (un)awareness that we believe a re-orientation can be made to our understandings of leisure, the Anthropocene and the nature-culture dyad”