The Ontopolitics of Mountain Bike Trail Building: Addressing Issues of Access and Conflict in the More-than Human English Countryside

Author: Dr Jim Cherrington

Year: 2021

Publisher: Edinburgh University Press



In recent years there have been calls for scholars working within sport and physical culture to recognise the (increasing) confluence of nature and culture. Situated within an emerging body of new materialist research, such accounts have shown how various activities are polluted by, fused to, and assembled with non-human entities. However, more work is needed on the political possibilities afforded by non-human agency, and by extension, the implications that such flat ontological arrangements might raise for the management and governance of physical culture. Building on research conducted with mountain bike trail builders, this article seeks to explore what it means to know, to be, and to govern a human subject in the Anthropocene. Specifically, I draw on James Ash’s (2019) post-phenomenological theory of space and David Chandler’s (2018) notion of onto-political hacking to show how the playful, contingent, and transformative practices of the mountain bike assemblage confront the linear and calculated governance of the English countryside. In doing so, mountain bike trails are positioned as objects of hope that allow for a collective re-imagining of political democracy in a more-than-human landscape.