Doctoral student examines masculinity, wilderness identity

By By Tim Ivan

By Tim Ivan

On Wednesday, Tracy Marafiote, doctoral candidate for the department of communication at the U, spoke on her “work in progress,” titled “Gender, Race and Nature: A Cultural History of the Wilderness Society and the Cultural Politics of the Wilderness Act of 1964.”

Marafiote examines how white masculinity and cultural progression led to changing identities of wilderness and the evolution of cultural identification. She is also looking at how privilege in race and gender are synonymous with cultural identity standards.

“In the 1930s, white masculinity was quoted as synonymous with civilized,” she said.

The founding members of the Wilderness Society were upper-class, Ivy League-educated white males. The average member, however, came from both genders and all races.

The ideal identity of the wilderness evolved because of the increasing over-civilization and national pride in technology and progress, she said.

For example, the definition of masculinity became a frontier type of philosophy. In other words, the definition was a hardy cowboy.

This demonstrated the fluidity and elasticity of white masculinity in performing hybrid identities.

“Knowledge about our complex past informs future social and environmental change,” she said.

Shannon Nielsen, an undeclared freshman, said she enjoyed the presentation.

“She expounded upon a subject that’s well known but is not talked about,” Nielsen said.

The “Work in Progress” series is sponsored by the Tanner Humanities Center.

“This series is a chance for students and faculty to test their work out on the community and for those who are interested in other’s works,” said Vincent Cheng, director of the center.

This series is held on a biweekly basis and will continue through April 19.

Tim Ivan