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This text explores how Americans attempt to give meaning to the natural world that surrounds them. Although "nature" has often been treated as an unproblematic reality, Gary Fine suggests that the meanings we assign to the natural environment are culturally grounded. In other words, there is no nature separate from culture. He calls this process of cultural construction and interpretation, "naturework". Of course there is no denying the physical reality of trees, mountains, earthquakes, and hurricanes, but, he argues, they must be interpreted to be made meaningful. Fine supports this claim by examining the fascinating world of mushrooming. He highlights the range of meanings that mushrooms have for mushroomers. He details how mushrooms talk about their finds - turning their experiences into "fish stories" (the one that got away), war stories, and treasure tales; how mushroomers routinely joke about dying from or killing others with misidentified mushrooms, and how this dark humour contributes to the sense of community among collectors. Fine also describes the sometimes tense, sometimes friendly relations between amateur mushroom collectors and professional mycologists. He extends his argument to show that the elaboration of cultural meanings found among mushroom collectors is equally applicable to birders, butterfly collectors, rock hounds, and other naturalists.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780674089358
ISBN-10: 0674089359
Format: Hardback
(235mm x 155mm x 27mm)
Pages: 336
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: 27-May-1998
Country of Publication: United States

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Author Biography - Gary Alan Fine

Gary Alan Fine is Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University.

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