"Contested Natures" of the Lowcountry: The Social Production of Coastal Environmentalism

By Lynn M. Mulkey.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper investigates the varied perceptions of nature in the daily life of American Southern Lowcountry inhabitants. It argues “there is no singular nature, but multiple natures.” Following the reasoning of Macnaghten and Urry, “Nature is contested culturally and does not simply provide one objective and absolute ethic which tells us what to do; responses to nature and environmental activism are contradictory and do not automatically follow from danger.” Nature is mediated by signs (values, meanings) given to space, sense, and time and is at once inclusive of somethings in our perceptions and exclusive of others. A tree may invoke studying for utilitarian purposes as lumber, or it may be missing in our experience, going unnoticed, even though it is there. Theoretically, nature cultures emerge and can be understood in the context of the economic or subsistence strategies that move, progressively, variously, and in some ways, similarly and generally, from rural (direct) to the post-industrial information age (abstract, where and when the producer and product are increasingly separate). Using archival data the paper tests this theory in the analysis of a rapidly urbanizing region of the Southeastern United States. It documents and explains the cultural construction of “coastal environmentalism” as consisting of practices involving land, tree, water, animal and marine life ordinances. It emphasizes “cultural understandings of the world, highlighting the ways in which natures are consistently misinterpreted as nature in policy discourse.”

Keywords: Nature Cultures, Coastal Environmentalism, Social Production

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 6, Issue 6, pp.131-140. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.983MB).

Dr. Lynn M. Mulkey

Professor of Sociology, Division of Professional and Social Sciences, University of South Carolina, Beaufort, Bluffton, South Carolina, USA

Lynn Mulkey received her Ph.D. from Columbia Univ., NY. She is Professor of Sociology at the University of South Carolina, and specializes in sociology (educational inequality/stratification; social studies of science; evaluation). She recently obtained a $413K grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate the status of school tracking in the United States. She was formerly a Fellow of the National Institute of Mental Health at UCLA’s Sociology Dept. where she received postdoctoral certification in evaluation research (mental health service delivery systems). She has also had extensive experience as an evaluation research associate for the New York City Public Schools where she conducted assessments of the federally-funded Chapter 1 programs implemented to improve the reading and mathematics performance of a large proportion of New York City’s nearly one million students. She has produced approximately fifty reports for accountability purposes. Most recently, she is the recipient of the University of South Carolina’s Trustee Professorship for outstanding contributions to research, teaching, and community outreach. She has served for six years in the Beaufort Community as a Commissioner for the Town of Hilton Head. She was instrumental in developing design guidelines as a tool for maintaining Island Character and quality of life. She directs USCB’s Human Services Program and is on the Graduate Faculties at USC Columbia.


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