Walking on the wild side: an examination of a long-distance hiking subculture
Fondren, Kristi McLeod
AdvisorGill, A. Duane
Bartkowski, P. John
CommitteeCossman, S. Jeralynn
A great deal of previous sociological research has examined the social contours of subcultures, focusing either on highly transient subcultures (e.g., among youth) or, conversely, stable institutionalized subcultures (e.g., among professionals). More recent scholarship has examined how leisure subcultures are formed and sustained around a particular interest or activity (e.g., windsurfing). However, little attention has been paid to the role of recreational settings (i.e., specific geographical locales) in the formation of leisure subcultures. Using the Appalachian Trail as a case study, I aim to fill that gap by examining a long-distance hiking subculture. I use ethnographic data collected from long-distance hikers on the Appalachian Trail to carry out the study. My investigation is guided by a subcultural perspective which allows me to identify and understand the sociality and social practices of a long-distance hiking subculture. Consequently, long-distance hikers can be identified and understood through (1) a negative relation to work, (2) a negative or ambivalent relation to class, (3) an association with territory, (4) non-domestic forms of belonging, (5) a range of excessive attributes, and (6) a refusal of the banalities of ordinary life. My qualitative analysis of long-distance hikers’ accounts and interactions permits me to explore how subcultural ideologies and practices are combined with a socially significant place to forge powerful emotional bonds among long-distance hikers and strong attachments to the Appalachian Trail.