Touring Arcadia: Elements of Discursive Simulation and Cultural Struggle at a Children's Summer Camp

Essay Excerpt

In the passage, however, there are also traces of a different nature, traces of construction. For a summer camp is a community, but it is a community of a different nature. Its difference lies in the fact that it is a manufactured community. Embedded in the notion of structured mayhem I discuss above is the implicit idea that the children's sensual and social experiences at camp are structured in very particular ways. This sensual and social structuring, compounded by the sense of removal, contribute to the impression provided by camp that it is an autonomous community, governed by uniqueties and attachments, allowing the campers to attain a "closer" and "more natural" relationship to themselves, other people, and the natural environment. This sense of allowing campers to attain this, however, is at least apartial mis-recognition. This structuring of the children's sensual and social environment through spatial organization and ritual performance also constitutes a highly organized means of ensuring the interiorization and maximization of particular social and personal lessons. This is the sense in which camp becomes a pedagogical, as opposed to a "purely" recreational, site. Thus, the personal negotiation between worlds I experienced is partly a directed negotiation in an environment designed to foster such a patently liminal situation. It becomes important, then, to see how camp inscribes liminality upon its participants through the deployment of a kind of structured anti-structure resonant with Victor Turner's other notion of communitas, but first it becomes important to understand something of the history of camping. (Tillery, 377)

About the Author

Randal Tillery has done fieldwork on children's summer camping. Much of his work has regarded nature, memory, youth, history, and knowledge practices. 

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