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Spirituality and the StateManaging Nature and Experience in America's National Parks$
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Kerry Mitchell

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781479886418

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479886418.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Spirituality and the State

Kerry Mitchell

NYU Press

This chapter introduces the dynamic of spirituality and nature in contemporary American religion. In contrast to many of the ways of understanding power and social solidarity, this book treats invisibility and paradox as features of social processes rather than analytical barriers. It is not so much that the state masks the “real” operation of power by clothing its officers in green and brown and Sequoia-cone embossed hat bands. Rather, the inability to see the difference between state power and the requirements of the natural environment allows visitors to see their acquiescence to law and policy as harmony with nature. In addition to looking at how power is legitimated through symbols, this chapter lays the groundwork to examine how the state operates through the elision of symbols: through natural vistas, interpretive silences, and the arrangement of bodies. This combination of presentation and representation yields a distinct view of the legitimation of power. In this sense, “the State” is the state: the way that things are and the way that things happen.

Keywords:   American religion, spirituality, state power, nature, interpretive silences, symbols

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