Franklin, A  (2001)  'Neo-Darwinian Leisure, the Body and Nature: Hunting and Angling in Modernity', in Body and Society, Vol 7, No 4: 57 - 76

[This article has some useful material on the pleasures of hunting and angling, and it makes some critical points about some of the approaches to blood sports, such as figurationalism and neo-Darwinianism. Its own theoretical base is more elusive though. As befits an article in this journal, there is a theme about embodiment, embodied pleasures and the dangers of over-intellectualising and emphasising the visual and analytic. However, it is almost impossible to sustain this focus in practice, in my view, since the pleasures attaching to such sports in modernity are clearly recognised as textual and intertextual ones as well. When discussing these elements, which is inevitable, Franklin's insistence that this is best understood as a matter of the body looks rather artificial and imposed -- it is clearly a  'reading'. It may be a propagandist one too, designed to show the bourgeois opponents of bloodsports that thtepleasures of the body cannot be denied, and that they are being exercised reponsibly at least: common foes are also deplored and demonsied -- 'tourists'.

Similarly, there is a problem with the evidence on the pleasures of hunting and angling. Since these are  'bodily', they are hard to express in words, apparently. There is a problem as a result with the frequent verbal descriptions that appear in the course of this article -- are they post hoc rationalisations, for example? Suspicions arise in two particular directions: the lyrical descriptions of angling provided by famous writers such as Walton could be seen as a way of adding value to the activity; in the other direction, much of the talk and writing could be seen as camouflage or justification, especially useful in covering up one of the least palatable aspects of the sports -- that animals are frequently actually killed. One would expect from Bourdieu that the  'high aesthetic' would describe the pleasures of hunting in these abstract and detached terms, and, going beyond Bourdieu for a moment, this article points to the possibility that such an aesthetic can rationalise activity as well as use it for the purposes of social differentiation.

Franklin tends to take the lyrical and literary sources uncritically, even to accept the word of the huntsmen that actual killing is not part of the pleasure (which makes me wonder why they don't just simply photograph deer, follow drag hunting on horseeback, or shoot animals with paint guns). The exploration of the pleasures tends to slide behind the theoretical project, which is extending the sociology of the body. One consequence is that only figurationalist explanations of pleasure are pursued (despite the rejection of figurationalist notions of civilisation). As I read the text, I was constantly reminded of the pleasures of  'flow', or of narrative, jouissance, and the other suspects as well..

Anyway, that is more than enough from me. Over to Franklin

Hunters and anglers seem to adopt a pre-modern stance towards the natural world -- they actually seem to like killing, handling and dressing flesh. Their critics regard these as 'anachronistic and anomalous activities in which violence and pleasure masquerade as narratives of ancient rural practice  (traditional pest control; traditional food provisioning; traditional community life, etc.)' (57). Interestingly,  'the hunters themselves are frequently forced by their critics to deny publicly any sensual content to their pleasures' (57)  [so rationalization is detected here]. Franklin wants to argue that: (a) different conceptions of nature are involved;  (b) that it is possible to detect  'that the underlying attraction of these activities is the possibility of a highly centralised, intimate and exciting relation with the natural world'; (c) this relation is best understood as  'embodied, spaced and timed' (58).

One aspect of this is that the  'visual sense has largely displaced an integrated sensuality', when it comes to relations with nature, best indicated by tourism. Field sports involve  'a more fully-sensed engagement', which also involves a much more detailed understanding of landscape and a more exciting engagement with it  (58). Much of the existing work on hunting and angling ignores this socially embedded aspect, and goes instead for analyses based on civilisation, social mobility, or masculinity [summarised at more length on page 58] --'it is a professional hazard that the sociological eye can very easily miss the bodies for the social constructions they are involved in'. In other words, the body has a determining part of its own in the pleasures of hunting and angling. Franklin proposes to take some literature on bloodsports, and also to uncover sportsmen's own accounts {there are actually few examplse of these].

The account begins with a demonstration that hunting, especially shooting, and fishing are growing leisure activities, in the USA, the Netherlands, Europe, and the UK  [figures on page 59]. Sociological explanations typically involve social and ritualistic elements, and this is connected to Romanticism. Hunters themselves have often condemned the decline of an adequate relationship with nature (some, indeed seeing even hunting as a simulation of the real thing). Some approaches are briefly summarised:

(1) Elias suggests that relations with nature have become more distant and abstract. If the civilisation thesis inadequately develops the analysis, the figurational account of excitement is more profitable. The problem with the civilization thesis is that the civilized body is  'rationalized', not holistic and integrated enough. The figurationalist line is that violence has been replaced by sports, and thus fox hunting is actually 'civilised' compared to the Mediaeval hunt -- but  'what remains unclear is why hunters should sportize one hunting code and leave all others... apparently still as violent' (69). Another analysis (Itzkowiz 1977) suggests that fox hunting was originally a substitute for deer hunting, with more plentiful prey: as the fox is actually killed, while scarce deer were apparently 'recycled', fox hunting is actually a more violent form. When it comes to excitement, however, the Eliasan idea of pleasurable tension balance makes more sense. Hunting and angling are seen as occupying particularly unpredictable figurations, unlike those of modern sports [le Breton picks this up in his discussion of extreme sports]. Surprise has to be mastered by readiness, failure has to be expected, there are intellectual pleasures [well, in angling anyway, page 70], hunting takes place in exciting landscapes [in the USA, Australia and New Zealand], prey occasionally fight back , and excitement is constantly renewable. [There seems to be a rather tactical use of examples here, and few of them fit fox hunting in particular].

(2) Tester sees class dynamics behind the adoption of hunting by the new property-owning class. Franklin thinks this is useful [see below], but it ignores the actual strong pleasures of hunting itself --'it was also a passionate, physically demanding, sensuous and embodied activity with a good deal more to it than external referents' (60).

(3) Franklin's own early work traces the popularity of hunting in Australia as 'closely tied to discourses of nationalism', involving self reliance, rural location and mateship (61). Again there is something in the activity itself, the 'embodied experience', which is ignored by this. Like the other approaches, it fails to grasp the idea of hunting as 'a specific form of embodied relation with nature. [The sociological explanations] give no clear explanation why hunting and angling have such a strong appeal' (61).  [My own critique above suggests that Franklin falls between the goals of demonstrating embodiedness and of explaining the appeal].

Looking at Isaac Walton's famous account of angling, we can see how essential pleasures are opposed to 'the one dimensionality of the capitalist social order' (62), especially as expressed in puritan England. This can be seen in terms of comparing 'restful still and quiet' bodies with active, urban, materialist ones. Walton clearly also described intellectual pleasures: studying Natural History, and the sheer joy of walking in the fresh air  [the first are by no means simple bodily pleasures, of course]. These joys persist, as seen in modern eulogies [perhaps this arises as a deliberate hommage to Walton?] anglers apparently saw themselves as rejecting the modern world, 'a fraternity, a leisure cult that worked in order to angle' (61). [So one pleasure is feeling separate from the straight, misguided, only half alive world -- the same pleasure as reported by jazz musicians or clubbers?].

Another account is considered, a neo-Darwinian one, based on the idea that hunting is natural and genetic. This view was often associated with a criticism of the inauthenticity of modern life with its futile attempts to regulate violence. Franklin finds these ideas as offering  'a motive explanation for the growth in popularity of modern hunting... [it]... is anchored to changing anxieties about the body in the earlier 20th century... [and therefore?]... promises to make more sense of the hunting and angling literatures' (63). However, few hunters or anglers refer to any urge to kill or any pleasures in killing  [but can we believe them?]. A quotation is taken referring to  'the most literate hunters' and their explanation of the pleasures  [see critique above]: these seem to involve escape or moral holiday. This may be a rationalization, Franklin admits, but he chooses not to treat the hunters' 'love of nature as a rationale for something completely different' (64).

The nature that is loved here is a Romantic view of it, though. Here, Franklin cites Macnaghten and Urry (1998), who reject general notions of nature and focus instead on '"specific social practices... which produce, reproduce and transform different natures and different values"' (64).  [This looks like Bourdieu on practice?]. These general notions emerge from Christian theology and later Enlightenment thinking. These conceptions of nature gave way to a Romantic one  'on the margin of the social, and on solid, pure nature defined in opposition to humanity/modernity' (65). The Romantic version leads to the pleasures of gazing at  'countryside', seen as the embodiment of nature even where they have clearly been constructed and managed as  'natural areas' (65). Pleasures are mostly to be taken by looking, seeing and observation, part of a general domination by the sense of sight. This led directly to the idea of gazing at landscapes, photographing them or mapping them. This is still how most people in the West experience Nature --'as tourists' (66). Indeed, visiting a managed natural area usually involves being forbidden to wander off the beaten track, pick flowers and so on, while  'The continuous flow of tourists into prescribed routes and places enables birds and animals to keep their distance and so render such places virtually soundless' (66). The sort of nature that is found on the edges of urban settlements, as opposed to wildernesses, is ignored in this tradition, but it is often here that hunters and anglers actively construct  'a nature in which humanity is included... which are not necessarily aberrations of modernity' (66).

By contrast, in hunting all the senses are  'honed and integrated' (66). This absorption means it's difficult to express the pleasures in words alone --  'It is nature objectified or triangulated through the different senses' (67). [We are starting to get a description that looks very much like the absorption of  'flow'. As Le Breton argues, 'nature' can take on a particularly authoritative role as something objective with its own laws and mechanisms]. Some hunting and fishing activities require particularly acute hearing or sight  [not fox-hunting particularly though?]. Hounds are used to amplify these senses [so now we have animal bodies as well as human ones?]. A lyrical description of working with dogs is cited  (67), and it is admitted that this writer has been '"imitated by hundreds of  [others]"' (67)  [another reason for doubting that human bodies somehow directly intuit the pleasures involved]. Fishing requires considerable craft knowledge, acute perceptions and bodily skills, requiring a  'sub conscious co-ordination of the senses' (68). The activity can seem instinctive, field sportsmen seem attuned to their environment.  'It is never easy, but the degree of difficulty is what provides the tension balance and thus the excitement and thrill' (68).  [If the earlier remarks hints at flow and autotelesis, the concept of tension balance is an explicitly figurationalist one]. Much of the excitement turns on being able to approach animals closely  'to within shooting or casting distance'-- [why not to within close-up photography distance as well or instead?].

Skills have to be combined and co-ordinated  'largely through the body' (71). The wholeness of hunting  [in expeditions into the wilderness on this occasion] is reinforced by its  'temporality, self-sufficiency and responsibility' (71). All-day hunts imitate the cycles of rest and activities of the prey. Each trip offers  'a unique narrative' (72)  [given the openness and resistance of  'nature' mentioned above?]. Hunters are self-sufficient and self-reliant, more responsible in their decision to kill, ideally  'instantly and painlessly' (72), unlike mechanised animal slaughter which is  'a confused, abstracted and hypocritical affair' (72). Hunters are also into cooking game [offering additional pleasures]. [Again, none of these apply to fox-hunting?].

Hunters often refer to their knowledge and love of particular places, their  'embodied experiences' rendered  'in visual terms, colours, landscapes, light and shade, but also in terms of smells and tactile experiences. It is also about knowing where things are' (72)  [but doesn't walking or wildlife photography offer the same pleasures? Why do hunters actually have to hunt? Franklin suggests that there is a particular pragmatic reason for developing such local knowledge for hunters, who wish to succeed in the hunt -- convinced?]. Hunting in the marginal areas around cities can also produce the pleasures of discovery, uncovering treasures ignored by others. There is even a sense of being at home, being able to relax, and not being a tourist (73). [And you demonstrate this by killing 'your'  local wildlife?].

Overall, we need embodied accounts to explain the details, but not neo-Darwinian ones. Specifically, Franklin concludes:
(1) In general, hunters and anglers to have a particular way of consuming nature in modernity, especially in that  'Unlike tourists they maintain a purposive, instrumental and consumerist attitude to the natural world' (74). [One of several contemptuous references to tourists, familiar to us from the old debates about inauthenticity].
(2) Hunters and anglers enjoy nature but they are not bloodthirsty killers as neo-Darwinians would expect. Instead they are best seen as  'the studied, mannered and knowledgeable naturalist hunter or angler as recommended by Walton, Leopold, or their 20th century disciples' (74). [I must say I am confused here. Hunters and anglers seem civilized enough to drive off neo-Darwinians, yet the civilization thesis misses out on bodily pleasures. As I've said several times above, hunters and anglers actually do kill prey rather than just walking, camping, photography and the rest].
(3) Present-day culture does have an effect. For example hunters are mostly men, and field sports are particularly popular among managers (74), and it is not surprising they connect  'to the Waltonian discourse rather than the Darwinian' (74).  [So a study of working-class or illegal bloodsports might provide rather more evidence for Darwinian embodiedness?] Managers are attracted to blood sports in order to gain the status of traditional elite consumption patterns. This has been encouraged by landowners seeing the commercial potential of hunting -- they too market it as a traditional elite activity.
(4) Modern hunting is organised and rationalized, not driven by bloodlust. Those who take delight in bloodlust were often condemned by hunters themselves. 'The highly mannered approach of the hunter and angler has recognisable literary antecedents' (75).  [This really is sounding rather apologetic by now].
(5) Despite class factors in recruitment, hunting and fishing are very pleasurable in themselves, providing  'an absorbing and exciting sensual engagement with the natural world... an alternative environmentalism, with humans in the landscape, not skirting nervously around its edges as "organized"  tourists' (75). [Classic bit of social distanciation here again -- bloody tourists, lacking these ineffable country skills and cultural sensibilities that a true gent just 'knows', couldn't possibly articulate in mere words and are based in classic literature, and having to be organized!].

Selected References
(lots more in the actual piece)
Itzkowitz, D. (1977) Peculiar Privilege -- A Social History of English Fox-hunting, Hassocks: The Harvester Press.
Macnaghten, P. and Urry, J. (1998) Contested Natures, London: Sage.