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Sociology Program and Dean of the College present

Foxhunting and Ritual: Performing Opposition and Re-Imagination of National Identity

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sarah Egan, Ph.D.
Candidate for the Position of Visiting Assistant Professor in Sociology

In this talk I draw on my research on the pro- and anti-hunting movements in England, explaining the meaning of the foxhunting ritual in the English countryside, the claims that its defenders made regarding the relationship between foxhunting and national identity, and the rejection of this perspective by anti-hunting activists.

Traditional foxhunting scenes present a quintessentially English image for many audiences, yet the practice and performance of hunting is a politically divisive issue, nonetheless so for having been banned in 2004. I describe the way that those who defend hunting draw on tropes of national identity as part of the justification for the continuation of this traditional sport. I show that their anti-hunt opponents do not deny that foxhunting images were once iconic emblems of Englishness, but assert that the nation is now more civilized and that this ritual has no place in modern England, insisting rather that England is a nation of animal lovers.

I demonstrate the pervasiveness of mobilizing discourses about national identity on both sides through the analysis of movement documents, media sources and parliamentary debates from 1997 to 2004. The interaction between the two movements has both reconfigured the performance of the hunt in the field through the continuous opposition of hunting people and their opponents, and this opposition and the mobilization of discourses have redefined the meaning of hunting in relation to national identity, such that on both material and symbolic levels, opposition to hunting is part of the sport.

Sarah Egan is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology at Bucknell University. She received her PhD in 2012 from Yale University and holds Bachelor and Master of Social Science degrees from University College Dublin. Her research interests include cultural sociology, political sociology and social movements.

For more information, call 845-758-7547, or e-mail elmelech@bard.edu.

Location: Campus Center, Room 214, "Yellow Room"