Wilderness state of mind: Postmodernity, hyperreality, and simulacrum

Authors: Elizabeth Vidon*, SUNY-ESF, Jillian Rickly, University of Nottingham, Daniel Knudsen, Indiana University
Topics: Tourism Geography, Geographic Theory
Keywords: wilderness, authenticity, postmodernism, hyperreality, simulacrum, fantasy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Rampart, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, we contribute new insights into one of two definitions of postmodern authenticity. To date, studies associated with postmodern authenticity have focused on the inauthentic and themed, with scholars contending that it speaks more to the consumptive, the superficial, and the trivial than to the substantive and meaningful. Studies tend to present theme parks and shopping malls as exemplars, with tourists motivated by consumption, frivolity, and image. We term this cynical authenticity. However, postmodernity also includes the hyperreal and the simulacrum. Modes of postmodern authenticity that circulate around hyperreality and simulacra are exemplified by the American wilderness that is both “more than wilderness” and quite literally managed in the image of a “pristine” environment that never existed. By working through a case study focused on nature tourists in pursuit of authentic wilderness experiences, this paper illustrates the ways postmodern authenticity is much more than the cynically authentic, for while the American wilderness may be a hypernatural simulacrum, nature tourists nevertheless report deep, meaningful, “authentic” engagements with wilderness.

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