"Impressively harnessing both historical and ethnographic data, Kerry Mitchell provides a fresh take on the politics of religion-making in America. He offers a counter-narrative to scholarly celebrations of spirituality that is respectful of his subjects and acknowledges the fact that very few of us, if any, have a clear understanding of why we do what we do. Mitchell denaturalizes the concept of spirituality, showing, however, that this mode of piety is not simply made-up. On the contrary, it accomplishes an incredible amount of work in places like the John Muir Trail or Joshua Tree National Park by naturalizing the nation state and socializing the interior states of individuals. This book also generates new insight into what might be called negative aesthetics—that is, how concealment can be revelatory and how the vagueness of nature serves to connect a range of individuals by way of a shared humanity that is rather specifically defined. A must read for anyone interested in American religion in these times of late but ever pressing capitalism."
—John Modern, Franklin & Marshall College
"You will never look at National Parks or spirituality the same way again! Kerry Mitchell’s insightful analysis of the relationship between state-organized nature and individual spiritual experience contributes to our understanding of the entanglements of the secular and the religious. With careful attention to the revelations and concealments of power in the productions of the National Park Service, Mitchell demonstrates how the conceptions and practices of a loosely-defined nature-based spirituality are tied to a pervasive secular ethos that underlies modern American subjectivity and state power."
—Richard J. Callahan, Jr., University of Missouri
“This is a fascinating perspective, especially during the centennial of the NPS.
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