Re-membering the wild within: An exploration of desire, trauma, and grief in the rewilding movement




Townsend, Sarah

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This thesis explores the affective phenomena of desire, trauma, and grief in the context of identity formation and performance in a community of rewilders based in Portland, Oregon. Rewilding is a subculture, most prevalent in the Pacific Northwest, rooted in the idea that humans within civilization have been domesticated from a previous ideal state of wildness or indigeneity and must somehow return to a wild state. Accordingly, rewilders experience a significant amount of discomfort and anxiety in regards to their own identities as "civilized" white settlers living on indigenous lands. In order to assuage their anxiety and attempt to shift their identities towards the indigeneity for which they yearn, they employ narratives of trauma in order to redefine themselves as victims of a lost indigeneity. Rewilding is therefore framed as a process of healing from the traumas of civilization and domestication. Viewed by rewilders as a requisite therapeutic step towards indigeneity and healing, rewilders engage in emotional displays of grief that also serve as the primary mode of identity performance in the rewilding movement.


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Grief, Identity, Indigeneity, Portland, Rewilding, Trauma