Dirtbags and Bougie Boats: Precarity, Authenticity, and Experiences with Nature Among the Young Middle-Class

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Scott, Erin Avery




This paper explores how members of the young middle-class create, maintain, and challenge conceptualizations of authenticity, emotional management, and feelings of precarity through encounters with nature. My participants were young, middle-class white-water kayakers in and around the Ottawa area. However, almost all my participants have travelled around the country and nearby by northern states of America to engage in different white-water runs prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, and most had travelled to three or more countries to engage with experiences with nature or wilderness. My research found that the young middle-class use experiences with nature in complex and sometimes contradictory ways. Rather then simply as an escape, often experiences with nature are used to both challenge and affirm their identity status. However, there exists tension between feelings of authenticity, precarity, and the joy of experiences with nature and the drive towards career success and traditional middle-class values.


Cultural Anthropology




Carleton University

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