How to climb Mount Fuji (at your earliest convenience): A non-representational approach
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I am no climber. Though I deeply respect and sometimes even admire the brave souls that put their lives on the line for the sake of mountaineering glory and obsessive goal-achievement, I have always enjoyed my mountains better from the comfortable distance of a beer-serving hut conveniently located half-way up a slope. This probably has a lot to do with my background. I grew up near the Italian Dolomites and every summer my parents, friends, and I would hike and enjoy Alpine trails almost daily. Our trips were always a perfect combination of onus and pleasure. We would never willingly endure risk, sacrifice, or serious challenges. We made sure to stay close to our cozy cottage on days when the skies were cloudy, and even on the sunniest stretches of weather we would carefully plan our outings in order to be back home by dark, just in time for supper. While our walks might have been long at times, our backpacks would always be filled with delicious picnic treats and our canteens would be replenished with good-tasting spring water at every clean creek we crossed. And we nearly always made sure to stop for ice cream on the way home. One year ago at the age of 40, for reasons I still cannot fully comprehend, three friends and I decided to trek the famed West Coast Trail: a 75km-long wilderness trail spanning a rugged section of Vancouver Island’s famed southwest coast. As customary for the trek we packed all of our camping gear and food supplies for six days, equipped ourselves with all the necessary safety accessories, did a lot of background research and prepared to deal with the weather. Though as a child I would have had a difficult time evoking my experience in words, both my youthful Alpine hikes and my middle-aged West Coast adventure could unsurprisingly be qualified as exhilaratingly serene, peaceful, and sublime in the traditional Romantic sense (see Olafsdottir 2011). Reinvigorated by the simple pleasures of hiking and by a fully-renewed sense of mountaineering self-efficacy, only one month after my Vancouver Island trek I set my sights for the summit of Mount Fuji. An easy-to-reach trailhead just a couple of hours away from Yokohama—where I happened to find myself for the 2014 International Sociological Association Conference—Mount Fuji promised little in terms of glory but lots of potential good memories as well as an invaluable theoretical lesson in terms of atmosphere: the subject of this writing. In what follows I will explain what environmental atmospheres are and reflect on the value of non-representational theory to describe and understand them.