A Matter of Life and Death
Hunting in Contemporary Vermont
An illuminating cultural analysis of hunting in rural America
American hunters occupy a remarkably complex place in this country’s cultural and political landscape. On the one hand, they are cast as perpetrators of an anachronistic and unnecessary assault on innocent wildlife. On the other hand, they are lauded as exemplars of no-nonsense American rugged individualism. Yet despite the passion that surrounds the subject, we rarely hear the unfiltered voices of actual hunters in discussions of hunting.
In A Matter of Life and Death, anthropologist Marc Boglioli puts a human face on a group widely regarded as morally suspect, one that currently stands in the crossfire of America’s so-called culture wars. Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Addison County, Vermont, which took him from hunting camps and sporting goods stores to local bars and kitchen tables, Boglioli focuses on how contemporary hunters, women as well as men, understand their relationship to their prey. He shows how hunters’ attitudes toward animals flow directly from the rural lifeways they have continued to maintain in the face of encroaching urban sensibilities. The result is a rare glimpse into a culture that experiences wild animals in a way that is at once violent, consumptive, and respectful, and that regards hunting as an enduring link to a vanishing past. It is a book that will challenge readers—hunters, non-hunters, and anti-hunters alike—to reconsider what constitutes a morally appropriate relationship with the non-human residents of this planet.
"A Matter of Life and Death goes well beyond the subject of hunting to document the persistence of rural traditions in the midst of a gentrifying countryside. I think the book will be used in environmental studies courses, courses in wildlife management, as well as in courses that more and more schools are offering in what is coming to be called ‘rural studies.’"—Jan E. Dizard, author of Going Wild: Hunting, Animal Rights, and the Contested Meaning of Nature
"You do not have to be a hunter or an anthropologist to find a great deal of value in this remarkable book. A Matter of Life and Death is challenging, nuanced, and entertaining; from the preface forward, author Marc Boglioli takes his readers into a world that many of them will never encounter--and that some of them might simply write off as vulgar or, even, immoral. . . . A Matter of Life and Death is book written by an intellectual who understands clearly both his subject (rural hunters) and his anticipated audience (other intellectuals, and largely urban intellectuals at that). . . . It is hard not to see A Matter of Life and Death as a model of fair-minded scholarship, a study whose essential lessons can be applied to any number of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences."—New England Quarterly
"In A Matter of Life and Death, Marc Boglioli engages the tensions and contradictions surrounding hunting in the modern age. He does so in well-researched, clear, readable prose that brings to life the Vermont hunters, camps, and forests that are his bailiwick. Boglioli does for the northeast United States what Stuart Marks (1991) did for the South in Southern Hunting in Black and White. . . . The Human Dimensions of Wildlife tradition needs more works of this kind; studies that are richly detailed and the product of long engagement by committed researchers to places and subjects they know well."—Human Dimensions of Wildlife
"Boglioli engages the tensions and contradictions surrounding hunting in the modern age. He does so in well-researched, clear, readable prose that brings to life the Vermont hunters, camps, and forests that are his bailiwick."—Human Dimensions of Wildlife