»Events»Escaping Natures: an Ethnography of Life and Rent in Gran Sabana, Venezuela
Escaping Natures: an Ethnography of Life and Rent in Gran Sabana, Venezuela
Participants in the Wings Project (Proyecto Alas) sublimated all the characteristics of escapist visits to the Gran Sabana region, in southern Venezuela. A few years ago, they trekked to Auyantepuy, one of the iconic table-top mountains of this region, and jumped from the mountain top in a wingsuit. Despite the joy and euphoria documented by their videos, something of an Icarusian tragedy pervaded their deed – the spectre of death was a protagonist of those wingsuit flights.
Drawing from my own extended fieldwork in Gran Sabana (Great Savannah), in this paper I contend that it is possible to identify a historical thread (a ‘social logic’) connecting activities like this one organised by the Wings Project members and the expeditions undertaken by nineteenth century scientists and explorers that recorded their travels in these same lands. Those explorers were after mapping out the ‘unexplored’ world (and its resources) in the name of development and progress; extreme-sport adventurers like the Wing Project members seek escape from such things when they travel ‘the unbeaten track’. With the support of my ethnographic material, I seek to explain why the apparently opposing tendencies driving those deeds can be read as mutually reinforcing manifestations of distinguishable but complementary moments in the production of Gran Sabana as a social space.