Clearly and engagingly written, Binocular Vision is a work of impressive scope and subtlety that will make an important contribution to the growing field of environmental cultural studies.(Daniel J. Philippon, author of Conserving Words: How American Nature Writers Shaped the Environmental Movement)
This book forced me to take a more critical look at field guides and what their role can and should be. And that made it very worth reading.(The Birder's Library)
Binocular Vision is a field guide to field guides that takes a novel perspective on how we think about and interact with the world around us.(The Guardian)
Spencer Schaffner's Binocular Vision starts from the simple and important observation that field guides--like texts--'do cultural work.' Behind and beyond their stated purposes, field guides affirm assumptions and create expectations, and many of the conclusions the book offers will be an unsettling surprise to many of its birding readers.(aba.org Blog)
From meadows to marshlands, seashores to suburbs, field guides help us identify many of the things we find outdoors: plants, insects, mammals, birds. In these texts, nature is typically represented, in both words and images, as ordered, clean, and untouched by human technology and development. This preoccupation with species identification, however, has produced an increasingly narrow view of nature, a "binocular vision," that separates the study of individual elements from a range of larger, interconnected environmental issues. In this book, Spencer Schaffner reconsiders this approach to nature study by focusing on how birds are presented in field guides.
Starting with popular books from the late nineteenth century and moving ultimately to the electronic guides of the current day, Binocular Vision contextualizes birdwatching field guides historically, culturally, and in terms of a wide range of important environmental issues. Schaffner questions the assumptions found in field guides to tease out their ideological workings. He argues that the sanitized world represented in these guides misleads readers by omitting industrial landscapes and so-called nuisance birds, leaving users of the guides disconnected from environmental degradation and its impact on bird populations.
By putting field guides into direct conversation with concerns about species conservation, environmental management, the human alteration of the environment, and the problem of toxic pollution, Binocular Vision is a field guide to field guides that takes a novel perspective on how we think about and interact with the world around us.