My Time as a Writing Fellow with the Institute for Child and Youth Studies by Dr. Mary-Ann Shantz
In July 2016 I had the pleasure of being hosted as a Writing Fellow by the Institute for Child and Youth Studies. Besides affording me a close encounter with a rattlesnake, my time at the University of Lethbridge allowed me to complete revisions to an article entitled, “‘Nudists at Heart’: Children’s Nature and Child Psychology in the Postwar Canadian Nudist Movement” (drawn from a chapter of my book manuscript on the cultural history of Canadian nudism). In the article, I consider how childhood became central to nudist rhetoric in the midst of the postwar baby-boom. Whereas early German nudism emerged in reaction to the negative physical effects of living and working in polluted industrial cities, postwar Canadian nudism responded to public anxiety that mental health, juvenile delinquency, and sexual deviance were the critical problems of the day. In this context, nudists cast their movement as a means of promoting children’s psychological well-being and heterosexual adjustment. At the same time, they idealized children as natural nudists who embodied the unashamed and carefree attitude towards nudity the movement embraced. There was a tension, then, between the way nudists used children’s bodies to naturalize nudity, and simultaneously promoted nudism as an effective means of socializing children.
The Institute for Child and Youth Studies provided me with space and time to think and write; but even more valuable to me were the collaborative and supportive faculty and students that comprise the Institute. Often the academic life is a solitary one; my time as an I-CYS Writing Fellow countered that isolation by allowing me to physically work alongside colleagues, to engage in fruitful discussions, and to be encouraged by the enthusiasm of others for my work. I have no doubt my article and book will be better as a result, and I returned to my home in Edmonton invigorated and inspired by the work being done by members of I-CYS. I am grateful to Kristine Alexander, Jan Newberry, and the Institute for hosting me at the University of Lethbridge and promoting interdisciplinary dialogue and relationship-building.