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Safe in Unsafe Places: Leisure, Passionate Avocations, and the Problematizing of Everyday Public Life

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Leisure is often distingtrished frorn and considered subsidiary to some other world, the "real" world. This paper explores how participation in passionate avocations _ leisure pursuits both generating and requiring heavy personal identity investments_ affects the public interface between the "real " world and the alternate world of the passionate avocation. We use the world of dog sport enthusiasts to problematize polar conceptualizations of certain important aspects of social life. In particular, we examine shifting experiential definitions of "safe" and "unsafe" public places by looking at how participation in dog sports shapes both the possibility of certain kinds of public interactions and also participants' public identities _ how they define themselves and are defined in public. The data come from four major sources. First, since 1992 we have interviewed approximately 50 enthusiasts in various dog sports. Second, by training and showing our own dogs, we enjoy participant observer access to a variety of dog-related activities and people. Third, we are involved in several Internet groups about dogs. Finally, using a technique Denzin (1989) terms "auto -ethnography, " two of the authors toured the country for nine months, attending dog sports events and training sessions and conducting interviews.



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