Doctor Leisure’s Louisiana

Jon Griffin Donlon
Doctor Leisure

As creator of both the Face Book page and a blog devoted to Dr. Leisure’s Louisiana, it seems fitting to provide substantial background information about leisure activity, myself, and my journey to this point.

I was born in Lafayette, at the ankle of the Bayou State (my home town named after the Marquis de Lafayette, a figure so important and glamorous in the American Revolution). Years ago, after enjoying my undergrad days at then USL I left Louisiana to pursue graduate work at the University of Illinois.

From that grand institution nestled in the vast cornfields of the Midwest I took my Ph.D. from the Department of Leisure Studies, specializing in tourism with a strong interest in controversial leisure.  Ultimately my partner and I began a two-person Consultancy, doing contract work mostly for government or teaching, traveling, and writing. Now aside from my growing business selling fine art prints I’m probably best known as the author of Bayou Country Bloodsport: The Culture of Cockfighting in Southern Louisiana published by the McFarland, a prestigious academic press.

In the ensuing decades after leaving grad school I worked in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Near East, the Mediterranean, and the United States and have recently finished 8 years in Japan. In fact, my first suite of recent photographs after returning to the USA, finished last year, is based on that experience: Ad Hoc Gardens of Japan

In the ensuing decades after leaving grad school I worked in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Near East, the Mediterranean, and the United States and have recently finished 8 years in Japan. In fact, my first suite of recent photographs after returning to the USA, finished last year, is based on that experience: Ad Hoc Gardens of Japan. Now I am working on a new sequence devolving from my aesthetics’ vision and intellectual curiosity about tourism: Over There.

Hadano Ad Hoc Garden
Ad Hoc Gardens of Japan, Hadano

I’ve set up a roost in charming Natchitoches, in north Louisiana, the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase. From here I continue consulting and creating copy, drawings, painting, photography, and video material actually or fictively referencing my life experience, especially stuff for my FB page, Dr. Leisure’s Louisiana, and the blog of the same name. Although most recently I was asked to be a faculty member at a university, what I usually do is associated with cultural analysis & interpretation, perhaps called “thick description.”

Throughout my career I spent a meaningful amount of time looking into so-called purple leisure and recreation including writing about various aspects of blood sport, cock fighting, and risk in sport.  Indeed, one of my career-long efforts, which was quite a struggle and which remains a contest only partially won, was to shift terminology from “deviant” or “purple” to the much more appropriate controversial leisure. Even in academia enormous numbers of people unquestioningly presume that their own activities comprise the “appropriate” and those of the other necessarily the deviant, the “purple” and necessarily the worthy of suppression.

During my time as an academic I was fortunate to publish dozens of academic reviews in my field, entries in encyclopedias, and scholarly articles. As is typical of active researchers, I’ve read many papers at regional, national, and international conferences such as my “Reading Hemingway’s `Nick Barnes’: Proactive exile, sports metaphors, and the shock of the modern,” presented in Gaborone, Botswana, and “On the road to apple pie with Jack Kerouac,” prepared for the LSU Mardi Gras Conference in Baton Rouge.

After 2005 and the terrific impact of Rita and Katrina on my home state, I began a long, close-focus research cycle involving social capital and recovery from disaster, especially engaged with tourism planning. 

Importantly, after 2005 and the terrific impact of Rita and Katrina on my home state, I began a long, close-focus research cycle involving social capital and recovery from disaster, especially engaged with tourism planning. In fact, at about that time, I was approached about joining the faculty at Tokai University in Japan, a position I filled for a little short of a decade.  During that eight-year period in Asia, most of my papers involved disaster recovery, tourism and, quite often, traditional undertakings (especially festivals) – that festive information later informed much of my reading and investigation in beverages and hospitality.

During that eight-year period in Asia, most of my papers involved disaster recovery, tourism and, quite often, traditional undertakings (especially festivals).

For example, I delivered my “Cultural capital and leisure performances as aids in disaster recovery: Niigata bull pushing and New Orleans Carnival” in Hong Kong; my paper outlining the complexities of how people feel about their cultural traditions, “Ephemeral festivals, social capital, and the leisure imagination” at the Royal Geographical Society in London; and my “Disaster tourism: Eco–and cultural tourism’s role in recovery” at the Popular Culture Association Conference in San Francisco.  These are only representative of many other presentations done during this time.

Becoming Dr. Leisure

Recalling the halcyon days of youth, in about the 8thgrade, by lucky accident I was given a copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Then I read The Dharma Bums. I was fascinated that people could be academics, artists, and intellectuals. Lafayette though small was a vital community and I did not then and do not now see it as backwater. Still, those books and others showed me that one could choose a life of travel, of pursuit of scholarly curiosity. The fictional characters lived in Africa, France, Japan; they traveled the globe. They were artists and writers. I decided I preferred that life, and I made a decision to follow my dreams if at all possible.

At USL I was fortunate to have been a student of the legendary Elmore Morgan, Jr., both as a child in Lafayette’s Girard Park Summer Program (enrolled by a spinster aunt who partly raised me), and, later, while working for my art degree. 

At USL I was fortunate to have been a student of the legendary Elmore Morgan, Jr., both as a child in Lafayette’s Girard Park Summer Program (enrolled by a spinster aunt who partly raised me), and, later, while working for my art degree. In addition, the faculty was filled with extraordinarily positive influences, and the strong arts staff of USL influenced me at the time, including Fred Packard, and others. I flourished, in spite of a relative paucity of resources, and my interests in photography and painting thrived.

Painting (12ft X 16ft) Doctor Leisure
Atchafalaya Landscape, Jon G Donlon

Typical, perhaps, of photographers of my generation, my work exhibited and exhibits a telling reflection of the f. 64 camp, with its emphasis on choice, clarity, and finish (though I very rarely uses my technically precise 4 X 5 camera now, phasing almost entirely into contemporary technology). Today’s large 16X20 and 17X22 prints are driven through modern eight-color printers commanded by arcane software.  Over time, I have been increasingly influenced by the “snap shot” ethic of photographers such as Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander or Wolfgang Tillman’s and Martin Parr.  I am fully appreciative of new photographers in the tradition, such as Ryan McGinley. I see special agency in selecting and arresting a unique moment and rendering it in time. Today I am scheduling shows of my emerging, new, body of work and have been selling fine art prints of photographs since my return from Asia.

Over time, I have been increasingly influenced by the “snap shot” ethic of photographers such as Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander or Wolfgang Tillman’s and Martin Parr.  I am fully appreciative of new photographers in the tradition, such as Ryan McGinley. 

Decades ago I began his fine arts photography career with traditional, silver projection prints for my “graduation portfolio” which opened at USL (then University of Southwestern Louisiana now University of Louisiana at Lafayette), showing in the gallery of the university Student Union. That show, a collection of black and white photographs, cibachrome prints, and type-C images, traveled on to LSU (Louisiana State University) and several more venues for what was to be a very successful tour. I showed these images around the state, in Washington D.C., and elsewhere.

Following graduation I remained active in Louisiana until moving to Europe, where I wrote more and successfully showed existing photography, also extending the themes I began in Louisiana.

Arts and Academia

Degree in hand, I worked in advertising, as a journalist, and related fields but increasingly became curious about motivations for traditional pastimes. Eventually, yet slowly, I transitioned toward devoting much of my life to the study of leisure phenomena, including travel and less “savory” activities – I did not stop making art or writing, I did become focus on more formal scholarship. As a result, over the years as a scholar I’ve divided my time between consulting, research, publishing, and teaching – in addition to my ongoing efforts in the fine arts.

For example, in 2005 I collaborated with an engineer colleague competing for the 1% for the Arts Baton Rouge Capital Park Project [rejected]; however, the resulting suite of large landscape paintings (12 X 16 ft., festooned with Dacron line, fittings, snaps, steel rings, and carabineer clips in homage to Atchafalaya Basin fisher folk) still exist and await a suitable architectural space.  Since then, today, the artist is reconstituting and reformatting several of these monumental pieces to embrace a “domestic friendly” scale of 4X4 foot, 17X22 inch, and similar paintings.

Bayou Country Bloodsport

My book, Bayou Country Bloodsport: The Culture of Cockfighting in Southern Louisiana, (McFarland Press, 2014) is a look into human association with and use of animals, especially as combat surrogates, flowing from his interest in controversial leisure. I’ve been speaking throughout the state discussing this book, which I also illustrated. McFarland’s catalog explains that “cockfighting has had a long history in the United States. Now outlawed in all 50 states, the violent sport serves as a springboard to discuss controversial leisure activities.  Bayou Country Bloodsport: The Culture of Cockfighting in Southern Louisiana is based on my own fieldwork, beginning before the ban of cockfighting and conducted mainly in South Louisiana, and provides the basis for discussions of issues of society: sport, risk, spectatorship, culture, entertainment, recreation reform, gambling, and other ‘purple leisure’ activities.” Indeed, as noted above, I’ve devoted much of my career to shifting the vocabulary from “purple” to “controversial” leisure and very much hope that this book furthers this effort.

My book, Bayou Country Bloodsport: The Culture of Cockfighting in Southern Louisiana, (McFarland Press, 2014) is a look into human association with and use of animals, especially as combat surrogates, flowing from his interest in controversial leisure.

Although as an artist I’m most interested in fine arts photography, as a practical matter I’ve created a significant amount of commercial work, illustrating lectures, educational material, and power point presentations for his consultancy clients. There can be little question that my fine art prints are heavily influenced by my intellectual pursuits.  I’ve used photo-illustration for academic papers delivered at international conferences and produced photo-journalism for magazines such as “Louisiana Life,” “Reptiles Magazine,” “Country Roads,” “Pan Magazine,” “Bizarre,” “World Explorer,” “Southern Style,” “International Living,” “Cycling Weekly,” “TNT,” “Bike Report,” “Transitions Abroad,” “The Daily Illini,” “I Love Cats,” “Sports World,” “Ultralight Aircraft,” “Diver,” “The Octopus,” “Tribe,” “Gris-Gris,” “The Explorers Club Journal,” “Acadiana Lifestyle” and so on.

Jon Griffin Donlon
Doctor Leisure in China

During my lifetime I’ve quite happily lived and worked in Africa, Asia, Europe, France, the Near East, the Mediterranean, and the United States as well as traveling widely for pleasure. As noted elsewhere, my current suite of photographs deals with my Asian experience. Today, I work a little bit at the wonderful Louisiana School for Science, Math, and the Arts (LAMSA) offering the introduction to Leisure Studies class now and then.

I’ve used photo-illustration  for magazines such as “Louisiana Life,” “Reptiles Magazine,” “Country Roads,” “Pan Magazine,” “Bizarre,” “World Explorer,” “Southern Style,” “International Living,” “Cycling Weekly,” “TNT,” “Bike Report,” “Transitions Abroad,” “The Daily Illini,” “I Love Cats,” “Sports World,” “Ultralight Aircraft,” “Diver,” “The Octopus,” “Tribe,” “Gris-Gris,” “The Explorers Club Journal,” “Acadiana Lifestyle” and so on.

Now I have intention to devote some time to both social media, maintaining a Face Book page generally related to Louisiana but more fully related to leisure, and a companion blog designed to support longer, more engaging pieces.

Until my recent return stateside, I worked in the Department of Sport and Leisure Management, Shonan Campus of Tokai University, Hiratsuka, [Tokyo] Japan. There, I was a full Professor in Sport & Leisure Management. Otherwise, I remain a Fellow, Royal Geographical Society, London, and a member of Louisiana Folklore Society and member of the Popular Culture Association of the United States; I belong to the Scientific Exploration Society, London and to Phi Beta Delta, the Honor Society for International Scholars. I and my business, intellectual, and life partner, Dr. Jocelyn Hazelwood Donlon, continue to be avid travelers and productive scholars. For more information on particulars about consulting visit: http://www.donlonconsulting.com/

 

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