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A Transmaterial Approach to Walking Methodologies: Embodiment, Affect, and a Sonic Art Performance

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A Transmaterial Approach to Walking Methodologies: Embodiment, Affect, and a Sonic Art Performance

Abstract

Bodily methodologies that engage with the affective, rhythmic, and temporal dimensions of movement have altered the landscape of social science and humanities research. Walking is one such methodology by which scholars have examined vital, sensory, material, and ephemeral intensities beyond the logics of representation. Extending this rich field, this article invokes the concept trans to reconceptualize walking research through theories that attend to the vitality and agency of matter, the interconnectedness between humans and non-humans, the importance of mediation and bodily affect, and the necessity of acknowledging ethico-political responsibility. While theoretical and empirical research about embodied, emplaced, and sensorial relations between moving bodies and space are well developed in the field of walking studies, their entanglements become profoundly altered by theories of trans – transcorporeality, transspecies, and transmaterialities. Taking up trans theories we experiment in thinking-with a sonic art performance, Walking to the Laundromat, which probes bodily, affective, and gendered labour.
Article
A Transmaterial
Approach to Walking
Methodologies:
Embodiment, Affect,
and a Sonic Art
Performance
Stephanie Springgay
University of Toronto
Sarah E. Truman
Manchester Metropolitan University
Abstract
Bodily methodologies that engage with the affective, rhythmic, and temporal
dimensions of movement have altered the landscape of social science and huma-
nities research. Walking is one such methodology by which scholars have examined
vital, sensory, material, and ephemeral intensities beyond the logics of represen-
tation. Extending this rich field, this article invokes the concept trans to reconcep-
tualize walking research through theories that attend to the vitality and agency of
matter, the interconnectedness between humans and non-humans, the importance
of mediation and bodily affect, and the necessity of acknowledging ethico-political
responsibility. While theoretical and empirical research about embodied, emplaced,
and sensorial relations between moving bodies and space are well developed in the
field of walking studies, their entanglements become profoundly altered by theories
of trans – transcorporeality, transspecies, and transmaterialities. Taking up trans
theories we experiment in thinking-with a sonic art performance, Walking to the
Laundromat, which probes bodily, affective, and gendered labour.
Keywords
affective labour, embodiment, ethics, transcorporeality, transmaterialities,
transspecies, walking methodologies
Corresponding author: Stephanie Springgay. Email: steph anie.spri nggay@utoronto.ca
Extra material: http://theoryculturesociety.org
1–32
ªThe Author(s) 2017
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DOI: 10.1177/1357034X17732626
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Body &
Societ
y
Bodily methodologies that engage with the affective, rhythmic, and
temporal dimensions of movement have altered the landscape of
social science and humanities research (Blackman, 2012; Clough,
2007; Manning, 2012; Massumi, 2015; Seigworth and Gregg,
2010; Springgay, 2011). A focus on affect shifts the perception of
a body as a bounded entity to bodies as assemblages and processes
where movement, choreography and time play active roles in the
differential relations that ‘reveal the imperceptible dynamism of
matter’ (Blackman, 2012: 5). Walking is one such affective and
bodily methodology (Springgay and Truman, 2016, 2017; Truman
and Springgay, 2016). Using walking as a mode of inquiry, scholars
have sought ways to examine vital, sensory, material, and ephemeral
intensities beyond the logics of representation (Thrift, 2008; Truman
and Springgay, 2015; Vannini, 2015).
This article emerges from a multi-year research-creation practice
on walking directed by WalkingLab.WalkingLab is the collective
practice of Stephanie Springgay and Sarah E. Truman, and intersects
social science methodologies, artistic practice, and pedagogy. Walk-
ingLab often works in collaboration with other artists and scholars,
and the online hub
1
archives these networked activities. We frame
walking methodologies as research-creation, which draws attention
to the conjunctive at work in its process. Instead of perpetuating an
idea of art as separate from thinking, the hyphenation of research-
creation engenders ‘concepts in-the-making’ which is a process of
‘thinking-with and across techniques of creative practice’ (Manning
and Massumi, 2014: 88–9). Research-creation is the intersection of
art, theory, and research.
We begin the article with a brief overview of how embodiment has
been enacted and theorized in walking scholarship. We then examine
the different ways that sound walks contribute to embodied under-
standings of walking research. We discuss the ways that sound has
been used in social science research, including soundscapes and
sonic walks. These two opening sections are important because they
contextualize how embodiment and sound are addressed in walking
research.
Following this we extend Alaimo’s (2010, 2016) concept of trans-
corporeality through feminist, queer, and trans theories that empha-
size movement and affect. Transcorporeality expands embodiment to
include ‘material interchanges between human bodies, geographical
2Body & Society XX(X)
places, and vast networks of power’ (Alaimo, 2010: 32). Whereas
some theories of embodiment propose an understanding of an indi-
vidual and undivided self (Ingold, 2011), transcorporeality posits
humans and non-humans as enmeshed with each other in a messy,
shifting ontology. Transcorporeality cleaves the nature–culture
divide and asserts that bodies do not pre-exist their comings together
but are materialized in and through intra-action. Alaimo (2010) con-
tends that in order to refuse human exceptionalism we need to attend
to ethical and political practices of transmateriality. We follow scho-
lars like Hird, Puar, Chen, and Colebrook in thinking beyond trans as
a transition or as transgression, toward trans as assemblage, affect,
movement, and intensity, and invoke Chen’s (2015) productive use
of trans as a way to disassemble and disturb taxonomies, and con-
found the notion of an embodied, coherent self.
2
To frame our dis-
cussion of trans theories we experiment in thinking-with a sonic art
performance called Walking to the Laundromat created by Rebecca
(Bek) Conroy for WalkingLab.
Walking to the Laundromat consists of a 106-minute audio track
that participants listen to while doing their laundry at a public
laundromat, interspersed with walks around the neighbourhood
in between cycles. The audio track parodies the form of a ‘self-
help’ audio book. It is produced as a binaural sound file. Partici-
pants are greeted by a voice that instructs them about the parti-
culars of their walks and washing. Intersected with this masterful
and controlled voice are sounds that emerge as part of neoliberal
life, including a 1950s laundry detergent commercial, new-age
mindfulness music, and well-being affirmations. Another layer
intersperses intensive matterings about capital, money laundering,
and affective labour – particularly the gendered and domestic/
service labour performed by those who clean, wash, and perform
care in underpaid domestic or service jobs, and who are often
subjected to violence. The article probes bodily, affective, and
gendered labour to question how some bodies are perceived as
disposable in order for other bodies to thrive (Mbembe, 2003;
Puar, 2007). Walking to the Laundromat arouses what Alaimo
describes as corporeal ethics, where ‘ethical action arises, then,
from the recognition of one’s specific location within a wider,
more-than-human kinship network’ (2016: 30). Transmateriality,
we contend, enlarges understandings of corporeality and takes into
Springgay and Truman 3
account more-than-human movements and entanglements that are
immanent, viral, and intensive.
Embodiment in Walking Research
Walking researchers insist that walking is embodied because it is
immediate, tangible, and foregrounds the bodily experience of mov-
ing. As we walk we are ‘in’ the world, integrating body and space co-
extensively. Pink et al. (2010: 3) argues that walking is significant
because ‘it is in itself a form of engagement integral to our perception
of an environment. We cannot but learn and come to know in new
ways as we walk.’ Pink’s work in visual and sensory ethnography –
including her important contributions to walking methodologies –
emphasizes the ways that moving and sensing bodies are fundamen-
tal to knowledge production. She contends that an interest in walking
is in tandem with the development of alternative methods for con-
ducting ethnographic research, including those that enable a multi-
sensorial and emplaced approach.
Much walking research places embodiment at the centre of discus-
sion, often through the figure of the flaˆneur, a walker who takes in the
surrounding environment through leisurely perambulation. Embodied
accounts of walking research have demonstrated the importance of
individual accounts of the lived experience of walking, an attention
to a relational-social mode of moving collectively and civically, and an
emplaced, haptic, and affective understanding of movement. In this
section, we offer a brief review of the ways that embodiment emerges
in walking research: as corporeal or physical; as relational-social; and
as emplaced, haptic, affective, and material. We isolate these examples
as a pedagogical tool, recognizing that in many instances these three
instantiations of embodiment are intertwined.
Embodiment is crucial to walking research; however, as we will
argue, embodiment needs to move beyond an individual and sensu-
ous account of the body in space towards a different ethico-political
engagement. Alaimo (2010: 17) writes that the ethics that emerge
from trans relations are ‘uncomfortable and perplexing’ and do not
place human mastery at the centre. In our larger book project, we
similarly problematize place, affect, and rhythm – concepts that are
common in walking research – from a more-than-human framework
(Springgay and Truman, forthcoming).
4Body & Society XX(X)
Embodiment as Lived Experience
Embodiment appears in walking research as a corporeal or physical
response to the textures of a place. For example, Vergunst’s (2008)
ethnographic work in Aberdeen takes note of the bodily ways that
walking marks an awareness of surfaces and textures. Vergunst’s
work foregrounds the routine, everyday walking practices that create
a rhythmic understanding of place. Place is shaped through the embo-
died way that feet, gravel, pavement, and grass mark out a particular
rhythm underfoot. Walkers become attuned to the different surfaces,
which, in turn, shape how a walker makes sense of a place. Place, as
such, becomes constructed through a responsiveness of the body to
the landscape. Likewise, Phillips’ (2004) project in the Kimberly
region of Australia combines ethnographic, artistic, and scientific
methods along with walking to think about the wildness of place.
She argues that the field or site of research is ‘re-corporealised’ by
walking because it is a bodily not a visual practice (Phillips, 2004:
158). The bodily practice of walking, Heddon and Myers (2014)
maintain, can be demanding, severe, and gruelling. In contrast to
embodied narratives of walking that extol the virtues of meditative
drifting, their Walking Library project reflects the arduous nature of
walking across different landscapes, carrying heavy packs, and in the
blistering sun. They emphasize the ways in which the physicality of
knowledge is shaped through movement.
Additional accounts of walking and embodiment are figured in the
work of Lorimer and Lund, who recount a group mountain summit
walk as a process of encountering a trail through ‘toes, heels, and
soles’ (2008: 186). Similarly, Wylie describes the rhythm of walking
as a corporeal event. Depths and surfaces – the topology of place –
are distilled ‘into knees, hips and shoulder blades’ (2002: 449).
Wylie’s work speaks to the ways walkers experience their own mus-
cular consciousness on a walk, in relation to the slopes and peaks of a
landscape. Lund’s walking ethnographies similarly foreground cor-
poreality such as postures, speeds, and rhythms, which ‘shape the
tactile interactions between the moving body and the ground, and
play a fundamental part in how the surroundings are sensually expe-
rienced’ (2005: 28). Significant among these walking scholars is an
attention to how an individual body moves in relation to the surfaces
of a place, and how such embodied movement creates rhythmic,
Springgay and Truman 5
textured, and contingent understandings of place. Typically, though,
these descriptions assume that surfaces and textures are pre-given
and that it is the walker who interacts with and experiences these
different typologies. As such, the embodied human occupies a
privileged position.
Ingold’s work is frequently cited by walking scholars interested in
embodiment. He writes that walking is a ‘more literally grounded
approach to perception ...since it is surely through our feet, in contact
with the ground (albeit mediated by footwear), that we are most fun-
damentally and continually “in touch” with our surroundings’ (2004:
331). He proposes that walkers ‘hear through their feet’, emphasizing
the proprioception of movement (2004: 331). While Ingold’s work has
been significant in understanding movement (walking) as a mode of
perception that does not always privilege vision, his focus on the
individual walker risks a framing of embodiment that emphasizes an
interiority of self. Moreover, Ingold’s (2004) oft cited walking paper
‘Culture on the ground’ details a developmental model where the
evolution of the human is linked to bipedal movement and the changes
in the mechanisms of footwear. Ingold’s theses don’t sit easily with the
trans theories we develop later in the article.
Embodiment as Relational and Social
Embodiment is also attended to by walking researchers for its
relational-social understanding of movement. One method that fore-
grounds the relational aspect of embodied walking is the ‘go-along’
interview. Walking interviews, Evans and Jones (2011: 856) argue,
‘produce more spontaneous data as elements of the surrounding
environment prompt discussion of place’. Evans and Jones differ-
entiate between mobile methods and sedentary methods in motion,
stating that although a person on a train is technically moving, the
participant’s ‘movement is experienced as a visual flow through
windows and the primary haptic sensation is merely that of back-
ground vibration’ (2011: 850), whereas walking through a crowded
street or cycling up a mountain would expose both interviewee and
interviewer to more ‘multi-sensory stimulation of the surrounding
environment’ (2011: 850). Walking interviews offer evidence about
how people specifically relate to place as a process rather than a
‘biographical account of their history “in place”’ (2011: 856). Jones
6Body & Society XX(X)
and Evans suggest in walking interviews that ‘rather than place being
bounded, inward-looking and resistant to change, place becomes a
dynamic concept, interpenetrated by connections to other social and
economic worlds’ (2012: 2320). As opposed to a point on a map that
is circumscribed, place becomes porous and emergent.
Anderson similarly uses walking interviews to examine the social
construction of knowledge and place with environmental activists.
The walking interview, he notes, enables him to have a different
access to his participants’ knowledge because walking helps over-
come the typical power arrangements between researcher and parti-
cipant. The go-along interview shapes a co-constitutive
understanding of people and place. He writes: ‘Through talking
whilst walking, by conversing and traversing pathways through an
environment, we are able to create a world of knowledge (or path-
ways of knowledge through the world) by taking meanings and
understandings into existence’ (Anderson, 2004: 260). Walking
interviews allow a researcher to physically go to a specific place
with a participant, in order to re-create that place, rather than recall
place via memory. However, as we will discuss in the next section on
sound, typically researchers do not attend to any recorded sounds that
emerge from the walk, focusing most of the time on the discursive
interview data.
O’Neill’s research on walking borders uses the form of walking
tours and walking interviews to examine place in relation to asylum,
migration and marginalization. She writes:
Taking a walk with someone is a powerful way of communicating
about experiences; one can become ‘attuned’ to another, connect
in a lived embodied way with the feelings and corporeality of
another. Walking with another opens up a space for dialogue
where embodied knowledge, experience and memories can be
shared. (O’Neill, 2017: n.p.).
In the section on sound, we show how O’Neill extends the method of
walking interviews to include all of the sounds recorded on a walk.
Embodiment as Emplaced, Haptic, and Affective
Scholars like Pink (2015 [2009]: 24) have used the term ‘emplace-
ment’, which ‘attends to the question of experience by accounting for
Springgay and Truman 7
the relationships between bodies, minds, materiality and sensoriality
of the environment’. Here Pink is drawing on the work of David
Howes (2005: 74), who notes that emplacement ‘suggests the sensuous
interrelationship of body-mind-environment’. Emplacement, accord-
ing to Pink (2011: 354), locates the body ‘within a wider ecology,
allowing us to see it as an organism in relation to other organisms and
its representations in relation to other representations’.
Macpherson (2010) has written extensively on walking and embo-
diment, and in particular the emplaced and material entanglement of
body and landscape. Drawing on non-representational theories, she
argues for an understanding of body and place as dynamic and active,
where landscape is more-than mere background to walking research.
Working with visually impaired participants, her research emphasizes
how bodies and place are co-extensive to one another and co-produced
through walking. Embodiment for Macpherson includes sensations,
movements, and context. Body-landscape, she argues, is topological
in that it is shaped through contours, textures, and feelings.
While not a walking scholar per se, Hayward’s haptic theorization
of fingeryeyes enlarges Howes’ (2005) emplacement to include: ‘tex-
ture, animation, galvanizing drives, such that emplacing is defined by
the quality of invigoration and its transfiguration of future emergings,
of senses and species that may yet emerge’ (Hayward, 2010: 592).
Hapticality – or touch – enfleshes us affectively within an animate
world. Hayward’s thesis is significant because it expands embodied
and emplaced understandings of research methodologies from a trans
movement framework. We will return to her work in our trans section.
Hapticality is often referred to as an embodied spatial perception
that reflects space’s tactile qualities, such as pressure, weight, tem-
perature, and texture. The haptic is sometimes organized around
kinaesthetic experience such as muscles, joints, and tendons which
give a sense of weight, stretching, and angles as one walks. It can also
be described as affective.
3
This haptic knowledge, states Paterson
(2009), shifts embodied knowing towards a more complex, enfolded
engagement with space. Commenting on Wylie’s research walking
the South West Coast Path, Paterson argues that Wylie’s thick haptic
descriptions ‘include a range of affects and somatic sensations such
as pain, weariness, movement, vertigo, bodily bearing, assurance,
jouissance, rhythm, rest, trudge-heavy joy, or exhaustive openness
to the landscape that surrounds’ (2009: 783).
8Body & Society XX(X)
Embodiment theories are significant for the ways that corporeality
is foregrounded in walking research. The challenge that persists is
how to emphasize how bodies are not only in relation to their imme-
diate environment, but within larger more-than-human networks and
events. Stephens et al. (2015) argue that embodiment theories need to
account for more politically emplaced, spatially distributed, and
assemblaged understandings of bodies and space. Tuck and McKen-
zie likewise note that particular accounts of embodiment are too
often expanded on to make universal claims about the emplaced
subject and, as such, neglect ‘the situated realities of historical and
spatial sedimentations of power’ (2015: 36). Here, specifically, they
refer to the ways that theories of emplacement have perpetuated
ongoing settler colonial practices. Similarly, Alaimo contends that
while embodiment articulates the body’s emplaced and immediate
epistemological connection, it does little to account for ‘networks of
risk, harm, culpability and responsibility’ within which humans find
themselves entangled (2016: 3). For Haraway, ethics needs to be
conceived as abstractions, which ‘are built in order to be able to
break [them] down so that richer and more responsive invention,
speculation, and proposing – worlding – can go on’ (2008: 93).
Drawing on the work of Stengers, Haraway argues that such knotted
relatings are risky; they are ‘an opening to what is not yet’ (2008: 93).
If walking enmeshes human and non-human bodies with place, we
need different accounts of embodiment that take responsibility for
the intra-active manner by which space, time, bodies, events, and
things – including labour – are interactively performed and produced.
This, we contend, is where the work of trans becomes important.
Before we shift to our discussion of trans theories, we introduce the
ways that sound has been included in walking research.
Soundscapes, Sound Walks, and Sonic Art
Walking and sound have increasingly been combined in order to
explore the sonic ecologies of place. Sound walks can take on many
different forms and are known by many different names including
soundscapes, sonic walks, and audio walks. One type of sound walk
includes the method of walking in silence, while paying close atten-
tion to ambient sounds. This might be called a sound walk. Sound
walks are a practice of active listening and present an embodied,
Springgay and Truman 9
tactile, and auditory understanding of place. For example, on Lor-
imer and Wylie’s (2010) Loop walk listening ‘lend[s] intricate tex-
ture to experience’ (2010: 7). In these instances of sound walks,
recording devices are not used.
Other types of sound walks combine other methods with listening,
such as recording devices, mapping practices, or reflective journaling
to capture the experience and understanding of sound to a place. Iscen
(2014), for example, uses walking and sound diaries (sounds recorded
using a portable recording device) to examine how immigrants trans-
late sounds in a new environment through the sensory repertoires they
have brought with them from other places. This is discussed as
‘soundscape competence’, whereby a newcomer’s experience of dif-
ferent sounds in a new urban context clashes with previous sound
habits and ways of knowing (Iscen, 2014: 128). The ethnographic data
are later mixed into an acoustic sound composition and played using
loudspeakers in an installation-type set-up. In this example, the focus
is on ambient sounds, not on interviews with participants.
Some researchers, like O’Neill (2017), have combined walking
interviews with ambient sound walks in order to examine the ways
in which borders and places are shaped. O’Neill (2017) discusses
how the intersection of sounds from birds, the wind, and the ocean,
when combined with walking interviews, reveals a more complex,
embodied, and intimate understanding of a particular environment.
In addition to mobile listening and field recording practices,
researchers and contemporary artists combine walking and sound
to create what is commonly referred to as an audio or sonic walk.
On an audio walk, participants listen to audio tracks, downloaded to
their phones or other electronic devices, while being guided via the
voice(s) on the audio track. Audio walks create a type of immersive
environment and invoke a heightened sensory experience. Canadian
artist Janet Cardiff has created dozens of audio and audio-video
walks that emplace the participant in a particular environment.
Schaub writes that Cardiff’s audio walks invoke a heightened sen-
sory experience, ‘[y]ou can smell what she is describing and you can
taste the salt from the sea air’ (2005: 132).
However, Saunders and Moles (2016) argue that not all sonic
walks create embodied or emplaced experiences of place. Many
audio walks that are produced for tourists reinscribe normative nar-
ratives of place and as such offer neat, accessible, and power-laden
10 Body & Society XX(X)
stories. Creating community-produced audio walks in Cardiff, Saun-
ders and Moles think alongside Ingold’s meshwork and Deleuze’s
assemblage to suggest that some forms of audio walks can be ‘ragged
and messy happenings that occur in the interstices of, or relationality
between, self and world’ (2016: 69).
Further to the above noted sound work in walking, sound has been
explored from an affective perspective. Here sensory studies and
affect theories become entwined over a shared concern for non-
conscious, non-cognitive, transcorporeal, and non-representational
processes. Despite the fact that sensory studies and affect studies
emerge from different conceptualizations of sensation, both, we
maintain, prioritize corporeal and material practices. One example
of an affective attention to sound is Gallagher’s (2015) audio drifts.
Gallagher, along with participants in his research, uses recording
devices to document different ambient sounds experienced on a walk.
Gallagher has even attached recording devices to his shoes. These
various recordings are then mixed together into one audio track. The
new composition combines the multiple recordings from the field
work. This composition is then downloaded to a mobile device and
new walkers/participants return to the location and listen to this new
composition of sound as they walk. As one walks, one hears both
ambient sounds and the pre-recorded sounds on the audio file. This
is different from O’Neill’s work discussed earlier, where the recorded
sounds are only ambient sounds alongside the interviews.
Gallagher writes that the composition of sounds brings ‘a variety
of voices back into the site [which] will help to unsettle an all-too-
easy narrative’ (2015: 474). The sound track that is played on the
subsequent walks doesn’t represent place, but holds in tension the
multiplicity of sounds and affects that are evoked through movement.
Gallagher’s sound work emphasizes an emplaced, haptic, and affec-
tive understanding of body-place. The sonic realm of these projects
doesn’t focus on how an individual participant hears or experiences
an environment (representation), but rather exemplifies how sound
becomes a kind of threshold (affect). If affect demands that sensation
be understood as intensities, vibrations, and forces that are transcor-
poreal, as opposed to located in a particular body, then the affective
dimensions of the compositional sound walk foreground a kind of
pulsing intensity that becomes entangled with a walker’s movements.
As Manning (2012: 28) writes: ‘Affect never locates itself once and
Springgay and Truman 11
for all on an individual body. Affect courses across, grouping into
tendential relation not individual feelings but preindividual tenden-
cies.’ Affect signals a capacity for the body to be open to the next
affective event, an opening to an elsewhere. Stewart (2007: 24)
writes that affect isn’t about being positive or negative, but that it
rests on an unpredictable edge where it can take on ‘the full charge of
potential’s two twisted poles – up or down, one thing or another’. In
the Gallagher example, because the sound files have been composed,
they are no longer of a place or of an individual body – as in repre-
sentationally descriptive or individually experienced – rather, they
operate by force and intensity, activating the body’s sense registers
which consequently shift the body’s movement and feelings of being
enfolded-with place and others.
Writing about the sonic realm in media art, Ikoniadu argues that
what is needed are ‘less anthropocentric’ modes of understanding the
sonic event, where the affect of the event ‘does not belong to a body’
(Ikoniadu, 2014: 142). In Gallagher’s example, the compositional
sound files that walkers listen to while walking in an environment
mean that what one hears is not directly linked to the experience of the
place. Rather, the multiplicity of sound produces what Blackman calls
a threshold. The rhythmic mediation of the event occurs when vision,
movement, and sound collide, and a ‘threshold experience is pro-
duced’ (Blackman, 2012: 23). This threshold is ‘at the interface or
intersection of self and other, material and immaterial, human and
non-human, inside and outside, such that processes which might be
designated psychological (are) always trans-subjective, shared, collec-
tive, mediated, and always extending bodies beyond themselves’
(Blackman, 2012: 23). It is this porosity or mediation between bodies,
movement, affect, and place that trans theories add to embodiment and
walking. In the next section of the article, we turn our attention to trans
theories, to extend our discussion of walking research.
Walking to the Laundromat: Affective Labour and
Transmaterialities
Rebecca Conroy’s audio walk Walking to the Laundromat, commis-
sioned as part of the larger WalkingLab research, performs transma-
teriality. In this section, we introduce trans theories cut together with
direct quotes from the audio track (in italics) in order to transduce
12 Body & Society XX(X)
and shape the writing with rather than about the sonic walk. In
thinking trans, we invoke a trans writing practice that attempts to
rupture a reliance on lived description of artistic and bodily work. A
challenge of writing and thinking-with more-than-human methodol-
ogies, and their experimental, material practices, is how to attend to
their fleeting, viral, multiple, and affective intensities without reduc-
ing walking and art projects to mere background. Additionally, the
tendency is to ‘interpret’ contemporary art practices, privileging the
researcher’s voice over the artist’s. Rather, we approach Conroy’s
sonic walk as an instantiation of theory. The walk enacts and engen-
ders the concepts that we attend to in this chapter. As such the
theories are immanent to the project, not outside of it. The audio
walk soundtrack can be accessed at www.walkinglab.org. We
encourage the reader to listen to it while doing a load of laundry and
taking a series of short walks between cycles. The section is orga-
nized through three subsections. The first introduces trans theories.
From there, we take up the sonic walk in relation to gendered and
affective labour. Following this we consider transspecies in relation
to the viral in order to destabilize linear movement. This leads to a
concluding section where we think about the regulation and control
of sounds that continue to dehumanize some bodies over others.
Transmaterial thinking-in-movement, we contend, is necessary for
moving beyond the leisure typically afforded to walking practices
towards an understanding of walking as trans, viral, and intensive.
Trans Theories
In using the prefix ‘trans’ we understand that trans and non-trans
people have different stakes in the field of trans studies (Elliot,
2016). Namaste (2000) warns that queer and feminist theorists often
use the term trans while simultaneously ignoring and consequently
erasing the material and social conditions of transgendered people’s
lives. Namaste argues that when transgendered and transsexual peo-
ple are ‘reduced to merely figural: rhetorical tropes and discursive
levers invoked to talk about social relations of gender, nation, or
class’, there is a real possibility of rendering them invisible (2000:
52). Stryker et al. (2008) invoke the prefix ‘trans’, not as a move from
one fixed location to another, but as assemblage. ‘Transing’, they
write, ‘is a practice that takes place within, as well as across or
Springgay and Truman 13
between, gendered spaces. It is a practice that assembles gender into
contingent structures of association with other attributes of bodily
being, and that allows for their reassembly’ (2008: 13). Braidotti
(2006) proposes the concept of transpositions as transversal move-
ment. Transposition is not a weaving together but the play of differ-
ence within movement itself. Transpositions are non-linear and
nomadic and, as such, accountable and committed to a particular
ethics. Transpositions occur by ‘regulated disassociation’ of bonds
that normally maintain cohesiveness (2006: 5). Puar articulates trans,
following Deleuzian thought, as ‘an ontological force that impels
indeterminate movement rather than an identity that demands epis-
temological accountability’ (2015: 59). As Hayward and Weinstein
(2015) write, trans shifts the focus from a being or a thing, to inten-
sities and movement. Hayward and Gossett (2017), like many of the
scholars cited in this article, insist on a refusal of trans as a movement
of ‘this to a that’. Such an understanding of trans is about a linear
understanding of transition. Rather, trans, they argue, ‘repurposes,
displaces, renames, replicates, and intensifies terms, adding yet more
texture and the possibility of nearby-ness’ (2017: 21). Trans refutes
the nature–culture divide proliferating in non-human forms. More
importantly, Puar (2015) contends, trans includes the interventions
of critical race studies and postcoloniality in posthuman or more-
than-human conceptualizations of difference, where difference is not
between entities, but constituted through movement and affect: a
trans touching materiality. If the human is predicated on anti-
blackness, and slavery and settler colonization founded on animality
and flesh, then trans, as an undoing of animacy categories, fore-
grounds Black and Indigenous Studies (Hayward and Gossett,
2017). Abraham Weil (2017) writes that trans and Blackness are
always associated with animality. He argues that therefore it is not
an issue of one or the other, but their entangled linkages, or trans-
versality. Trans, for Weil, becomes a process of pollination and
murmuration, or what we call the viral later in this article.
Affective Labour
The sonic walk Walking to the Laundromat was first performed in
Sydney, Australia. Participants not only listened to the audio file,
they walked, and washed and folded clothes in a coin-operated public
14 Body & Society XX(X)
laundry, thereby generating the performance through their own bod-
ily labour. The mechanics of washing and folding are composed on
the audio file, so the actions become routine, conditioned by the
habits of domestic labour, the abject gendered body, and capitalism.
The sonic walk connects to other projects Conroy has initiated,
including an artist-run laundromat, which functions as an artist studio
space, a gallery or performance space, and a site that supports paid
labour for artists.
Labour is addressed in the sonic walk through the intersections of
reproductive labour, capitalism, and affective labour. Affective
labour refers to the relationship between emotion and work (Vora,
2017). Affective labour is performed in the service industry and by
maids, nannies, and sex workers. Affective labour produces com-
modities of care and comfort that are not physical objects but still
circulate and are consumed. Affective labour, which is often per-
formed by women and people of colour, is linked to exploitation.
Hochschild’s (2012) work on emotional labour is significant here.
Women, she contends, in the service of being kind and generous,
make emotional work into resources that are then made profitable by
patriarchy and capitalism. One example of affective or emotional
labour are the smiles that service workers must deploy, which add
value for their employers. The smile becomes the emotional product
that circulates (Flowers and Swan, 2015; Hochschild, 2012).
One of the ways that labour gets circumnavigated in walking
research is the reliance on two specific tropes: the flaˆneur and the
de´rive (drift). The flaˆneur emerged as a distinctive figure in early
19th-century Paris. He was portrayed as a disinterested, leisurely
observer (invariably male) of the urban scene, taking pleasure in
losing himself in the crowd and becoming a spectator. Countless
writers and walkers allude to the flaˆ neur as a methodology informing
their practices. The flaˆneur remains anonymous and detached from
the city and thus is supposedly able to observe the world around him.
The idealized flaˆneur is a problematic genealogy for walking meth-
odologies. In the 19th century it would have been impossible for a
woman to walk the streets in the manner of a flaˆneur. In fact, had a
woman taken up the same wandering she would have been marked as
licentious and immoral, and associated with the figure of the prosti-
tute – a ‘street walker’. The flaˆneur is both gendered and geographi-
cally marked.
Springgay and Truman 15
Throughout the 20th century, aesthetic and critical approaches
developed in tandem with the flaˆneur, including work by the Dadaists
and Situationists in France, and later with the psychogeographers in
Britain. One of the practices the Situationists developed was known
as the de´rive, a ‘drifting’ on foot through urban spaces that would in
turn produce alternative patterns of exploration and protest against
the alienation of life under modern capitalism.
Heddon and Turner contend that the history of walking research
engenders ‘an implicitly masculinist ideology. This frequently
frames and valorizes walking as individualist, heroic, epic and trans-
gressive’ (2012: 224). They remark that the legacy of the flaˆneur, the
Romantic poets, and naturalists was founded on the ideas of adven-
ture, danger, and the new. The walker is presumed to be uninflected
by gender and thus male, reinforcing the position of the autonomous
male walker who leaves behind everything in order to tap into the
wildness of place.
Walking to the Laundromat resists the tropes of the flaˆneur and the
de´rive, underscoring the labour, violence, and structures that enable
some bodies to walk more freely than others. In fact, we insist that
walking researchers need to stop returning to these tropes to under-
stand their work, and instead consider transmaterial walking prac-
tices. It is imperative that walking research resist reifying the flaˆneur
and the de´rive as methodological choices par excellence. The flaˆneur
and the de´rive are not inherently radical activities. This isn’t to
suggest that one can’t ever use or incorporate the de´rive practice,
but that researchers must start recognizing that walking is not always
a leisure activity and that particular bodies already labour over walk-
ing as work. Some bodies literally walk on foot for miles carrying
laundry, water, or other commodities. The often underpaid, dirty, and
invisible labour of doing laundry and care work is emphasized both
through Conroy’s audio track, but also in the labouring performance
enacted by the participants who are asked to walk and do their laun-
dry. On the audio track, we are instructed to think-with reproductive
labouring bodies and the structures that produce poor immigrant
bodies in the Global South that are exported to the Global North in
a chain of care jobs (Vora, 2017).
Walking to the Laudromat interrogates the ways that capitalism
and neoliberalism render some lives disposable, and critiques the
violence and whiteness of colonial sovereignty. The mindfulness
16 Body & Society XX(X)
soundtrack questions the ways in which mental illness and the inter-
nalization of labour impact productivity. Women’s bodies and labour
are foreground on the soundtrack and in the physical walk to and
from the laundromat. Washing clothes, for instance, is outsourced
labour that is shifted to racialized and poor bodies. These gendered
labouring bodies are perceived as excess matter, and as such function
as surplus value. The narrative is layered with ambient sounds like
water rushing, street noises, and the ding of a cash register. These
multiple layers create a haptic vibration that is enmeshed with the
sounds of the laundromat and the city where the walk takes place.
Like the previously discussed example by Gallagher (2015), and
Blackman’s (2012) work on the threshold, Conroy’s sonic walk
brings together sounds on the audio track with sounds of the physical
location of the walk. These two sonic realms are discordant, which
further unsettles the listener.
Hayward, writing about her methods of working with cup corals
and the interplay between vision and touch, invokes the term
‘fingeryeyes to articulate the in-between of encounter, a space of
movement, of potential: this haptic optic defines the overlay of sen-
soriums and the inter- and intrachange of sensations’ (2010: 581).
Hapticality, for Hayward, becomes a methodology that proposes
different practices of observation. It is the haptic that enabled her
to conceive of trans movement as tentacular. In the original Sydney
performance, walkers strolled along a busy commercial street in the
heat, the roar of cars mixed with the toxic smells of rotting garbage,
exhaust, and the pre-recorded sounds on the audio file. The voiceover
on the audio file states:
prepare your laundry detergent and reflect on the nitrogen infused
waters that will soon empty into the sea. Increasing the algae swarms
and killing plankton.
The walkers’ bodies become enmeshed in the smells of laundry
detergent, exhaust fumes, and the slippery green of seaweed.
Edelman’s (2014) research into ‘walking while trans’ underscores
how brown trans feminine bodies are constructed and articulated
through heteronationalistic understandings of a viable life. Brown
trans feminine bodies are marked simultaneously as dangerous and
in need of regulation: they are perceived as threats to social order
Springgay and Truman 17
because they are perceived as ‘sex workers’, and should therefore be
controlled, while at the same time rendered disposable and open to
attacks, which are often under-reported or erased by the very forces
that should protect them. Walking while trans cannot be explained
through the figure of the flaˆneur. Bodily labour – whether it’s laun-
dry, care work, or underpaid service work – ‘permits the healthy life
of some populations to necessitate the death of others, marked as
nature’s degenerate or unhealthy ones’ (Clough, 2008: 18). The per-
formance of doing laundry while walking and listening to the audio
track further emphasizes the hapticality of gendered labour and dis-
posable bodies. Public laundromats, unlike private and often ‘sani-
tary’ home washing facilities, emphasize the toxicity of laundry
detergents through the strong odours and the intensive hum of mul-
tiple machines. These affects stick to certain bodies – labouring
bodies, immigrant bodies, gendered bodies – rendering them smelly,
noisy, and toxic. Listening to Conroy’s sound track while doing
laundry transcorporeally connects these affects with amniotic fluids,
menstrual blood, and breast milk, bodily effluences that also stick to
some bodies and demarcate them as less that human (Springgay and
Freedman, 2010).
Transspecies and the Viral
Building on the concept of transcorporeality, we turn to Livingstone
and Puar (2011: 3), who summon the term ‘interspecies’ to refer to
‘relationships between different forms of biosocial life and their
political effects’, where the human can no longer be the dominant
subject of analysis. Referring to the body of literature within animal
studies that traces anthropocentrism, anthropomorphic projection,
incorporation and invasion, transmutation, and exotic alterity,
Livingstone and Puar (2011) write about the productive tensions
between the growing body of scholarship often called posthumanism
and what they refer to as inter or transspecies. They note that while
posthumanism seeks to ‘destabilize the centrality of human bodies
and their purported organic boundedness’, not all posthuman scholar-
ship attends to a posthuman politics in that it ‘unwittingly rein-
scribe[s] the centrality of human subject formation and, thus,
anthropomorphism’ (2011: 4). Consequently, the optimistic reading
of posthumanism proliferates another version of humanism where
18 Body & Society XX(X)
some bodies remain less than human. Inhumanism is exemplified in
the sonic walk as the extra-sensory sounds and smells of the laun-
dromat signal migratory crossings of domestic (illegal) labour. In
opposition to posthumanism, which they contend is grounded in
neoliberal Western European conceptualizations of subjectivity,
interspecies ‘offers a broader geopolitical understanding of how the
human/animal/plant triad is unstable and varies across time and
space’ (Livingstone and Puar, 2011: 5). Interspecies also departs
from privileged sites in posthuman work – the human and the animal
– or what Haraway calls companion species, to include
‘“incompanionate” pests, microscopic viruses, and commodified
plants – in other words, forms of life with which interspecies life
may not be so obvious or comfortable’ (Livingstone and Puar, 2011:
4). Inter or transspecies, then, is important for the ways it disrupts
what is considered animate or vital. The performance voice on the
audio file says:
I believe in me ...I am swimming in a sea of wealth ...and money
keeps flowing to me ...I am open to receiving money now ...Iam
brilliant ...I am open ...I am mentally willing to receive ...Iam
following my intuition ...
Transformation of salary to employee into human capital ...facili-
tated by contemporary management techniques: individua-
tion ...subjectification and exploitation ...
Capital Reaches Deep and Penetrates the Soul
In one instance, the audio file suggests an openness to neoliberalism,
echoing the techniques used in self-help audio books and by medita-
tion specialists. But other discordant sounds sweep in and the viral
penetration undoes these tidy, human-centric narratives. ‘Being
open’ becomes transspecially linked to exploitation and environmen-
tal degradation.
Colebrook (2015) introduces another trans concept – transitivity –
which emphasizes the linkages and intra-actions between entities.
Colebrook uses the term ‘transitive indifference’ to undo the
notion of difference ‘from’. For example, when a human is said to
be different from an animal, this continues to structure a binary or
an axis of difference. Indifference, for Colebrook, stresses the
Springgay and Truman 19
self-differentiating singularities of becoming. The audio track and
performance of walking and washing is an instantiation of transitive
indifference, if we consider the dirty laundry, washing machines,
water, labouring bodies, dirt, and money not as distinct and different
entities from one another, but that they create various flowing assem-
blages. These assemblages have vectors, speeds, rests, modes of
expression and desiring tonalities (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987).
Barad (2015) forms another reading of trans as a process of self-
touching animacy, regeneration, and re-creation. Drawing from stud-
ies in quantum field theory, Barad deconstructs the reductionist
ontology of classical physics and describes instead how indetermi-
nacy is entangled through all being. For Barad, matter operates agen-
tially, ‘where trans is not a matter of changing in time, from this to
that, but an undoing of “this” and “that,” an ongoing reconfiguring of
spacetimemattering’ (2015: 411). Trans unravels a reliance on dif-
ference that situates something as different from, which emphasizes a
fixity of one term over the other. Trans, for Barad, is about a ‘radical
undoing of “self,” or individualism’ (2015: 411). Trans, as we’re
building it in this article, emphasizes movement as flows, vectors,
and affective tonalities. Trans shifts the focus from a being or a thing
to intensities and movement.
Moulding the clothes into soppy bundles, participants listen to
audio compositions that connect laundry detergent to fish, to finance
capitalism and menstrual blood. As participants drop their coins into
the coin-operated machines, the performer’s voice links biopower to
forms of financialization that obscure material bodies and labour:
centuries of exploitation – recycled as a share economy that turns out
to not care at all – dirty female bodies violated in capital’s time – bio-
political context is a ground to investigate the relationship between
affect and value.
Say goodbye to your dirty deeds ...Let the great unwashed be
washed. Reflect on these outer layers were these underpants taken
off in a momentary lapse of reason? Did love enter your frontal
cortex?
However, rather than a kind of phenomenological reflection hap-
pening in the laundromat, as participants on the sonic walk are asked
to think about the larger networks of laundry, gendered labour, and
20 Body & Society XX(X)
exploitation, a trans understanding emerges through the sonic realm.
This is created by the narrative track, the sounds on the audio file that
discordantly puncture the sound track, and the sounds and smell of
the actual laundromat where the performance is taking place. This
trans thinking is non-linear and non-metric.
Although she does not evoke the prefix trans, Blackman’s (2012)
work on mediation and affect underscores rhythm’s transmutation, as
gaps are created between relational connections and affective inten-
sities. Walking to the Laundromat operates at this threshold. Enacting
transmateriality the sonic walk asks questions about a more-than-
human conceptualization of embodiment. Colebrook argues that the
limit of a humanist conceptualization of embodiment is that it
excludes that which is ‘in a form of rampant and unbounded muta-
tion’ (2014: 136). For example, she notes that a virus cannot be
defined as ‘embodied’ because it is not a living system: it exists only
as a parasite. Viral life is a ‘process of invasion, influx and (to a great
extent) non-relation’ (Colebrook, 2014: 136). Similar arguments are
made by Chen (2012), who argues that the taxonomy of animacy
continues to render some bodies as more alive than others. For
Colebrook, an understanding of humanistic embodiment does not
move us towards an ethics of the future. She speculates on how to
re-think embodiment in such a way as to consider inorganic potenti-
alities, a kind of trans viral politics where there’s no self-defining
body, only mutant encounters.
Walking to the Laundromat enacts a virality of mutation through
intensities of affect – sounds, vibrations, and repeated rhythms – and
by thinking transmaterially across different bodies and spaces. The
audio walk demonstrates how humanist critiques of capitalism are
inadequate to the task of explaining the history of exploitation or the
consequences of neoliberalism. As Puar (2013: 41) notes, virality
underscores the ‘multiplication and proliferation of difference, of
making difference and proliferating creative differentiation: becom-
ing otherwise of difference’.
Puar (2013) notes that virality as ‘intensified speed’, most notably
that of the internet, ‘also refers to indiscriminant exchanges, often
linked with notions of bodily contamination, uncontainability,
unwelcome transgression of border and boundaries while pointing
more positively to the porosity, indeed the conviviality, of what has
been treated as opposed’ (2013: 42). The audio track emphasizes this
Springgay and Truman 21
bodily contamination – bodies leak, money is laundered, water bod-
ies are toxic, each penetrating the other. The voice on the audio track
hints at the impossibility of removing these contaminations. They are
permanent stains. The voiceover says emphatically:
Out, dammed spot!
Puar uses the idea of the viral to untether sexuality from identity and
hetero reproduction, and instead to think about sexuality ‘as assem-
blages of sensations, affects and forces’ (2013: 24). Hayward’s use of
the term ‘tranimal’ similarly reconfigures heteronormative sexuality
and reproduction. For Hayward, tranimal perverts embodiment that
relies on bounded and distinct entities to consider reproduction as
‘excess, profusion, surplus’ (2010: 590). Trans, for Hayward, like
many of the scholars we include in this article, is about a kind of viral
movement. This isn’t a movement from one point to another. Rather,
it replicates as difference. Regarding the viral, Puar and Clough
write: ‘In its replications, the virus does not remain the same, nor
does that which it confronts and transits through ...it is replication
without reproduction, without fidelity, without durability’ (2012:
14). In the viral, repetition is affective and affecting modulation. It
is speculative, activating potentiality and futurity through mutant
replication. While viruses operate parasitically and they penetrate a
host, they are not adjacent or simply touching a host, but alter and
stretch the host. The voice and sounds on the audio track are viral,
linking together neoliberalism, environmental degradation, rampant
individualism, and reproduction for profit:
Don’t think about all the well-known politicians, thugs, rapists, inter-
national businessmen getting away with the money laundering – it’s
just business as usual. Don’t think about the Great Barrier Reef,
hospitals under austerity measures.
Breathe. Gratitude.
I’m known for my positive energy and abundant lifestyle ...money
flows freely and abundantly into my life ...I love having a prosperous
career ...I’m surrounded by people who are eager to contribute to
my abundance ...
Women’s labouring bodies are made to disappear. Birthing labour –
giving birth to bodies that are transformed into human capital.
22 Body & Society XX(X)
Financialization. Promise of salvation lies in the return in investment
– get out more than what we put in!
In shifting from embodied theories that perpetuate a coherent
sense of subjectivity, trans theories insist on walking as ethical and
political. Transversing from trans as a movement from one place to
another, towards trans as a multiple morphology deprioritizes trans
as a product of culture. Thinking alongside transpeciation, Hird
(2006) argues that trans interrogates the idea that there is ever a
natural body – the one we are born with – which must also parallel
particular normative behaviours and desires. Trans, according to
Nurka, ‘radically reinvigorates posthumanism as a decentering exer-
cise, in which the human vis-a-vis nature is repositioned in terms of
fluid relationality’ (Nurka, 2015: 220; see also Hird, 2006).
Feminists have long argued that bodies’ capacities to think and act
are affected by the environments in which they move, or are pre-
vented from moving. Furthermore, biocapital insists that bodies are
never enough – healthy enough, wealthy enough, relaxed enough –
and thus are ‘always in a debilitated state in relation to what one’s
bodily capacity is imagined to be’ (Puar, 2009: 167). Walking to the
Laundromat instantiates this. Participants hear and then enact similar
actions:
Women’s bodies the most flexible, bendable, prone.
Mould clothes into shape of a small human put it in dryer (furnace).
As Puar states, while poor health prevents some bodies from hav-
ing the capacity to labour, other bodies are offered or made available
for injury precisely because they are expendable in order to ‘sustain
capitalist narratives of progress’ (2009: 168). Cycling back through
our load of laundry, the bodies of immigrant labour that operate coin
laundromats or work as domestic workers in private homes, often for
long hours and for inadequate pay, are disposable labour because
they are never fully human. The voiceover asks the participants to
‘separate and sort’, to become part of the ‘devastating tangle of
clothing’. The invisible labourers – in their shops, laundromats, and
restaurants – press on our soapy, soggy, pile of clothes. If washing
your clothes is part of a particular notion of what it means to have a
viable life, of maintaining a particular understanding of what it
Springgay and Truman 23
means to be human, Conroy’s transmaterial sound walk ruptures the
commonplace understandings we have with the sounds and smells of
clean laundry. The discordant sounds on the audio file, the loud drone
of the industrial washing machines, the toxic smells of too much
detergent, weighed upon the walkers an intensity that was not easily
dismissed.
Trans theories are invested in thinking about assemblages and viral
replication rather than heteronormative future-oriented reproduction.
Trans insists that the transitive state is not that some bodies matter
while others continue to perish. Rather, ‘what is reproduced is not the
human subject, identity, or body, but affective tendencies, ecologies
of sensation, and different ontologies that create new epistemologies
of affect’ (Puar, 2013: 43). Trans emphasizes movement and vectors.
Clean Garments: Create a Cloth Uterus
Embodiment has become synonymous with walking research.
Researchers attend to the corporeal and lived dimensions by which
a walker moves through space, considering the surfaces and textures
of the ground as part of the production of space. Qualitative research-
ers have found the link between walking and ethnographic work
important because walking interviews and other group walking prac-
tices shape a relational understanding of place. Moreover, hapticality
suggests an emplaced and immersed conceptualization of the moving
body. Sound also features widely in walking scholarship, from lis-
tening practices, to soundscapes, and sonic interventions. Attending
to and recording ambient sounds enables researchers and participants
to think-with the topology of place beyond visual and tactile dimen-
sions of walking. Composing audio tracks that assemble different
audio files that can then be replayed on subsequent walks enables
walkers to shift from a representation of place to an intensive, thresh-
old experience of the body in a sonic environment. It is here that
sonic walks like Walking to the Laundromat intervene into the land-
scape of walking research.
In our review of the literature on walking and sound, researchers
tend to privilege sounds sensed in the ‘natural’ landscape – such as
on hiking trails or in the countryside – or on the streets in cities. Less
often analysed are the sounds of labour and the relationship between
walking and work. This is in part because of the reliance on the
24 Body & Society XX(X)
flaˆneur as a way of understanding walking that is disconnected from
labour. The kinds of sounds one hears in public laundromats in
larger, densely packed, cities are quite different from the sound-
scapes in parks or other nature reserves. Further, the kinds of sounds
that are heard in gentrified urban spaces, such as hotel lobbies and
trendy clothing stores, are markedly different from the ones that
feature prominently in Conroy’s sonic walk. For example, corpo-
rations often market particular sound tracks that are played over
and over again as part of their branding. These sounds convey a
sense of orderliness and conviviality. An example could be the
sound track played in the lobby of the W Hotels worldwide. In
addition to a branded scent that greets visitors the minute they step
into the hotel, particular sounds (a compilation of easy music) are
used to suggest cleanliness, uniformity, and regulation. These are
directly linked to neoliberalism and White supremacy, where the
sounds, smells, and leakages of inhuman bodies are made to dis-
appear (Springgay, 2011). The laundromat, whether in the base-
ment of a large hotel, or a public facility on a street corner,
contradicts these sterilized sounds.
Walking to the Laundromat as a trans thinking-in-movement
emphasizes the underpaid, repetitive, and bodily labour of service
work. The project also intervenes into the comfortable ways that
walking is described as relational and convivial, recognizing that not
all bodies are able to move freely. Walking while trans, Edelman
(2014) contends, is a reminder of the ways that walking regulates,
violates, and criminalizes trans feminine bodies of colour. Service
work, in Edelman’s writing, extends the labouring body from laun-
dromats, to shops, to factories, and to sex work.
In bringing trans theories to bear on walking research we open
up and reconfigure different corporeal imaginaries, both human
and non-human, that are radically immanent and intensive: as an
assemblage of forces and flows that open bodies to helices and
transconnections. Trans activates a thinking-in-movement. By
conceptualizing walking methodologies as trans, we shift from
thinking of movement as transition (from one place to another)
or as transgression (that somehow walking is an alternative and
thereby empowering methodology) towards trans as transcorpor-
eal, transitive, transspecies, and as viral in order to activate the
ethico-political indifferentiation of movement. Trans activates new
Springgay and Truman 25
ways to talk about, write about, and do walking methodologies that
take account of viral, mutant replication, and recognize the intra-
active becomings of which we are a part.
Funding
Funding for this research is from the Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council (SSHRC), Canada.
Notes
1. See: www.walkinglab.org
2. Chen (2012) engages with trans theories in order to undo the animacy
hierarchy. Drawing on the work of Aristotle,Chen demonstrates how inhu-
man others are excluded from the taxonomies of vitality. According to
Aristotle, things that eat, reproduce, and grow can possess a soul. Humans
and then animals and then vegetables possess souls and are therefore
‘alive’, while entities like stone do not, and are therefore excluded from
the hierarchical chain (Springgay and Truman, 2016). Along with not being
alive, rocks are also not considered dead because to be dead assumes the
capacity for life. As inert, rocks are insensate, which, according to Chen
(2012: 4), is an ‘ontological dismissal’ of their vitality. Further, what
transspecies emphasizes is that the human and non-human entanglements
stretch beyond human and animal, or human and other entities already
considered forms of ‘life’ to include animacy of land, water, rocks, and
inhuman others that have traditionally be denied the category of life and the
human. Steinbock et al. (2017: 1) in their editorial introduction on Trani-
macies, write that trans ‘enmeshes ...transgender, animal, animacy, inti-
macy’. The frictional intimacies of trans undo animacy hierarchies.
3. Hapticality has been theorized across a range of disciplines, including
visual culture and geography. For instance, Marks (2000) writes about
haptic visuality to emphasize the ways that intercultural cinema engages
a viewer’s sense of touch, smell, and taste. Here she draws on the work
of Deleuze and Guattari (1987: 492) who write ‘“Haptic” is a better
word than “tactile” since it does not establish an opposition between two
sense organs but rather invites the assumption that the eye itself may
fulfill this nonoptical function.’ The haptic emphasizes the visceral
register of sense events. Affect studies similarly prioritizes corporeal,
pre-linguistic, and non-representational practices, asking questions
about what affect does. Focusing on pre-, post-, and trans-individual
bodily forces, and the capacities of bodies to act or be acted upon by
other bodies, the ‘affective turn’ signalled a means to theorize the social
26 Body & Society XX(X)
beyond the discursive (Seigworth and Gregg, 2010). Hapticality and
affect, we recognize, are not synonymous. This article lacks the space
to go into detail of the differences between sensory inquiry, hapticality,
and affect theory. For a further discussion of these, as they appear in
walking research, see Springgay and Truman (forthcoming).
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Stephanie Springgay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Cur-
riculum, Teaching, and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in
Education, University of Toronto. She is a leader in research-creation
methodologies, with a particular interest in theories of matter, movement
and affect. With Sarah E. Truman she co-directs WalkingLab. Her
research-creation projects are documented at: www.thepedagogicalimpul
se.com, www.walkinglab.org, and www.artistsoupkitchen.com. She has
published widely in academic journals and is the co-editor of M/othering
a Bodied Curriculum: Emplacement, Desire, Affect; co-editor of Curricu-
lum and the Cultural Body; and author of Body Knowledge and Curricu-
lum: Pedagogies of Touch in Youth and Visual Culture. She and Sarah E.
Truman are co-authors of Walking Methodologies in a More-than-human
World.
Sarah E. Truman is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Manchester Metropolitan
University’s Education and Social Research Institute, funded by the Social
Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada. Her research focuses
on reading and writing speculative fiction in high schools. She also con-
ducts ongoing research on walking methodologies and public pedagogy,
and co-directs WalkingLab with Stephanie Springgay. Sarah’s research is
informed by the feminist new materialisms with a particular interest in
theories of affect, queer theory, and speculative pragmatism. Sarah is co-
editor of Pedagogical Matters: New Materialism and Curriculum Studies
and author of Searching for Guan Yin. Her research is detailed at: www.sar-
ahetruman.com and www.walkinglab.org
32 Body & Society XX(X)
... As a result, many scholars have explored a variety of sensory, material, and auditory intensities that reach into the potential of ontology and discernments that are beyond representation (MacLure, 2013;Truman & Springgay, 2015;Vannini, 2015). The embodied nature of walking is immediate and affords an awareness of the bodily experience of moving that defies knowledge categorization yet is, in the act of moving, knowledge in the making (Ingold, 2004(Ingold, , 2010Springgay & Truman, 2017). As walking researchers walk, actual or virtual, they become more and more aware of the body in relation to the surfaces of particular place and in so doing, particularized understandings of place emerge (Pink et al., 2010). ...
Chapter
This book brings together visual arts educators working on an international research project titled Mapping A/r/tography: Transnational Storytelling Across Historical and Cultural Routes of Significance. Emphasizing a collaboratory model (Muff, 2014) that fuses concepts of collaboration and laboratory, the project underscores how a/r/tography facilitates participatory, collaborative, and cooperative knowledge creation and mobilization. Each chapter is located in a collaboratory in a particular location.
... As a result, many scholars have explored a variety of sensory, material, and auditory intensities that reach into the potential of ontology and discernments that are beyond representation (MacLure, 2013;Truman & Springgay, 2015;Vannini, 2015). The embodied nature of walking is immediate and affords an awareness of the bodily experience of moving that defies knowledge categorization yet is, in the act of moving, knowledge in the making (Ingold, 2004(Ingold, , 2010Springgay & Truman, 2017). As walking researchers walk, actual or virtual, they become more and more aware of the body in relation to the surfaces of particular place and in so doing, particularized understandings of place emerge (Pink et al., 2010). ...
Chapter
This collaborative research chapter is based on a retreat of an a/r/tographic walking study group at The University of British Columbia. In an unfolding commitment to unsettle our collective walking and writing practice, we trouble everyday ways of working together. This includes centering Indigenous scholarship in our reading practice, and shifting the intention of our walk and creative propositions to a conceptual framing that addresses time, place and making. The reading, walk, a/r/tographic fieldnotes, subsequent making practice and writing took unexpected turns and led to a variation on themes as well as group art sharing and the creation of small art-books. We continue to story the day’s events as we retrace our steps and write with the artefacts made in encounter and unfolding (idio)synchronistic tracings. In our process, we propose propositions from which we may learn to see from the points of view of other people. In an a/r/tographic reflection we share our unique perspectives of the experience in a return to the scholarship that informs our walk and making practices.
... As a result, many scholars have explored a variety of sensory, material, and auditory intensities that reach into the potential of ontology and discernments that are beyond representation (MacLure, 2013;Truman & Springgay, 2015;Vannini, 2015). The embodied nature of walking is immediate and affords an awareness of the bodily experience of moving that defies knowledge categorization yet is, in the act of moving, knowledge in the making (Ingold, 2004(Ingold, , 2010Springgay & Truman, 2017). As walking researchers walk, actual or virtual, they become more and more aware of the body in relation to the surfaces of particular place and in so doing, particularized understandings of place emerge (Pink et al., 2010). ...
... Walking methodologies include a range of methods such as walking interviews, walking with video, walking tours, and mapping practices (Bailliard, 2015a;Springgay & Truman, 2017). Each of these focus on "vital, sensory, material, and ephemeral intensities beyond the logics of representation" (Springgay & Truman, 2017, p. 28). ...
Chapter
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Published histories of design notoriously draw upon examples from Europe and more recently the United States. Over the last ten years working through this canon, we have attempted to weave New Zealand histories and themes into courses in order to help contextualise the ideas, values and concepts of Aotearoa New Zealand for our learners. This chapter begins by drawing upon a conference paper first presented to design educators in Europe in 2015 1 in which Caroline McCaw examined the history of landscape images brought from Britain in the nineteenth century and reproduced in the processes of settler colonisation in early New Zealand. We expand on this by considering the role that contemporary designers have played in reproducing those images both within and outside of tourist narratives. We reveal the political lens of the coloniser and the shadow it has cast in the ways we present ourselves and our landscapes through marketing strategies incorporating graphic design and photography. We then reflect on critical challenges to these traditional depictions of New Zealand landscapes employed in contemporary graphic design. New Zealand – once remote, distant and living under the colonial shadow of Europe – is changing, and we argue that the way designers visualise our landscapes needs to change too. We identify contemporary design examples of old and new narratives, and examine
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Teacher turnover and retention is a global challenge. It appears that in times of teacher shortages, policymakers often focus on recruitment. Yet, it could be argued that focussing on retaining experienced teachers not only addresses teacher shortages but provides additional benefits to the teachers, their students, and the teaching profession. The aim of this interpretive case study was to investigate the views of experienced primary school teachers. Twelve teachers, who had taught in English primary schools for more than five years, participated in walking interviews. The research looked at the areas where teachers want to feel supported by the culture of the school, created by the leadership team.
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Re-evaluating dominant cultural narratives around dying and death is central to new critiques of individualism and human exceptionalism. As conceptual tools for theorizing the end of the individual proliferate, the affective dimensions of this project are often overlooked, especially as they pertain to individual subjects. In contrast, a significant number of iconic queer and feminist thinkers have suffered breast cancer and written memoirs representing the subjective experience of confronting mortality. This article identifies the affective orientations towards one’s own mortality as missing from queer and feminist thinking on embodiment in the Anthropocene. As a remedy, the article reads several iconic feminist breast cancer memoirs – Sontag, Lorde, Sedgwick, Jain and Boyer – for their complex representations of affect, in particular fear, in relation to dying and death. Using the affect theory of Silvan Tomkins, this analysis contributes to critiques of cancer culture in medical humanities and of mortality and embodiment in feminist environmental humanities.
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Walking as an artistic and participatory practice is re-emerging in various disciplines, including its intersections with social science and humanities research methods and methodologies (see walkinglab. org). Some of this interest stems from the fact that walking can be an embodied and sensory way of enacting research. In this chapter we discuss how walking as research also begs the question of the “how of research”; we speculate on how rather than simply a mode of moving from place to place, walking engenders what Alfred North Whitehead (1978) refers to as propositions. We use the concept of propositions to examine the productive potential of walking research within two artist groups: a community arts walking practice in Canada organized by the Hamilton Perambulatory Unit (HPU), and a contemporary art walking project in the United Kingdom facilitated by Barbara Steveni, founder of the former art collective the Artist Placement Group (APG). When walking is understood as a proposition, subjects are not given to experiencing movement, space, walking, etc. in any pre-determined or already realized way. Walking becomes stripped of its own assumptions.
Book
As a research methodology, walking has a diverse and extensive history in the social sciences and humanities, underscoring its value for conducting research that is situated, relational, and material. Building on the importance of place, sensory inquiry, embodiment, and rhythm within walking research, this book offers four new concepts for walking methodologies that are accountable to an ethics and politics of the more-than-human: Land and geos, affect, transmaterial and movement. The book carefully considers the more-than-human dimensions of walking methodologies by engaging with feminist new materialisms, posthumanisms, affect theory, trans and queer theory, Indigenous theories, and critical race and disability scholarship. These more-than-human theories rub frictionally against the history of walking scholarship and offer crucial insights into the potential of walking as a qualitative research methodology in a more-than-human world. Theoretically innovative, the book is grounded in examples of walking research by WalkingLab, an international research network on walking (www.walkinglab.org). The book is rich in scope, engaging with a wide range of walking methods and forms including: long walks on hiking trails, geological walks, sensory walks, sonic art walks, processions, orienteering races, protest and activist walks, walking tours, dérives, peripatetic mapping, school-based walking projects, and propositional walks. The chapters draw on WalkingLab’s research-creation events to examine walking in relation to settler colonialism, affective labour, transspecies, participation, racial geographies and counter-cartographies, youth literacy, environmental education, and collaborative writing. The book outlines how more-than-human theories can influence and shape walking methodologies and provokes a critical mode of walking-with that engenders solidarity, accountability, and response-ability. This volume will appeal to graduate students, artists, and academics and researchers who are interested in Education, Cultural Studies, Queer Studies, Affect Studies, Geography, Anthropology, and (Post)Qualitative Research Methods.