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Research-Creation Walking Methodologies and an Unsettling of Time

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Abstract

This article examines two walking events that explore questions of sovereignty, borders, histories, and time through strategies of speculation, counter-cartographies, and anarchiving practices. To the Landless by Dylan Miner and Miss Canadiana’s Heritage and Cultural Walking Tour: The Grange by Camille Turner ask us to imagine a past, present, and future that are radically different from ongoing settler colonialism and White supremacy. Stepping ‘out of time’ has important implications for the kinds of research-creation events it germinates. Chronological time is so pervasive and powerful that we as qualitative researchers are often caught up in its neoliberal progress narrative. Walking with scholars and artists who refuse time’s organization and the fixing or preservation of state narratives disrupts colonial legibility and the repeated imposition of the normative order. Unsettling time becomes a model for research and education that are outside colonial, neoliberal, and dominant ideologies. To unsettle something is to open it up to possibility.
Research-Creation Walking Methodologies
and an Unsettling of Time
Stephanie Springgay and Sarah E. Truman
Abstract This article examines two walking events that explore questions
of sovereignty, borders, histories, and time through strategies of speculation,
counter-cartographies, and anarchiving practices. To the Landless by
Dylan Miner and Miss Canadiana’s Heritage and Cultural Walking Tour:
The Grange by Camille Turner ask us to imagine a past, present, and future
that are radically different from ongoing settler colonialism and White
supremacy. Stepping ‘out of time’ has important implications for the kinds
of research-creation events it germinates. Chronological time is so pervasive
and powerful that we as qualitative researchers are often caught up in its
neoliberal progress narrative. Walking with scholars and artists who refuse
time’s organization and the fixing or preservation of state narratives disrupts
colonial legibility and the repeated imposition of the normative order.
Unsettling time becomes a model for research and education that are out-
side colonial, neoliberal, and dominant ideologies. To unsettle something is
to open it up to possibility.
Keywords: walking research, Indigenous knowledges, Black futurity, borders,
countercartography, time
Responding to Jonathan Wyatt’s call to participate in a plenary panel at the 2017
International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, we shared a number of research-
creation events organized by WalkingLab, which we codirect (Springgay &
Truman, 2017a, 2017b, 2017c). WalkingLab often works in collaboration with
other artists and scholars on research-creation projects, and the online hub
(www.walkinglab.org) archives these networked activities. Research-creation is the
interrelated practices of art, theory, and research (Truman & Springgay, 2016). As
a practice, the hyphenation of research-creation draws attention to the co-imbrication
and necessary rigour of both artistic practice and research methods (Manning &
International Review of Qualitative Research, Vol. 12, No. 1, Spring 2019, pp. 85–93.
ISSN 1940-8447, eISSN 1940-8455. ©2019 International Ins titute for Qualitative Research,
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. All rights reserved. Request permission to photocopy or
reproduce article content at the University of California Press’s Reprints and Permissions web page,
https://www.ucpress.edu/journals/reprints-permissions. DOI: htt ps://doi.org/10.1525/irqr.2019.12.1.85. 85
Massumi, 2014). Research-creation events activated at WalkingLab invoke a ‘queer
temporality’ through disrupting normative space-time delineations (Truman &
Shannon, 2018, p. 62).
The research-creation events discussed in this article explore questions of
sovereignty, borders, histories, and time through strategies of speculation, counter-
cartographies, and anarchiving practices (Springgay & Truman, 2018). We draw from
walking events that ask us to imagine a past, present, and future that are radically
different from ongoing settler colonialism and White supremacy. Wyatt’s proposal
was to consider how our work responds to or has changed since the ‘rise of the right’.
However, our contention is that there is no ‘rise’. White supremacy and settler
colonization have formed the foundation of most modern nation states, and in
particular Canada. This is reflected in the ‘Canada 150’ celebrations in 2017 that
celebrated violence, genocide, and the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous peoples.
One hundred fifty years marks the formation of settler colonies into the Cana-
dian Confederation under the British North America Act of 1867. Critics of the
‘Canada 150’ national celebrations contend that this Euro-Western time-frame fails
to account for the millennia that Indigenous peoples have been living on the land
now named Canada and the ways that Confederacy confiscated lands, territories, and
resources. Dominant celebratory narratives reflected in the official ‘Canada 150’
rhetoric reinforce the entanglement of settler colonialism and anti-blackness. These
narratives describe Canada as a country committed to multiculturalism and benev-
olence, a nation that welcomes racialized others. This logic of goodwill, Katherine
McKittrick (2007) argues, ‘conceals and/or skews colonial practices, Aboriginal gen-
ocides and struggles, and Canada’s implication in transatlantic slavery, racism, and
racial intolerance’ (p. 98). The production of Canada as a White state is indebted to
the erasure of Blackness and Indigeneity.
The research-creation walking events that we focus on in this article are exam-
ined in more detail in our book Walking Methodologies in a More-Than-Human
World: WalkingLab (Springgay & Truman, 2018). For this special issue, we consider
how research-creation walking events can unsettle colonial temporalities and how
artistic research can participate in the processes and practices of decolonization.
Decolonization
Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang (2012) assert that decolonization is not a metaphor.
Metaphor, they argue, re-centres whiteness and maintains settler futures. Decoloni-
zation, they contend, risks replicating colonial dispossession, particularly when it
86 STEPHANIE SPRINGGAY, SARAH E. TRUMAN
provides a measure of emotional relief to settlers and aims to produce a cooperative
Indigenous subject. Tuck and Yang define settler moves to innocence as
those strategies or positionings that attempt to relieve the settler of feelings of
guilt or responsibility without giving up land or power or privilege, without
having to change much at all. In fact, settler scholars may gain professional
kudos or a boost in their reputations for being so sensitive or self-aware. (p. 10)
Decolonization, they contend, requires the repatriation of Indigenous Land and life.
Dylan Miner (2016) states that the problem with decolonization is its transition from
a verb into a noun. As a noun, or a thing, decolonization shifts from an active practice
or a way of life to a knowable and ownable thing. David Garneau (2013) makes similar
claims, stating that decolonization may in fact re-inscribe colonization. Decoloniza-
tion will never be possible if it resembles colonization.
Recognizing that Land plays a central role in decolonization, Cheyanne Turions
(2016) maintains that cultural forms and practices can also make significant con-
tributions to decolonization. Turions argues that art can play an important role in
undoing structures of dispossession through affective and discursive political ges-
tures that focus on land, mobility, and access. Writing about affect and its relation to
cultural decolonization, Garneau (2013) discusses the extra-rational potential of art.
He writes:
Art is the site of intolerable research, the laboratory of odd ideas, of sensual and
intuitive study, and of production that exceeds the boundaries of conventional
disciplines, protocols and imaginaries. ...It can be a way for the marginalized,
refused, and repressed to return. (p. 16)
Dylan Robinson and Keavy Martin (2016) use the term aesthetic action to
describe art works that have social and political impacts that are ‘felt’ (p. 2). Recog-
nizing the Euro-Western history of aesthetics that has disavowed Indigenous art,
Robinson and Martin find the affective, sensory, and bodily experiences of art to be
a powerful means by which to address reconciliation. Aesthetic action is more than
just political content in a work, it is also the affective dimensions that displace
normative and hegemonic structures. Jarrett Martineau and Eric Ritskes (2014) con-
tend that decolonial aesthetics are a break from the humanist rational ideal of indi-
vidualism and instead are grounded in collective practices which imagine a different
world or perform, as Sylvia Wynter asserts, ‘a rewriting of our present now globally
institutionalized order of knowledge’ (Wynter & McKittrick, 2015, p. 18).
RESEARCH-CREATION WALKING METHODOLOGIES 87
Further, decolonial aesthetics do not simply insert artwork by Indigenous, Black,
queer, and trans artists into an already existing art canon or structure but become
strategies for dismantling settler colonialism and White supremacy, including the
ways that dispossession has excluded artists from mainstream art institutions.
However, for art to have a role in decolonization, it must be ‘Indigenous-led and
self-determined with non-Indigenous allies playing a supporting role, not the other
way around’ (Gray, 2017, p. 16). As queer White settler artists and researchers, we
recognize these tensions. Our interest at WalkingLab has been to work collabora-
tively with Black, Indigenous, queer, trans, and people of colour artists to develop
research-creation methodologies that unsettle structural racism and White
supremacy in the academy.
One of the ways that artists create spaces for decolonization is by unsettling time
and temporality. Time plays a central role in how we think about endurance, rhythm,
movement, relationality, collectivity, disruption, and futurity. Chronological or linear
time segments and orders the past, present, and future. Here time is sequential and
progressive. Time determines the ways that we live, work, and produce. It is an
instrument of power dictating the rhythm and flow of life. This is the ‘Canada 150’
time that converts historical asymmetries of power into seemingly ordinary tempos
and rhythms. Narratives of progress and change normalize time and organize the
value and meaning of time according to Euro-Western settler logics. Indigenous
time, what occurred prior to 150 years of settler colonization, becomes unthought,
vanished, and erased. Further, the racialization of geological or stratified time,
Kathryn Yusoff (2017) argues, is figured in the production of Blackness as an exclu-
sion. Humanity, she asserts, is racially constituted and how this is inscripted in time
reinforces global divisions.
Using walking as a method of inquiry, Dylan Miner and Camille Turner’s
research-creation events disrupt such linear, progressive models of time. Time,
in their two projects, To the Landless and Miss Canadiana’s Heritage and Cultural
Walking Tour: The Grange, interrupts colonial continuity by reconfiguring and
restructuring temporality in multiple ways. In both projects, time is not recuper-
ated from the past into the present but is unhinged to create new trajectories of
resistance.
In the next section of the article, we describe these two research-creation events
very briefly. You will find a more robust analysis in relation to borders, remapping,
and anarchives in our Walking Methodologies book. In the final section of this article,
we discuss these research-creation events in relation to time.
88 STEPHANIE SPRINGGAY, SARAH E. TRUMAN
Walking Methodologies
To the Landless, by Me
´tis artist Dylan Miner, borrowed its title from words spoken by
anarchist Lucia Gonz´
ales Parsons (commonly known as Lucy Parsons) at the found-
ing convention of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). As a woman of
African, Mexican, and Indigenous ancestry, Parsons employed feminist intersec-
tional, anti-state, and anti-capitalist activism throughout her life. In her writing and
in her organizing, Parsons was often at odds with better-known anarchist Emma
Goldman. To the Landless asked people to join together on a walk through China-
town and Kensington Market in Toronto and pause in front of Goldman’s former
house on Spadina Avenue. During the walk, participants read from Goldman’s and
Parsons’ writings and imagined Parsons joining Goldman, who died in Toronto in
1940, for dinner near her house. Unable to separate history from the present and
future, Miner asked participants to walk with and converse with these two conten-
tious and important activists and thinkers. Conversations incited by the walk focused
on the politics of settler colonialism, capitalism, patriarchy, labour, and immigration.
Miss Canadiana’s Heritage and Cultural Walking Tour: The Grange by Camille
Turner is a walking tour that examined the Black history of Toronto mapped through
Afrofuturist hauntings and places. Miss Canadiana is Turner’s performance persona
who leads the walking tours. Miss Canadiana wears a red beauty pageant dress, a tiara,
and a pageant sash. The performance persona contradicts dominant Canadian myths
that Blackness is foreign and that Blackness is not a representative of national beauty.
Miss Canadiana’s Heritage and Cultural Walking Tour: The Grange exposed the
intra-connectedness and entanglement among slavery, racialized bodies, colonial
historical narratives, and land. The walk explored the complexities of slavery in
Canada between 1793, when the act to limit the importation of slaves was passed,
which enabled American slaves to cross into Canada and become free, and 1833,
when slavery was abolished.
On the walking tour, Miss Canadiana recounts various narratives and stories,
much like one would hear on a conventional historic walking tour. However, Miss
Canadiana tells stories of a host of characters from the Grange area in Toronto
(adjacent and interconnected to Kensington where Miner’s walk took place), includ-
ing Peggy Pompadour, a Black woman who was jailed in 1806 for resisting slavery. To
create the characters, Turner pieced together fragments that existed of Black history
in Toronto. Because there is very little ‘official’ documentation in the archives, alter-
native methods, including creating composite fictions, needed to be used. For
RESEARCH-CREATION WALKING METHODOLOGIES 89
example, to create the Peggy Pompadour character that walkers encounter on the
tour, Turner used the newspaper report of Peggy Pompadour running away, text
from her bill of sale, historical pictures and information on the jail, the living con-
ditions of the poor in the Grange area at the time, songs passed down from gener-
ation to generation, and snippets of conversations with contemporary Black residents
of the Grange neighbourhood. Using memory and affect, Turner combines elements
with science fiction and fantasy to reimagine a past that is not a past. A similar project
commissioned by WalkingLab, called BlackGrange, incorporates Afrofuturism, rit-
ual, and performance to counter chronological time (Springgay & Truman, in press).
Unsettling Time
Both Miner and Turner’s projects resist linear conceptualizations of time that
retrieve the past and unveil it in the present. Unhinging time in To the Landless,
Miner speculatively brings together Parsons and Goldman, along with the walking
participants, for a conversation in Toronto. This conversation brings together frag-
ments of archives, memories, oral stories, songs, marginal ephemera, and affects. The
walking-with conversation is situated in an imaginary space of shifting and inter-
locking temporalities, where disparate events, people, and ideas inform actions in the
past, present, and future simultaneously. Instead of excavating a history that was
buried in a past waiting to be revealed or recuperated, the walk was a strategy and site
of critical exchange about history, place, community, and activism. In-between the
anarchists’ writings of Parsons and Goldman that were read aloud and the walk
through the former garment district of Toronto emerges an indeterminate space-
time that intervenes and disrupts ongoing practices of settler colonization and cap-
italism. Time becomes outside itself, or in excess.
Zakiyyah Jackson (2016), writing about the affirmative politics of speculative
fiction, argues that writers and artists use speculation as an intervention into colonial
time. Time is destabilized and problematized, its codes and conventions, legibility,
and organization unsettled. Treva C. Ellison (2017) writes about time as being flex-
ible. Flexibility, Ellison writes, ‘focuses on process, practice, conjuring, tarrying,
cracking and hacking as ways of approaching Blackness and Black embodiment’
(p. 29).
Turner’s walking tours question the mechanisms that enable the ongoing erasure
of Blackness from the Canadian landscape. McKittrick (2007) states that while Ca-
nada’s mythology has been shaped by the idea of fugitive American slaves finding
freedom and refuge in Canada, Black feminism and Black resistance are ‘unexpected
90 STEPHANIE SPRINGGAY, SARAH E. TRUMAN
and concealed’ (p. 98). Black people arrived in Canada via multiple means, not just as
a passage into ‘freedom’, and as Turner’s walking tour makes explicitly clear, Canada
also legalized the enslavement of Black people.
Turner’s walking tour ‘refuses a unitary, linear, or nationalist celebratory story of
black pride and/or white/Canadian paternalism’ (McKittrick, 2007, p. 107). The
persona of Miss Canadiana, Peggy Pompadour’s story, and the sites visited on the
walking tour become departure points for the unsettling of time that the walking tour
enacts. In composing the character Peggy Pompadour and creating a ‘new’ oral
history of her life – a speculative one – Turner’s research-creation resists revictimiz-
ing and commodifying Peggy’s story. In shaping the past as a past that is not com-
pleted and one that stretches infinitely into a different future, Turner’s walk refuses
a colonized understanding of time. Centering Blackness, Turner’s walks disrupt
linear and progressive conceptualizations of time. If ‘the past that is not the past
appears in the present’, then Turner’s walks remap Black worlds and futures. Walk-
ing with Miss Canadiana and Peggy Pompadour, Emma Goldman, and Lucy Parsons
asks how these figures and those who walk with them are co-composed in the past,
present, and speculative future. Time becomes out of joint.
Jonathan Wyatt’s provocation asked us as qualitative researchers and educators
to consider how in the current political moment our practices are responding,
becoming response-able to, and potentially changing. For WalkingLab, stepping ‘out
of time’ has important implications for the kinds of research-creation events that it
germinates. Chronological time is so pervasive and powerful that we as qualitative
researchers are often caught up in its neoliberal progress narrative. Working-with,
walking-with, and thinking-with scholars and artists who refuse time’s organization
and the fixing or preservation of state narratives disrupt colonial legibility and the
repeated imposition of the normative order. Unsettling time become models for
research and education that are outside colonial, neoliberal, and dominant ideolo-
gies. To unsettle something is to open it up to possibility.
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About the Authors
Stephanie Springgay is an associate professor at the University of Toronto. She is a leader in
research-creation, 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.thepedagogicalimpulse.com, www.walkinglab.org, and www.artistsoupkitchen.com.
92 STEPHANIE SPRINGGAY, SARAH E. TRUMAN
Stephanie has published widely in academic journals and is the co-editor of M/othering
a Bodied Curriculum: Emplacement, Desire, Affect; coeditor of Curriculum and the Cultural
Body; and author of Body Knowledge and Curriculum: Pedagogies of Touch in Youth and
Visual Culture.
Sarah E. Truman is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Melbourne, where she
researches English literary education with a specific focus on QT & BIPOC speculative
fiction. Truman is co-author of Walking Methodologies in More-than-Human World: Walk-
ingLab (Routledge, 2018); co-editor of Pedagogical Matters: New Materialism and Curric-
ulum Studies (Peter Lang, 2016). She co-directs WalkingLab and is one half of the
electronic music duo Oblique Curiosities. www.sarahetruman.com
RESEARCH-CREATION WALKING METHODOLOGIES 93
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This paper contributes to work on the social life of time. It focuses on how time is doubled; produced by, and productive of, the relations and processes it operates through. In particular, it explores the methodological implications of this conception of time for how social scientists may study the doubledness of time. It draws on an allied move within the social sciences to see methods as themselves doubled, as both emerging from and constitutive of the social worlds that they seek to understand. We detail our own very different methodological experiments with studying the social life of time in London, engaging interactive documentary to elucidate nonlinear imaginaries of space-time in London’s pop-up culture (Ella Harris) and encountering time on a series of walks along a particular stretch of road in south east London (Beckie Coleman). While clearly different projects in terms of their content, ambition and scope, in bringing these projects together, we show the ability of our methods to grasp and perform from multiple angles and scales what Sharma (2014) calls ‘temporal architectures’. Temporal architectures, composed of elements including the built environment, commodities, services, technologies and labour, are infrastructures that enable social rhythms and temporal logics and that can entail a politicized valuing of the time of certain groups over others. We aim to contribute to an expanded and enriched conceptualisation of methods for exploring time, considering what our studies might offer to work on the doubled social life of time and methods, and highlighting in particular their implications for an engagement with a politics of time and temporality.
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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.
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Old Futures traverses the history of imagined futures from the 1890s to the 2010s, interweaving speculative visions of gender, race, and sexuality from literature, film, and digital media. Centering works by women, queers, and people of color that are marginalized within most accounts of the genre, the book offers a new perspective on speculative fiction studies while reframing established theories of queer temporality by arguing that futures imagined in the past offer new ways to queer the present. Imagined futures have been central to the creation and maintenance of imperial domination and technological modernity; Old Futures rewrites the history of the future by gathering together works that counter such narratives even as they are part of them. Lothian explores how queer possibilities are constructed and deconstructed through extrapolative projections and affective engagements with alternative temporalities. The book is structured in three parts, each addressing one convergence of political economy, theoretical framework, and narrative form that has given rise to a formation of speculative futurity. Six main chapters focus on white feminist utopias and dystopias of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; on Afrofuturist narratives that turn the dehumanization of black lives into feminist and queer visions of transformation; on futuristic landscapes in queer speculative cinema; and on fan creators’ digital interventions into televised futures. Two shorter chapters, named “Wormholes” in homage to the science fiction trope of a time-space distortion that connects distant locations, highlight current resonances of the old futures under discussion.
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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.
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An inquiry into onto-epistemology, this essay investigates the reciprocal production of aesthesis and empiricism, both the seemingly scientific and the perceptual knowledge that signifies otherwise under conditions of imperial Western humanism. In a reading of Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring (1998), I argue that as an enabling condition of imperial Western humanism, the black mater(nal) is foreclosed by the dialectics of hegemonic common sense and that the anxieties stimulated by related signifiers, such as the black(ened) maternal image, voice, and lifeworld, allude to the latent symbolic-material capacities of the black mater(nal), as mater, as matter, to destabilize or even rupture the reigning order of representation that grounds the thought-world relation. In other words, the specter of the black mater(nal)—that is, nonrepresentability—haunts the terms and operations tasked with adjudicating the thought-world correlate or the proper perception of “the world” such as hierarchical distinctions between reality and illusion, Reason and its absence, subject and object, science and fiction, and speculation and realism, which turn on attendant aporias pertaining to immanence and transcendence. Exploring the mind-body-social nexus in Hopkinson’s fiction, I contend that in Brown Girl vertigo is evoked as both a symptom and a metaphor of inhabiting a reality discredited (a blackened reality) that is at once the experience of the carceral and the apprehension of a radically redistributed sensorium. I argue the black mater(nal) holds the potential to transform the terms of reality and feeling, therefore rewriting the conditions of possibility of the empirical.