Experiments in becoming: corporeality, attunement and doing research

Alan Latham, Lauren B. Wagner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Human geography has become deeply interested in a range of research methods that focus on researchers' corporeal engagement with their research sites. This interest has opened up an exciting set of research horizons, energising the discipline in a whole range of ways. Welcoming this engagement, this paper presents a series of meditations on the process of using the researcher's corporeal learning as a research tool. Exploring two research projects, as well as the work of the photographer Nikki S Lee, it examines how the process of becoming corporeally capable might productively be framed as sets of ongoing experiments. Framing such engagements as experiments is a useful heuristic through which to think rigorously about what such research can claim as knowledge. More controversially, the paper argues that the heuristic of the experiment helps us to attend to the varying durations of becoming in ways that much existing work has discounted. Developing corporeal capacities - gaining a skill, becoming capable of doing a particular activity - involves becoming attuned to a range of thresholds, the crossing of which open up novel and frequently unexpected perspectives. Attunement to these thresholds does not arise simply through the process of mixing in and participating in a research site. It requires careful attention to the parameters of transformation involved in being able to participate. The paper explores how such parameters might be decided upon and calibrated as part of an ongoing engagement with a research site or event. Our aim is not to artificially restrict or constrain how human geographers approach their research design. Rather it is to encourage human geographers to show more courage in their use of corporeal based research methodologies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1474474020949550
Pages (from-to)91-108
Number of pages18
JournalCultural Geographies
Issue number1
Early online date1 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • becoming
  • duration
  • embodied learning
  • ethnography
  • experimentation
  • qualitative methods
  • temporality
  • thresholds

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