RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2013

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96 100+, Comforting Geographies (2): Negotiating comfortable bodies, processes and things.
Affiliation Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
Women and Geography Study Group
Convenor(s) Laura Price (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Danny McNally (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Chair(s) Danny McNally (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 28 August 2013, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Room Sir Alexander Fleming Building, Room 119
Session abstract Comfort is an ambivalent and highly complex term (Bissell, 2008). To be in one’s comfort zone is perceived to be conservative, and socially and culturally unadventurous. At the same time the embodied, material experience of ‘comfort’ is anticipated for satisfying experiences of everyday life. Geographers have engaged with the notion of comfort in a variety of contexts: migratory experience (Gorman-Murray, 2009); identity and resistance (Holliday, 1998); passenger comfort and discomfort (Bisell, 2008; Martin, 2011); the clothed body (Colls, 2005; Woodward, 2005); nighttime economies (Elridge et al, 2008); sociability in public space (Boyer, 2012) and thermal heat provision (Hitchings et al, 2011). David Bissell (2008) has argued that through cultural geographies, ‘comfort’ has often taken on gendered connotations, associating experiences of home, care and warmth with feminine experience and domesticity. Feminist geographers have been critical of the ‘comforting’ associations of home and femininity; highlighting home as negotiations of experiences, especially those that are unjust or negative that are concealed by deterministic associations of home as comforting (Brickell, 2011). This session on ‘comforting geographies’ seeks to explore the liminality of ‘comfort’. The geographical practices of making comfort in discomforting spaces; experiences of discomfort in ‘comforting spaces’ and the complicated experience of social and cultural and embodied, felt comfort. With this session we hope to move beyond discussion of just ‘another emotion’ (Pile, 2010), towards a politics of comfort that attends to the possibilities of this notion to make sense of the textures of everyday life – helping to better theorize the potential of ‘comforting geographies’ as a new frontier for social and cultural geography.
Linked Sessions 100+, Comforting Geographies (1): Comforting encounters, materialities, and care.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2013@rgs.org
Cultural geography at the thermal comfort frontiers: the shopping centre and the sports stadium
Russell Hitchings (University College London, UK)
This paper takes a cultural geography approach to ambient temperature control as an increasingly popular means of managing the degree to which changing climates and weather patterns are allowed to complicate the manner in which human activities are undertaken. It is positioned as in dialogue with the question of how best to achieve thermal comfort, the answer of which is understood as a situated negotiation between the ambient conditions professionals feel they should provide and those people want. Building on studies of thermal comfort in the home and the workplace, I consider two places which are arguably at the frontiers of ambient temperature control since, for different reasons, beliefs about the value of managing environmental conditions are finding new levels of support within both. Through UK projects focused on shopping centres and sports stadia, I discuss the different ideas that underpin ambient temperature management practices and how a cultural geography approach to thermal comfort in the different spaces of everyday life might help promote less energy intensive and more personally enjoyable ways of living.
Knitted spaces and the making of comforting geographies
Laura Price (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
This paper will explore the geographies of handicraft knitting, and mutually the ways geographies are knitted. Knitting and knitted objects are perceived as historically, sensually, and symbolically comforting (and caring). This association of knitting as a domestic, gendered practice reinforces its relation to home and home making. In this paper I will explore ways that contemporary knitting practice negotiates and contests these ‘comforting’ associating using examples of craftivism that deals with ‘uncomfortable’ bodily experiences; experience of collective knitting, participation and sociality in making and finally, artistic interventions that attempt to play with space, place and comfort through knitting. I argue that through engaging with craft and crafting, textured, woven and knitted geographies are brought to the fore with a complex politics of comfort.

“I sweated quite a bit today… But I was still comfortable”: Exploring different understandings and vernacular approaches to comfort in Australia.
Eliza de Vet (University of Wollongong, Australia)
Understanding the breadth of everyday ‘comfort’ is important in a climate of increasingly prevalent energy demanding comforting technologies. Research is continually demonstrating differing perceptions of comfort and how it has been achieved (Shove et al. 2008). A large portion of this research has focused on temperature or broader temporal trends (e.g. seasons) within a narrow range of domestic and public spaces. Temperate climates have also been the setting for most studies. This paper takes a broader approach, documenting experiences of comfort and discomfort in relation to day-to-day weather as well as seasonal changes. These experiences are examined as individuals move into and journey between a multitude of everyday spaces – the home, the garden, transport vehicles, the workplace and spaces of leisure, sport and sleep etc. Insights are draw from a broader ethnographic project that examines the role of everyday weather and seasons in Australia, and will focus on two study areas with different climate and cultural contexts – temperate Melbourne and tropical Darwin. This paper highlights how individuals within and between both study areas described comfort differently, and the variety of approaches that are used to sustain comfort or counteract discomfort. In observing individuals’ experiences of weather and seasons within different spaces, we are better placed to understand localised comfort expectations while identifying different and innovative approaches to achieving comfort sustainably. These differing comfort understandings and vernacular adaptation strategies need to be recognised, celebrated, and their continuation supported, in order to restrain the proliferation of energy demanding technologies.

Material discomfort: negotiating a new materialist methodology
Joanna Mann (University of Bristol, UK)
This paper speaks to the way in which the oscillations between comfort and discomfort have been experienced and negotiated during a research project. Interrogating the compositional nature of a more-than-human community economy built around craft practices has demonstrated that the immanence of discomfort (Bissell, 2008) is ever-present when partaking in qualitative empirical research. Seeking to understand how maker and craftefact become co-constituted through a sensual materialism has necessitated a move away from the bookish comfort zone of the office and into the homes, studios, and leisure spaces of local craftspeople. Past research has recognised the discomfort present in such situations, and indeed the value of exploiting the productive potential associated with reworking habits of thought and action. This paper similarly argues that, despite the difficulties associated with negotiating the nexus between discomfort and comfort, it is precisely here that new geographical frontiers can come into being.An investigation into contemporary craft practices, however, has brought to light a previous neglect of the inextricable entanglement of materials and materiality in giving rise to these experiences. By drawing upon new materialist literatures, then, this paper will unpack the vital role of materials in negotiating the relationships of comfort and discomfort in empirical research methods.
Physical Exercise, Bodies, and 5-a-side Football: on playing with comfort
Andrew Barnfield (University College London, UK)
Physical exercise is characterised by the oscillation between affective states (Gil, 2006; Massumi, 2002; McCormack, 2008). Such oscillation includes the blending of comfort with discomfort. The aim of this paper is to offer an exploration of how practices of physical exercise and fitness are bound within the generative pulse of certain affective states, and how these affective states are organised through the enacting of particular spatialities of physical exertion (Latham, forthcoming). This paper attends to the sense making techniques and practises of the exercising body via recreational 5-a-side football. Adult participation in football has continued to grow, with 2,184,600 playing at least once a week with over half playing at urban soccer centres (Sport England, 2012). Such sites are managed centres with facilities including pitches, training amenities, club houses, and are used by a wide range of groups with organised leagues, published results, and refereed matches. This paper will examine physical exercise through two short vignettes the first, is the historical development of 5-a-side football, and the second, an account of playing a 5-a-side match. 5-a-side football is not simply the movement of bodies. It is also the movement of atmospheres, minds, and thoughts. It is the generative oscillation of comfort and discomfort, moving the body in all manner of ways.