Walking Research-Creation: QTBIPOC Temporalities and World Makings

by: & Sarah E. Truman , May 16, 2019

© Camille Turner, BlackGrange, 2018. Walking Performance. Photo by Anise Truman

This article pivots on three public walking research-creation events curated by WalkingLab [www.walkinglab.org]. WalkingLab is a queer, feminist collaboration co-directed by Stephanie Springgay and Sarah E. Truman. WalkingLab organises International walking projects and collaborates with artists and scholars to realise a number of site-specific walking research-creation events that complicate and rupture the White-cis-hetero-ableist-patriarchal canon of walking scholarship (Springgay & Truman 2018). The three events discussed in the paper disrupt chronological time through queer and trans theories of time, Afrofuturism, and Indigenous futurism and consider time as intensive and inventive. Further, the three walking research-creation events invoke a situated ethics that is accountable to feminist situated knowledges (Haraway 1988), and queer, trans, Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (QTBIPOC) subjectivities and worlds. Our intent is not to analyse the walking events in a traditional interpretive fashion, nor to explicate how audiences experienced the walks, but to consider the ways that these three project enact different (as in non humanist-centric) temporalities. It is our discussions on time as queer, relational, and felt that grounds this paper in ongoing feminist research and the feminist new materialisms.

Normative conceptualisations of time are linear, chronological, and tethered to capitalism and progress. Progressive time is equated with humanist notions of freedom, rationality, peace, equality, and prosperity. This progressive time privileges particular versions of humanity, where certain bodies and subjects are always rendered out of time. Elizabeth Freeman (2010) names this normative value of time chrononormativity. Chrononormativity includes a teleological unfolding of events such as birth, marriage, death and also the everyday regulations of watches, calendars, and schedules. Chrononormativity enables some bodies and events to be perceived as historically significant, while others are erased or forgotten. Accordingly, QTBIPOC people have continuously been excluded from official timelines or archives. As Camille Turner, states, Black subjects are not only erased in official state narratives, ‘when they do appear in archives they appear not as humans, but as property’ (Turner 2018).

Our contribution to this special issue on Feminist New Materialisms is to consider time as affective, and open to a future otherwise. In contrast to chronos time that is ordered and sequential, we are interested in time that vectors and seeps, and that is imbued with feeling. In this queering of affective time, Jaclyn Pryor states the ‘past, present, and future are given permission to touch one another’ (2017: 3). This touching is what Astrida Neimanis would call time’s thickness, where time is something more than quantifiable and measurable. Rather than the ‘yardstick approach’ to measuring time, which is a ‘temporal rendition of a flat ontology’ (Neimanis 2015: np), the thickness of time is entangled, transcorporeal, and material. Erin Manning writes that quantifiable time is measured from the outside, or after the event. The thickness of time, or what she calls ‘event-time’ ‘is the feltness of experience in the making’ (2013: 79). This feltness matters as a result of unpredictable interactions of infinite tendencies (Springgay 2018).

We situate our walking research-creation in conversation with feminist new materialisms, critical posthumanisms, and more-than-human scholarship that articulate an entangled, or in the words of Stacy Alaimo (2016) ‘transcorporeal’ conception of the world.[1] Further, we find resonance with feminist new materialist scholars who argue that in some uses of new materialisms, there is a propensity to flatten ontologies so that all matter appears equal (Truman 2019). As Peta Hinton and Iris van der Tuin (2015) highlight, there is a tendency to assume that if all matter is vital, it is inherently political, as if politics were everywhere. Similarly, Celia Åsberg, Katrin Thiele, and Iris van der Tuin (2015) argue that queer feminist political agency have been eclipsed in some new materialist scholarship. For example, we were once asked in a conference session if there was a fire would the chairs in the conference room be as important as the humans. The question, which was intended to provoke, in fact, points to the ways that Land extraction, settler violence, genocide and dispossession are imbricated in a metal chair, and as such, the chair already matters more than some bodies (Povinelli 2016). There has already been a deep burning fire that has decimated land and peoples.

Our intent with this paper is to open up frictional conversations with QTBIPOC scholarship and feminist new materialisms.[2] The first section of the paper contextualises our walking research-creation methodologies. Next, we take up two of the walking research-creation events that activate strategies of Afrofuturism, Indigenous futurism, anarchism, and speculation. They enact a time that is thick, entangled, and material. For example, BlackGrange re-maps erased histories of the Black Diaspora in Canada onto the city of Toronto using Afrofuturist storytelling and ritual; while To the Landless provokes an Indigenous understanding of spacetime as regional through speculative conversations between two historical feminist anarchists. BlackGrange and To the Landless take place on the ancestral lands of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River. We are grateful for the opportunity to carry out this work on Turtle Island, the present-day home to a diverse population of Indigenous and other peoples, and respect the continued connections with the past, present and future in forging anti-colonial relations with Indigenous and other peoples within Canada and beyond.

By way of a conclusion, we provoke queer and affective time, via a third walking research-creation event. Stone Walks Edinburgh: Queering Deep Time queers the notion of deep time as chronological and geological. We use the word queer in several senses: to refer to sexuality and gender identities; to rupture biologically determined notions of reproduction and progress narratives; and as a tool for defamiliarisation (Browne & Nash 2010; Clare 2001; Halberstam 2005). We also work against reducing queerness to a form of exceptionalism, and the inherent Whiteness and privilege of queer transgression (Mũnoz 2010; Puar 2007).[3]

This paper brings into conversation feminist new materialisms with QTBIPOC scholarship, not as an inclusionary gesture, but to rupture the inhuman/human divide. To do this we frictionally read QTBIPOC scholarship alongside feminist new materialisms, and in particular attend to the ways that queer, Afrofuturist, and Indigenous temporalities counter the humanist project of chronononormativity. The walking research-creation events that we discuss are invested in situated ethics and knowledges and are responsive to feminist and QTBIPOC subjectivities and world-makings.


Walking Research-Creation and Walking-With

The history and genealogy of walking studies is encumbered by the figures of the flâneur and the dérive: tropes, that Dee Heddon and Cathy Turner (2012) argue invoke a fraternity that is predicated on autonomy, ability, Whiteness, masculinity, and as such a capacity to walk anywhere detached from the immediate surroundings. Garnette Cadogan in his essay ‘Walking While Black’ and subsequent interview, speaks to the ways that racism and privilege foreclose the possibilities that walking offers. Walking in urban spaces, he contends, means one has to constantly ‘negotiat[e] oppressions’ (Cadogan 2016: np).

WalkingLab has generated more than 50 research-creation events that intervene into the rhetoric and consumption of walking studies as inherently innovative, embodied, and convivial. WalkingLab approaches walking as a practice of walking-with, informed by queer, feminist, Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour theories, and frictional engagements with new materialisms and posthumanisms. Walking research-creation insists that walking open up transmaterial relations between human and nonhuman entities, become accountable to Indigenous knowledges and sovereignty to Land, consider the geosocial formations of the more-than-human, prioritise affective subjectivities, and emphasise movement that is not about moving from one point to another but about the endless proliferation of absolute movement.

Research-creation can be described as ‘the complex intersection of art, theory, and research’ (Truman & Springgay 2015: 152). It is an experimental practice that is transdisciplinary and propositional, and distinguished from the pervasive term arts-based research (Truman & Springgay 2016). Research-creation moves away from procedural driven methods that assume that data can be mined or collected.

Springgay’s research has developed leading research-creation methods, including extensive work with contemporary artists and curators who locate their work in the wider ‘pedagogical turn’ (Rotas & Springgay 2014; Springgay 2008; 2011; 2013a; 2013b; 2014; 2015; 2016a; 2016b; Truman & Springgay 2015; Zaliwska & Springgay 2015; Springgay 2018), while Truman’s research-creation projects have focused on creative writing, intertextualities, and music (Truman 2016a; Truman 2016b; Truman & Shannon, 2018). Together, we have been mobilising research-creation methods that are accountable to speculative middles and (in)tensions (see Springgay & Truman 2017a). Speculative middles insist that methods are not procedural or pre-determined (e.g. chronological) but open to temporalities that are thick, felt, and in and of the event. (In)tensions refer to the ethical and political response-abilities that we bring to research questions, research practices, and to the communities we do research with.

Walking research-creation is accountable to an ethics and politics of walking-with. Our practice of walking-with is informed by Indigenous scholars Juanita Sundburg (2014), Bonnie Freeman (2015) and Jon Johnson (2015), who articulate with as a ‘more-than’ orientation. Withness is not simply about group walking practices, but rather emphasises complicated relations and entanglements with humans, non-humans, and Land, and an ethics of situatedness, solidarity, and resistance. For example, Ananda Marin and Megan Bang (2018) write that walking methodologies have always been embedded in Indigenous ways of knowing, as a practice of storying Land, and offer different ontological and relational ways of being with the land and more-than-human life. Walking-with emphasises relations, but not simply a relationality between walkers, but rather a transmaterial entanglement between human, inhuman, and nonhuman.

Walking-with is also connected to a feminist politics of citation (Ahmed 2013), where citation extends beyond academic references to the pervasive figure of the flâneur (Springgay & Truman 2017b). When walking scholars draw on the flâneur as ‘the’ history of walking and as a method for doing walking research and/or pedagogy, they unwittingly re-centre a quintessentially Humanist Euro-Western Whiteness, masculinity, ability, and social class. Walking-with is a deliberate strategy of unlearning, unsettling and queering walking. Walking-with demands a critical engagement with situated knowledges (Haraway 2016; TallBear 2017), an ethics of transcorporeal relations (Alaimo 2016; Springgay & Truman 2017b; Tuck & McKenzie 2015) and a queering of heteronormative progress time (Halberstam 2011; Springgay & Truman 2019).

WalkingLab’s walking research-creation is attentive to gender, sexuality, race, disability, and Indigeneity to contest, complicate and expose universal constructions of the human/inhuman divide (e.g. Alaimo 2016; Chen 2012; Colebrook 2014; Haraway 2016; Giffney & Hird 2008/2016; Puar 2012; Yusoff 2017). As educational researchers we similarly enter into conversations with our colleagues in educational research, who articulate the importance of unpacking racial ontologies of posthuman pedagogy and research methodologies, and attend to the socio-political dimensions of posthuman scholarship (e.g. Braidotti, Bozalek, Zembylas, & Schefer 2018; Dixon-Roman 2016, 2017; Rosiek 2015; Snaza & Sonu 2016).


Afrofuturist Openings of the Archive

Sylvia Wynter’s (2003) work has been significant for scholars who want to think about a critical posthumanism through her explication of genres of man. Challenging a universal and exclusionary category of the Human, or what she refers to as the current order of ‘Man,’ which is represented by a White Euro-Western able-bodied cis-heteronormative subject, Wynter argues for a situated understanding of the human that is always multiple and always emerging. Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, writing about the whiteness of posthuman theory, argues, that if Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) have never been included in Humanism, or ‘in time,’ then the posthuman project of de-centering humanism ‘sidestepped the analytical challenges posed by the categories of race, colonialism, and slavery’ (2013: 671). Kathryn Yusoff (2017) similarly argues that post-Anthropocentric discussions, in assuming a ‘we’ of humanity, continues the spatial and temporal dislocation of others. Posthumanism, when used as a monolithic application, or to repair the human-centred Anthropocene, has re-inscribed humanity as a universal category.

Further, where new materialist and posthuman scholarship acknowledges BIPOC ontologies, it does so at the risk of what Kim TallBear (2017) contends is a false equivalency that continues cultural appropriation, the erasure of BIPOC epistemologies and ontologies, and reinscribes settler futurities (Tuck & Gaztambide-Fernandez 2013). Tiffany Lethabo King argues that in replicating and reinforcing settler colonisation [4] and the subjugation of the other, posthumanism ‘reproduce[s] Black death’ (2017: 166). Tavia Nyong’o writes that we must be aware of how race is linked to and ‘conditions the possibilities of life at or below the threshold of the human’ (2015: 252). Dana Luciano and Mel Chen (2015) offer similar concerns, arguing that any conceptualisation of human is always marked with an outside. Dehumanisation creates the conditions by which Humanism flourishes. BIPOC, queer, trans and disabled bodies have never been afforded the category of the human. In another example, Alison Kafer (2013) discusses how the human/nonhuman distinction assumes an able-bodiedness of the human. Kafer unpacks how disability has always been positioned as unnatural, and as such is something to be overcome in order to become fully ‘human.’

Drawing on the work of Wynter, Jackson (2015) contends that the aim for people of colour is not to gain admittance into the order of Man, that they have always been excluded from, but to ‘displace the order of Man altogether’ (2015: 672). This means re-thinking new materialisms and posthumanisms, not as a politics of inclusion or a de-centring for those enslaved or colonised under liberal humanist ideals, but as a strategy of transforming the very notion of White supremacy that humanism relies on.

Camille Turner’s WalkingLab project BlackGrange enacts a strategy to disrupt White supremacy and humanist logics. Canada has amnesia or what Turner calls a ‘racial innocence,’ about its history of, and participation in, slavery (Turner 2018). Slavery is assumed to have taken place elsewhere, and Canadians have become complicit in forgetting the past. This is reflected, Turner asserts, in the archives, where Black history is either absent or unsorted and mis-filed. As Cheryl Thompson (2018) states, despite the presence of archival material, Black voices are still absent in the archives and dominant narratives of the nation. 

BlackGrange is a walking tour that re-thinks and re-imagines the present by illuminating histories of the African Diaspora in Toronto’s Grange neighbourhood. BlackGrange intervenes in the logic of official archives: archives that falsely describe Canada as a country committed to multiculturalism and benevolence. The dominant narrative of Blackness presents Canada as a safe place that welcomes racialised others. This logic of goodwill, Katherine McKittrick argues, ‘conceals and/or skews colonial practices, Aboriginal genocides and struggles, and Canada’s implication in transatlantic slavery, racism, and racial intolerance’ (2007: 98). The production of Canada as a White state is indebted to the erasure of Blackness.

BlackGrange not only re-maps this erased and forgotten history onto the Canadian landscape, but it also questions the mechanisms that enable this ongoing erasure. McKittrick states that while Canada’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 and concealed’ (2007: 92). 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 legalised the enslavement of Black people. Turner reminds us that ‘eleven of the twenty-five founding fathers were slave owners; in fact, they were allowed to bring slaves here duty free!’ (Turner 2018).

Blending archival material, Afrofuturism, and performance, Turner pieced together fragments that existed of Black history in Toronto, with speculative fiction, performance, meditation, ritual gestures, and song. Afrofuturism and speculative fiction envision an alternative world or future, where time, space, bodies, and behaviours are defamiliarised, ruptured, or expanded. [5] The walking tour exists as both an online self-guided tour using google maps and as a one-time live performance led by Turner and a group of collaborative performers. At various stops along the route, Turner read stories that blended archival information with speculative Afrofuturist narratives. Each stop on the walking tour was a significant place for Black History in Toronto, such as the First Baptist Church. This church was founded by travellers of the Underground Railroad, who were excluded from the city’s white churches. For most of the stops on the tour, the history of the people and place are not publicly visible. Only one place is marked with a very small plaque and as such much of this history remains erased. In addition to the archival and speculative storytelling, the walking tour used ritual – such as song, water ablutions, and the offering of fruit and flowers – as ways to move the erased narratives from being locked into a victim narrative and to conceptualise Afrofuturist temporality as open to a radically different future. 

BlackGrange resists a reading of Black history exclusively as violent or traumatic. The walking event imagines a fictional time traveller who travels back in time, while simultaneously affirming a future where the archive is open, and where Black bodies are not silenced or property. Entangling fact and fiction in a futurepresent, Turner’s walk becomes an intensive force that ‘unhinge[s] existing temporal schemes and complexif[ies] already existing regimes of time as power’ (Parikka, 2017: 5). Turner’s walking-with enacts an Afrofuturism that disrupts the idea that the future will supersede the past. Time in Afrofuturism vectors and haunts, insisting on the presence of the past in a future to come (Womack 2013). As Delphi Carstens states, Afrofuturism as a ‘future-oriented politics, ethics and pedagogy’ is imbued with vibration, intensity, affect, and the uncanny (2018: 75). If QTBIPOC futurity is incomensurable with chronos time, then queer, Afrofuturist temporalities become strategies for unsettling and refusing the temporal continuum of colonial development.


Camille Turner, BlackGrange, 2018. Walking Performance. Photo by Anise Truman


Walking-with as Spatiotemporal Visiting

Endemic within posthumanisms is a move to draw on Euro-Western theories that centre nonrepresentationalism, reject the subject, and entangle human and nonhumans in relations. This often results in sidestepping ongoing power dynamics such as transatlantic slavery, genocide, and dispossession of Land (Yusoff 2017). Scholars like Sara Ahmed (2013) have argued for the necessity of a politics of citation that attends to BIPOC worlds. However, both Ahmed and King assert for more than the inclusion of BIPOC in a reference list. As King states, we ‘need to consider on whose back or through whose blood a theory developed and then circulated while hiding its own violence’ (2017: 170).

In fact, one of the critiques of neoliberalism in the academy is that ‘good’ critical theory simply inserts QTBIPOC into well-known theories such as Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘rhizome’ rather than contesting the ways that such concepts ‘become epistemic entities’ with perceived emancipatory implications (King 2017: 174). For example, King (2017) states that Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of ‘lines of flight,’ a term ubiquitous in poststructural and posthuman thought, appeals to a colonial spatial vocabulary. We quote at length here from King who writes:

Even the ‘line of flight’ establishes a linear/nonlinear structural opposition that demarcates the ‘order’ of the invisible white ‘self ‘ in opposition to the ‘chaotic’ realm of the dead Indigenous and Black ‘nonbeing.’ The line in all of its Deleuzian and Guattarian ‘molar, molecular, and nomadic’ iterations is a humanist geospatial and epistemic configuration. The molar lines that make smooth space do so through the clearing of Indigenous peoples (clear to smooth) to produce a colonial grid of order. (2017: 175)

For Leigh Patel, the logic of inclusion and equity ‘seem dismally insufficient’ to address settler colonialism’s ‘specific needs for differential locations of vulnerability, erasure, and dehumanisation’ (2016: 89). Patel argues that diversity and inclusion are used to avoid and circumnavigate White supremacy and the systems and structures that produce and maintain it. To be included fails to account for the system that is designed to exclude, and as such inclusionary logics do little to change the structures of inclusion/exclusion, but reinforce an inside and outside. Inclusion celebrates being included in a structure that is always already White, patriarchal, and heteronormative.

In terms of walking scholarship, and feminist new materialisms, the idea is not to include QTBIPOC work (art or research) into a space/structure that has always excluded them, but to trouble the problem of Whiteness, and cisheteronormativity. One of the ways WalkingLab has engaged with this critique is through an interrogation of time and place, concepts that frequently appear in walking research. Spatiotemporality is ubiquitous within walking research, where scholars account for the varied ways that walking makes place. However, rarely is the specificity of place accounted for, and in particular, the ways that place-making produces ongoing settler futurity and does not account for dispossession, genocide, and transatlantic slavery (Tuck & McKenzie 2015).

For example, Eve Tuck and Ruben Gaztambide-Fernández (2013) argue that concepts like ‘emplacement’ which is pervasive in walking scholarship, erase Black and Indigenous lives, and maintain settler futurity. Tuck and McKenzie (2015) contend that when qualitative researchers write about place, it typically describes the site where research takes place or appears as a more immersive investigation of place-based education/research. The problem, they argue, is that in both accounts, place remains committed to settler futurity and does not take into consideration Indigenous knowledges and legal sovereignty of Land. Bonnie Freedman argues Land cannot simply be substituted for Euro-Western posthuman ecologies, rather ‘Land relationships,’ she writes, ‘are the basis of understanding clans and political structures … [and are] rooted in place, territory, and ecology’ (2015: 72). Therefore, it’s not just a matter of engaging with ‘new’ posthuman concepts, but that we problematize our concept of concepts!

Vanessa Watts (2013) cogently unravels the ways that posthuman and Indigenous scholars understand place and time differently. While feminist science and technology studies’ scholars and feminist environmental scholars articulate human and non-human entanglement, intra-action, and transcorporeality where agency becomes distributed, there remains, Watts argues, a Euro-Western privileging of human agency or distinctiveness. Using dirt as an example that appears in both posthuman thinking and Indigenous cosmologies, Watts outlines the difference in their understandings. For Indigenous cosmologies (which is not the same as Euro-western ontology) dirt – Land – is spirit. She writes ‘if we think of agency as being tied to spirit and spirit exists in all things, then all things possess agency…and all human events are referenced to land, or with land in mind’ (2013: 30). Land, as such, is never property and is never place, where place is distinguishable from humans and nonhumans. Watts notes the challenges of Indigenous ‘ontologies’ within western thought systems. She writes:

When an Indigenous cosmology is translated through a Euro-Western process, it necessitates a distinction between place and thought. The result of this distinction is a colonised interpretation of both place and thought, where land is simply dirt and thought is only possessed by humans. (2013: 32)

Drawing a false equivalency between Euro-western onto-epistemologies and Indigenous cosmologies enacts further colonial violence in that colonisation, according to Watts ‘is not solely an attack on peoples and lands; rather, this attack is accomplished in part through purposeful and ignorant misrepresentations of Indigenous cosmologies’ (2013: 22). However, to complicate this further, Kim TallBear states that to insist that Indigenous knowledges and Euro-Western thought are mutually-exclusive continues the bifurcation of particular forms of thought and reinforces Euro-Western dominance. TallBear presses for relations and affinities that interrogate ‘the complexity of genealogy, settler colonialism, and land-based relations’ (see Spady 2017: 91).

Zoe Todd adds another layer to these discussions, arguing that ‘ontology is just another word for colonisation’ (2016: 4). When nonindigenous scholars realise that all phenomena are vital and have agency, they are further exploiting Indigenous peoples. Todd argues that for Indigenous peoples, it isn’t simply the idea that all things are animate, but that vitality is about ‘legal orders, legal orders through which Indigenous peoples throughout the world are fighting for self-determination, sovereignty’ (Todd 2016: 18). Following Todd, we insist that new materialist orientations towards animacy must take into consideration not only Indigenous worldviews but material legal struggles over matter and sovereignty.

Juanita Sundburg similarly argues that posthumanism actually works to ‘uphold Eurocentric knowledge’ (2014: 33) and is not accountable to complex knowledge systems of the Indigenous Americas. While new materialist scholars engage in disrupting dualisms, these epistemological and ontological traditions ‘originated in European societies involved in colonisation, were globalised in and through colonial practices, and are currently given life in white supremacist settler societies’ (Sundburg 2014: 36). The ‘silence of location’ paired with ‘circumscribed references to Indigeneity’ continues the ongoing legacy of colonial violence (2014: 36). For the new materialisms to remain feminist and relevant, they must be accountable to colonisation, racial violence, and legal oppression of Indigenous peoples.

Wiisaakodewinini (Métis) artist and activist Dylan Miner’s WalkingLab event To the Landless: Visiting with Lucy and Emma was a speculative walking event in Toronto. Miner invited walkers to speculatively imagine walking-with and visiting-with Indigenous anarchist Lucy González Parsons (1853-1942) and her Jewish contemporary and rival Emma Goldman (1869-1940). On the walk, participants read from pamphlets created with Parson’s and Goldman’s writings. Pausing in front of Goldman’s former house in downtown Toronto, the walk brought these historical women’s anarchist writings and their radical critiques of capitalism, patriarchy, and the state into the futurepresent together.

Miner speaks about his social justice art practice as one that slows time, where what is of importance is visiting and reconnecting to Land. For Miner, the strategy of bringing together Parsons and Goldman speculatively on a walk stressed the importance of thinking differently about spacetime, and in particular the arbitrary United States and Canadian border, that does not reflect Indigenous regionalisms, migration patterns, and hunting practices. Miner names his practice as ‘a methodology of visiting.’ In slowing time on the walk, by stopping to read from the anarchist writings, to converse with each other, and to share space and time sitting in a park, the walking participants, the anarchists, and Elders who Miner acknowledged, all visited together. Visiting is about spending time together, sharing in conversation. The walk culminated in a group meal where we continued to visit and share stories, questions, and provocations for the futurepast. Miner thinks of visiting as being in collaboration with people who hold particular kinds of knowledge: in this case, contemporary and historic anarchists, walkers, and elders. The collective action of walking-with, reading and talking attended to the ways that Indigenous and settler peoples need to engage in ‘mutual care, to each other and to the land they share’ and to re-map and ‘re-learn’ new spatio-temporal practices (Hunt & Stevenson 2017: 386). Walking-with, as a spatio-temporal strategy of Indigenous futurity, counters ongoing settler fantasies of Indigenous disappearance.


Dylan Miner, To the Landless: Visiting with Lucy Parsons and Emma Goldman, 2017. Walking event. Photo by Sarah E. Truman.


Queering Time: Propositions for the Future

In this final section of this paper, in lieu of a conclusion, we offer another WalkingLab event as a proposition for the future. Stone Walks Edinburgh: Queering Deep Time was a queer walking tour [7] through the city of Edinburgh, which ruptured linear time through ‘pop-up lectures,’ performances, and artistic interventions. The concept of Deep time was developed by Scottish geologist James Hutton (1726-1797), and coined as a term by the American author John McPhee in 1981. In contrast to the eighteenth-century belief that the earth was only a few thousand years old, Hutton’s geological approach posited the earth’s age as billions of years. While such an understanding of time is reflected in many Indigenous cosmologies, for Euro-Western science, deep time was significant because it meant that the earth had a much vaster history than experienced by humans.

Out of deep time emerges the concept of the Anthropocene, a term used to denote the current geological age of human impact, although the genesis and dating of the epoch is contested. If the Anthropocene marks the time of human imbrication within the geologic, it simultaneously reinscribes Wynter’s order of ‘Man.’ Diana Leong (2016) argues that a spectre of Blackness haunts the Anthropocene. Similarly, Jackson (2013), Yusoff (2017), and Mirzoeff (2016) contend that current articulations of the Anthropocene ignore the implications of transatlantic slavery, imperial conquest, and settler colonisation. In the Anthropocene thesis, Blackness is excluded (Yusoff 2017). ‘A Black Anthropos,’ Yusoff argues, would recentre race, not as a corrective lens, but as an unsettling of how the Anthropocene is currently being narrated. Counter to the whitewashing of the Anthropocene via capitalism, new materialisms and posthumanisms need to account for colonial displacement through multiple origin stories and their complex intersections.

Heather Davis and Zoe Todd (2017) similarly critique the Eurocentric framing of the Anthropocene and suggest the date of 1610 and colonialism as its genesis, while also recognising the problem with any notion of an origin. They write:

By linking the Anthropocene with colonisation, it draws attention to the violence at its core, and calls for the consideration of Indigenous philosophies and processes of Indigenous self-governance as a necessary political corrective, alongside the self-determination of other communities and societies violently impacted by the white supremacist, colonial, and capitalist logic instantiated in the origins of the Anthropocene. (2017: 763)

On the walk, Rodrigo Hernandez-Gomez, wearing his ‘anti-colonial filtering goggles’, invited participants to consider Indigenous time: circular, ancestral, and situated. In The Meadows, a large public grassy park, the group paused to form a circle, and participate in Rodrigo’s project Seed Year, which draws on Nahua Indigenous concepts of Land and temporality. The circle referenced the three stones that surround the traditional Nahua kitchen fire. The stones support a comal, a circular metal plate on which tortillas are cooked. Seed Year calls for remembering all of our histories by hinting at the existence of a particular ‘time regime’ beginning from the year 1492, which is the year that Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean. Hernandez-Gomez gave each walker a bundle of paper cut-outs, each labelled with one of the 525 years between 1492 and 2018. Walkers were invited to invoke an ancestor to join them on the walk, and we moved together – as a mass, or a bundle – over The Meadows bringing all the years together. As opposed to a linear timeline, the group mass kept the years moving together and collectively.

The Queering Deep Time walk strategically provoked multiple and intensive feelings of time – none of which would normally be associated with a geologic, or scientific understanding of deep time. Rather the intent was to queer time, to enable its thickness, affect, and force. Rebecca Coleman writes that ‘affective temporality complicates or confuses linear temporality so that the future is not (only or so much) a distinct and/or far off temporality… but is (also) experienced and felt ‘in’ the present’ (2017: 527).

In a tongue-in-cheek critique of both the Anthropocene thesis and its concomitant neoliberalism, Toby Sharp and Baron Farquarson parodied gentrification schemes in the City of Edinburgh through an accelerationist [6] performance. Toby and Baron are the performance characters of queer scholars Heather McLean and Lou Dear that parody the White cis-heteronormative masculinity embodied by Ted Talks and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. As part of the walk, they led us through ‘Innov-reiki’ sessions, where participants learned strategies for re-directing their energies into more ‘resilient, creative, and market-friendly’ practices. Capitalising on accelerationist and market-driven urban planning, Toby and Baron’s three pop-up performances humorously interrogated the ways that creativity and the arts are harnessed for community re-development (gentrification), used in surveillance culture, and reproduce Whiteness under neoliberal progress time. Queering time, their performance created what Jaclyn Pryor (2017) calls a ‘time slip’, where normative conceptions of time fail. Toby and Baron’s performance subverts a futurism that legitimises the future as a continuation of the past through heteronormative reproduction. Such reproductive futurism is inextricably linked to the White cis-hetero-able continuity that presents itself as the only future. As Pryor states: ‘Straight time has worked as an instrument of settler colonisation, literally displacing indigenous, somatic, and cyclical ways of being in time and on the land’ (2017: 52).

Queering Deep Time, WalkingLab ‘evented’ a queer time, with multiple pop-up talks and performances from oblique angles. Two other talks included: David Farrier, read a short excerpt from his forthcoming book Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils, and discussed the deep earth nuclear storage facilities designed to remain secure for the next 100,000 years. And outside of the National Museum of Scotland, Al McGowan, a pavement palaeontologist, showed us fish fossils embedded in the sidewalk.

All of the talks and performances on the walk involved making the concept of deep time uncomfortable and strange. Writing about the feminist practice of re-writing, Helen Palmer notes that this performance requires a ‘making-strange…[as] an act of rewriting, refolding, and refleshing, which is at the same time an act of defamiliarisation’ (2016: 508). Here time becomes something felt as transmaterial queerings between bodies and worlds. Queering time ruptured the scale of deep time, where normative timelines and archives are conceived of as monumental. Queering time and the walking tour revealed the ways in which time is partial, mediated, and affective.

As a method, there’s nothing particularly innovative about walking tours. Walking tours are used around the world to disseminate local knowledge as well as to share hidden histories. Similarly, there’s nothing particularly innovative about walking – it’s a quotidian movement that many people use daily do navigate through cities. We argue that it’s not the method, but the (in)tensions that we bring to a practice that matters. (Truman & Springgay, 2019) As we discussed above (in)tensions invoke ethical and political matterings in the midst of ‘doing’ research. (In)tensions tune into and attend to not knowing and pose problems differently. If the intent of feminist new materialisms is to create a more situated, responsive, and ethical research practice and world makings, ‘then (in)tensions attend to the immersion, tension, friction, anxiety, strain, and quivering unease of doing research differently’ (Springgay & Truman 2018: 83). By queering temporalities, and attending to QTBIPOC subjectivities and world-makings, the three WalkingLab exemplifications we explore in this paper, open the archive, unsettle place and settler futurity, and disrupt the order of ‘Man’ in the Anthropocene.



[1] Transcorporeality posits humans and nonhumans 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 materialised in and through intra-action.

[2] Friction is a force that acts in the opposite direction to movement. It slows movement. Friction exists every time bodies come into contact with each other, like different strata grinding against one another. Writing about the intersection between assemblage theory and intersectionality, Jasbir Puar (2012) argues that the convergence of the two theoretical frameworks is neither reconcilable, nor oppositional, but frictional. Theoretical concepts need not be united or synthesised, but that it can be productive to hold concepts together in tension.

[3] For a more robust discussion of our use of queer, see Springgay & Truman, 2018.

[4] For a crucial discussion on the differences between settler colonisation and colonisation see Tuck and Yang, 2012. External colonialism denotes the extraction of resources from Indigenous worlds to build the wealth of the colonisers. Settler colonisation is the forcible removal of Indigenous peoples (genocide) and the complete occupation of land. Settler states involve the total appropriation of Indigenous life (eradiation of) rather than the selective extraction of land, people, or things for profit.

[5] We have gone into greater detail on the history of the archive and contemporary conceptualisation of counter-archives or the anarchive in two previous publications: Springgay & Truman, 2018; Springgay & Truman, 2017c; Truman, 2018.

[6] Accelerationism posits that if neoliberalism were fully expressed, it would exhaust itself and society would reset. As capitalism accelerates (which under neoliberalism is a good thing) particular bodies are extinguished, while those that are already privileged will continue in the same way.

[7] We explicate our Queer Walking Tours in detail in the paper ‘Queer Walking Tours and the affective contours of place, in Cultural Geographies’ (Truman & Springgay 2019). 


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