Walking as Transformative Scientific Practice

Authors: Chris Dunn*, University of Colorado
Topics: Cultural Ecology, Environmental Perception, Field Methods
Keywords: walking, embodiment, sense of place, science and technology studies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 4:55 PM / 6:10 PM
Room: Capitol Ballroom 4, Hyatt Regency, Fourth Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper considers the complex relationship between place, embodiment, and science. Some critics have pointed to the often-detached objectivity of science as contributing toward environmental degradation insofar as it lacks a substantive, intimate relationship with place and local ecologies. This is epitomized perhaps in remote sensing and related technologically-mediated scientific practices common in geography. Science, it is assumed, is a methodical form of inquiry whose aim is systematic knowledge production, with little relation to the feeling, embodied self. Utilizing insights from cultural geography and anthropology, as well as philosophy and literature, this presentation will consider walking as a practice of knowing and relating to the world, which can be an important corrective to scientific and technological mediation. It will explore the tension between the detached stance of objective science and the intimate, transformative encounters with place and landscape so integral to some forms of science and other varieties of knowing, such as indigenous knowledge or those founded on narrative or lyric. Questions such as: how integral is sense of place to science; how integral is walking and embodied encounter to place; and what is the relationship of science and scientific practice to personal transformation, will be addressed by considering the work and lives of hybrid-scientists like Alexander von Humboldt, Robin Kimmerer, H.D. Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Olaus and Adolph Murie; and philosophers such as Nietzsche, Rousseau, David Abram, John "Planetwalker" Francis, and Henry Bugbee, on the way toward an ethic of encounter and scientific practice.

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