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Geographies of Sweat

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Cultural Geography Specialty Group
Organizers: Weiqiang Lin
Chairs: Weiqiang Lin


As a biological-corporeal response, sweat may seem like an ordinary activation of the body’s eccrine glands to produce thermoregulation. Yet, despite its prevalence, geographical research has paid very little attention to this phenomenon. This is notwithstanding fact that people’s vocabularies—at least in English—are replete with idioms of sweat and sweating: from “don’t sweat the small stuff” to “giving my blood, sweat and tears” to “I’m sweating like a pig”. These linguistic turns not only suggest the commonness of sweat as a point of relation in everyday life, but more crucially alludes to the deeply cultural ways in which societies make sense of the world through sweat.

As one of a few exceptions focusing on this subject, Gordon Waitt (2014: 667) argues that sweat “occupies an intimate place in our lives”. For him, sweat is a particularly integral part of “the tensions and possibilities of the spatiality of subjectivity” (ibid), able to conjure up complex assemblages of physiological, psychological and sociological affects that go on to inscribe meaning in humanly relations (see also Johnson and Longhurst, 2010). On another register, scholars of architecture have also tangentially referred to sweat as the antithesis of comfort—a form of dirt and an unsightly deposition on the skin—that legitimizes particular forms of artificial environments, not least air-conditioned ones (Hitchings and Lee, 2008). In mobilities studies, sweat is furthermore used loosely as a shorthand for (unwanted) corporeal or physical effort, an aversion that is becoming more pronounced in a time of “active mobility” (Bahrami and Rigal, 2017).


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Introduction Weiqiang Lin National University of Singapore 1 12:00 AM
Presenter JULIE ARCHAMBAULT*, , Fitness and the changing geographies of sweat in urban Mozambique: an anthropological perspective 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Rachel Carrico*, University of Florida, “If You Lean on the Wall, It’s Wet:’ Sweat, Dance, and Place in 1970s New Orleans” 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Elspeth Oppermann*, Ludwig Maximilians Universität, The disciplinary biopolitics of sweat: scaling the slippery slope between environment and employment 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Weiqiang Lin*, National University of Singapore, Sweatless Diplomacy: Labour and the Affective Atmospheres of Aviation Geopolitics 14 12:00 AM
Discussant James Ash Newcastle University 15 12:00 AM

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