Celebrating the “Unruly” 1: Exploring Emancipatory Potential in Breaking with Societal Norms

Type: Virtual Paper
Sponsor Groups: Feminist Geographies Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM (PDT)
Room: Virtual 17
Organizers: Preston Welker, Alexandra Boesel
Chairs: Alexandra Boesel

Call for Submissions

In this session, we call for papers that reframe unruliness, transgressions, and entanglements to explore their potential for emancipatory politics. As a touchstone, we extend from feminist media studies the concept of “unruly women” (Rowe, 1990; see also Branfman, 2019; Peterson, 2017) understood as women who subvert oppressive tropes and societal demands of feminine behavior, roles, and bodies. From here we ask: what does it mean to be “unruly”? In what ways does unruliness disrupt or challenge forms of oppression and hegemonic narratives? How does unruliness or subversiveness rupture tokenistic conceptions and/or open up emancipatory socio-environmental imaginaries or digital and material spaces?

This session aims to facilitate conversations between more-than-human geographies, urban political ecology, and media studies to understand how critical and decolonizing scholarship might reframe “unruliness” to trouble hierarchies in the Capitalocene/Chthulucene/Anthropo-obScene.

We encourage submissions relating, but not limited, to:
- Approaching “unruliness” through feminist, queer, and critical race theory, Indigenous epistemologies, and/or southern urbanism
- Unruliness and Anthropo-obScenes or building alternative socio-environmental imaginaries (Ernstson & Swyngedouw, 2018; Kaika, 2018)
- Unruliness rupturing constructions of security (Collard, 2012)
- Making kin with the unruly or engagements with the Chthulucene (Haraway, 2016)
- Unruly representations and digital practices through new media (Elwood & Leszczynski, 2018)
- Unruly, subversive, or liberating ecologies
- Redefining of sociospatial boundaries through unruliness
- Unruliness in relation to COVID-19 or climate change

Key Literature:

Branfman, J. (2019). “Plow Him Like a Queen!”: Jewish Female Masculinity, Queer Glamor, and Racial Commentary in Broad City. Television & New Media. https://doi.org/10.1177/1527476419855688

Collard, R. C. (2012). Cougar-human entanglements and the biopolitical un/making of safe space. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 30(1), 23–42. https://doi.org/10.1068/d19110

Collard, R.C. (2013). Apocalypse Meow. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 24(1), 35-41. https://doi.org/10.1080/10455752.2012.75925

Cresswell, T. (1996). Introduction. Pages 3-27 in In place/out of place: geography, ideology, and transgression. University of Minnesota Press.

Elwood, S., & Leszczynski, A. (2018). Feminist digital geographies. Gender, Place, & Culture, 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2018.1465396

Ernstson, H., & Swyngedouw, E. (2018). Urban Political Ecology in the Anthropo-obscene: Interruptions and Possibilities. Routledge.

Haraway, D. J. (2016). Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press.

Kaika, M. (2018). Between the frog and the eagle: claiming a ‘Scholarship of Presence’ for the Anthropocene. European Planning Studies, 26:9, 1714-1727, DOI: 10.1080/09654313.2018.1484893

Kim, C. J. (2015). Dangerous Crossings: Race, Species, and Nature in a Multicultural Age. Cambridge University Press.

Petersen, A. H. (2017). Too fat, too slutty, too loud: The rise and reign of the unruly woman. Penguin.

Rowe, K. K. (1990). Roseanne: Unruly woman as domestic goddess. Screen, 31(4), 408–419. https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/31.4.408


Popular conceptions of “unruliness” have long legitimized the domination, colonization, and commodification of animals, humans, cultures, natures and spaces. Scholars in (urban) political ecology, more-than-human geographies, and media studies have leveraged an array of critical approaches to untangle how discourses of unruliness, transgression, and danger - often aggravated by late-capitalism and climate change - produce oppressive forms of governance and hierarchical power relations. These points of contact between the unruly and the ruler are often filled with strife: women face backlash for rupturing patriarchal rules or conceptions of femininity while wildlife, such as coyotes, are killed en-masse for transgressing sociospatial boundaries or simply being. Landscapes, rivers, animals and people are manipulated, evicted or mobilized in the Capitalocene for valorization, commodification, and accumulation imperatives. These processes are exacerbated by looming discourses of scarcity, crisis and fear that color narratives of our present (Collard, 2013) and simultaneously depoliticize controversy, leading some scholars to call for radical alternative socio-environmental imaginaries (Kaika 2018; Ernstson & Swyngedouw, 2018). While often framed in an oppressive light, critical geographic research examining “unruliness” as a potentially liberating force for the human and more-than-human is currently lacking.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Introduction Maria Kaika University of Manchester - Manchester 5 8:00 AM
Presenter Nadja Imhof*, Université de Lausanne, Rethinking urban nature through rats 15 8:05 AM
Presenter Sara Maxwell*, University of North Carolina, The Tuscaroras’ Unruly Machinations on the Periphery of the Settler State 15 8:20 AM
Presenter Cheryl Morse*, University of Vermont, T. Harlan Morehouse, University of Vermont, Unruliness in Research: Translating Across Boundaries with Dowsers, Geomancers and Academics 15 8:35 AM
Presenter Preston Welker*, University of Calgary, Reframing Unruly Natures: Graffiti Pier as an Alternative Imaginary for Urban Parks 15 8:50 AM
Discussant Maria Kaika University of Manchester - Manchester 10 9:05 AM

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