A relational approach to walking: Methodology, metalanguage, and power relations

Publication Name

Geographical Research


To better understand walking practices and the power relations informing them, Mattias Kärrholm and colleagues argue for a relational methodology and metalanguage. In the process, they propose a threefold approach: (a) identify different walking assemblages; (b) investigate how diverse types of walking assemblage relate in series; and (c) study how certain objects can gather or bind series together and act as boundary objects. In this article, we explore the worth of that approach, drawing on research interviews held over 2015–16 with residents from Wollongong, Australia, during a period when their municipal government was implementing a walkable city strategy. Here, we analyse participants' conversations with us for what they reveal about walking types, walking assemblages, interseriality, objects of passage, and boundary objects—five terms used by Kärrholm et al. to interrogate urban walking. Our work suggests that participants are adept at gauging the constant transformations that characterise their walks. This narrative evaluative capacity is, perhaps paradoxically, both compelling and mundane and suggests that participants make sense of a range of meanings from complex social and spatial dynamics and do so in ways that highlight privilege and disadvantage in the city. These findings have wider relevance for those interested in walking and mobilities studies and methodologies.

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Australian Research Council



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