Accepted paper:

Becoming visible: water, mind and materiality


Veronica Strang (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper considers how, in flowing through the surfaces of people and things, water challenges notions of interiority and externality and dissolves assumptions about material stability.

Paper long abstract:

In permeating and flowing through the surfaces of people and things and across the spaces in-between, water challenges assumptions that personhood is enclosed in the body. It connects human beings to all organic biota and to the flows of water that, in various forms and densities, move through and animate the material environment. Sometimes reflective, sometimes transparent, water epitomises the potential for surfaces to be open or closed. Water is therefore 'good to think' destabilising ideas about interiority and externality, self and other. Drawing on ethnographic research in Australia, and inspired by Aboriginal concepts of 'becoming visible', this paper considers how water provides both a literal and metaphorical medium for moving between micro and macro worlds. It explores current understandings of surfaces and materiality, and the processes through which surfaces are employed as imaginative boundaries, enabling things and people to be recognised and classified. It suggests that these processes contain a dynamic tension between ideas about material stability and notions of ephemerality and flow.

panel WMW12
Surfaces: contesting boundaries between materials, mind and body