Unfinished business and ‘Demanding ideas’

‘Unfinished business’ is a feature of many people’s lives, taking a variety of forms and with a range of accompanying meanings and emotions. Yet it’s not often that we are encouraged to sit back and think about how ‘unfinished business’ is made, and the trajectories that it is a part of. There are, after all, many things that could have been labelled ‘unfinished business’, but which were deemed not important enough to be pursued, or seemed somehow ‘finished’. The opportunities and openings of ‘unfinished business’ therefore are markers of priorities, interpretation and sometimes active creation.

Last June, I co-organized an event that made time for crafting such openings. We found ourselves with space in the lovely Lake District, and thought it would be fun to use it in order to think about some of the unfinished business within social theories of practice. In order to stimulate discussion, we had each participant write a 2-3 page ‘mini-manifesto’ about the unfinished business that they would like to see pursued in the next decade. Having no idea how people would take up this request, it came as a pleasant surprise that the finished compilation coalesced around similar themes and concerns. Some of the papers focused upon substantive issues linked to energy and the DEMAND Centre research program, while others thought about how theories of practice can engage with questions of the large-scale, power, linkages, temporalities, the future, and policy. Their provocatively short format provided an excellent starting point for more detailed conversations about not only how our interests intersected, but also key divergences. With a few walks and shared meals to further stoke conversation, we all emerged energized by the feeling that there is still much exciting work to be done.

Working in an academic context, and indeed many others, it is easy to become frustrated by unfinished things because of external pressures to finish them. This event, however, was a reminder of the importance of lingering with, meditating upon and playfully provoking what yet remains unfinished.

The ‘mini-manifestos’ from the event, including one in which I ask a lot of questions inspired by the symbol [≠], are now available as working papers from the DEMAND Centre website, and we are working on plans to follow up with further writing in the future.

Demanding ideas WP cover

Moving with practices

It’s always an exciting moment to see your words make it into print. Though there are always things you would have changed with hindsight, it is also rewarding to know that finally your thoughts, and the experiences others generously shared with you, can move on to begin a discussion with readers.

In that spirit, here are a few sentences from my latest paper, which can be found on the publisher’s site for those with university subscriptions. While it is an academic paper, for anyone who is not connected to a university but remains interested, there is also a limited number of free downloads available at this link.

“Despite arguments that mobilities are pervasive aspects of all social life,many studies of leisure, hobbies and subcultures have failed to probe the significant extent to which travel affects these communities. After arguing that social practices are inseparable from their mobilities, this paper shows how the objects and goals of leisure reinforce structured ways of travelling. That is, enacting the goals and emotions of leisure, and using specialized objects and knowledge, is only possible when leisure enthusiasts move in particular ways and according to distinct temporalities.” (p2, online advanced copy)

“patterns of travel are not just shared by leisure enthusiasts—they are constitutive of these groups. That is, subcultural practices are made distinct and meaningful by their temporally structured mobilities.” (p16, online advanced copy)

“Studying mobilities through the frame of practices is therefore important because it sheds light on how people are ‘mobile-with’ practices and the elements that compose them.” (p16, online advanced copy)

The full citation for article in question is:
Hui, A. (2013). Moving with practices: the discontinuous, rhythmic and material mobilities of leisure, Social and Cultural Geography. Published online 2 Sept. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14649365.2013.827736#.UlgPDhA9JaQ