“The Nomadic School of Moving Thought”: An ‘expanded’ space for attentive relational learning by Sonia Ntova












Facing a human-induced environmental crisis (Braidotti, 2013), political and economic instability and injustice (Stein et al. 2017), and a growing neoliberalisation of education (Harris, 2005) this experiment tried to challenge these issues by questioning the space of education through the lens of choreography.

How can the tools of ‘expanded ’choreography be situated within the milieu of the pedagogic act?” This question drove the research of the participatory choreographic project “The Nomadic School of Moving Thought” in 2020. The project explored the intersections between unconventional choreographic tools and pedagogy, aiming at shifting learning from being mind- centered to ‘bodying’-centered by exposing the importance of the multiplicity of the relational body within the learning process.

“The Nomadic School of Moving Thought” is conceived as an ‘expanded ’choreographic space that contains different locations and performative activations with the purpose to activate the moving thought and create affective performative spaces. It is a rhizomatic book of suggested choreographic compositions and it applies materialistic attention to the embodiment (Ulmer, 2015) and supports ‘bodying ’(Manning, 2012) as the action of continuously forming a body.

The book explores critical ways of practicing and composing inter-relational encounters in everyday life, beyond the dance field. It unfolds a performative movement education oriented towards an alternative understanding of thinking and raises questions towards sensorial and affective dimensions of being in the current era.

The research took multiple directions on ‘making, attending, performing’ (Cvejić, 2017: 24) for both learners and the dance practitioner following a rhizomatic approach (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987). Rhizome has been used as a method to deform habits of thought, and as a tool to entwine things together and create a dynamic multilayered constellation, by not following a linear structure.

Extract from the book“ The Nomadic School of Moving Thought”

‘Expanded’ choreography introduces a more broaden understanding of choreography and movement and opens up possibilities as to where and with whom choreography can exist. It activates relationality and conjunctions and it entails a more than human ontological intention. ‘Expanded ’choreography (Cvejić, 2015/ Ingvartsen, 2016/ Ölme, 2017) has been used as a creative imaginary milieu of the articulation of concepts, questions, actions, aesthetics and philosophical thinking. It allows the activation of movement and non-movement, includes human and non- human elements, and develops the manifestation of performative ideas under a contingent creative and critical thinking process.

For the composition of the choreographic practices I have applied two concepts: materialistic attention to the notion of embodiment and ‘bodying’. Barad (2003) refers to ‘embodiment as a matter not of being specifically situated in the world, but rather of being in the world in its dynamic specificity’ (Barad in Ulmer, 2015: 39). Manning, trying to rediscover values in the learning process, materializes the concept of how thought moves independent of the human subject. “…thought is not first in the mind. It is in the bodying… In the ecology of practices… of how thought moves, how it moves us, and how it moves the world” (Manning, 2015: 208). So ‘bodying’ (Manning, 2012) is the action of continuously forming a body.

Materialistic attention to the notion of embodiment can acknowledge that, movement knowledge is not only produced within the human, and also can recognize learning as an embodied, affective, relational understanding (while emphasizing the complex materiality of bodies immersed in social relations of power).
Based on this understanding the practices of the book propose:

  • to be attentive in ‘bodying ’in various situations
  • to acknowledge thoughts as equal parts of the body activity and re-identifying learning through the whole body
  • the idea of an ecological body as a way of constantly becoming and creating knowledge

The pedagogic act in this project was focusing on activating emancipatory potentials between humans. Affirming uncertainties, risks and possibilities within the communication (Biesta, 2004) I applied what Rogoff mentions in the academy as ‘potentiality, actualization and access (Rogoff, 2006). Learners were situated as active creators in the teaching-learning process, which permitted diverse learning processes to occur without predicting the end of the process. This offered a more democratic perspective of participation.

In addition to the concepts of equality, democracy, emancipation, and politics (Biesta, 2004/ Rancière, 2009) between humans, I tried to create spaces to think differently about ourselves (Braidotti, 2018), and the effect of the non-human in the knowledge production system.

Educators from different disciplines of art and science as well as movements, nature, objects, senses, bodies, time, and concepts were the participatory body in this research for two months. Participants shared their critical embodied imagination and different qualities of knowledge generously, with a sensorial emphasis, acknowledging that we may affect matter and that matter also affects us.

Expanded choreography became a method of an open-ended choreo-thinking to set into action the relational learning of the participants as it exposed:

1. The sensorial bodying as a dynamic way of learning
2. Choreography as a very complex, dynamic, pedagogic and socio-material entangled tool that can be transformative and emancipatory for the participants (learners and teachers).
3. Potentiality to infiltrate political, economic and cultural structures for a more sustainable future, raising questions towards sensorial and affective dimensions of being in the current era.

Following a materially informed post-qualitative methodology (MacLure, 2013/ St. Pierre, 1997) the research captured the moving relationship between discursive practices, imagination and material phenomena. The creative analytical process revealed three affective performative spaces. These ‘spaces ’allow the contingent and dynamic relationship between the discursive and the non-discursive, the linguistic and the material, bodies and movement, the epistemological and the ontological, the participants and the readers to disrupt, interrupt, negotiate, negate and co- exist. These are spaces that bring attention to the non-linguistic nature of knowledge that exists within a movement-informed creative learning process and the entwined relationship between humans and non-humans in it. They illustrate the intersection between pedagogy and expanded choreography while keeping data alive (MacLure, 2013: 229).

Fusing participants’ temporalities into a spatial form, offered me a space to imagine a conceptualization of temporality itself; temporalities that “irrupt” (St. Pierre, 1997) into sensations and unfold choreographic spaces. Participants shared choreographic attentive ‘planetary dimensions’ (Braidotti, 2014), and their collective temporality brought a new world.This map below is an assemblage of “heterogeneous components or forces…” (Feely, 2019: 6). It is composed as a ‘space of discourse, fantasy and corporeality ’(Massey, 1999) assembling different material of the participants, driven by wonder (MacLure, 2013) and invites the reader by ‘Departing, Traveling and Arriving’ to bring multiple belongings into the context and generate new temporalities (St. Pierre, 1997).

Digesting this process, expanded choreography in this project can be seen as a dynamic political apparatus to change the way human participants understand ‘the learning body as part of the whole ’(Barad in Ulmer, 2015) and re-evaluate the basic principles of our interactions with nature in times of this urgent ecological crisis (Braidotti, 2013/ 2018).
Due to the pandemic of 2020, the project started with a need for mutation and the actualization of it, took an individualistic focus. The participants never met. They worked individually in their own time and space around Europe. Pierre Bourdieu (1998) refers to mindfulness practices as a structure of learning to turn away from civic responsibility and the cultivation of collective mindfulness.
As the project aimed for collective learning, “The Nomadic School of Moving Thought” keeps on being shared. It continues to embrace uncertainties and permit changes and different ways of activation with its main core suggesting the body as a collective ontological space that functions with care for equal relationships in the world. Please visit this website for further information: https://unpluggeddance.com/workshops-posts/workshop-1.

Photo: @unpluggeddance



Barad, K. (2003) Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society (28)3, pp.801-831 DOI:10.1086/345321
Biesta, G. (2004) Mind the Gap!” Communication and the Educational Relation. In C. Bingham & A. Sidorkin (Eds.), Counterpoints, Vol. 259,No Education without Relation, Peter Lang, pp.11- 22
Bourdieu, P. (1990) The Logic of Practice (R. Nice, Trans.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Braidotti, R. (2013) The Posthuman. Oxford: Polity Press, pp.1-55/ 186-197
Braidotti, R. (2014) Lecture: Thinking as a Nomadic Subject, https://www.ici- berlin.org/events/rosi-braidotti/
Braidotti, R. (2018) A Theoretical Framework for the Critical Posthumanities. Theory, Culture & Society. Transversal Posthumanities 0(0). sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav, pp.1–31.
DOI: 10.1177/0263276418771486
Cvejić, B. (2015) From Odd Encounters to a Prospective Confluence: Dance-Philosophy. Performance Philosophy 1 (1):7-23.
Cvejic, B. (2017) Problem as a Choreographic and Philosophical Kind of Thought. In: The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Politics, [Ed] Rebekah J. Kowal, Gerald Siegmund, and Randy Martin, DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199928187.013.4
Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (2005 [1987]) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. (B. Massumi, Trans.). New York & London: Continuum, pp. 3-25
Feely, M (2019).Assemblage analysis: an experimental new-materialist method for analysing narrative data. Qualitative Research. 20. 146879411983064. 10.1177/1468794119830641.
Harris, S. (2005) Rethinking academic identities in neo-liberal times. Teaching in Higher Education: Critical Perspectives, 10(4), pp. 421-433. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/ 10.1080/13562510500238986

Ingvartsen, M. (2016) EXPANDED CHOREOGRAPHY: Shifting the agency of movement in The Artificial Nature Project and 69 positions
M a c L u r e M . ( 2 0 1 3 ) R e s e a r c h i n g w i t h o u t representation? Language and materiality in post- qualitative methodology, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, (26)6, pp.658- 667. DOI: 10.1080/09518398.2013.788755
MacLure, M. (2013) The Wonder of Data. Cultural Studies-Critical Methodologies, 13(4), pp. 228-232, DOI: 10.1177/1532708613487863
Manning, E. (2012) Relationscapes. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, pp.1-5
Manning, E. (2015) 10 Propositions for a Radical Pedagogy, or How To Rethink Value. Inflexions 8, Radical Pedagogies, pp.202-210. http://www.inflexions.org/radicalpedagogy/PDF/Manning.pdf
Massey, D. & Allen, J. & Sarre, P., (1999) Human Geography Today. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, pp.243-323
Ölme, R. (2017) Movement material – A materialist approach to dance and choreography”. Journal for Research in Arts and Sports Education, Special Issue: “Å forske med kunsten” Vol. 1, 2017, pp.95–111. http://dx.doi.org/10.23865/jased.v1.967
Rancière, J. (2009) The Emancipated Spectator. London: Verso, pp.1-13 Rogoff, I. (2006) Academy as Potentiality. In: A.C.A.D.E.M.Y. Revolver.https://www.raggeduniversity.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/ 2017/12/Rogoff-academy-as-Potentiality.pdf
St. Pierre, E. A. (1997) Methodology in the fold and the irruption of transgressive data, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, (10)2, pp.175-189, DOI:10.1080/095183997237278
Stein, S., & Hunt, D. & Suša, R. & de Oliveira Andreotti, V. (2017) The educational challenge of unraveling the fantasies of ontological security. Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education, 11(2), pp.69-79
Ulmer J. B. (2015) Embodied writing: choreographic composition as methodology, Research in Dance E d u c a t i o n , ( 1 6 ) 1 , p p . 3 3 – 5 0 , D O I : 10.1080/14647893.2014.971230



Is Education’s Future on the Queer Horizon? By Matthew Isherwood

Recently, I heard Professor Stephen Ball talk about how the institution of the school was no longer fit for purpose and that a radical change to the way students learn is needed to address the social and political issues of our time. While I listened to Ball’s argument against the institution of school, I was struck by how his ideas resonated with the work of queer theorists. Perhaps this is because Michel Foucault, whose work provides much of the theoretical grounding for Ball’s polemic (Ball & Collet-Sabé, 2021), is considered a catalyst for modern queer theory. In the context I have in mind, the term queer is used to describe something that is somehow strange or out of step with what has come before. It is a disruptive or disidentifying (Muñoz, 1999) force that opens gaps within the fabric of normative reality. Given Ball’s invitation to (re)think the modern school’s epistemic fundamentals, I wish to reflect on the many promising and productive ways queer theory has already proposed how and in what ways such reform might unfold.

Queer theorists have long shown how such queerly educative work might be done. In 1981, American curriculum theorist William Pinar suggested that any curriculum that desired to escape the reproduction of traditional ways of doing must take a radical and degenerate commitment to learning. Later that decade, Eve Sedgwick began work on her evocative critique of the categorical binarisms that characterized much of queer politics at that time. In the 1990s, scholars such as Deborah Britzman, Susanne Luhmann, Mary Bryson, and Suzanne de Castell brought their own valuable and challenging ideas to the conversation regarding radical educational reform. These included strategies for (re)reading, refusing and reforming educational frameworks to encourage other, queerer ways of knowing and being. Jack Halberstam (2011) has (re)thought the concept of queer failure to outline a performative refusal of existing knowledge and alternative ways of knowing. More recently, Adam Greteman (2017) elevated a form of queer thriving that does not simply seek to gain acceptance through queer inclusion but embraces the genius of the queer imaginary. Elsewhere, Harper Keenan and Lil Miss Hot Mess (2020) introduced the radicality of drag pedagogy as a way to learn and live more queerly in the world.

Toward the end of Ball’s presentation, a colleague asked what advice he might offer educators who desire a more radical departure from current approaches to teaching and learning. Some seemed frustrated in the absence of a definitive answer to this critical question. However, this is where one may also look to the promise and potential of queer theory. For example, José Esteban Muñoz (2009) taught us that the radical realities one desires are often glimpsed through educated and informed aesthetic engagement with the world. Sedgwick’s (2003) theory of reparative reading suggested a form of weak ontology that helps locate responsive and adaptable dispositions to existing knowledge. More recently, Halberstam’s (2020) call to embrace the idea of Wildness has invited consideration of what it means to cross the boundary of homogenous knowledge into the uncertainty of not knowing. Finally, it is essential to remember that, for each of these queer scholars, their theoretical work was intended to navigate progress from within mainstream culture—not simply by affirming or denying exclusionary practices but by transforming them for queerer purposes. Thus, they demonstrate how queer theory is always performative in that it is intended to animate better life configurations for those who cannot live under normative conditions.

Hearing Ball’s evocative call to action, one may feel overwhelmed by a sense of urgency. Indeed, many of the issues he raised are urgent. However, the need for radical educational reform is already familiar to many queer individuals because reformation is necessary to address the intolerable conditions of the heterosexual imaginary. Moreover, these marginal voices have already fought and won battles to change seemingly mutable systems of oppression and violence. For this and other reasons, I wonder if educators might turn to queer and other forms of radical scholarship to think about education differently? If not, I wonder if ignoring existing, albeit marginal, contributions in educational research—including but not limited to those made by queer scholars—misses the means such scholarship provides for rethinking our present conditions otherwise?

If nothing else, one might consider queerness as a disposition that extends our collective vision for education into the unknowability of radical transformation. Such dispositions, Ball suggested, are vital to counter the influence of increasingly neo-liberal, product-driven approaches to teaching and learning. As Richard Ford (2007) suggested, queerness is “a political and existential stance, an ideological commitment, a decision to live outside some social norm or other… even if one is born straight or gay, one must decide to be queer” (p. 479, italics in original). Thus, queer might be considered a disposition that opposes what Ball & Collet-Sabé (2021) call the normalizing institution of the school. I understand that such a stance might help energize the substantive questions that must be raised, allowing discourse (and subsequent action). Queer theorists have already provided access to the ways and means to cultivate open dispositions to this queer imaginary through disruptive educational experiences. The question is, will our colleagues in education now choose to hear us?









(Above) Artist Prem Sahib’s, People Come and Go, (2020) installation invites attendees to enter a space of queer disorder and reconfiguration. Part of a larger exhibition, the gates provocatively invite the audience to make a choice; willingly engage with the experiences inside or refuse the invitation and walk away.


Ball, S., & Collet-Sabé, J. (2021). Against school: An epistemological critique. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/01596306.2021.1947780

Ford, R. T. (2007). What’s queer about race? South Atlantic Quarterly106(3), 477–484. https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-2007-006

Greteman, A. J. (2017). Helping kids turn out queer: Queer theory in art education. Studies in Art Education58(3), 195–205. https://doi.org/10.1080/00393541.2017.1331089

Halberstam, J. (2011). Queer Art of Failure. Duke University Press.

Halberstam, J. (2020). Wild things the disorder of desire. Duke University Press.

Keenan, H., & Hot Mess, L. M. (2020). Drag pedagogy: The playful practice of queer imagination in early childhood. Curriculum Inquiry50(5), 440–461. https://doi.org/10.1080/03626784.2020.1864621

Munoz, J. E. (2009). Cruising utopia: The then and there of Queer Futurity. New York University Press.

Muñoz, J. E. (1999). Disidentifications queers of color and the performance of politics. University of Minnesota Press.

Sedgwick, E. K. (2003). Touching feeling: Affect, pedagogy, Performativity. Duke University Press.


Where the cat was? Thinking-with Whimsy as generative acts By Dr Helen Clarke and Dr Sharon Witt

  ‘Whimsy is a whole new world to me’

 Photo Credit: Sarah Chave 

 At the recent March CEEN seminar, we were privileged to share a whimsical thinking space with curious and generous colleagues. Lively discussion affirmed both our belief that ‘whimsy’ is a significant force in everyday lives and practices, AND also that any notion of whimsy evokes paradoxes that challenge and provoke.

We greeted whimsy with openness, an opportunity for collective provocation and responses. We also acknowledged whimsy as slippery; as ‘intangible as a jellyfish out of water’. Whimsy is hard to grasp, difficult to articulate but, together, we tried …

The following ‘found poem’ offers a celebration of seminar events as unfolded ‘doings’, ‘matterings’ and possibilities’ (with format acknowledgement to Jayne Osgood, 2019).


Whimsical doings

Disruptions to the taken for granted,

the habitual,

living in the not-yet known,

without rigid boundaries.

Creating art for a more-than written response,

Learning in a different way,

Beginning to do education differently,

saying ‘yes’ to the unexpected,

in the moment,

interrupting our set ways,

following our curiosity,

and being open in our programming.


bodily, and graphical practices





a way of living,

driven by the drive of discovering

the greatness of small things

in comfortable chaos.

Strange, astonishing and funny-

whimsy makes you think of other things,

surprising discovery,

curious play,

absences, presences,

multi-species and material encounters,

lightness and hope.


Whimsical matterings

noticing, listening, playing, making,

wandering and weaving,

generalising and specialising,

observing, exploring, experimenting, digressing,

swimming, making, and remaking, mending,

reflect-ing, mull-ing, question-ing,

feeling, being-with, sitting-with,

encountering and interweaving.


Whimsical possibilities

Untangling whimsy as a concept,

challenge to norms, prescription, and pre-determined outcomes,

enacts ‘going out of your comfort zone’ towards the unpredictable,

decentres the ego,

wonderful interventions,

small in stature; large in ambition,

playing with words –decanters the go,

treading between tragedy and comedy,

folding resistance back into the system,

opening opportunities with the everyday.


And so,

whimsy is paradoxical and provocative,

it affects and effects our practices.


How can I open myself to what I do not yet know? (Somerville, 2008:210)

What could whimsy be?

What could it activate?

What is generated when whimsy is activated?

We must acknowledge there are some paradoxes in thinking-with whimsy now. We live in troubled and difficult times and think-with current events in Ukraine. Is whimsy appropriate at a time of loss? Is there whimsy in darkness? Is whimsy intrinsically joyful and playful?  Can whimsy be an accompaniment to trauma? Perhaps it’s a type of response-ability in troubled times? We have found that embarking on a ‘collective adventure’ to think-with whimsy has been a generative and thought-provoking way of staying with the trouble (Haraway, 2016: 130).

Photo  Collage Credit: Helen Clarke

‘We must dare to make the relay; that is to create, to fabulate, in order not to despair’ (Haraway, 2016: 130). 


Haraway, D. (2016) Staying with the trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Experimental Futures). Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press

Osgood, J. (2019) PheelyDoings: a poem. https://phematerialisms.org/

Somerville, M. J. (2008) Waiting in the chaotic place of unknowing’: articulating postmodern emergence. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 21 (3), 209-220



With thanks to CEEN colleagues for their thinking and participation.

Thinking Posthuman Photography as Data Collection by Heather Wren

As part of my PhD data collection, I co-led a workshop in Norway with a creative teacher who conducted a landart workshop with students from a Folk School. My aim was to see how empathy  emerges from the relationships between the human and nonhuman when students and the environment are co-creating. Much of my data collection comprised of photographic images and a padlet collage was made of these with students own images too (alongside writing, sounds, video). When sifting through my second set of photographs I noticed that some of the images had become distorted with light when I was trying to capture different angles of the landart making session. This made the images look like something else, something ghostly, and it made me think about the importance of distortion, differing lights and shadows, absences and lack of aesthetic to my understanding of environmental  empathy.


Figure 1 Photos of landart making

This led me to think about how photography plays a part in non-human centred research.

Photography has historically been viewed in relation to the dualist notion of the photographic subject/object, limiting its outcome to what it means only to the human. A photograph usually depicts something that is familiar to us which is then interpreted through a projection of our own linear sense of space and time. This means that the photograph is the property of the photographer and favours representations designed to be viewed only by a human eye: ‘The message of photography is that we, the humans are species apart, because we possess the rational view of the world, we own the vantage point from which everything can be observed as a reflection, a copy and a representation’ (McKinnon, 2017). If this is the case, a photograph which depicts human relations within the environment is understood as a story which is told from the perspective of the human only and is therefore laden with inequalities through the exclusion of the natural world itself.  These inequalities are often further extended through the eyes of other humans who can read and depict the image in a different light and is quite often used as a political instrument for their own gain. Here the photograph becomes a superficial political object which changes over time. However, the photograph is much more than that if viewed from a non-human centred perspective. Up until now ‘both the photographer’s vantage point and the process of watching photographs has emerged as only one component within a whole, very complex fabric of relations’ (Azoulay, 2021, p18). By taking a non-human centred perspective the photograph can be viewed as an ontological and material event where attention is paid to agencies that are in operation when making, or taking, a photograph, expanding the possibilities of photography beyond just the object.  So how can this be done? The starting point is to attempt to unravel the entanglements which are present within the action of photography to begin to question the ethics of the power relations within them.

So, what do I need to consider when taking a Photograph? Firstly, I need to understand where the camera came from and how I managed to gain access to being able to use one. What is entangled in the construction of the camera? What materials are used in its making and how are they resourced? Are the metals ethically mined? Are the plastics degradable? Is the glass ethically made? How are the mechanics constructed to make the camera work? Who put the pieces together? What happens in the moment that the shutter is pressed? How does the eye and hand play a part and how is the body extended during this action? These questions are important because ‘Materiality refers here to a decision to focus upon the materials of engagement such as the processes of production and their subsequent power relations; the invisible workers that build components; and the otherwise black-boxed complexity of interactions that make the photographic event possible’ (Azoulay, 2021, p6). These questions allow me to think deeply about the ethics of photography in my data through the material circumstances of the existence of the camera and what it produces. This makes photography both material and ontological at the same time.

Other questions I need to take into consideration are why do I have access to a camera? What are my privileges that allow me to be able to buy a camera and use it? My camera is semi-professional, and my lenses are very expensive so not everyone would be able to afford to own one. With images having the power to inform and move people politically, the photographer who can afford to buy a camera finds themselves in a position of power with huge responsibility. As Sontag (1977) argued, the image alone does not constitute meaning, it is the way it is displayed that are a huge part of how the image is interpreted by others. Explaining this further Butler (2008) argues that when we interpret a photograph, we view it under the structure that it is displayed, and it is this structure which causes the affective transmission of the image. This means that any photograph which is displayed by a human is deliberately meant to cause affect and emotion in some way.

This can still be seen with images which are displayed for media purposes. However, with the invention of smartphones there are more people who do have access to cameras these days, making photography less exclusive and enabling the blurring of boundaries between borders or laws (MacKinnon, 2017). This means that the structure that Butler refers to is slowly being dismantled and the image can no longer be reduced to an object which is interpreted for a specific meaning, rather it now ‘pertains to particular contextual resonance’ (MacKinnon, 2017, pg3).

So, coming from a non-human-centred perspective, Posthuman photography moves away from showing what the world looks like to showing the relationships between interconnected entities without suggestion of beginning, ending or representation. As MacKinnon (2017, pg3) argues we need to ‘think of photography as a multiple, proliferating structure that reproduces itself through exponential multiplication, simultaneously engaging in visual, economic, social and political production’. This means that I, as the researcher/photographer am no longer the only author of the image even though it is me who decides what to capture, it is produced by all the entities that are interconnected in the moment the photograph is taken. The trick is to ensure that the agency of the other interconnected entities’ are present in the gathering and understanding of the data. So where do I begin?

Allen (2016) argues that although conventional understandings of the camera see it as ‘dumb matter’ (Massumi, 2002, p.173) without agency because it is not a living thing and is entirely operated by humans, there are ways in which it can gain some agency through alternative methods. I argue that one of these methods is to understand as much as possible the entanglements within the production of the camera as I have previously highlighted, and to use it ethically with these in mind. The method discussed by Allen (2016) is that of accidental activation of the camera. However, both of these methods do not give intrinsic agency to the camera so this is something that would need further exploration.

However, Allen (2016) provides some clear explanations of how to choose and look at photographic data from a non human-centred perspective. Drawing from Koro-Ljungberg and MacLure (2013) Allen argues to move away from photographic data which seems familiar to make it more problematic. This means shifting away from sifting through photographic data to find trustworthy, reliable material which accurately ‘mirror’ photographic objects, because this often excludes problematic data which, when acknowledged, could lead to a form of ‘newness’ in the research. To do this Allen (2016) draws from Lenz Taguchi (2010) to use a methodological strategy called ‘exorbitant deconstruction’ (pg.14) which involves a ‘turning, bending and twisting’ of conventional thinking ‘to try and displace the meanings of it; in order to identify…..what other analysis might be possible’ (pg.14). Allen uses this idea to choose some photographs which were previously discarded due to them representing nothing in the data.

Figure 2 Photo of nothing – Allen (2016)

To action this choice, affect theory is drawn upon through the use of Maclure’s (2013) strategy which moves away from coding to feeling the ‘wonder of data’. However, instead of waiting for a specific ‘gut feeling’ of the data, Allen (2016) turns to ‘affect nothing’ where no feeling has been felt from the images. To ‘analyse’ Allen then uses a technique which was first used by Springgay and Zaliwska in 2015 called ‘edging’ which helps the researcher to move away from trying to impose meaning onto the visual images by paying attention to the edges of representation. Here ‘newness’ of the research is created by choosing the previously discarded images and reading them in a non-traditional way. However, I argue that by choosing and reading the images, there is still an element of human-centredness so again, further exploration of this is needed.

To conclude, I have learned that in order to use photographic data in my non-human-centred research I need to think ethically about the use of the camera by paying attention to the materiality of its construction and the entanglements that are involved in this. I also need to think about the power relations involved in taking, selecting and displaying my photographs. Techniques such as giving agency to the camera body and the entanglements involved in the image creation, then deconstructing the image in different ways to create ‘newness’ need to be drawn upon. And finally, exploration of how to decentre the human even further needs to be implemented. To do this I will begin by seeing the camera body as an extension of my own and think about how the vibrations of my body animate with what the image gives and withholds (Lorenz-Mayer, 2018). I will then create an ongoing embodied dialogue with my camera to explore the ethical relations of the entanglement within it for my PhD.


Allen, L (2016) Photos of (no)thing: The becoming of data about sexuality at school. Reconceptualizing Educational Research Methodology 2016, 7(1).

Azoulay, A (2015) Civil Imagination: A Political Ontology of Photography. Louise Bethlehem, trans, Verso, London, p 23.

Lorenz-Mayer, D (2018) Snapshot. [online] available at: https://newmaterialism.eu/almanac/s/snapshot.html. Accessed 3.1.22.

MacKinnon, L (2017) Toward a materialist photography: the body of work. Third text, 30 (3-4). Pp. 149-158.