Comforting Geographies

Recently I’ve been thinking about ‘comfort’ and the material and symbolic relationship of knitting with notions of comfort/discomfort. In September, Danny McNally and I came up with ‘Comforting Geographies‘, building on Danny’s work on comfort, sociality and encounters. Below is the call for papers on a session exploring our idea for the Royal Geography Society AC2013, London, UK, 28 – 30 August.

Co-Sponsored by Women and Geography Study Group (WGSG) and Social and Cultural Research Group (SGRG)

Comfort is an ambivalent and highly complex term (Bissell, 2008). To be in one’s comfort zone is perceived to be conservative, and socially and culturally unadventurous. At the same time the embodied, material experience of ‘comfort’ is anticipated for satisfying experiences of everyday life. Geographers have engaged with the notion of comfort in a variety of contexts: migratory experience (Gorman-Murray, 2009); identity and resistance (Holliday, 1998); passenger comfort and discomfort (Bisell, 2008; Martin, 2011); the clothed body (Colls, 2005; Woodward, 2005); nighttime economies (Elridge et al, 2008); sociability in public space (Boyer, 2012) and thermal heat provision (Hitchings et al, 2011). David Bissell (2008) has argued that through cultural geographies, ‘comfort’ has often taken on gendered connotations, associating experiences of home, care and warmth with feminine experience and domesticity. Feminist geographers have been critical of the ‘comforting’ associations of home and femininity; highlighting home as negotiations of experiences, especially those that are unjust or negative that are concealed by deterministic associations of home as comforting (Brickell, 2011).

This session on ‘comforting geographies’ seeks to explore the liminality of ‘comfort’. The geographical practices of making comfort in discomforting spaces; experiences of discomfort in ‘comforting spaces’ and the complicated experience of social and cultural and embodied, felt comfort. With this session we hope to move beyond discussion of just ‘another emotion’ (Pile, 2010), towards a politics of comfort that attends to the possibilities of this notion to make sense of the textures of everyday life – helping to better theorize the potential of ‘comforting geographies’ as a new frontier for social and cultural geography.

Particular questions we would like to cover include:

In which ways does comfort oscillate with discomfort?

What are the spaces of comfort – surprising, historic, rural, and urban, body, city?

What are the aesthetics and material cultures of comfort?

How is comfort negotiated and experienced in everyday life?

How might we think of the boundaries of comfort?

How are ‘comforting’ affective atmospheres created and curated?

What are the spatial politics of comfort?

How might we find comfort in others?

How can (dis)comfort be linked to political resistance?

Please send abstracts for this session to the session organisers: and by 1st Febuary 2013


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