Special Issue "Spatial Bricolage: Methodological Eclecticism and the Poetics of “Making Do”"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 July 2017

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Les Roberts

Department of Communication and Media, University of Liverpool, 19 Abercromby Square L69 7ZG, UK
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +44-(0)151 794 3102
Interests: spatial anthropology; urban cultural studies; spatial humanities; film, space and place; popular culture and memory; cultural geographies of travel and tourism; liminality, place and space

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This is a proposal for a Special Issue of the journal Humanities, on the theme of ‘Spatial Bricolage’: the art and poetics of ‘making do’ (de Certeau 1984: xv) in spatial humanities research. Expanding on themes explored in an earlier Humanities Special Issue on ‘Deep Mapping’ (Roberts 2015/16), this follow-up collection places firmer emphasis on questions of method: the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’ that variously informs the doing of deep mapping and spatial anthropology. Provisionally organized around the twin concepts of cultural bricolage and the researcher/practitioner as bricoleur, this Special Issue aims to collate and provoke critical discussion trained on spatial bricolage as an interdisciplinary (or ‘undisciplined’) nexus of practices and pick-and-mix methods. Claude Lévi-Strauss described bricolage as ‘[the making] do with “whatever is at hand”… [; to address oneself] to a collection of oddments left over from human endeavours’ (2004: 17, 19). If eclecticism informs a deep mapping practice increasingly oriented around the embodied and embedded researcher, then it is one that correspondingly finds its creative expression in the art and poetics of ‘making do’. As a ‘maker of quilts’, or, as in filmmaking, ‘a person who assembles images into montages’ (Denzin and Lincoln 2011: 4), the researcher-as-bricoleur makes do insofar as what it is she or he is ‘mapping’ is recast as a representational and affective assemblage. In the same way that calls for a ‘more artful and crafty’ sociology are underwritten by a push towards more ‘open methods’ in the social sciences (Back and Puwar 2012: 9), approaches in the interdisciplinary field of spatial and geo-humanities strive to embrace a methodological eclecticism adaptable to the qualitative dynamics of experiential, performative or ‘non-representational’ (Vannini 2015) geographies of place. Engaging with deep mapping ‘in all its messy, inclusive glory’ (Scherf 2015: 343), contributions for this Spatial Bricolage Special Issue are therefore sought from a wide range of fields that address questions that speak to issues of methodological eclecticism in spatial/geo-humanities research. Papers are especially welcome that examine the role of autoethnographic methods and practices, performance and gonzo ethnography, digital methods, or which address some of the ethical questions and constraints thrown up in relation to urban cultural bricolage as a mode of critical spatial research within the academy.

Dr. Les Roberts
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 350 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


Back, L, and N Puwar. “A Manifesto for Live Methods: Provocations and Capacities.” In Live Methods. Edited by L. Back and N. Puwar. Oxford: Blackwell, 2012.

Bodenhamer, D. J., J. Corrigan, and T. M. Harris, eds. Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015.

de Certeau, M. The Practice of Everyday Life. London: University of California Press, 1984.

Denzin, N. K., and Y. S. Lincoln. The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research. London: SAGE, 2011.

Lévi-Strauss, C. The Savage Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Scherf, K. “Beyond the Brochure: An Unmapped Journey into Deep Mapping.” In Cultural Mapping as Cultural Inquiry. Edited by D. MacLennan, W. F. Garrett-Petts, and N. Duxbury. New York: Routledge, 2015.

Roberts, L. “Mapping Cultures: A Spatial Anthropology.” In Mapping Cultures: Place, Practice, Performance. Edited by L. Roberts. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2015.

Roberts, L., ed. “Deep Mapping.” Special Issue, Humanities 4, nos. 4-5 (2015–16): www.mdpi.com/journal /humanities/special_issues/DeepMapping

Roberts, L. “Deep Mapping and Spatial Anthropology.” Humanities 5 (2016): article 5.

Vannini, P., ed. Non-Representational Methodologies: Re-Envisioning Research. Abingdon: Routledge, 2015.


  • spatial anthropology
  • deep mapping
  • bricolage
  • autoethnography
  • gleaning
  • performance
  • non-representational methods
  • interdisciplinarity and deep mapping
  • psychogeography
  • place-making
  • urban bricolage

Published Papers

No papers have been published in this special issue yet, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Pottering, meandering, hunting, gathering on an everyday walk
Abstract: This article outlines the creation of a collaborative, participatory practice-based research methodology which asks whether intentional and performative acts of walking can effect changes in the attitudes and perceptions of walkers to their neighbourhood and environment that might encourage dialogue and exchange.
The methodology draws on the notion of bricolage (Stewart, 2007) where materials from different sources and different modes of engagement are gathered in a rhizomic way to form a knotting trawlnet or meshwork (Ingold, 2011) where multiple strands of thought and action, theory and practice intersect. This is the framework for research and a creative arts practice.
In this case the everyday walk, clowning and performance improvisation techniques, practices from the Situationists and from a wide range of contemporary theorists and practitioners concerned with the city and urbanism, observations and listening from my own practice and experience and from thirty volunteer participants create a flexible, organic model, which seeks to provoke new understandings of the ways in which we think, look, listen, perceive and relate to others, and our surroundings, by creating the ‘ethical encounter’ envisaged by Geraldine Finn (1996).
Within the context of the habitual everyday walk, which draws on the work of David Seamon and Jean-François Augoyard, a set of methodological tools are employed, through ‘play,’ in the form of interruptions. These create opportunities for volunteer walkers to experience a heightened awareness that might lead to experiencing ‘moments’ of surprise or wonder, as defined by Edward Casey and Jane Bennett. Entering an i-don’t-know-space of uncertainty, participants may become more receptive to new thought processes beyond the external stimulus (the interruption). Such thinkings-beyond are seen to afford opportunities for exchange and dialogue, creating constituent qualities for approaching the ‘ethical encounter.’ This ethno-situationist methodology provides the basis of an inquiry into whether we, as human beings, are able to find new ways of connecting our everyday thought processes with more conceptual, non-concrete ways of thinking.
The combination of everyday corporeal routine in the physical action of walking, and the process of connecting responses to interruptions within that, to wider, conceptual, non-concrete issues, refines a practice through which theory is interrogated. This is then reworked back into the practice, becoming new knowledge, simultaneously embodied and articulated through that practice. The research is thus concerned with creating a new methodology as well as conducting an inquiry through the methodology created in the process of the research.
By moving away from the exclusivity of disciplinary categories towards a more open and flexible mode of working and thinking, the practice goes beyond the autonomous aesthetic experience of the work of other practitioners and researchers in the field. This participatory project brings into question the authorial role of the artist, proposing new frameworks for collaborating with the public in creative processes. It also questions the traditional epistemological basis of the academy, blurring boundaries between artist and audience, expert and amateur, the mundane and sublime, vernacular and formal knowledges. Engagement with the porosity of categories and disciplines provokes shifts in ‘disposition’ to change habits and patterns of living on a number of levels, from the personal through to the socio-political, facilitating opportunities for the creation of a new form of political civility through listening, encounter and dialogue.

Title: Assembling the Assemblage: Developing a Methodology to Support an Urban Semiology
Abstract: This article looks at the formulation of a methodology that incorporates a walking-based practice and borrows from a variety of theories in order to create a flexible tool that is able to critique and express the multiplicities of experiences produced by moving about the built environment. Inherent in postmodernism is the availability of a multitude of objects (or texts) available for reuse, reinterpretation and appropriation under the umbrella of bricolage. The author discusses her development of schizocartography (the conflation of a term belonging to Félix Guattari) and how she has incorporated elements from Situationist psychogeography, Marxist geography and poststructural theory and placed them alongside theories that examine subjectivity, aesthetics and affect. This toolbox enables multiple possibilities for interpretation which reflect the actual heterogeneity of space and also mirror the complexities that are integral in challenging the totalising perspective of space that capitalism encourages.

Title: Two Walks with Objects
Abstract: This article is a response to two walks with objects that I took; one, alone, in 2013 and another, with my daughter, in 2016. In each case there was a twofold idea guiding the walk: firstly, to find an object to walk with, to carry, to throw, to kick, until another object was found and the one object-companion was exchanged for another; and, secondly, that the objects should in some way inform the choice of route and the walkers’ relation to it. I will be writing about these two walks, in neighbouring coastal towns in Devon (UK), specifically through the photographic records I have of them. I am mindful here of Peggy Phelan’s concerns about documentation’s transformational effects upon a performance: ‘[P]erformance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representations: once it does so, it becomes something other than performance’ (Phelan, 1993: 146). Addressing the photographs as something other than the performance of the walks, I will attempt to detect the traces of my own and my daughter’s decisions in the objects, of the agency in the objects and how what remains of the walks in these images might itself be transformed into what Rebecca Schneider calls ‘other ways of knowing, other ways of remembering, that might be situated precisely in the ways in which performance remains, but remains differently’ (Schneider, 2001: 101). In response to the latter idea, I will attempt to draw from the images the materials for an exemplary walk, or a set of principles and tactics for a walk that others can make with their own objects. I will partly do this by developing the narratives of the two walks as ‘lehrstücke’ scores, any use of which requires a self-consciously reflexive re-invention of the principles and tactics by whoever deploys them as part of the principle of a walk with objects. The article embraces certain still emerging ideas around ‘vibrancy’ and ‘material vitalism’, while attempting to sidestep any swerving of this turn into a new meta-theory.

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