Accepted Paper:

The practiced intimacies of heat: negotiating the energetic imbrications of working and researching bodies  


Elspeth Oppermann (Charles Darwin University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper reflects on the intimate, embodied and relational knowledge that both enables and disrupts practices of work and practices of research in two sets of tropical and outdoor workplaces/work practices.

Paper long abstract:

This paper reflects on the difference between two sets (a coastal, urban construction site and an inland remote mine site) of differently imbricated socio-material relations in which the researcher had more intimate everyday knowledge of the former and less of the latter. Intimate everyday knowledge was both the object and subject of this research in the bodies of both workers and researchers. 'Local' embodied knowledge of heat as at once what the researchers wanted to know 'about' the workers, and yet it also enabled the researchers to communicate with each other across disciplines and with 'participants' from very different experiential places about a visceral somatic plane and intensity that defies verbal capture. In the second site, although it was considered as 'the same' climatic zone as the first, socio-material imbrications were so different that the relative absence of embodied familiarity produced an initial scepticism toward 'local' knowledge claims, and then (as embodied and communicated experience of these claims mounted) as a sense of reduced ability to conduct 'good' or 'accurate' research. Crucially, this disruption of intimacy also made apparent the relatively invisible role it had played in giving meaning and awareness to previous research and analysis conducted in a more familiar environment. Rather than undermine an embodied approach, this strengthened the researchers' acknowledgement of the importance and utility of their own bodies in producing 'carnal knowledge' (Stoler, 2002) and communicating it. This raises questions about how, in attending to this process, we might design future research and its 'communication.'

Panel A15
Intimate entanglements in science and technology