Call for Papers American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting Washington DC, 3-7 April 2019  Floating Life ~

Dear Global Mobilities members,

 We are looking for a further paper for our Floating Life ~ sessions at the AAG in Washington next year, so our final deadline for emailing abstracts to us is Friday 19 October. Please do get in touch with us if you are keen to be involved:;; and

 We look forward to hearing from you! ~

 Call for Papers

American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting

Washington DC, 3-7 April 2019

 Floating Life ~


Session convenors

Libby Straughan, University of Melbourne

David Bissell, University of Melbourne

Andrew Gorman-Murray, Western Sydney University


To move lightly and gracefully; to move or hover before the eyes or in the mind; to pass from one person to another; to be free from attachment or involvement; to move or drift about. In this session, we invite papers that explore the myriad valencies of floating from a range of diverse conceptual geographical perspectives.

First, floating might be conceived as a mode of dwelling. The inspiration for our title, Floating Life, is an Australian film (Clara Law, 1996) which explores the experience of diaspora, migration and homemaking as ‘floating’. Floating could therefore be a way of thinking about how places are occupied in a transitory manner, such as for mobile workers whose work takes them away from home for days or weeks at a time (Gorman-Murray and Bissell, 2018). Relatedly, it could refer to the so-called liudong renkouor ‘floating population’ in China caused by massive rural-urban migration (Crang and Zhang, 2012). Pushed further, it could inspire an ontology that is more adequate to thinking about place, territory and time (Steinberg and Peters, 2015). ~

Second, floating might be approached of as a set of affecting embodied experiences. Floating might be aspirational, in relation to experiences of weariness, for instance, where Wilkinson and Ortega-Alcazar (2018) ask ‘what might it mean to no longer tread water but to simply float?’ It might be conceived as a therapeutic experience engendered through specific skilled bodily practices (Philo, Cadman and Lea, 2015). Yet it might refer to something more insidiously listless, more closely associated with experiences of stasis, waiting and passivity (Bissell, 2010). Psychoanalytically, ‘free-floating’, on the other hand, might refer to a diffuse emotional state that does not appear to be associated with any specific cause. ~

Third, floating might be approached from more material, elemental and pragmatic perspectives. For instance, it might refer to different kinds of urban imaginaries, such as constructions that float above the ground (Pinder, 2010). It might zoom in on plastic, waste and toxins that move with water, or balloons in the air, moved by currents and winds (McCormack, 2018). It might invite reflection on experimental fieldwork practices that involve more gentle modes of attuning to our objects of analysis (Engelmann, 2015). Or it might relate to conceiving metaphors that enable humans and non-humans to be buoyant or hover amidst environments that facilitate a simultaneously horizontal and vertical entanglement (Straughan, 2012). ~

Whilst absolutely not limited to these lures, we invite papers that help to draw out the social, cultural, political and ethical stakes of floating in intriguing ways for geographical research. 


Bissell, D. (2010) Narrating mobile methodologies: Active and passive empiricisms. In: Fincham, B., McGuinness, M., and Murray, L. Mobile methodologies. Palgrave Macmillan, London. 53-68.

Crang, M., & Zhang, J. (2012) Transient dwelling: trains as places of identification for the floating population of China. Social & Cultural Geography, 13(8), 895-914.

Engelmann, S. (2015) Toward a poetics of air: sequencing and surfacing breath. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers40(3), 430-444.

Gorman-Murray, A., & Bissell, D. (2018) Mobile work, multilocal dwelling and spaces of wellbeing. Health & Place, 51, 232-238.

McCormack, D. P. (2018) Atmospheric Things: On the Allure of Elemental Envelopment. Duke University Press.

Philo, C., Cadman, L., & Lea, J. (2015) New energy geographies: a case study of yoga, meditation and healthfulness. Journal of Medical Humanities, 36(1), 35-46.

Pinder, D. (2011) Cities moving, plugging in, floating, dissolving. In Cresswell, T. and Merriman, P. Geographies of mobilities: practices, spaces, subjects. Ashgate, Aldershot. 167-188.

Steinberg, P., & Peters, K. (2015) Wet ontologies, fluid spaces: Giving depth to volume through oceanic thinking. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 33(2), 247-264.

Straughan, E. (2012) Touched by water: the body in scuba diving. Emotion, Space and Society, 5, 19-26.

Wilkinson, E., & OrtegaAlcázar, I. (2018) The right to be weary? Endurance and exhaustion in austere times. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, online early.