Moved to messiness: Physical activity, feelings, and transdisciplinarity

Zoë Avner, William Bridel*, Lindsay Eales, Nicole Glenn, Rachel Loewen Walker, Danielle Peers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


This paper is based on conversations that took place during a scholarly reading group on the sociology of emotions. The members of the group shared an interest in the body, movement, and culture, but our academic and 'athletic' backgrounds were quite varied. Our diverse socio-cultural understandings of emotions were complicated by our own (emotional) experiences of physical (in)activity, thus conversations cut a wide and varied path. One idea, however, continued to resonate throughout our discussions; we found the experiential, theoretical, and methodological notion of messiness to hold great possibility as it allowed us to avoid the urge to reduce diverse experiences to a singular voice ( Christians, 2011; Cornforth etal., 2012; Ellingson, 2009; Noble, 2009). Consequently, our project here is twofold. First, we experiment with communal writing as a method for undertaking a study of physical activity. Second, rather than any one perspective taking precedence we use this practice as a way to demonstrate the potential of embracing messiness as a collaborative ethical and theoretical method for understanding the complexities of emotions in relation to (in)active bodies. Specifically, using a variety of disciplinary and theoretical lenses we explore physical (in)activity in relation to pain/pleasure, and the gaze and performance. The result is a conversation made up of traditional and non-traditional approaches to academic writing that work to reconfigure and to challenge traditional dichotomies and hierarchical understandings of the active body, understandings that potentially over-simplify and close-down our emotional experiences of physical (in)activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-62
Number of pages8
JournalEmotion, Space and Society
Issue number1
Early online date28 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


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