woensdag 8 december 2010


Amsterdam is covered in snow. The walking seminar last Thursday, thus, turned into a journey through a winter wonderland. While wandering through the white Vondelpark, some of us acted as supervisors for their walking partner whereas others discussed the following questions:

- How to read academic literatures?
- What to take on board, what to leave out?
- What to spell out, what to skip?
- What to engage with? argue with? praise? build on?
- How to write about and with the work of others?
- How does liking or disliking specific literatures help or hinder you in your own work?

vrijdag 12 november 2010


The next walking seminars will take place on the following days:

2 December (Please not that this is a Thursday.)
21 January and
18 February

Stories in the Rain

Last Friday we were walking and talking again. With the weather we weren't very lucky. It was raining heavily and the path from Baarn to Hollandsche Rading was changing between deep puddles, less deep puddles and mud. Despite these conditions we had a lot to talk about. Malte from Oxford had furnished us the following questions:

Storying: what is it to tell a story?

– What stories do you tell in your papers, presentations and talks? What work do they do? And what counts as a story anyway?
– How do you tell your stories? Do you think about this at all? What techniques, styles, strategies and narrative devices do you use? What works for you, what doesn’t?
– Where do you get your stories from? Is there a difference between your own and others’ stories? Whose stories are they?
– What makes a ‘good’ story—and what a ‘bad’ one? What are examples of storying that you particularly appreciate? What do you like about them and what can we learn from them?
– How useful/difficult/inspiring/problematic/etc. do you find it to think about your work in terms of storying?

woensdag 3 november 2010

Multiplying the Walking Seminar

The Amsterdam Walking Seminar has become multiple. Malte Ziewitz is organising monthly walk-talks in the surroundings of the Oxford. The first walk-talk took place under perfect conditions, as Malte writes, on the 22nd October. The next one will be on the 19th November.
Cheers from Amsterdam to Oxford!

woensdag 6 oktober 2010

Walking, Talking, Supervising

Walking is moving. There might be a plan in the beginning, for example to go along this particular path marked on the map; to discuss this specific topic along these questions. But once one starts walking, things might turn out quite differently.

This is what happened last week. We had a plan, a list of questions to discuss. But in the end, we supervised each others work: What are you working on at the moment? Where are you? What are your problems? And plans?

dinsdag 24 augustus 2010


The next walking seminars will take place on
1st October
5th November
See you there!

zaterdag 21 augustus 2010

Travelling in many senses...

This time, we travelled in many senses. We travelled by train from Amsterdam Centraal to Baarn, foot from Baarn to Hollandsche Rading, and by train again from Hollandsche Rading back to Amsterdam Centraal. We also talked about travelling, more precisely, how to make our work travel. Here are the questions. May they travel far...

The questions:

although you may have a nice supervisor, just writing for her/him is not what you always dreamt about – you would like to reach a somewhat larger Audience. Very good. So let’s talkwalk about what might be good ways of doing so – given the parameters of your topic, research questions etc.
what is the story or the point in/of your work that is most to dear and important to you? what/who is the implied ‘enemy’ of your work and/or what would change if your audience would believe you? do you write as if you want to convince your enemy? bystanders? or do you write for your intellectual friends? when to do what? what about writing for 'the big shots' versus writing for 'the next generation'?

who might already be interested in your topic? in your empirical field? in your theoretical inventions? in your ways of working (methods for doing research, styles of writing)?
who else might you actively interest, make interested? what is needed for that: how to link the interests of ‘the other’ to your work? which ‘other’ to target in that attempt and which other others to forget about (for now...)?

what are the gaps to mind: language (English – or something else?), country (who wants to know about anything that happens in the Netherlands? or in Bangladesh? what are good ways to bypass a lack of intrinsic interest in places like this? what to do with the fact that part of the audience has lots of background knowledge about these places while others do not?), discipline (there are still huge investments in Sociology or Anthropology, etc and so on: how to relate to that?) background knowledge about the field/topic (e.g. marine biology may seem something only specialists would dare to read about; while, by contrast, restaurants are a topic many readers presume they know more about than a young PhD might ever hope to – etc)

it might be helpful to also discuss some texts that you and your then talk-walk companion have both read and then wonder/analyse what it is that makes those texts travel or not travel

woensdag 2 juni 2010

Questions may travel...

The bad thing about the walking seminar is that, in order to participate, bodies have to be present at specific places at certain times. The good thing, however, is that the question, we discuss while walking, travel very easily. So, this is what we discussed the last times:

Writing about what it not good.

Detached. Calm. Angry. Sad. Argumentative. Empathic. Clinical. What else?

Which difference does it make whether this non-good seems irreducible (e.g. we all die) or someone’s fault (e.g. X killed Y) or puzzling (e.g. why did Y die?) or a social fact (e.g. Y lived in a country in war or with lack of food) – or something else yet again? Neglect, failure, disaster, agression, what have you...

How do you know, assess, judge, feel, find out – that in your field you hit upon something that is ‘not-good’?

What are interesting examples in the literature of ways of writing about what is not good? What makes them interesting?

And the month before:

Comparing: what is it to compare?
What do you compare with what as a part of your research?
How should that help you in answering your questions, telling your stories, etc? Does it?

What is fun/difficult/striking/surprising etc. in the work of ‘comparing’?

What difference might it make to use other terms, e.g. contrasting - or which other other term would be relevant to/in your work?

What are authors/texts in which comparison figures in a way that you particularly appreciate? In which ways do you learn from them; how do you (want to) do similar/different things?

What is it to compare and how have similarity and difference to do with this?

Dutchness as an effect of walking

‘Dutchness’ as an effect of walking

Rogier wrote that we were walking in the ‘heart of Dutchness’. But what is ‘Dutchness’? The polders? The windmill? The light?

Great work on the question on difference is currently undertaken by Amade M’charek. In looking at ‘race’ and ‘Dutchness’, she conceives of differences not as given, but as effects that come about in relational practices. In that sense, walking enacts a very specific version of ‘Dutchness’.

Vorarlberger Boden

Dutch Soil

What do you wear?

Hiking boots – all other kinds of shoes would be dangerous

Whatever you like – from hiking boots to flip flop

How do you get there?

Take the car for, at least, half an hour in order to go from 500 meters to 1000 meters or 1500 meters above sea level.

Take the train for 15 minutes.

What do you see?

In the beginning trees, later other mountain ranges, in the end the valley you will return to

A lot of sky and differences in heights of several centimetres between the polders

Which landmarks do you recognise?

Mountain tops. The real experts know all their names, of course.

Wind mills

What do you hear?

Nature: If you are lucky – and high enough – the skirling of marmots.

Culture: The mountain farmer with his tractor.

Nature: Frogs quaking in the polder.

Culture: The farmer with his tractor.

You might be disturbed by….

Mountain bikers and in the winter skiers


How you know that the end is approaching…

The air is getting warmer.

You see the train station.

How does it feel?

In the beginning challenging, you start sweating as you go up. When you reach the top, you are delighted because you achieved something.

You are walking, walking and walking. Nothing limits your sight, no woods or mountain chains. And as your gaze touches upon the horizon you feel free.

woensdag 26 mei 2010

In the Heart of Dutchness

On this last walk Annemarie took us to the heart of dutchness: the polder. We made a roundabout near Breukelen. As we talked about how to write about bad things and how to relate to them, we passed more than one icon of Dutch landscape engineering.

On our way...



At this point reflections about the landscape hit upon the issue of Dutch light. This documentary on Dutch Light is highly recommended: Dutch Light.

Obligatory Group Pose

Too much?

The next Walking Seminar will be on June 11, 13.50. For more info, please email Anna Mann, A.M.Mann[at]uva.nl

The Walking Seminar Blog!

After three successful episodes we've decided to start a Walking Seminar Blog. Mainly to put pictures up, but also to broadcast what we do and why it is so much fun. In short, The Walking Seminar is an monthly walk, hosted by Annemarie Mol, during which we talk-walk about various issues concerning academic work. So far, we dealt with comparing and writing about things that are not good. The idea is that talking-while-walking enhances thinking in ways not attainable behind a desk or in a seminar sitting down.

Everyone is more than welcome to attend: please email Anna Mann