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These Boots Are Made for Walking...: Mundane Technology, the Body and Human-Environment Relations

SAGE Publications
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  • Sociology Of Science And Technology
  • Communication
  • Ecology
  • Geography
  • Linguistics
  • Political Science


This article begins with a consideration of the `pure' unmediated relation between the human body and nature, exemplified, in different ways, by environmental expressivism, and Ingold's subtle analysis of affordance and the taskscape. It is argued that perspectives fail properly to incorporate the role of mundane technology in the mediation of human-nature relations. Drawing upon the work of Michael Serres, and, in particular, his concept of the parasite, I explore how these mundane technological artefacts - specifically, walking boots - intervene in the circuits of communication between humans and the natural environment. This re-orientation traces how the local relation between bodies and environments is a complex movement between the material and semiotic, the local and the global. In the process, I draw upon four aspects of walking boots: first, there is the role of boots as mechanical technologies that can cause pain, dissolving identity and the relation between humans and nature; second, there is the role of boots as signifying style and identity; third, there is the role of boots as embodiments of procedures of standardization and objectification; and fourth, there is the role of boots as technological means of damage to nature. Finally, in concluding, I tentatively consider some of the political implications of this way of theorizing the relation between bodies and environments.

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