Stepping Stones – Post four

Stepping Stones

In this final post, I briefly reflect on my posts as kinds of stepping stones to think about walking methods and walking work, particularly in relation to race and gender. My first step drew inspiration from blogs and studies of waitressing. Not only did these reveal the lively embodied skills of waiting on tables, the ways in which it not just our feet which walk but also our bodies which sway, swing, swerve, and sashay and the hurt of shoes and how these help or hinder our movements, scrunching our feet, squeezing our toes, letting us get a grip, holding us down, pushing us up, but they showed how a poetics in writing can animate the different styles of walking and embodiment. The authors got me thinking about how walking carries on after it has stopped and so Rose stresses the toll wreaked on his mother’s body for years after she waited on her last table, and Probyn still bends her body today into a waitress shape. They also brought the relationality of walking to the fore, describing how walking is not an individual act.

My second post was about shepherding, a mode of walking work performed by the ethnic tour guides to chivvy and pace the tourists’ walking. This involved stopping as well as moving. Rather than shoes and feet, I thought about space. This was particularly important given that the tours take place in stigmatized, racialised and ethnicised spaces and places of southwestern Sydney, I reflected on how walking makes space and space makes walking. In particular, I was interested in Sara Ahmed’s argument that space ‘opens up’ and ‘closes down’, taking different forms for racialised groups, stopping or enabling movements, and impressing and shaping bodies as they take the shapes of the spaces they occupy. Ahmed calls for us to think about the ‘historical racial scheme’ below embodied reality: thus,

‘white bodies are comfortable as they inhabit spaces that extend their shape… In other words, whiteness may function as a form of public comfort by allowing bodies to extend into spaces that have already taken their shape (2006: 158).

Finally, in the third stepping stone, I drew on ethnomethodological studies which illuminate how walking is ‘not all of a kind’. The focus becomes walking as the socially organised achievement of strangers and friends including for instance the socially organized achievement of not bumping into children, dogs, bikes, food stalls, shoppers Laurier et al 2016). In particular, I became alert to the ‘doing’ of walking with, walking together, and ‘togethering’. Laurier et al. remind us that walking is intentional and consequential and so we do things with our walking and our walking does things (2016: 117). Thus when the guides walk, they are setting the pace, directing us to food businesses, making space, doing ‘togethering’; when the tourists walk, they meander down shop aisles, queue to buy their spoils, pause to stare at strange foods, sneak a peak down an alley, run to catch up.

Ethnomethodological studies of walking, like the ethnographic studies of waitressing stress that walking is mediated by shoes and space. But to think through Ahmed means to try to understand how walking – and particularly walking on ethnic food tours – is mediated by histories, racialised impressions, racial schemas which produce and are produced by a world ‘as a space for action’ made white by colonialism and hence, ready for ‘certain kinds of bodies’.
Reflecting on these posts, leaves me with a number of questions about methods to ponder:

• How to study which parts of the body walk and what it means to walk, after Iris Marion Young, like a girl or a white waitress or a Chinese tour guide or a group of white tourists in marginalised space?
• How to research how walking with, and together and doing togethering produce white space?
• How to get at how spaces, bodies, and movement are shaped by history? How do we see or feel the history, and the history of impressions and how these ‘shape how bodies surface’ (Ahmed, 2004)? With whom do we walk, and why?

And this is where I have stopped. Jumping from stone to stone through my posts. I have enjoyed walking alongside other bloggers on the walking lab, reading their meanderings, stops and starts. Thank you to Stephanie and Sarah for enabling me to go for such a walk in such a fine neighbourhood.


Ahmed, S. (2006). Queer phenomenology: Orientations, objects, others. Duke University Press.
Laurier, E., Brown, B. & McGregor, M. (2016) Mediated Pedestrian Mobility: Walking and the Map App, Mobilities, 11:1, 117-134.
Probyn, E. (2004) Eating for a Living: a Rhizo-ethology of bodies”, in H. Thomas and J. Ahmed (eds) Cultural Bodies: Ethnography and Theory. Oxford: Blackwell.

Rose, M (2001) ‘The Working Life of a Waitress’, Mind, Culture, and Activity, 8:1, 3-27,

The work of doing walking together Post 3

In the first two posts, I sauntered through gendered and racialised aspects of walking as work through discussions of waitressing and ethnic tour guides. My first post was inspired by writing on the skilled bodily labour of waitressing. The second post meandered on ‘shepherding’ – how ethnic food tour guides in Western Sydney help tourists walk through racialised spaces. In this third post, I want to mosey around ethnomethodological studies of walking to rethink the skill and labour of the ethnic tour guides. Ethnomethodologists study the social organisation of mundane practices and how these are accomplished by local members in micro social interactions. Although I am not an ethnomethodologist, I enjoy reading the verbally poetic descriptions which make the pedestrian full of life. For instance, in a paper on walking and mobile apps, Eric Laurier and colleagues write:

Pedestrians do not just walk. They rush, they dawdle, they stroll, they amble, they circle, they pause, they stop, they edge past, they saunter, they plod, they advance, they retreat, they backtrack, they lead, they follow. Walking happens as a host of more prepositional, intentional and consequential actions: they walk towards, they walk away, they walk off, they walk into (Laurier et al., 2016: 117).

Early classic Lincoln Ryave and James Scheinken’s (1974) study examines how pedestrians show whether they are ‘walking together’ or ‘walking alone’. ‘Doing walking together’ entails being seen performing ‘togethering activities’ such as social proximity, uniformity of direction and pace, body contact and conversing (Ryave & Schenkein, 1975: 271; Collinson, 2006).

Guides and tourists have to work to enable the group to be ‘identifiable as a proper togethering’ on the streets and in the shops (Ryave & Scheinken, 1974) . The guides themselves walk with the tourists and sometimes walk alone but have to be intelligible as both walking together with the group but apart from them. One way they do this is to talk to the group walking backwards. The guides help the tourists repair themselves when they as a ‘mobile unit’ walking side by side are ‘broken up’ by other pedestrians, shopping aisles, food stalls, cars etc (Laurier et al, 2016; Weilenmann, Normark, & Laurier, 2014).

To re-assemble, tourists hurry themselves up, move out of being in a file to walking side by side, sharing pace. Guides do repair work too, setting the pace, creating the trajectory for the tourists to follow. Bodies, posture, gait, glances, aural cues, proximity, talking all enable guides and tourists work to produce the group togetherness and maintain walking together as a ‘mobile unit’ when they perform ‘moving off’ or ‘moving on’ (Laurier et al., 2016; Weilenmann, Normark, & Laurier, 2014).

Laurier at al stress that walking is not just about movement but the ‘intentional actions’ that make up pedestrian practices and how these shift the categories walkers inhabit. For example, tourists may shift from browsing shops to standing together as the guides speaks to them to being diners. As they shift, they will be treated differently as shoppers or diners (2016: 212). Finally, studies show that walking involves actions such as stop and go, which all render being a tourist as intelligible to the locals.

Ethnomethodology studies make me think about how to see walking on food tours in close up and slow motion. At the same time, I wonder about how race and gender affect moving on, moving off, proximity, glances, togethering and pace, talking and repairs. My second post drew on Ahmed’s notion of ‘impressions’ and how race and space are produced through bodies, movement and emotions. In my final post, I will try to shepherd all of my thoughts into ideas which can walk together. Or maybe they will have to walk apart.

Collinson, J. A. (2006). Running-together: Some ethnomethodological considerations. Ethnographic Studies, 8, 17-29.

Laurier, E., Brown, B. & McGregor, M. (2016) Mediated Pedestrian Mobility: Walking and the Map App, Mobilities, 11:1, 117-134,

Ryave, A. L., & Schenkein, J. N. (1974). Notes on the art of walking in Roy Turner, (ed.),Ethnomethodology, Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Weilenmann, A., Normark, D., & Laurier, E. (2014). Managing walking together: The challenge of revolving doors. Space and Culture, 17(2), 122-136.

Walking as Work – Post 2


In this second post, I introduce the walking work performed by tour guides on food tours in ethnic neighbourhoods in Sydney, which have historically been stigmatised in racist ways and now exoticised in food tourism and media. The guides do different kinds of walking work and one entails ‘shepherding’- providing a safe and secure route, facilitating comfort, collecting stragglers, monitoring the pace of the group, and keeping the tourists to the timetable and itinerary (Cohen, 1985: 12). In bodily terms, shepherding entails specific types of gestures and bodily movements: such as walking in varying tempo and intensity: for instance, marching, setting the pace, leading from the front, walking backwards turning round to check everyone is there, slowly stopping, moving from a stop to ambling to striding. These enable different forms of sociality and sociability on the tour (Edensor, 2000). Indeed, part of the structure of a tour is that it has a rhythm of a ‘stop-start collective performance’ involving ‘timetabled activities, improvisations, selected route and potted narratives’ (Edensor, 2000). Whilst Tim Edensor (2000) contributes to our understanding of guides’ shepherding body work, he does not take into account the racial texture of place, and the impressions this produces on the tourists’ and guides’ bodies (Knowles, 2003; Flowers and Swan 2015). In contrast, Rick Flowers and I argue that the shepherding work of the guides is partly a response to racial inter-embodiment, touch and contact in the racialised and ethnicised spaces and places of southwestern Sydney. Writing of what Edensor calls heterogenous spaces, usually found in non-Western countries, and not designed for tourists, and experience by tourists as less controlled, more haphazard, with distractions, diversions, and an intensity of sensations and impressions entails a different kind of tourist walking. This may be less linear, more random, and involve negotiating obstacles, avoiding hassle and remaining alert. He writes:

The pedestrian is likely to enjoy a more vivid and varied sensual experience in heterogeneous space…The norms of pleasurably jostling in the crowd, and the different textures brushed against and underfoot, engender a haptic geography wherein there is continuous touching of others and weaving between and among bodies. The ‘smellscapes’ of heterogeneous space are rich and varied. `Soundscapes’ produce a changing symphony…. This sensory onslaught can facilitate a bodily awareness of diverse sensual sensations and stimulate unexpected flights of fancy (Edensor, 2000: 340).

Reproducing a somewhat romanticised and masculinist sense of space, Edensor does not mention how the capacity to walk in this way is differentiated by gender, class, and race. Indeed, Ahmed (2006) stresses how space ‘closes down’, shrinking for racially minoritised people and white women. Moreover, Edensor does not theorise how racialised spaces, and bodily, sensory and spatial practices, may ‘impress’ on white bodies in ways which create fear as much as pleasure. In the next post, I describe how tour guides walk with tourists through such impressions.

Ahmed, S. (2006). Queer phenomenology: Orientations, objects, others. Duke University Press.
Cohen, E. (1985). The Tourist Guide: The Origins, Structure and Dynamics of a Role. Annals of Tourism Research, 19, 5-29.
Edensor, T. (2000). Staging tourism: Tourists as performers. Annals of Tourism Research, 27(2), 322-344.
Flowers, R. and Swan, E. (2015) ‘Multiculturalism as Work: The Emotional Labour of Ethnic Food Tour Guides’ in Abbots, E.J., Lavis, A. & Attala, M.L. (eds), Careful Eating: Bodies, Food and Care. Ashgate.
Knowles, C. (2003) Race and Social Analysis. London: Sageshepherding

Walking as Body Work

walkingIn my first post on walking in service work, I introduce walking (and running) as forms of body work in waitressing. This post is motivated by my reading of the anonymous auto-ethnographic blog posts of Maid In London, a hospitality worker and my seeing the public circulation of the US waitress’ image of her bleeding feet after training in compulsory heels (see link below) and my studies of gender, race and body work. In later posts, I discuss walking and body work on ethnic food tours in southwestern Sydney, drawing on and extending the ideas below. This post introduces a sense of the politics of walking as body work and possible methods for analysing gendered, racialised and classed bodies in motion in the service economy.

In a wonderful homage to his mother’s waitressing in US cafes, Michael Rose stresses the complexity of her body work:

She must be able to balance and carry multiple items, using the hand, forearm, and bicep, creating stability by locking arms to torso and positioning the back. Then she moves, fast, in bursts, navigating tables, customers… Lin Rolens nicely puts it: ‘You learn a walk that gets you places quickly without looking like you are running … This requires developing a walk that is all business from the waist down, but looks fairly relaxed from the waist up’ (Elder & Rolens, 1985 cited 2001: 10).

Such work wreaks its toll. Drawing on his memories and interviews, Rose writes that his mother ‘pushed herself to exhaustion; her feet were a wreck; her legs increasingly varicose; her fingers and spine, in later years, arthritic’ (2001: 22). In her post ‘Run, run, run’, Maid in London describes the gruelling feeling after the 8th shift without a day off:

My body is aching, it’s stiff, my legs feel as if they’re about to seize up from all the running and I haven’t even had a moment to drink water, let alone visit the toilet. I feel like I’m losing my mind. (11 May 2016).

Elspeth Probyn (2004) remembers, in a ‘method’ she evocatively calls an ‘ethno flashback’, how the choreography of waitressing in Canada in concert with other moving bodies under pressure, shaped her body and reactions to other bodies at that time and bends her body in the present.

These brief glimpses into lives, work and bodies rest on innovative methods of bodily memory, and ethnographic evocations. Maid in London too produces a politicised auto-ethnography in which the ‘auto’, the self in autoethnography is usually vividly positioned. In contrast, Maid in London has to be anonymous. In my next posts, extending my recent studies on body work in food work (with Rick Flowers) and coaching, I draw inspiration from these methods, and ethnomethodology to reflect on the gendered and racialised choreographies of tour guides, body work and walkings. I look forward to taking you with me.



Probyn, E.  (2004) Eating for a Living: a Rhizo-ethology of bodies”, in H. Thomas and J. Ahmed (eds) Cultural Bodies: Ethnography and Theory. Oxford: Blackwell.

Maid in London (2016)

Rose, M (2001) ‘The Working Life of a Waitress’, Mind, Culture, and Activity, 8:1, 3-27,