Key figure of mobility: the pedestrian

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De Certeau's writings of the act of walking have spoken to anthropologists and other scholars in different ways since their publication. In the field of mobility studies, his emphasis on practice provides the foundation for a range of work on everyday experience in the constitution of urban life. ‘The pedestrian’ appears as a person who enunciates tactics in resistance to the gazing strategies of the planner. Yet for de Certeau the action of being is more important than the categorical identification of a type of actor. I read his use of ‘pedestrian’ in an adjectival sense, in that figures (including figures of speech) may have pedestrian qualities. From this perspective, walking speaks through its gestures. I explore these themes by drawing on a collaborative fieldwork project of walking along small urban rivers in Scotland, where the river environments provide a relief from merging of seeing and reading that occupies the walker along the street. Working with a poet enabled consideration of the generative capacity of language and gesture beyond de Certeau's sense of the enunciative.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-27
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Anthropology
Issue number1
Early online date15 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


  • cities
  • de Certeau
  • gesture
  • pedestrianism
  • Scotland
  • villes
  • de Certeau
  • geste
  • piétonnisme
  • Écosse


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