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Vol. 4 No. 1 (2021): General Issue 2021

A Critical Phenomenology of Walking: Footpaths and Flightways

  • Perry Zurn
February 9, 2023


In this essay, I sketch the contours of a critical phenomenology of walking. I begin by briefly characterizing the critical phenomenological project and marking some of its invitations to think method and movement alongside one another. Then, I explore two modes of doing a critical phenomenology of walking: attending to how one walks and when and where one walks. I revisit and reread, in particular, the stories of Charlie Howard and Latisha King, whose walks not only signaled a unique comportment in the world, but a comportment so offensive as to be extinguished by a fatal admixture of homophobia, transphobia, and racism. Finally, I close by considering the conditions under which a critical phenomenology of walking can be ameliorative—that is, how it can participate in liberatory projects of thinking and making. Drawing on Michel de Certeau and María Lugones, I argue not only that a critical phenomenology of walking can diagnose how structures of oppression constrain walking chances in the world, but also can witness how walking critiques those very structures. Walking is a movement of resistance and reimagination against the constraints of embodiment and subjectivity so singularly inherited and enforced. Traversing the space of this inquiry, I aim to complexify my understanding of walking as a practice, but also to deepen my appreciation of critical phenomenology as a method.