Elizabeth Straughan is a Cultural Geographer currently working as an independent researcher based in Australia. Her primary research interests have focused on the geographies of skin and touch, through which she has engaged with themes of embodiment, materiality, surfaces and aesthetics. Within this area of research Elizabeth has followed an interest in embodied experience analysed through a sustained focus on the sense of touch and its capacity to mobilise emotional responses. This research focus has enabled her to engage in geographical debates around emotions and affect, and consider a range of emotions, particularly anxiety derived through corporeal vulnerability and uncanny moments.
Elizabeth’s methodological approach to exploring the geographies of skin and touch has always been innovative. To supplement traditional methods based on talk and text during her PhD, for example, she explored the creative practice of making taxidermy mounts by learning and then practising this skill. Engaging in the ‘doing’ of this craft enabled Elizabeth to pay close attention to the role of cutaneous touch and the somatic senses associated with the haptic system, to consider their place in the making process and emotion mobilisation. To document this creative practice she took detailed field diaries and videoed herself making. She also invited others to practice alongside her and filmed these sessions to capture their conversation, actions and reactions as they emerged through the creative process. As a Post-doctoral Research Associate, Elizabeth again drew on a creative methodology this time to explore the ‘hands on’ process of making bioart during a residency at the art and science organisation SymbiotcA in Western Australia. Engaging in the process of planning and experimenting with the material possibilities for this creative project, Elizabeth was able to consider the tools, materials, protocols and ethical procedures of the scientific setting through a creative and embodied lens.
Accompanying this text is an image of two mole mounts created during Elizabeth’s PhD, and images taken as part of the documentation process of the creative project at SymbioticA.
Elizabeth Straughan’s work was published in the December 2015 issue of GeoHumanities
Straughan, E.R., 2015. Entangled Corporeality: Taxidermy Practice and the Vibrancy of Dead Matter. GeoHumanities, 1(2): 363–377. DOI: 10.1080/2373566X.2015.1109468