Slowness And Deceleration

Authored by: Phillip Vannini

The Routledge Handbook of Mobilities

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  January  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415667715
eBook ISBN: 9781315857572
Adobe ISBN: 9781317934134


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During a recent fieldwork visit to an off-grid community I asked an informant what “slow” meant. His answer was deceivingly simple: “It means that not everything can happen when you want it to; it means that you need to change your attitude and the way you act.” Slowness was less of an essential quality for him, less of a state of affairs, and more a practical disposition, an orientation to action. Soon after saying this he excused himself and walked over to a small patch of grass behind his house – a cob structure, perched atop a rocky bluff, which he himself built around the natural curvature of a large arbutus tree and the shape of surrounding boulders. He bent down and picked up a sun oven – inside which was his slowly cooking dinner – and repositioned it facing southwest so it could lay more directly under the afternoon sun. “It should be ready in a few hours,” he commented, “just in time for dinner.” Taking inspiration from this brief ethnographic revelation, in this chapter I depart from slowness as essence and conceptualize “slow” instead as a verb. “To slow” thus implies a repertoire of performances oriented at transforming the temporal regime of everyday life.

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