Table of Con­tents | Arti­cle doi: 10.17742/IMAGE.MM.12.2.14 | PDF

Un/thinking with Thread/s Veron­i­ca Mitchell

Un/thinking with Thread/s: Needling Through Boundaries Related to COVID-19 and Medical Training

Veron­i­ca Mitchell

This arti­cle draws on my con­nec­tion with sewing threads, and explores how the 2020 Mas­sive Micro­scop­ic Sense­mak­ing (MMS) online chal­lenge con­tributed to an emer­gent entan­gle­ment of time­space­mat­ter­ing relat­ed to COVID-19, teach­ing and research­ing med­ical learn­ing in obstet­rics, and think­ing fur­ther with my PhD. It explores affir­ma­tive process­es enact­ed dur­ing times of anx­i­ety, when my thoughts nee­dled through in-between spaces with dif­fer­ent times and mate­ri­als that were gen­er­a­tive and pro­duc­tive. I explain my rhi­zomat­ic move­ments that bleed through con­ven­tion­al sep­a­ra­tions and bound­ary-mak­ing assump­tions. I draw on Karen Barad’s agen­tial real­ism to the­o­rize the emer­gence of cre­ative rela­tion­al­i­ties with art­ful arti­facts enact­ed with med­ical under­grad­u­ate stu­dents, with par­tic­i­pants in the MMS project, and with my own PhD dur­ing times of tension.

Cet arti­cle s’appuie sur mon lien avec les fils à coudre et explore com­ment le défi en ligne 2020 Mas­sive Micro­scop­ic Sense­mak­ing (MMS) a con­tribué à un enchevêtrement émer­gent de l’espace-temps lié à COVID-19, à l’enseignement et à la recherche sur l’apprentissage médi­cal en obstétrique, et à la réflex­ion plus appro­fondie de mon doc­tor­at . Il explore les proces­sus affir­mat­ifs mis en œuvre pen­dant les péri­odes d’anxiété, lorsque mes pen­sées se frayaient un chemin à tra­vers des espaces inter­mé­di­aires avec des moments et des matéri­aux dif­férents qui étaient générat­ifs et pro­duc­tifs. J’explique mes mou­ve­ments rhi­zoma­tiques qui saig­nent à tra­vers les sépa­ra­tions con­ven­tion­nelles et les hypothès­es de délim­i­ta­tion. Je m’appuie sur le réal­isme agen­tial de Karen Barad pour théoris­er l’émergence de rela­tions créa­tives avec des arte­facts astu­cieux mis en scène avec des étu­di­ants de pre­mier cycle en médecine, avec des par­tic­i­pants au pro­jet MMS et avec mon pro­pre doc­tor­at en péri­ode de tension.


“[T]he cross­ing of bound­aries is an essen­tial, but often trou­bling, part of learn­ing.” (Smith-Oka and Mar­shal­la 2019, 115).

Can an academic’s work with thread be any­thing oth­er than a relax­ing dis­trac­tion sep­a­rat­ed from the world of research and know­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the dis­ci­pline of obstet­rics? This ques­tion sat with me for a long time as I began my Mas­ters degree in 2013 at a mature age and kept the fab­ric cup­board closed. Lat­er, time appeared to stop as I anx­ious­ly wait­ed for my PhD dis­ser­ta­tion exam­in­ers’ com­ments, and again when our uni­ver­si­ty closed down with the rest of the coun­try, and much of the world. South Africa’s COVID-19 lock­down ini­ti­at­ed the dec­la­ra­tion of a Nation­al State of Dis­as­ter under Coro­n­avirus, and also revealed a dif­fer­ent kind of time.

Both the PhD wait­ing peri­od and the ini­tial lock­down time seemed to allow a return to the cup­board, an open­ing up to the array of fab­rics and relat­ed items: a renewed sense of joy in which the touch­ing and work­ing with threads would con­tribute a vital­i­ty and new poten­tial to my aca­d­e­m­ic work, rather than invoke guilt or feel­ings of wast­ed time. The unusu­al mix of craft work, art, sci­ence, and philo­soph­i­cal con­cepts was first revealed to me in the mas­sive cro­cheted coral reefs project (Wertheim and Wertheim 2015), an inter­na­tion­al col­lab­o­ra­tion that Don­na Har­away (2016) uses as an exam­ple of entan­gled prac­tices which she refers to as “sci­ence art world­ings” (71). Play­ing with ideas through hand­i­work, such as cro­chet, enacts new mate­r­i­al-dis­cur­sive rela­tions. These rela­tion­ships then enable spaces for dif­fer­ences to become inte­grat­ed with each oth­er so that those dif­fer­ences, such as the detri­men­tal effects of cli­mate change on coral reefs, can then come to matter.

In this arti­cle I explain my move­ments of thoughts and the exper­i­men­ta­tions through which I shift­ed into unusu­al art­ful process­es that immersed me into intense in-between spaces. For instance, arts-based cre­ative inquiry with stu­dents has con­tributed to rev­e­la­tions of con­cern­ing entan­gle­ments with their harm­ful cur­ric­u­lar expe­ri­ences. By enabling such risky and dis­rup­tive ped­a­gog­i­cal prac­tices in con­ven­tion­al med­ical edu­ca­tion, an affir­ma­tive process has emerged to work with the ten­sions. What was revealed for me as a facilitator/researcher was that art-in-the-mak­ing-with-stu­dents can pro­vide an avenue for relook­ing at stu­dents’ expe­ri­ences. Fur­ther­more, my involve­ment in the MMS online chal­lenge dur­ing coro­na-time has rein­forced the notion that such cre­ative intra-activ­i­ties offer valu­able poten­tial also for edu­ca­tors, as well as for post­grad­u­ate stu­dents. From a more per­son­al per­spec­tive, I point to my ten­tac­u­lar wo/anderings with spi­ders, inspired by Louise Bour­geois’ large spi­der sculp­ture, Mamon. Through var­i­ous rhi­zomat­ic move­ments, my re-turn­ing and becom­ing-with nee­dles and threads has helped medi­ate my mul­ti­di­rec­tion­al expe­ri­ences with/in inde­ter­mi­nate times.

Glob­al dis­rup­tions caused by the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic appeared at the start of 2020. Time seemed to stand still, then it shift­ed, becom­ing coro­na-time, mov­ing through the waves of increas­ing and decreas­ing lev­els of trans­mis­sion of infec­tions rep­re­sent­ing the virus spread across coun­try bor­ders, and then lat­er inter­sect­ing with vac­ci­na­tion pro­grammes. The virus has entered our worlds with a pow­er­ful force, unan­tic­i­pat­ed, with incred­i­ble inten­si­ty that has tak­en over our habits of being, as well as over-bur­den­ing health sys­tems. In the media it is fre­quent­ly depict­ed and rep­re­sent­ed as a spiked ball, per­haps to high­light its pen­e­tra­tion into bound­aries of bod­ies both human and more-than-human. The pat­tern­ing of the virus can be viewed as beau­ti­ful and appealing—highlighting con­tra­dic­tions and the real­i­ty of our poros­i­ty (Fig­ures 1a and 1b).

Figure 1a: Image of COVID-19 (PD).
Figure 1b: Embroidered spiky virus.

In their recent Imag­i­na­tions arti­cle titled Dis­cussing the Anato­my Table and the Vac­ci­na­tion,” Caulfield, Caulfield, and Holst (2020) explore the inter­face of art and bio­med­i­cine, refer­ring to dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives relat­ed to vac­ci­na­tions as well as acknowl­edg­ing the cur­rent dis­trust preva­lent in med­ical mat­ters. The roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties of health pro­fes­sion­als as key actors in the glob­al response to the pan­dem­ic have been a deep con­cern. Both expe­ri­enced pro­fes­sion­als and those in train­ing, such as under­grad­u­ate med­ical stu­dents, are affect­ed by these mul­ti­ple chal­lenges. Although many med­ical pro­ce­dures were post­poned and delayed dur­ing the height of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, birthing facil­i­ties had to con­tin­ue their ser­vices. Obstet­rics is an essen­tial dis­ci­pline and a core com­po­nent in med­ical cur­ric­u­la. It is the cur­ric­u­lar space where my teach­ing has engaged with stu­dents over the past fif­teen years, and my sub­se­quent research projects. Birthing brings its own uncer­tain and often trou­bling time.

At the onset of coro­na-time my engage­ment with fourth-year stu­dents in the Health Sci­ences Fac­ul­ty at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cape Town (UCT) was halt­ed. Our ear­li­er class­room par­tic­i­pa­to­ry work­shops in the Depart­ment of Obstet­rics and Gynae­col­o­gy had involved the shar­ing of stu­dents’ expe­ri­ences through per­son­al nar­ra­tives, role­play per­for­mances, poet­ry, music, and oth­er forms of art-in-the-mak­ing relat­ed to their clin­i­cal encoun­ters in var­i­ous pub­lic health birthing units (Mitchell 2016). Lat­er in 2021, our dis­cus­sions (com­ple­ment­ed with draw­ings) resumed online in Zoom.

Stu­dents’ expec­ta­tions of observ­ing kind­ness and com­pas­sion dur­ing a joy­ful birthing process in their obstet­rics learn­ing rota­tion are sur­pris­ing­ly replaced by encoun­ter­ing fre­quent shock­ing prac­tices; they wit­nessed neglect, dis­re­spect, and abuse of women dur­ing labour. Obstet­ric vio­lence1 is acknowl­edged as a glob­al prob­lem, and a form of gen­der-based vio­lence (Mitchell 2019; Šimonović 2019). There is no bound­ary pro­tect­ing stu­dents from the real­i­ty of practice.

The time that med­ical stu­dents spend learn­ing their obstet­rics skills is filled with ten­sions and uncer­tain­ties (Mitchell 2019). In my efforts to pro­mote change to cur­rent prac­tices, sup­port­ed by depart­men­tal col­leagues at one of the most pres­ti­gious med­ical schools in Africa, we have col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly trou­bled stu­dent learn­ing, attempt­ing to move away from bina­ry assump­tions of subject/object, cause/effect, blame/shame, and sim­i­lar human­is­tic per­spec­tives. We rec­og­nize that past, cur­rent, and on-going injus­tices have ten­tac­u­lar e/affects on med­ical stu­dents now and as future doc­tors, as well as on mid­wives and those giv­ing birth in and under adverse conditions.

Unlike coro­na-time, the actu­al birthing process is marked by an end-point, i.e. the third stage, which is the expul­sion of the pla­cen­ta. Dur­ing preg­nan­cy, the pla­cen­ta has an essen­tial role in-between; it is posi­tioned between the moth­er and grow­ing foe­tus, estab­lish­ing cru­cial rela­tion­al respon­si­bil­i­ty through the devel­op­ment process and labour. Stu­dents learn the sig­nif­i­cance of the pla­cen­ta in terms of colour, tex­ture, and shape as they grasp and feel it, look at it, and sense the smell, with the sen­su­al mem­o­ry remain­ing with them. The pla­cen­ta is not a bar­ri­er sep­a­rat­ing moth­er and foe­tus, nor a sep­a­rate enti­ty, but an intra-act­ing “fetal-mater­nal inter­face” with “dif­fuse respon­si­bil­i­ties,” as explained by Yoshiza­wa (2016, 81). The con­cept of Intra-action is a neol­o­gism intro­duced by Karen Barad (2007), based on a rela­tion­al ontol­ogy in which rela­tion­ships pre-exist enti­ties, with an under­stand­ing that enti­ties come into being through relationships.

In what fol­lows, I expand my think­ing beyond the pla­cen­ta to draw more wide­ly on Karen Barad’s (2007) rela­tion­al ontol­ogy with ref­er­ence to my stu­dent class activ­i­ties and relat­ed research, mov­ing on to the mate­r­i­al agency co-con­sti­tut­ed through the Mas­sive Micro­scop­ic Sense­mak­ing online chal­lenge (Markham, Har­ris, and Luka 2020). Final­ly, I illus­trate how my work­ing with threads gen­er­at­ed an exten­sion to my doc­tor­al research project, open­ing ways for more to come.

Through these arts-based cre­ative inquiries I explore the emer­gent mate­r­i­al-dis­cur­sive rela­tion­ships, pro­vid­ing dif­fer­ent insights to con­ven­tion­al human-cen­tred dis­cours­es that iden­ti­fy indi­vid­u­als as atom­ic, ratio­nal, inde­pen­dent enti­ties. Barad (2007) puts for­ward that mat­ter is “not a fixed essence; rather, mat­ter is sub­stance in its intra-active becom­ing - not a thing but a doing, a con­geal­ing of agency” (183-184). There­fore, hand­work is not a sep­a­rat­ed mate­r­i­al activ­i­ty but is enact­ed through mul­ti­di­rec­tion­al agen­tic relationships.

Class-time and research-time

Arts-based activ­i­ties in the class­room and in my PhD research focus groups (Fig­ure 2) enabled stu­dents to think-with crayons, clay, and oth­er mate­ri­als, not includ­ing nee­dles and threads, and not the usu­al in con­ven­tion­al med­ical edu­ca­tion set­tings. These exper­i­men­tal move­ments appeared to open up dif­fi­cult and impor­tant con­ver­sa­tions about stu­dent respons­es to trou­bling clin­i­cal encoun­ters, their respon­si­bil­i­ties and response-abil­i­ties, with the poten­tial to enhance stu­dents’ capac­i­ty to respond to injus­tices they observed in birthing units.

Figure 2: Concerning students’ responses related to their obstetrics learning (Mitchell 2019).

As teacher-facil­i­ta­tor-researcher, I found myself immersed into the in-between space with the stu­dents’ draw­ings, clay mod­els, and man­dalas, rec­og­niz­ing how these mate­r­i­al rela­tion­ships could gen­er­ate pow­er­ful oppor­tu­ni­ties to pro­mote change to enhance stu­dent flour­ish­ing in obstet­rics. Har­away (2016) notes the val­ue of think­ing with and between oth­er bod­ies, using her wit and biol­o­gy exper­tise to express this point:

Flour­ish­ing will be cul­ti­vat­ed as a mul­ti­species response-abil­i­ty with­out the arro­gance of the sky gods and their min­ions, or else bio­di­verse ter­ra will flip out into some­thing very slimy, like any over­stressed com­plex adap­tive sys­tem at the end of its abil­i­ties to absorb insult after insult.” (56)

It became appar­ent to me that the the­o­ret­i­cal per­spec­tives of Fem­i­nist New Mate­ri­al­ism (FNM) and Posthu­man­ism could offer nov­el insights into pro­mot­ing respect­ful mater­ni­ty care (RMC) and empow­er stu­dents in their capac­i­ty to respond. By mov­ing beyond human-cen­tric notions of mean­ing-mak­ing and inter­pre­ta­tions, Barad’s (2007) rela­tion­al ontol­ogy opens the poten­tial to explore the more-than-human rela­tion­ships that impact on stu­dents’ being and becom­ing-with their cur­ric­u­lar tasks; a jus­tice-to-come2 that acknowl­edges mul­ti­ple and dynam­ic intra-actions with both human and non-human agents.


Figure 3a: Embroidered clock-time.
Figure 3b: Chronos and Aion time.

COVID-19 has dra­mat­i­cal­ly dis­rupt­ed habits of chronos, or clock-time. This lin­ear, chrono­log­i­cal con­cept of time can be decep­tive, as it car­ries an assump­tion that time past can be closed off (Fig­ure 3b). Barad (2010) puts for­ward that the past, the present, and the future are thread­ed through each oth­er. I won­der, how will the future be haunt­ed by past/present corona-time?

Of par­tic­u­lar rel­e­vance to this arti­cle is the Coro­na Read­ing Group (CRG), which became a con­gealed force dur­ing coro­na-time in 2020, rein­forced by the MMS online chal­lenge (Boza­lek, New­field, Romano, et al. 2020). Over the strict lock­down peri­od and beyond, our group of sev­en aca­d­e­mics con­nect­ed, and con­tin­ues to con­nect, through mul­ti­ple devices enabling us to read aloud dif­fer­ent texts, pro­vok­ing con­ver­sa­tions that fre­quent­ly lead to syn­chro­nous writ­ing on Google Dri­ve. Dur­ing the ear­ly, unpre­dictable, stress­ful lock­down days of COVID-19, Barad’s 2007 text, Meet­ing the Uni­verse Halfway held the sev­en of us together.

Addi­tion­al­ly, from a more per­son­al mate­r­i­al per­spec­tive, after these inspir­ing col­lec­tive ses­sions I recon­nect­ed with my fab­ric cup­board. The touch and feel of old den­im on torn jeans attract­ed my atten­tion and desire to allow my thoughts to wo/ander with threads. I cut out a piece of the den­im which then became the foun­da­tion for cre­ative explo­rations, needling the fab­ric with threads, expand­ing my own sense­mak­ing with and through the MMS jour­ney (Fig­ure 4). Becom­ing-with the mate­r­i­al agency of the dif­fer­ent pat­terns enabled a new, unex­pect­ed per­for­ma­tive rela­tion­ship to devel­op through this visu­al exper­i­men­ta­tion. I rec­og­nized that the threads could work fur­ther with me, through dif­fer­ent avenues where dif­fer­ent rela­tion­ships mattered.

Fig­ure 4: Work­ing-think­ing-cre­at­ing with threads through the MMS challenge.

As I ques­tion coro­na-time and won­der if it will con­tin­ue like a haem­or­rhage that is unstop­pable, I relook at the bor­ders of my MMS sewn arte­fact. Along the upper edge, the green dye from the fab­ric has seeped into oth­er spaces. It reveals an unex­pect­ed bleed, appear­ing to high­light the inde­ter­mi­na­cy of coro­na-time and our projects. I am remind­ed about dif­frac­tion pat­terns3 that can be “a man­i­fes­ta­tion of times bleed­ing through one anoth­er” (Barad 2018, 68). I refer to Sta­cy Alaimo’s (2010) con­cept of trans-cor­po­re­al­i­ty to high­light the webs of inter­de­pen­dence that are inter­wo­ven and con­tin­ue to be inter­weav­ing, enabling the mesh­ing of bor­ders rather than assum­ing defined bound­aries. Our bod­i­ly sub­stance is vital­ly con­nect­ed to the broad­er envi­ron­ment, with porous bound­aries that can­not be con­sid­ered as fixed. The bound­ary fence on the den­im fab­ric depicts bound­ary-mak­ing in acad­e­mia. It is made with a soft plas­tic rope mate­r­i­al to high­light the gate­keep­ing actions that are vis­i­ble and invis­i­ble in aca­d­e­m­ic practices.

Anoth­er of the bor­der fab­rics is one designed by tex­tile-artist Kaffe Fas­sett, who describes the pat­tern as “beau­ti­ful glass can­dies” in frag­ments of Roman glass (2021). This spe­cial fab­ric has wait­ed in my cup­board for a very long time, wait­ing to find a mean­ing­ful plac­ing. Now the pat­tern takes on a dif­fer­ent rela­tion­ship; it appears to sym­bol­ize the force and inten­si­ty of the coro­n­avirus, with its many muta­tions and vari­ants mov­ing through inter­na­tion­al bor­ders, emerg­ing with new and dif­fer­ent chal­lenges in terms of risk and con­tain­ment, invok­ing much anx­i­ety and uncer­tain­ty. The embroi­dered mask, (Fig­ure 5a) a sym­bol of coro­na-time, reminds me of the start of deep glob­al con­cerns (Fig­ure 5b), and how face masks have become a glob­al form of pro­tec­tion from the poten­tial vio­lence of aerosol trans­mis­sion of the virus (Fig­ure 9).

Figure 5a: Mask as protector.
Figure 5b: Mask buying and mask making.

While immersed in the dai­ly activ­i­ties shared in the MMS project, I was attract­ed to a favourite torquoise fab­ric with plan­e­tary pat­terns, fold­ed tight­ly in my cup­board. Through my sewing efforts, the fab­ric unfold­ed, trans­form­ing into sev­en masks dis­trib­uted to each of our CRG Zoom-mates, cre­at­ing a bond­ing rela­tion­ship across dif­fer­ent geopo­lit­i­cal spaces that could help to pro­tect us (Fig­ure 5b). Through coro­na-time, it has become appar­ent that masks not only act as pro­tec­tive bar­ri­ers to the virus, but also have mate­ri­al­iz­ing effects with dif­fer­ent belief sys­tems and cul­tures that have sparked unpre­dictable adverse reactions.

In what fol­lows, I fur­ther explore my prac­ti­cal and the­o­ret­i­cal move­ments, explain­ing the rela­tion­al enact­ments con­nect­ing my research-think­ing-doing with threads and artworks.

Thinking with theory and spiders

Rosie Braidot­ti (2006, 4) devel­ops Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s con­cept of nomadic sub­jec­tiv­i­ty, describ­ing it as “a con­test­ed space of muta­tions” in which we “weave a web con­nect­ing phi­los­o­phy to social real­i­ties; the­o­ret­i­cal spec­u­la­tions to con­crete plans; con­cepts to imag­i­na­tive fig­u­ra­tions” (5). Although muta­tions now set off alarm bells with the infec­tious spread of COVID-19, my own nomadic move­ments with threads and oth­er forms of art-in-the-mak­ing have shift­ed my thoughts through webs of rela­tions with dif­fer­ent the­o­ret­i­cal tools. Braidot­ti (2013) points out:

Think­ing is the con­cep­tu­al coun­ter­part of the abil­i­ty to enter modes of rela­tion, to affect and be affect­ed, sus­tain­ing qual­i­ta­tive shifts and cre­ative ten­sions accord­ing­ly, which is also the pre­rog­a­tive of art.” (14)

A sen­si­tiv­i­ty to the affec­tive forces and flows enables nomadic think­ing, which, accord­ing to Deleuze and Guat­tari (1987) is a way of pick­ing up the ten­sions that are not eas­i­ly evi­dent, often hid­den in the cracks or rup­tures of habit­u­al think­ing, enabling these ten­sions to emerge by break­ing through into new spaces. Such move­ments tend to occur in the mid­dle/in-between spaces, caus­ing a dis­rup­tion to estab­lished boundaries.

Ale­cia Jack­son (2017) refers to a spi­der strat­e­gy, draw­ing on Deleuze’s (2007) work sug­gest­ing that it “is not a plan or a start­ing point but is emer­gent and revealed in frag­ments along the way” (667). I think with Jack­son and Mazzei (2017), find­ing myself “plug­ging in” to many open rela­tion­ships, not con­strained by bound­aries, bina­ries, or lin­ear­i­ties. New con­nec­tions are revealed through my rela­tion­ship with the mate­r­i­al agency of nee­dle-thread-fab­ric-sequins-beads. Avoid­ing think­ing with pre­de­ter­mined struc­tures, my thoughts have moved across in-between spaces through ever-chang­ing assem­blages with each intra-action (Barad 2007). Jack­son and Mazzei (2017) put for­ward that “ideas, frag­ments, the­o­ry, selves, affects, and oth­er life­worlds as a non­lin­ear move­ment, [are] always in a state of becom­ing” (728). Sewing with-research has been gen­er­a­tive and pro­duc­tive. Fur­ther­more, I find myself con­tribut­ing a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive through my eye­sight impair­ment. Con­gen­i­tal nys­tag­mus shifts my eyes, pro­duc­ing alter­na­tive visu­al expe­ri­ences to oth­ers with more visu­al acuity.

I have found Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) con­cept of the rhi­zome help­ful to describe the pat­terns of explo­ration in my think­ing and work­ing. The mid­dle is my pre­ferred start­ing point, and then my ideas spread out in an expan­sive man­ner, seek­ing pos­si­ble new cre­ative oppor­tu­ni­ties. Fol­low­ing a sequen­tial, pre­de­ter­mined struc­ture with a begin­ning point lead­ing on to an end moment is dif­fi­cult for me. An under­stand­ing of the rhi­zomat­ic researcher (Clark and Par­sons 2013) acknowl­edged this posi­tion­ing, and seemed to offer me per­mis­sion to con­tin­ue my research-teach­ing jour­ney in med­ical edu­ca­tion through flu­id, mul­ti­di­men­sion­al, exper­i­men­ta­tion. At times, this process was risky; it gen­er­at­ed messi­ness and disruptions.

In find­ing my rhi­zomat­ic self, caught in and drawn through numer­ous webs of rela­tion­ships dur­ing our trou­bling coro­na-time, the spi­der has crept into sev­er­al projects and activ­i­ties. One bold mem­ber of this arach­nid species was wait­ing at my front door recent­ly to greet me—a reminder of our kin­ship (Fig­ure 6).

Figure 6: Sense-making with the spider at my front door. Photo by author, May 2020.

As I flip back over my dig­i­tal pho­tographs from the first year of coro­na-time, I pick up the beau­ty of a spider’s web pho­tographed in the for­est on Table Moun­tain that over­looks our city of Cape Town. This image (Fig­ure 7) reminds me of a wel­come walk and a con­nec­tion with our spec­tac­u­lar nat­ur­al sur­round­ings before our move­ments were heav­i­ly cur­tailed, with restric­tions not per­mit­ting us to leave home except for essen­tial ser­vices. My appre­ci­a­tion of our envi­ron­ment has grown as I now con­sid­er the mate­r­i­al arrange­ments and mate­ri­al­is­ing effects that are enact­ed in our mul­ti­ple and dynam­ic intra-actions.

Figure 7. Shimmering patterns and connections of spiders. Photo by author, February 2020.

Don­na Har­away reminds us of kin­ship with and between human and oth­er-than-human beings. In her book, Stay­ing with the Trou­ble (2016), she describes ten­tac­u­lar think­ing in terms of rhi­zomat­ic con­nec­tions and col­lec­tive think­ing in “mul­ti­species mud­dles,” which can be joy­ful­ly gen­er­a­tive while also invok­ing ter­ror (31). She refers to a spe­cif­ic spi­der in the red­wood forests of Cal­i­for­nia, rec­og­niz­ing that this Pimoa cthul­hu helps her with “returns, and with roots and routes” (31). The spi­der, accord­ing to Har­away, also reminds us to think about sym­poiesis, which is a process of com­ing-togeth­er; “poiesis as mak­ing, sym as togeth­er-with” (256). “I love words that just won’t sit still,” admits Har­away in her inter­view with Martha Ken­ney (2015), when she also explains fig­ur­ing as “a way of think­ing or cog­i­tat­ing or med­i­tat­ing or hang­ing out with ideas” (257).

In the 21-day online MMS project, I was intro­duced to Louise Bourgeois’s giant spi­der sculp­ture, Maman. This female spi­der sym­bol­izes her mother’s pro­tec­tive strength and sup­port that Bour­geois felt through­out her life. Our Coro­na Read­ing Group cre­at­ed a col­lec­tive pho­to­graph­ic col­lage that appeared to resem­ble the Maman, with sim­i­lar ten­tac­u­lar con­nec­tions (Fig­ure 8). By ref­er­enc­ing the Maman, we not­ed that our “work­ing togeth­er through a shared screen evoked a ten­tac­u­lar arrange­ment like that of the spi­der with its many eyes and limbs” (Boza­lek, New­field, Romano, et al. 2020, 6). Since com­plet­ing our shared MMS project, the spi­der has con­tin­ued to inhab­it var­i­ous parts of my life, both phys­i­cal­ly as not­ed above, and more inti­mate­ly in my needle­work that has also acti­vat­ed the metaphor­i­cal spi­der. I feel the con­nec­tion with Bourgeois’s moth­er who worked as a weaver in the tapes­try industry.

Figure 8: Of cables and webs, with acknowledgement to Maman of Louise Bourgeois. Created online by Nike Romano with Corona Reading Group colleagues (Bozalek et al. 2020).

Bour­geois’ art has become part of sev­er­al of my recent enact­ments with­in dif­fer­ent assem­blages con­nect­ed to vio­lence, trau­ma, and heal­ing in my research in which art, women’s bod­ies, fab­rics, and researchers come togeth­er-apart; one move, rather than sep­a­ra­tions (Barad 2007). One such con­nec­tion was gen­er­at­ed with a local artist and friend, Gina Niederhumer.

Niederhumer’s (2016) sewing-art­work-the­sis attract­ed my atten­tion. She admits that her nee­dle and thread form a bridge for her to reflect on the past as well as a heal­ing con­nec­tion to work in the present and future—supporting her autoethno­graph­ic account of sep­a­ra­tions and trau­ma. She stitch­es bits torn out from her per­son­al nar­ra­tive togeth­er with thread and fab­ric, tak­ing her through her bro­ken­ness (Fig­ure 9). Nieder­humer (2016) express­es the “phys­i­cal­i­ty of the work itself; which pins, pierces and binds, one’s thoughts into the cloth in hand, chang­ing its appear­ance as it orders and mends the gaps between the torn and frayed edges in one’s self” (11). Using naive applique and dif­fer­ent pat­terns of stitch­ing, she found that her needle­work pro­vid­ed “a point of re-nego­ti­at­ing the past and an appa­ra­tus of heal­ing” (31). While her move­ments with threads appear to have act­ed in a ther­a­peu­tic man­ner with her dis­com­forts, what I find strik­ing in her the­sis is the sep­a­ra­tion of her per­son­al accounts with her aca­d­e­m­ic thoughts, as rep­re­sent­ed by a col­umn of text for each, with exam­ples of her stitchwork.

Figure 9: Gina Niederhumer’s (2014) needlework titled, I am also not Louise Bourgeois (2016, 36). Reproduced with artist’s permission.

In 2019, I attend­ed a work­shop facil­i­tat­ed by Nieder­humer, who alert­ed me to the val­ue of using fab­ric with text. She was on her way to Aus­tria to dis­play her art-thread-work and pro­mote her new­ly pub­lished book, titled Mend: A Per­son­al Explo­ration of Heal­ing. I won­dered what think­ing with thread could mean for me and my engage­ments with med­ical stu­dents at UCT. What became appar­ent was that thread could do work through dif­fer­ent intra-actions in terms of becom­ing-with research, health activism, and more. Niederhumer’s work inspired me to think-with threads and to con­nect sewing to my research-teach­ing, there­by bridg­ing the bound­aries that had pre­vi­ous­ly been present.

Bound­ary-break­ing and dis­rup­tion has char­ac­ter­ized COVID-19’s pen­e­tra­tion into our lives. How­ev­er, unex­pect­ed new oppor­tu­ni­ties have emerged such as our engage­ment with oth­ers in the MMS online project. Below I exam­ine how my nee­dle and thread con­nect­ed with the dai­ly prompts in this chal­lenge. A piece of old den­im fab­ric cut away from torn jeans became the base for relat­ing to my MMS jour­ney with oth­ers dur­ing a peri­od of time when the world was wait­ing for new knowl­edge, vac­cines, and oth­er ways of respond­ing to the viral onslaught. I demon­strate the ten­tac­u­lar wo/anderings of my thoughts with threads, and then fol­low through to describe anoth­er inde­ter­mi­nate time and peri­od of anx­i­ety between the sub­mis­sion of my doc­tor­al the­sis and the exam­in­ers’ respons­es. Pat Thom­son blogs about this peri­od, call­ing it “the­sis limbo-land”(2019).

Waiting with COVID-19

The MMS chal­lenge in April 2020 opened up a 21-day peri­od for col­lab­o­ra­tive cre­ative online engage­ment guid­ed by three key ques­tions, includ­ing ask­ing us, the par­tic­i­pants, how, in these times, are we mak­ing sense of Self, Oth­er and the World? (Markham, Har­ris, and Luka 2020). The fas­ci­nat­ing dai­ly prompts in this inno­v­a­tive, exper­i­men­tal autoethno­graph­ic project helped our Coro­na Read­ing Group work with the ten­sions cre­at­ed by the dis­rup­tions of COVID-19 (Markham and Har­ris 2020). The prompts facil­i­tat­ed a process for spread­ing our thoughts and online activ­i­ties beyond the con­straints of spa­tial bound­aries dur­ing a very strict lock­down peri­od in South Africa. More broad­ly, the project, which includ­ed over 150 par­tic­i­pants around the world, addressed the com­mon need for dis­trac­tion dur­ing the anx­i­ety of ear­ly coro­na-time. It invit­ed us to reach out across our dif­fer­ences and con­nect glob­al­ly in an asyn­chro­nous man­ner, not lim­it­ed by the usu­al con­straints of work­ing togeth­er in dif­fer­ent time zones. Along­side the MMS project dai­ly prompts, I felt the warmth of encoun­ters together/apart through my cof­fee mug, bring­ing a reminder of Barad’s (2014) expla­na­tion that there is an elec­tro­mag­net­ic repul­sion between atoms in our fin­gers and the porcelain.

Figure 10a: Mug with coffee.
Figure 10b: Thinking and becoming-with the mug.

As men­tioned ear­li­er in this arti­cle, the shared col­lec­tive cre­ativ­i­ty also opened my sewing-self, though it stayed con­tained in my per­son­al space at home. At the end of the chal­lenge, on the last day, these bound­aries were bro­ken by my upload­ing a pho­to­graph (Fig­ure 4) of my sewing arti­fact into the col­lab­o­ra­tive writ­ing Google doc­u­ment set up by our Coro­na Read­ing Group. In our Day 21 prompt I wrote:

[This sewing arti­fact] seems appro­pri­ate as threads are touch­ing fab­rics, sequins, beads, nee­dles, pins, my fin­gers, as well as the marks on my body that sparked off each of these shapes and texts which now may be viewed as rep­re­sen­ta­tions of my think­ing. Yet, to me they con­tin­ue to be alive with agency. Is this an exam­ple of Barad’s claim that “mat­ter is con­den­sa­tions of response-abil­i­ty” (161), or that Viv remind­ed me of “the con­geal­ing of agency? For instance, the yel­low text in the low­er right hand cor­ner refers to Black Lives Mat­ter that is now bold­ly writ­ten across the cen­tral street in Wash­ing­ton. It also denotes time­space­mat­ter­ing in and through our read­ing group, as well as remind­ing me about always ask­ing, “what mat­ters?” Inter­est­ing­ly, and much to my sur­prise and annoy­ance, the green dye of the fold­ed fab­ric at the top bled into the den­im show­ing me that an assumed bound­ary is no more.”

My sewing-based con­tri­bu­tion to our MMS project was greet­ed with appre­ci­a­tion and admi­ra­tion from my gen­er­ous read­ing group Zoom-mates. Then, the group under­stand­ably moved on, con­tin­u­ing to explore fur­ther read­ings from Barad and oth­er inter­est­ing texts enhanc­ing our under­stand­ing of Fem­i­nist New Mate­ri­al­ism. How­ev­er, my rela­tion­ship with the agency of the fab­ric-thread-arte­fact con­tin­ued to grow over the fol­low­ing days and months. It did not become a pas­sive, inert object that could be sep­a­rat­ed from my being. The affec­tive force emerg­ing from this rela­tion­ship of the arti­fact with me gen­er­at­ed a sense of urgency that resist­ed any sep­a­ra­tion. I could not bring myself to hide the worked-on den­im piece nor to have it tucked away with oth­er unfin­ished sewing endeav­ours. A new rela­tion­ship was becom­ing estab­lished that I could not ignore or dis­card. I felt a call­ing, an invi­ta­tion that more was need­ed, a cre­ative-rela­tion­ing4 that had the poten­tial to stretch across and between bound­aries, with­out lim­its (Har­ris 2020).

By tak­ing up four spe­cif­ic MMS prompts below, I briefly explain my emerg­ing thoughts and actions with/in/through this sewn appa­ra­tus. First, I refer to basic food inse­cu­ri­ties; sec­ond, to a dig­i­tal learn­ing expe­ri­ence remind­ing me of the many dif­fer­ent forms of mes­sag­ing relat­ing to data and dig­i­tal access; third, to the ups and downs of inde­ter­mi­nate undu­lat­ing waves of dai­ly trans­mis­sion num­bers of the virus and its muta­tions that are non-dis­crim­i­na­to­ry; last­ly, I take up the notion of dynam­ic flu­id­i­ty of coro­na-time sym­bol­ized through the melt­ing of an ice cube, which con­nect­ed me to the ener­getic activism in terms of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty in anoth­er glob­al space.

1. Prompt 5: Walk­ing with Guavas

Figure 11a: Guava.
Figure 11b: Guavas and me.

A gua­va tree in my back gar­den led me to be mind­ful of the shock­ing state of hunger (exac­er­bat­ed by COVID lock­downs) affect­ing many South Africans. In my MMS Face­book post I wrote:

I’m pushed to con­sid­er the iter­a­tive intra-actions that are enact­ed with each of my move­ments in the back gar­den. Barad’s rela­tion­al ontol­ogy helps me look beyond my indi­vid­ual inten­tion to rather con­sid­er how, dur­ing this lock­down peri­od, the back gar­den has beck­oned to me. Once in that space, I feel a new sense of time, plea­sure and free­dom enhanced by the dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences that have come to mat­ter, such as pick­ing and eat­ing wormy guavas.”

I sense and feel my priv­i­lege as I move through a flour­ish­ing, con­tained gar­den space, and ques­tion the impact of a fleshy fruit shared with a hun­gry worm. Lat­er, stitch­ing a pile of autumn leaves enabled me to con­tin­ue to take my thoughts for a walk (Spring­gay and Tru­man 2018) con­sid­er­ing indi­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties who do not have safe spaces to com­fort­ably walk through dur­ing COVID lock­down. Inti­mate part­ner vio­lence in South Africa has been named as a “silent pub­lic health epi­dem­ic” (Gor­don 2016, 962).

2. Prompt 3: Team Video-Making

Join­ing unknown oth­ers to cre­ate a video was a new expe­ri­ence for me, depict­ed on the den­im fab­ric by the video logo made with sequins and threads. Our ideas and work stretched across unex­pect­ed inter­na­tion­al bound­aries, with MMS par­tic­i­pants in Fin­land and Colom­bia. I give thanks to co-authors in this issue, Anne Soro­nen, Karoli­ina Talvi­tie-Lam­berg, and Poli­na Golováti­na-Mora, who exposed me to new dig­i­tal expressions.

Figure 12a: Video icon.
Figure 12b: Video screenshots of our collaborative effort.

3. Prompt 8: Snakes and Ladders

Figure 13: Ups and downs of corona-time.

The stress­ful uncer­tain­ty of coro­na-time brought to the fore my many mem­o­ries of the board game Snakes and Lad­ders. What has become evi­dent world­wide, is that the coro­n­avirus does not dis­crim­i­nate, even for those who feel they are in good health, on top of the lad­der. If we are in the vicin­i­ty of an infec­tious COVID-19-pos­i­tive indi­vid­ual, con­sid­ered as the ‘wrong place’ at the wrong time, we are like­ly to slide down with the snakes, to suc­cumb to the grip of the virus, with inde­ter­mi­nate symp­toms and pos­si­ble long-term seque­lae, pass­ing into the unknown ‘after­life.’

4. Prompt 9: Mov­ing with Ice

Figure 14a: Threads as ice.
Figure 14b: Melting ice with hand.

Re-turn­ing to the ice cube activ­i­ty from MMS, I think about the enact­ments of flu­id move­ments. New ideas are gen­er­at­ed with the ice-hand-skin assem­blage as my thoughts have moved to video record­ings of Latai Taumoepeau’s (2020) per­for­mances with ice break­ing, shak­ing, crack­ing and, and, and… : activism towards forces of fragili­ty and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty faced by the Pacif­ic people.

Final­ly, before con­clud­ing, I describe how nee­dle and thread pro­vid­ed sup­port and inspi­ra­tion dur­ing an anx­ious peri­od famil­iar to many aca­d­e­mics work­ing on their doc­tor­al the­ses. I acknowl­edged that becom­ing-researcher led me into an unan­tic­i­pat­ed ter­rain, ques­tion­ing rela­tion­ships of time, place, and space. In my PhD the­sis I put for­ward that the text was an open appa­ra­tus with the poten­tial for more to come, yet I had not expect­ed that the more would become-with thread and nee­dles re-turn­ing to a past pas­time and pulling the threads through my new life in academia.

Waiting in-between the PhD process

As men­tioned ear­li­er in this arti­cle, dur­ing the PhD research process I attempt­ed to keep strict bound­aries to avoid dis­trac­tions. I was cog­nizant of the impact of pro­longed sit­ting which also exclud­ed any desire for sewing. My train­ing in phys­io­ther­a­py pro­voked a sense of guilt for the many hours spent in a rel­a­tive­ly sta­t­ic sit­ting posi­tion fac­ing my com­put­er screen. How­ev­er, wait­ing for respons­es from exter­nal exam­in­ers sit­u­at­ed across the oceans cre­at­ed a space of dis­com­fort that I was unpre­pared for after all the pres­sures to com­plete the the­sis task. Wait­ing for my research assess­ment felt like sit­ting in a labyrinth not know­ing which way to turn. I rec­og­nized that work­ing so intense­ly with words was not the usu­al for me (Fig­ure 15a).

Figure 15a: Wordy world. The dominance of text in academia.
Figure 15b: Cover page of my PhD thesis.

Then key­words and phras­es began to glow as I worked with/in them cre­at­ing sewn squares with texts of self-expres­sion, such as: research-sewing-cre­ation, sew what-when-wait­ing, wild times, one month the­sis in—needle out, mov­ing beyond, open­ing up, dif­fer­ences, not a straight jour­ney, entan­gled becom­ing, lay­ers, unfold­ing, sup­port­ive fam­i­ly, light­ing up, entan­gled, cir­cles and draw­ings, wait­ing, assem­blages, im/possibility, and more (Fig­ure 16). Mag­gie MacLure (2013) points out how we can be invit­ed back to spe­cif­ic frag­ments of our research data, leav­ing us to won­der fur­ther as these “hotspots” have an inten­si­ty and force to “exert a kind of fas­ci­na­tion, and have a capac­i­ty to ani­mate fur­ther thought” (228).

My research with swim­ming achieve­ments sur­pris­ing­ly emerged in one of my first fab­ric squares. In rec­og­niz­ing the impor­tance of a bal­anced life with the need for exer­cise, I began swim­ming at a local gym. Tak­ing length after length, mov­ing with the water, I even­tu­al­ly reached 80 lengths, while just not being able to attain that desir­able 100 that could be cel­e­brat­ed with a huge sense of achieve­ment from a swim­mer who was only becom­ing-with water through the research process. In terms of sewing as a form of art­work, I refer to Sylvia Kind (2008) who explains how art mak­ing helped make sense of life’s expe­ri­ences, noting:

I hold the fin­ished squares and read back their sto­ries. I lay them out side by side and con­sid­er the ways I have been cut and stitched togeth­er with the fab­ric.” (109)

Figure 16: Collection of thoughts in-between my PhD process.

Knotting but not ending

In this arti­cle I explore my involve­ment with oth­ers (both human and more-than-human) in a South African Health Sci­ences Fac­ul­ty, in terms of teach­ing and research, and online with the MMS chal­lenge dur­ing coro­na-time, and how these rela­tion­ships inter­sect­ed with my dif­fer­ent embod­ied activ­i­ties. My move­ments through var­i­ous forms of self-expres­sion are described in this text with images of spi­ders, embroi­dered objects, and relat­ed items that thread through each oth­er, intra-act­ing in and through our emer­gent relationships.

Mak­ing as ped­a­gogy and mak­ing as method, in terms of my teach­ing and research with under­grad­u­ate med­ical stu­dents dur­ing their obstet­rics learn­ing, has remind­ed me of the seep­ing through of nutri­ents across the pla­cen­ta, with rec­i­p­ro­cal affec­tive engage­ments between a grow­ing foe­tus and its moth­er. My expe­ri­ences were nour­ished and enriched through these wo/anderings, enabling a process of needling through pre­vi­ous­ly bound­ed pro­fes­sion­al and per­son­al com­part­ments of my life—a dis­rup­tive, risky jour­ney which has appeared beneficial.

A rela­tion­al approach moves beyond bina­ries and fixed bound­ary-mak­ing sep­a­ra­tions. It acknowl­edges the entan­gle­ments that are enact­ed with each encounter—a bleed­ing through porosi­ties that con­tests the dom­i­nant essen­tial­ist epis­te­mol­o­gy estab­lished in sci­en­tif­ic dis­ci­plines, like obstet­rics, and is valu­able to con­sid­er for encour­ag­ing trans­dis­ci­pli­nary work.

Mov­ing beyond human-cen­tred rep­re­sen­ta­tion­al modes of think­ing and doing, I have high­light­ed how exper­i­men­tal craft-mak­ing art works offered alter­na­tive path­ways to engage affir­ma­tive­ly with ten­sions dur­ing coro­na-time, as well as in cur­ric­u­lar tasks in obstet­rics and con­nect­ed research. A scrap of torn den­im jeans became a dif­fer­ent land­scape for work­ing with the 21 days of intense intra-actions in our col­lab­o­ra­tive MMS project. And the end-jour­ney of my doc­tor­al the­sis con­tin­ued beyond text-on-com­put­er screens to text-with-fab­ric and threads, cre­at­ing an open­ness for new possibilities.


I wish to thank the review­ers of this arti­cle for assist­ing me to re-imag­ine the text. My appre­ci­a­tion to Dan Har­ris and Annette Markham, whose MMS chal­lenge inspired a cre­ative co-pres­ence dur­ing times of intense ten­sion. Thanks also to my Coro­na Read­ing Group Zoom-mates. This work is based on the research sup­port­ed in part by the Nation­al Research Foun­da­tion of South Africa (Grant Num­ber: 120845).

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Jack­son Ale­cia Y. and Lisa A. Mazzei. Think­ing with The­o­ry: A New Ana­lyt­ic for Qual­i­ta­tive Inquiry. In Den­zin, Nor­man K. and Yvon­na S. Lin­coln (Eds.). The SAGE Hand­book of Qual­i­ta­tive Research (5th edi­tion). Sage Pub­li­ca­tions, Two Regimes of Mad­ness: Texts and Inter­views 2017.

Klein, Reise, Gabrielle Siegers and Dorothy Wood­man. Erot­ic. Mater­nal. Cul­tur­al. Sym­bol­ic. Med­ical. What are breasts? How are they imag­ined? And who gets to decide? Imag­i­na­tions, vol. 11, no. 1, 2020, pp. 5–15. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​7​7​4​2​/​I​M​A​G​E​.​B​R​.​1​1​.​1.1

MacLure, Mag­gie. The Won­der of Data. Cul­tur­al Stud­ies ↔ Crit­i­cal Method­olo­gies, vol. 13, no. 4, 2013, pp. 228-232. DOI: 10.1177/1532708613487863.

Markham Annette N., Anne (Dan) Har­ris, and Mary E. Luka. Mas­sive and Micro­scop­ic Sense­mak­ing Dur­ing COVID-19 Times. Qual­i­ta­tive Inquiry, vol. 27, no. 7, 2020, pp. 759-766. DOI:10.1177/1077800420962477 https://​jour​nals​.sagepub​.com/​d​o​i​/​1​0​.​1​1​7​7​/​1​0​7​7​8​0​0​4​2​0​9​6​2​477 

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Image Notes

Fig­ure 1a: Image of COVID-19 (PD).

Fig­ure 1b: Embroi­dered spiky virus.

Fig­ure 2: Con­cern­ing stu­dents’ respons­es relat­ed to their obstet­rics learn­ing (Mitchell 2019).

Fig­ure 3a: Embroi­dered clock-time.

Fig­ure 3b: Chronos and Aion time.

Fig­ure 4: Work­ing-think­ing-cre­at­ing with threads through the MMS challenge.

Fig­ure 5a: Mask as protector.

Fig­ure 5b: Mask buy­ing and mask making.

Fig­ure 6: Sense-mak­ing with the spi­der at my front door.

Fig­ure 7. Shim­mer­ing pat­terns and con­nec­tions of spi­ders. Pho­to by author, Feb­ru­ary 2020.

Fig­ure 8: Of cables and webs, with acknowl­edge­ment to Maman of Louise Bour­geois. Cre­at­ed online by Nike Romano with Coro­na Read­ing Group col­leagues (Boza­lek et al. 2020).

Fig­ure 9: Gina Niederhumer’s 2014 needle­work titled, “I am also not Louise Bour­geois” (2016, 36). Repro­duced with artist’s permission.

Fig­ure 10a: Mug with coffee.

Fig­ure 10b: Think­ing and becom­ing-with the mug.

Fig­ure 11a: Guava.

Fig­ure 11b: Guavas and me.

Fig­ure 12a: Video icon.

Fig­ure 12b: Video screen­shots of our col­lab­o­ra­tive effort.

Fig­ure 13: Ups and downs of corona-time.

Fig­ure 14a: Threads as ice.

Fig­ure 14b: Melt­ing ice with hand.

Fig­ure 15a: Wordy world. The dom­i­nance of text in academia.

Fig­ure 15b: Cov­er page of my PhD thesis.

Fig­ure 16: Col­lec­tion of thoughts in-between my PhD process.


  1. Obstet­ric vio­lence is a term coined in Venezuela in 2007. It aims to address women’s loss of auton­o­my and free­dom of choice, gain­ing legal pro­tec­tion (Sha­bat 2020).

  2. Barad (2019) refers to Derrida’s “jus­tice-to-come” which implies an eth­i­cal and ongo­ing com­mit­ment to address injus­tices.

  3. A dif­frac­tion or inter­fer­ence pat­tern occurs when waves of water, light, or sound are dis­turbed as they inter­sect with each oth­er. Barad (2007) uses the exam­ple of two stones dropped into a pool of water result­ing in waves mov­ing out­wards, over­lap­ping and cre­at­ing new pat­terns as they intra-act through their force and move­ment.

  4. Har­ris (2020) refers to her work with Jonathan Wyatt’s cre­ative-rela­tion­al inquiry to explain that cre­ative-rela­tion­al moves are “a per­for­ma­tive way of know­ing and express­ing that is root­ed in nei­ther the dis­cur­sive nor the mate­r­i­al but tran­scends bina­ries and breathes through con­nec­tion” (17).