Nina Williams is Lecturer in Cultural Geography at the University of New South Wales Canberra.
My research explores conceptual innovations in the fields of nonrepresentational theory, process philosophy, speculative thinking and post-humanism. In an effort to bring theory into close relationship with practice, a central pursuit of my research is to foreground the role of aesthetics and creative processes as unique means for understanding cultural and ecological change.
My current research project ‘Theorising Biodesign: ethics, values, techniques’ (funded with a UNSW Seed Funding award) explores biodesign initiatives in the fields of textiles and architecture, so far in European and Australian contexts (see Williams and Collet 2021; Williams 2022). The project has involved occupying a Visiting Researcher role at the Design and Living Systems Lab at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. I have also undertaken research visits as part of this project to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology; Co-Labs in Melbourne; École Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle in Paris; and Open Cell in London. The key questions guiding this research project are: what kinds of assemblages make up this form of design? How are the traditional durations of design disrupted by bioinspired or bioengineered techniques? What is implied by the ethos of collaborating or co-producing with nature in biodesign discourses? How do practitioners transition from the speculative to manufactured stages of design? What role do regenerative designs play in the contexts of circular economies and ecological crises?
More broadly my research is concerned with two central themes:
1. To amplify how distinct forms of evaluation and problematisation emerge as part of creative practices. For example, drawing on the philosophy of Henri Bergson, I have theorised creativity as a process that disrupts individual ingenuity and human durations (see Williams 2016; 2022). After Félix Guattari, I have challenged the idea that the political potential of art is limited to representational intentions (see discussion of Keiichi Tahara's portrait collection 1978-1987 in Williams 2019) and subjects (see discussion of Nathalie Sarraute's Tropisms in Williams and Burdon, 2022). I have sought to re-conceptualise style, after Gilles Deleuze, Anne Sauvagnargues and Sonia Delaunay, understanding it as a transformative practice rather than as a fixed category (see Williams 2020). Also drawing on the philosophy of Deleuze, I have discussed how creative and arts-based geographic research can serve as a site of geographic critique (see Williams 2021). I have also situated this theme of my research in the context of fashion and style, where the introduction to a special issue I co-organised with Dr Merle Patchett (Bristol University) sought to draw out globally-orientated and decentered approaches to the study of fashion and consider the microsocial problematics and potentials of fashion practices (see Patchett and Williams 2022).
2. To develop experimental, qualitative research as generative practico-theoretical events. I have designed experimental methodologies in the contexts of art and curation, walking and mapmaking, and sonic geographies. Through this aspect of my research, I have pursued an interest in disseminating research beyond the academy, having co-organised and secured funding for community and arts-based workshops and exhibitions. My PhD thesis 'An Aesthetic Gait: research in the minor registers of creativity and walking' (completed at the University of Bristol and funded through the Economic and Social Research Council, UK) involved walking interviews in rural landscapes, public workshops on urban field-recording, and immersive engagements with walking art. I have also developed Masters level and citizen-led workshops on listening to urban environments via audio recording devices (see Williams 2019); I have utilised the post-card as a form of mapping (see Cook et al 2016; Williams 2015); and I have curated exhibitions and creative workshops to engage the public in thinking about documenting cities (see Williams 2014; discussed in Williams 2021). With collaborators in Bristol, Canberra, and Linköping, I have addressed how post-humanist theoretical interventions reframe methodological practices and expectations in the humanities and social sciences (see Williams, Patchett, Lapworth, Roberts, and Keating 2019).
I obtained a BA (hons) in Geography at the University of Manchester in 2011; an MSc in Human Geography: Society and Space at the University of Bristol in 2012; and a PhD in Human Geography at the University of Bristol in 2017. Before commencing my current role at UNSW Canberra in 2019, I worked as a Research Associate in Urban Living in the department of Civil Engineering at the University of Bristol and as a Lecturer in Human Geography in the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol.