Welcome to The Feel-ed Lab, that is slowly becoming a thing. I moved to Syilx territory (from Sydney, Australia) in February 2021 to become part of the exciting research and teaching community at UBCO. Something like “The Feel-ed Lab” was already incubating in my imagination, but upon arrival, it seemed clear that this might be the kind of place it could actually work.
Why a field lab? There are many scientific field stations around – I’ve had the pleasure of doing interdisciplinary research at some of them – but field stations for humanities and other arts-based research are far less common. Unfortunately, there is a misperception that humanities researchers only need books – something to write on, something to write with, maybe a desk, and maybe if they are lucky, a “room of one’s own.” But the work of humanities researchers is as grounded in the world as any other researcher’s. Place and Land relations are always part of our work – even if this is in unacknowledged and invisible ways. Situating the work of the Feel-ed Lab specifically in place, on Land, and in the context of existing and emerging relationships, is crucial if we want this work to be socially, culturally and environmentally relevant.
Why a feel-ed lab? While The Feel-ed Lab is a field lab, it is also a feel-ed lab! I invented this word to try to capture the feel (!) of humanities and arts-based research. While we may not use microscopes, hydrophones and sampling kits (although actually, we also do), we have a particularly sophisticated sensory research apparatus – also known as the body. We are feel-ers, with feelers, trying to feel the world. While humanities scholars may be best known for writing things and making things and communicating things, we can do this because we have bodies that feel things. And, although we call ourselves a humanities field lab, we engage across disciplines, in a rather undisciplined fashion. This is where things get interesting.
Our work is currently happening in a dispersed way – from home, from offices, from picnic benches, around UBCO campus, and also down at Woodhaven Ecocultural Centre, on unceded Syilx territory in South Kelowna, where we might one day exist a little more regularly. Right now, we are building relationships, having conversations, sharing dreams, and doing the practical grunt work of setting up structures so all of this can happen in supportive, ethical and accessible ways.
While this is currently taking shape as a UBCO initiative, the Feel-ed Lab will always be a community space on Syilx land, whatever shape it ends up taking.