Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Discomfort: Transformative encounters and social change

Wilson, Helen F.



In the context of debates on ontological risk, ‘border work’, and the transformative potentials of encounter, the paper offers a critical examination of the workings of discomfort to ask what is at stake in both its embrace and refusal. Focusing in particular on the deliberate production of discomfort and its perceived political, ethical, and pedagogical potential, the paper draws on ethnographic research on ‘staged encounter’ programmes, which are designed to push people out of their ‘comfort zone’ in order to address conflictual issues and forms of discrimination. Through such an account, the paper traces the different forms that discomfort takes – bodily, ontological, personal, collective – and examines their implications and differential affects as they variously open up and close down the possibility for social transformation.


Wilson, H. F. (2020). Discomfort: Transformative encounters and social change. Emotion, Space and Society, 37,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 12, 2020
Online Publication Date Nov 13, 2020
Publication Date 2020-11
Deposit Date May 11, 2021
Journal Emotion, Space and Society
Print ISSN 1755-4586
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 37

You might also like

Downloadable Citations