Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Celina Su

Committee Members

Susan Saegert

Wendy Luttrell

Nicole Starosielski

Finn Brunton

Subject Categories

Aesthetics | Applied Ethics | Architecture | Art and Design | Art Practice | Arts and Humanities | Book and Paper | Critical and Cultural Studies | Environmental Studies | Epistemology | Graphic Communications | Human Ecology | Human Geography | Interdisciplinary Arts and Media | Interpersonal and Small Group Communication | Language Interpretation and Translation | Philosophy of Mind | Place and Environment | Psychology | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Psychology and Interaction | Sociology | Sociology of Culture | Theory, Knowledge and Science | Visual Studies


salt, qualitative research, research methodology, intra-action, diffraction, embodiment, duration, practice, praxis


This dissertation takes a diffractive, onto-epistemological approach to everyday practices with salt in order to articulate an expanded understanding of meaning making and knowledge production. This research reckons with and challenges dominant modes of knowing that engage a Cartesian perspective to situate knowing as the exclusive domain of the mind in both form and topic of inquiry. This research acts simultaneously as both a direct practice of and metacognition about knowledge production by examining 1. the embodied (including sensory and emotional aspects) and 2. the relational (including interpersonal and socio-cultural) dimensions of experience as visceral knowing. This articulation of meaning-making questions what counts as knowing and by extension who and what gets erased when certain forms are privileged. This research links nonhuman theories to the empirical through its inquiry on salt, embodiment, relation, and practice.

I develop and utilize intra-views as a multimodal, qualitative approach that engages diffraction not just as a theoretical frame but a mode of praxis. I engage practitioners of different activities involving salt to both learn from their experiences and to include their perceptions and analysis of those stories through a series of different encounters and reencounters with one another and the research materials. This approach entwines data collection with analysis, engaging the participants not as subjects or material to be studied, but as interlocutors while recognizing differences in roles and interests in the process of including multiple viewpoints.

Positioning meaning making as an embodied and relational practice engages ethics in relation to knowledge production. I explore this intersection of knowing, values, and practice as an embodied aesthetics, an assertion of ethical obligation relative to power and impact–of responsibility–along with how this interdependence also includes imagination and motivation as points of possibility–articulating the agency that is also present in the complex entanglement of self and others. This is a multiscalar, entangled understanding of responsibility and agency among individual humans, nonhuman entities, and the environment as well as a call to action and respect in our interdependent co-creation of constraints and possibilities in our practices of knowing and world-making. It is both/and rather than either/or as we affect and are affected by one another. An embodied aesthetics embeds ethics within aesthetics to connect knowing to other practices, a development that helps facilitate the entwinement of theory and practice in applied practices such as architecture and design.