Towards a politics of whimsy: yarn bombing the city

Joanna Mann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Whimsy describes the capricious, playful and fanciful, and designates something irrational or without an immediately obvious reason to exist. I argue that this frivolity and illogicality are precisely what can make whimsy a significant, if fleeting, ground for micro-political change. To demonstrate this claim I use the example of yarn bombing – a contemporary form of street art in which knitted and crocheted items are attached to parts of the urban landscape. Yarn bombing, I argue, does more than feminise the city, for the whimsy with which it is imbued has the capacity to increase our attentiveness to habitual worlds in a series of micro-political gestures. Yet it is impossible to fully recognise and harness a politics of whimsy, for doing so defies its character as frivolous and without motive, and supersedes these traits with intentionality and utility. As a result, a politics born of whimsy is always-already a paradoxical politics. The broader question thus becomes one of how to dwell in whimsy's ungraspable moment in order that we might remain open to new political and ethical potentialities. To explore these issues, this paper draws on performative ethnographic fieldwork, wherein 30 yarn bombs were made and displayed in the city of Bristol during 2011.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date23 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Bristol
  • yarn bombing
  • whimsy
  • knitting
  • materiality
  • urban habits


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