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Cotten Seiler

Th e diversity of methodologies, theoretical orientations, geographical settings,

and disciplinary perspectives in this special issue of Transfers testifi es

to a dual arrival—that of race as a key category of inquiry in mobility studies,

and of mobility as a crucial practice in analyses of what scholars in the

humanities and social sciences call the social construction of race. Drawing

on poststructuralist and critical race theory, refl exive ethnographic methods,

and scholarship in literary studies, sociology, and the history of technology,

these essays illustrate the versatility of the mobility optic as well as its massive

potential for the formation of new knowledge and the eff ecting of egalitarian

policy. Th e scholars here make the case for mobility as central to everything

from the structured inequalities of the contemporary city to the formation of

the raced and gendered modern subject; and their interventions range from

the reformist to the ontological. Maybe the infl uential cultural anthropologist

Cliff ord Geertz (and the other Western sahibs who recounted the story before

him) misunderstood the structure of the world as the fabled Hindu interlocutor

conveyed it; perhaps the infi nitely regressing turtles on which the universe

rested were never simply standing, but crawling.

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Gijs Mom, Georgine Clarsen and Cotten Seiler

At Eindhoven University of Technology, which has a modest reputation for collecting contemporary art, an exhibition of large machines and poetic video clips by father and son Van Bakel invites passersby to reflect on mobility. Gerrit van Bakel, who died more than a quarter century ago, became known for his Tarim Machine, a vehicle that moves at such a low speed that it almost does not matter whether it moves or not. The propulsion principle—for those who love technology—rests on the dilatation energy of oil in tubes propelling (if propelling is the right word …) the contraption a couple of centimeters over a hundred years or so, as long as there is change in temperature to trigger the dilatation. Emphasizing his father’s insights, Michiel van Bakel, exhibits a video clip of a horse and rider galloping over a square in Rotterdam, where the position and camera work are operated so that the horse seems to turn around its axis while the environment rotates at a different tempo. Mobility, these Dutch artists convey, is often not what it seems to be.

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Gijs Mom, Georgine Clarsen and Cotten Seiler

Last year President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela announced the appearance of what a Dutch national newspaper called an “anticapitalist car.” The two models, named by Chávez himself as the “Orinoco” and the “Arauca,” after rivers that run through Venezuela, are locally assembled under a preferential license agreement with the Chinese automaker Chery. The cars are sold for half the price of other makes and are marketed to the expanding Venezuelan middle class. They are intended as “new attainments of the revolution” that are meant to raise the “standard of life of the people.” This new venture was in a tradition that Chávez’s opponents claim started in 2006, when he came close to making a similar deal with Iranian president Ahmadinejad.

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Gijs Mom, Cotten Seiler and Georgine Clarsen

This issue is the last of volume 2. With this, we have reached a milestone in our fledgling history and a threshold to the last volume in our series of three in which we have strived, and still strive, to get all the important elements of a good journal in place. According to our original plans our priorities were to establish top-quality submissions, a splendid pool of knowledgeable and rigorous but generous transdisciplinary referees, efficient refereeing procedures, satisfactory rejection rates, timely manuscript production, and a subscriber base that crosses disciplinary boundaries. Although quantitatively not yet up to standard, our readership is variegated and adventurous enough to appreciate our desire to “rethink mobility” and dedicate printed space to “mobility writ large.” Before we begin to produce volume 3 (2012) this September, our editorial team will retreat, evaluate, and look each other in the eyes to determine what we can do better.

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Gijs Mom, Georgine Clarsen, Peter Merriman, Cotten Seiler, Mimi Sheller and Heike Weber

In the middle of last year, a large survey in the Netherlands revealed that the average Dutch person dedicates seven hours per day to “media consumption.” That is the gross value, the surveyors assure us. The net value is 5.5, meaning that 1.5 hours are spent multitasking, such as watching TV and surfing on the net, or “tweeting” (on Twitter) during a football match. Remarkably, using the cell phone while driving would not qualify as multitasking as the car is not considered to be a medium. Users know better, as we will see in this issue, and mobility researchers are devising conceptual frameworks that are adequate to the complex and multiple relations between diverse media.

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Gijs Mom, Georgine Clarsen, Nanny Kim, Cotten Seiler, Kurt Möser, Dorit Müller, charissa N. Terranova and Rudi Volti

In 1873 Edouard Manet finished his famous and beautiful “Railroad” painting. In it a woman in a blue travel coat, sitting on the stone base of a gate, stares us in the face, looking up from her book and gazing through us as if digesting what she just read, a little dog sleeping on her lap. Next to her a girl (her daughter?) stands with her back toward us, a big blue bow on her white Sunday dress, gripping the gate bars and looking through them at … a cloud of steam. No train in sight. They are waiting, for what, for whom? Perhaps the girl’s attention is not drawn by what she sees but by what she hears: a steam valve must be hissing loudly.