After Disasters

Infrastructures, (Im)mobilities, and the Politics of Recovery

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Benjamin Linder International Institute for Asian Studies at Leiden University, the Netherlands

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Galen Murton James Madison University, USA

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This article explores the COVID-19 pandemic to extend the temporal horizon of (post-)disaster mobilities research. We are not only interested in the conspicuous disruption to mobilities wrought by disasters, nor the emergent modes of movement constituted in disasters’ immediate aftermaths. Rather, with special reference to Nepal, this article attends to the jagged and protracted process of remobilizing the world in the wake of dramatic events like COVID-19. In short, we are concerned here with the uneven politics of “getting back to normal.” Two dimensions of this are discussed via a critical reflection on the widespread “dimmer switch” metaphor of remobilization: (1) the uneven rhythms and refractions of remobilization, and (2) the hegemony of “normal” mobilities systems. Using “light” as an illuminating analytic, we renew calls to examine the disparate impacts of disasters themselves, and also to analyze the uneven politics of “getting back” to “normal” mobilities after disasters.

Contributor Notes

Benjamin Linder is an anthropologist currently based at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) at Leiden University, the Netherlands. His ethnographic work explores the everyday entanglements of transnationalism, urban place-making, and cultural transformation in Nepal. He maintains theoretical interests in cosmopolitanism, mobilities, scalarity, and literary geographies. Email:

Galen Murton is Assistant Professor of Geography at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. A human geographer with broad research and teaching interests related to international development, his research examines the politics of infrastructure, Chinese investment, and post-disaster humanitarian aid in different global contexts, primarily across the Himalaya region but also more recently in the United States. Additional interests include borders, mobility, trade, cartography, place, and space. Email:

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Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies