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Racing Mobility, Excavating Modernity: A Comment

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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