Theorizing Mobility Transitions

An Interdisciplinary Conversation

in Transfers
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  • 1 University of Manchester
  • | 2 University of Amsterdam
  • | 3 University of Oxford
  • | 4 Trinity College
  • | 5 Utrecht University
  • | 6 University of Sheffield
  • | 7 Drexel University
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Despite a surge of multidisciplinary interest in transition studies on low-carbon mobilities, there has been little evaluation of the current state of the field, and the contributions of different approaches such as the multi-level perspective (MLP), theories of practice, or the new mobilities paradigm. As a step in this direction, this contribution brings together scholars representing different theoretical perspectives and disciplinary fields in order to discuss processes and uneven geographies of mobility transitions as they are currently theorized. First, we reflect upon the role of geographers and other social scientists in envisioning, enabling, and criticizing mobility transitions. Second, we discuss how different theoretical approaches can develop mobility transitions scholarship. Finally, we highlight emerging issues in mobility transitions research.

Contributor Notes

Cristina Temenos is an urban studies foundation postdoctoral research fellow in Geography and the Manchester Urban Institute at the University of Manchester. She is an urban geographer studying the relationships between social justice and the mobilization of social, health, and drug policies across cities. Her work on urban policy mobilities has been published in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Environment and Planning A, the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, and The Routledge Handbook of Mobilities (2014). E-mail:

Anna Nikolaeva is a postdoctoral researcher at the Human Geography, Planning and International Development Studies Department, University of Amsterdam, and at Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University. She has written about airport architecture and the design of spaces of mobility for academic and general audiences. Her research revolves around the mobility-place nexus with a particular focus on spaces of transit, such as airports, cycling, urban public space, mobile sociality, and intra-EU mobility. E-mail:

Tim Schwanen is an associate professor and director of the Transport Studies Unit at the School of Geography and Environment of the University of Oxford. He is also a codirector of the RCUK-funded Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand (EP/KO11790/1, in which the Universities of Sussex, Manchester, and Oxford collaborate. His research concentrates on various dimensions of the geography of mobility, including the question of how radical emission reductions from transport can be achieved and mobility systems adapted to climate change in sociospatially just ways. E-mail:

Tim Cresswell is a professor of American studies and dean of Faculty at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. His work focuses on the role of mobility, place, and space in the constitution of social and cultural life. His books include Geographic Thought: A Critical Introduction (2012) and On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World (2006). He has also coedited four collections, including Geographies of Mobilities: Practices, Spaces, Subjects (with Peter Merriman, 2011). He is the author of two poetry collections, Soil (2013) and Fence (2015). E-mail:

Frans Sengers is a postdoctoral researcher in the Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. The connecting theme running through his work is transformative change in urban contexts, especially in Asian cities. A key question is how sociotechnical experimentation, institutional change, and path-dependent regimes in cities across the globe coproduce our urban future. His current postdoctoral research centers on eco-city and smart city developments, comparing current activities in Europe and China. Frans previously completed his PhD dissertation on the prospects for sustainable urban mobility in Thailand. E-mail:

Matt Watson is a senior lecturer in human geography at the University of Sheffield. He was previously a researcher at Durham University, after completing a PhD in the Centre for Science Studies at Lancaster University. His research aims to understand the systemic relations between everyday practices, technologies, spaces, and institutions to advance understandings of social change in relation to sustainability and social justice. Empirically, this work has encompassed energy, food, waste, and mobility. He has published widely, including as coauthor of The Design of Everyday Life (2007) and The Dynamics of Social Practice (2012). E-mail:

Mimi Sheller is a professor of sociology and founding director of the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy at Drexel University. She is president of the International Association for the History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility, founding coeditor of the journal Mobilities, and associate editor of Transfers. She is author or coeditor of nine books, including Aluminum Dreams: The Making of Light Modernity (2014); The Routledge Handbook of Mobilities (2014); and Mobility and Locative Media (2014). As coeditor with John Urry of Tourism Mobilities (2004) and Mobile Technologies of the City (2006) and several highly cited articles, she helped establish “the new mobilities paradigm.” E-mail:


Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies


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