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After Disasters

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

Benjamin Linder and Galen Murton


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.

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The Ocean as Another Place

Tina Montenegro


Mati Diop's 2019 feature film Atlantics won the Grand Prix at Cannes that year. It is a polyphonic tale of migration, love, loss, and fantasy that takes place in Dakar, Senegal. Using fantasy and mystery to create opacity, as defined by the writer and theorist of postcolonialism Édouard Glissant, Diop seeks to give dignity to the victims of migration and to invite viewers to establish a relationship with the film. The combination of diverse poetic lines gives the film striking richness and resonance, as well as the ability to comment on sociopolitical issues without being limited to one interpretation. Despite the immobility of the problems she brings to the screen, Diop transmits hope for other mobilities, which she herself brings to life and embodies.

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Book Reviews

Wojciech Kębłowski, Cecilia Vindrola-Padros, and Fatma Derya Mentes

Kafui Ablode Attoh, Rights in Transit: Public Transportation and the Right to the City in California's East Bay (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2019), 155 pp., 7 illustrations. $28.95.

Ruth Holliday, Meredith Jones, and David Bell, Beautyscapes: Mapping Cosmetic Surgery Tourism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2019), 232 pp. £80 (hardback).

Gökçe Günel, Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change, and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019), 272 pp., 31 illustrations. $26.95.

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Stéphanie Ponsavady

This new issue is an example of our journal's ongoing commitment to interdisciplinary dialogue, cutting-edge approaches, and the rethinking of mobilities. It also features authors at various stages of the academic career, from promising graduate students pursuing new venues to senior international scholars. We are extremely proud of the range of topics covered and the energy that flows through the issue. It starts with a theoretical inquiry into a concept that is central and critical to our lives and to our field: immobility. Noel Salazar revisits some of his previous work and invites us to rethink the “relational and experiential qualities” of what he rightly labels an “ambiguous concept.” Salazar masterfully builds upon language and our concrete and practical experiences of immobility, from mundane life to the new normal of the global COVID-19 crisis, to call on us to pay attention and give intention to the concept of immobility. His article reads as an invigorating manifest for studying and researching immobility as a meaningful, dynamic, and processual spectrum rather than as residual or as an antithesis of mobility.

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The Relational and Experiential Qualities of an Ambiguous Concept

Noel B. Salazar


In this article, I discuss immobility as both an analytical concept and a lived experience. I review contemporary scholarly understandings of immobility and disentangle the unavoidable relational dynamics with its positive linguistic opposite, mobility. Concrete illustrations from migration studies and the global coronavirus crisis illustrate how immobility, at various scales of analysis and experience, is not only theoretically but also socially, economically, and politically relevant. Together with the in-depth review of existing scholarship, these examples confirm that the conceptual distinction made between immobility and mobility is often purely heuristic. In the messiness of people's lives, mobility and immobility are not mutually exclusive categories but, rather, two dynamic sides of the same coin.

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The Potentiality to Move

Mobility and Future in Digital Nomads’ Practices

Patrícia Matos and Elisenda Ardévol


The digital nomad lifestyle, which combines remote work and travel, has grown in the last decade among tech and creative industry professionals. “Freedom,” “inspiration,” and “work–life balance” are frequently mentioned by respondents when describing what led them to be location-independent workers. This article draws on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Barcelona. From participant observation and in-depth interviews, we study participants’ socialities and narratives to analyze the imaginaries that connect work, mobility, and lifestyle. We argue that digital nomadism is not solely centered on constant travel, but on the potential to move. This points to understanding mobility in relation to the future, not only in the form of participants’ aspirations but also their anticipatory practices. Despite the massive impact of the coronavirus pandemic on many aspects of people's lives, mobility being just one of them, we believe that such imaginaries still persist.

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The Temporality of and Competition between Infrastructures

Taxis and E-Hailing in China

Jack Linzhou Xing


This article examines the competition between taxis and e-hailing from the perspective of the temporality of infrastructures, which refers to 1) decay and maintenance of infrastructures, 2) imaginations of infrastructures regarding old, new, past, and future, and 3) the (spatio)temporal experience of infrastructure supporters. I propose that taxis and e-hailing are simultaneously transport and livelihood infrastructures that facilitate passengers’ and drivers’ lives, and that they are maintained by the two parties. One reason that taxis are maintained in this competition lies in taxi drivers’ preference for taxis as a livelihood infrastructure. The article highlights infrastructure supporters’ labor and spatiotemporal experience, emphasizes the importance of the perspective of the decay and maintenance of infrastructures, and proposes a dialectic view of the infrastructure-related imaginations of old and new, especially in a context in which disruptive innovations in infrastructural technologies are continuously emerging.

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The Transformation of Urban Mobility Practices in Maastricht (1950–1980)

Coevolution of Cycling and Car Mobility

Marc Dijk, Anique Hommels, and Manuel Stoffers


This article reconstructs the historical transformation of mobility in the city of Maastricht in the period 1950–1980, from cycling as the most popular mode of traveling in the 1950s to car driving by the end of the 1970s. Based on an analysis of written sources and oral history interviews with Maastricht travelers and other practitioners who experienced this shift themselves, this article sheds light on this historical transformation, its key actors, and its main drivers. Combining insights from studies of social practice-based perspectives on mobility, historical sociotechnical transitions, and the model of urban obduracy, this study seeks to contribute to understanding why and how cities may transform toward being unsustainable places. Furthermore, it aims to show how social practice approaches can give more context-sensitive insights into processes of transformation and transition compared to established MLP-based transition approaches, by giving more attention to local meanings.

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When One Becomes Two

Man–Machine Hybridization in Urban Cyclists with Broken Bikes

Lou Therese Brandner


In the Netherlands, where cycling is part of the “national habitus,” bicycle infrastructure is remarkably similar to car infrastructure. This article explores man–machine hybridization in the context of this spatial environment made for bikes, analyzing it through notions of human/nonhuman hybrids, cyborg bodies, and automobilized persons. The perceptions of urban cyclists who temporarily cannot cycle are explored, based on interviews with bike repair shop customers in Amsterdam. How does a broken bike impact their perception of themselves and the city? Within the sample, cyclists attribute an essential, corporeal value to their vehicles, regarding them as extensions of the body. Cycling is considered the natural way of moving through urban space, associated with freedom and independence; switching to public transportation induces feelings of dependence and handicap.

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Aspiration and Desperation Traps in Trajectories of Physical and Social Mobility-Immobility

Young Female Migrants in the City

Ellen Bal, Hosna J. Shewly, and Runa Laila


Over the last two decades, Bangladesh has experienced a dramatic shift in terms of female rural–urban migration, often referred to as the feminization of migration. Drawing on extensive ethnographic research on young female migrants’ livelihood experiences in Dhaka and Gazipur, this article makes three contributions to the migration and mobilities literature. First, while migration often constitutes an adequate tool for resolving desperation, it may also cause an aspiration-desperation trap. Secondly, the transformative potential of migration and mobility for changing social relations of class and gender is not always as effective as it is argued. Lastly, by focusing on the temporalities of migrants’ circumstances, we argue that migration is a continuous process in which mobility and immobility are deeply entangled.