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After Disasters

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

Benjamin Linder and Galen Murton

Abstract

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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Atlantics

The Ocean as Another Place

Tina Montenegro

Abstract

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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Colonial Legacy

French Retirees in Nha Trang, Vietnam Today

Anne Raffin

Abstract

Based on interviews with thirty-eight French retirees living in the seaside city of Nha Trang, Vietnam, this article queries their reasons for migrating and investigates how they make sense of their life abroad. I consider Vietnam's historical connection with the French empire as a possible component of lifestyle migration and meaning. This small-scale study indicates that colonial memories and historical ties between France and Vietnam do influence many interviewees’ choice of place of retirement. However, for most, the personal and social amenities afforded by a tropical life in the present tend to eventually displace such memories.

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Editorial

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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A Few Bad Apples or the Logic of Capitalism?

Neoliberal Globalization in the Economic Crime Drama Since the Millennial Turn

Sabine von Dirke

Abstract

This article investigates how neoliberal globalization has been mediated through audiovisual narratives since the 2000s. It identifies a cluster of films, produced by and circulating on German public television, which use the generic conventions of the popular crime genre to constitute a sub-genre—the televisual economic crime drama. Using a content and textual analysis that focuses on the backdrop of historical context and genre norms, the article examines key tropes to assess the critical potential of this sub-genre. The analysis demonstrates that both the containment theme of “a few bad apples” and a systemic critique can structure these narratives of neoliberalism. At its best, the televisual economic crime drama argues that alternatives to neoliberalism are possible by referencing Germany's history of the social market economy and by featuring characters as well as images of active citizenship, solidarity, and collective action in the workplace.

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Hammer and Cycle

Communism's Cycling Counterculture in Interwar France

Martin Hurcombe

Abstract

This article explores the evolving relationship of the Parti Communiste Français to cycling in the interwar years. It argues that communist press coverage of the sport enriches our understanding of how the Party evolved from a marginal force in the 1920s to a mass party that had forged both an effective and affective bond with large numbers of the French working class. It examines attempts to harness and manipulate working-class enthusiasm for cycling and to project through its coverage of the sport an idealized image of the French worker. Reading sport history into the Party's political trajectory in the interwar years reveals how the appeal to the emotions was fundamental to its evolving image as a national workers party, but also how the Party had to make accommodations between a Soviet ideal and the realities of French working-class sports culture.

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Immobility

The Relational and Experiential Qualities of an Ambiguous Concept

Noel B. Salazar

Abstract

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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Imperial Farce?

The Coronation of Bokassa the First and the (Failed) Manufacture of Charisma

Jason Yackee

Abstract

This article explores the appropriation and translation of historical notions of “empire” into the modern era through close examination of the short-lived Central African Empire, imagined and brought to life by the flamboyant Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa. Curiously, in an era in which the formerly colonized francophone African nations were increasingly seeking to signal rejection of their French heritage, Bokassa presented his empire as a modern corollary to the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte. This article draws on original research in French and US diplomatic archives to argue that we can understand the empire as a failed attempt to manufacture charisma, approaching farce before devolving into horror.

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Introduction

Using Popular Culture to Trace and Assess Political Change

Niko Switek

The German federal election in September 2021 marked a significant transformation for German politics. As Chancellor Angela Merkel decided not to run again, the election spelled the end of her 16-year tenure; it also signaled a major shift in the German party system. The right-populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) entered the Bundestag again after their first entry in 2017, implying—for the first time since 1949—the establishment and sustained parliamentary presence of a party on the national level to the (far-)right of the Christian Democrats. The challenges facing the new parliament and government after the election are paramount. The climate crisis looms as large as ever. With the exception of the AfD, all German parties (and a distinct majority of voters) see this as the most pressing issue to tackle. However, the scope of action will be limited as the extensive state debt accumulated through covid-19 relief measures exerts pressure on the specific German model of social market economy. Finally, the international environment has seen drastic changes in the last years: While the election of u.s. President Joe Biden as successor to Donald Trump implies a return to normal for transatlantic relations, the uk exit from the eu shifts the balance between the remaining member states. After the Euro, refugee, and pandemic crises, European solidarity is strained, complicating Germany's role as the eu's “reluctant hegemon” or “gentle giant.” This reluctance or restraint connotes far more than a strategic policy choice: it is deeply rooted in the German history of the twentieth century that witnessed the cruelty and atrocities of the Nazi regime.