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Anxious Mobilities

A Visual Inquiry into Pandemic Disruptions of Urban Railway Mobilities in Tokyo

Christoph Schimkowsky

The COVID-19 pandemic has not just prompted the widespread deceleration and halting of human movement, but also reconfigured enduring mobilities. This visual essay examines work commutes on Tokyo’s urban railway system as an example of an urban mobility practice that partially withstood the immobilizing effect of the pandemic. Combining text and comic-style drawings, it explores the viral transformation of passenger practices and experiences during Tokyo’s first “state of emergency” (April–May 2020) to ask how passengers on one of the world’s busiest urban railway systems learned to move with viral risk in a city that refrained from imposing official mobility restrictions. The essay introduces the notion of anxious mobilities to highlight how mobility experiences and practices in pandemic cities came to be characterized by a sense of unease. It calls attention to undulating processes of (de)sensitization to risk that mobile subjects may undergo when movement becomes associated with danger.

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Appalachian Hikers’ Digital Journals

Collective Writing for an Unruly Landscape

David McLaughlin

The Appalachian Trail—a hiking trail in the eastern United States—is for many an icon of the American wilderness experience. It is an unruly landscape, one which is yearly being re-made, re-marked, and “reclaimed” to wilderness. Within its corridor of trees, the Appalachian Trail hides decaying farms bought by forced purchase, ghosts of old cemeteries, and many different paths through the trees. There is a palpable sense of possibility, of constant change, and of what could have been. In this article, drawing on recent research in cultural geography which emphasizes the unsettled and unsettling nature of landscape, I will introduce the potential for new, digital literary-spatial forms made on the Appalachian Trail to write and to enact this unruly landscape.

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Jonathan Leif Basilio, Melanie Bassett, Purbasha Das, Kavyta Kay, Dave McLaughlin, and Chigusa Yamaura

Vanessa Agnew, Kader Konuk, and Jane O. Newman, eds., Refugee Routes: Telling, Looking, Protesting, Redressing (Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 2020), 318 pp. Open access.

David Lambert and Peter Merriman, Empire and Mobility in the Long Nineteenth Century (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020), 248 pp. £80.00 (hardback).

David A. Turner, ed., Transport and its Place in History: Making the Connections (London: Routledge, 2020), 250 pp. eBook ISBN 9781351186636.

Mia Bay, Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance (Massachusetts, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2021), 391 pp. $35.00.

Giada Peterle, Lines: Moving with Stories of Public Transport in Turku (Padova: Becco Giallo, 2021), 44 pp., 11

Gracia Liu-Farrer, Immigrant Japan: Mobility and Belonging in an Ethno-nationalist Society (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2020), 276 pp. $39.95 illustrations. €10.00.

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East to West to South to North—and Back

Driving Landscapes as a Thuringian Long-Distance Trucker

Manuel Moser

In this article, I map out landscaping practices by Thuringian long-distance truck drivers. Drawing on extended fieldwork, I show that contemporary truck drivers who drive the German and European highways with their political (and often racist) ideas in tow, structure their landscapes according to the four cardinal points. While getting disillusioned by experiences of an unwelcoming West that loses its utopic shine it had during the times of the German separation, Thuringian drivers strongly refuse to subsume themselves into a European East, which they “orientalize” as dangerous and barbaric. I argue that as a solution to this lived tension between East/West, Thuringian truckers increasingly relocate utopic places into the European North and South while intermingling geographies with ideologies, drawing especially from popular country music.

Free access

Cotten Seiler

Although the phrase “please allow me to introduce myself” can perhaps no longer be uttered without calling forth the Lucifer figure that the Rolling Stones sing about in “Sympathy for the Devil,” I can’t think of a better line to greet Transfers readers and tell you a bit about myself as I assume editorship of the journal. Whatever you think of that Satanic scamp, one must admit that he got around, geographically and temporally, and that traveling with him was almost certainly never boring.

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Introduction — Unruly Landscapes

Mobility, Transience and Transformation

Margherita Cisani, Laura Lo Presti, Lynne Pearce, Giada Peterle, and Chiara Rabbiosi

In June 2020, the Centre for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe) at the University of Lancaster (UK) and the Centre for Advanced Studies in Mobility & Humanities (MoHu) at the University of Padua (Italy) co-hosted an international conference on the theme of “Unruly Landscapes.” As a result of the pandemic, the two-day event had to be moved online, but participants nevertheless enjoyed two days of inspiring discussion as the speakers engaged with the intersection of landscape and mobility from a variety of disciplines and approaches.

It was striking that this was a theme that attracted scholars from diverse scholarly and artistic communities, and we have attempted to reproduce the freshness of these dynamic, cross-disciplinary perspectives in the way we have grouped the articles here. Indeed, in order to maximize the diversity of the contributions. We sought approval from the Transfers editors to publish twelve shorter articles of 5,000 words each across two special sections. We trust that readers of the journal will enjoy our purposefully “unruly” juxtaposition of disciplines and approaches, including the different ways that our contributors have understood and conceptualized the mobile landscape. However, both here and in our Introduction to Unruly Landscapes No. 2, we have sought to make sense of what is going on in each article and to indicate how it contributes to the recent debates that most interest readers of this journal. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Tim Ingold for his keynote lecture at the conference which spoke about his recent work on landscape as “palimpsest”—as well as artist Jen Southern (Lancaster University) for allowing us to use her formulation of the “unruly” for our event.

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Moving Beyond the Frame

Flows and Relations in Hybrid Body–Screen Lifeworlds

Carolyn Deby

This article employs both a written text and an artistic video encounter with the reader, to articulate human lived experience as a spatial and temporal semioscape of relations that flow across and between the inner-outer lifeworlds or Umwelten for individuals. Further, it asserts that such lifeworlds are experienced in continual and dynamic relation with nonhumans and non-life (human-devised technologies, circulations, and substances as well as planetary circulations and substances such as rock, sky, air, and so on)—an entangled and mobile situation that humans can notice and derive meaning from. Taking as its starting point a video performance-paper, Still/We noticed smallest things, created by the author, and originally presented to participants of Unruly Landscapes Colloquium in June 2020, the article will assert that immersion in a simultaneously embodied and screen-world semioscape that includes urbanwild entanglements demonstrates the human biophilic ability to attune to complex relations in hybrid bio/techno situations.

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Unruly Landscapes and the City of London

Mobility Studies, Street Photography, and Stephen McLaren’s The Crash

Susan P. Mains

Photography narrates places through space and time. It is a storytelling method and format that not only reflects the landscapes viewed, but can also act as a catalyst for reflection and critical engagement with hidden mobilities that are in plain sight. In this article I illustrate the ways in which photography offers a unique opportunity to humanize and critique economic crises and unequal experiences of urban landscapes. Drawing on research in mobility studies, media studies, and cultural geography, this study interweaves interdisciplinary approaches to representation and urbanization to highlight the importance of visual narratives in how we negotiate and manage city life. Examining the work of Stephen McLaren, specifically through his photographic series, The Crash: London’s Finance Disaster 2008, this article analyzes the ways in which photography brings into relief both public and private relationships with place and finance. By directly examining the use of photography, singular narratives of economic and social mobility are called into question, while an important entryway is opened into a more nuanced use of critical visual analysis to understand shifting mobilities, and economic and emotional geographies. Visual media analysis offers an opportunity to move beyond representations of crises, and their related built environments, as exceptional and distinct, highlighting instead an often hidden series of related contradictory socio-spatial mobilities.

Open access

Unruly Landscapes of a Diasporic Return

Mobility and Memory in Michèle Rakotoson’s Juillet au pays: Chroniques d’un retour à Madagascar (2007)

Anna-Leena Toivanen

Juillet au pays: Chroniques d’un retour à Madagascar (“July in the Country: Chronicles of a Return to Madagascar,” 2007) narrates the “homecoming” of the diasporic author Michèle Rakotoson after several years of absence. Applying a literary mobility studies perspective and contributing to the dialogue between mobilities research and postcolonial literary studies, this article analyzes how Rakotoson’s return travelogue constructs Madagascan landscapes through the interplay of mobility and memory. The article focuses on the text’s representations of mobility practices and how different means of transport affect the returnee’s impressions of the “homely” landscapes and her own positioning with respect to them. While different mobility practices and modes of transport and their intertwinement with personal/collective memories allow for diverse perspectives on the former home, the landscapes of return remain unruly: they are mobile not only because observed while in movement, but also because their present meanings escape from the returnee.

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Unruly Tramscapes

Literary Mobilities and 1930s London Tramway Closure Events

Jason Finch

This article reappraises tramway closures in 1930s London by reading enthusiast memoirs of the events surrounding them. Literary representations in forms such as the novel and poetry of urban public transport experience often overlook experiences in peripheral urban zones and on modes such as the tramway which had a chiefly working-class ridership. Building a perspective around London’s tramscapes, and by practicing Deep Locational Criticism as part of a characteristically “humanities” mode, temporally focused, in mobility studies, the article reveals contestations including acts of disorder surrounding the closure events, deploying those in a rereading of mid-twentieth-century British history more broadly. The 1930s North London suburbs emerge through a reading of George Atkins’s account of 1938 closure events as sites of carnivalesque disorder and other bottom-up transport-focused activity, including the formation of enthusiast groups. This group of practices opposed the extremely top-down transport planning of the post-1933 London Passenger Transport Board’s management.