This article explores how urban space produced by the Japanese railway system is appropriated by people for common use in Tokyo. Drawing from ethnographic research among musicians at a central train station, I explore how individuals enmeshed within the schedules of the commuter network negotiate mobilities that fall outside the purview of railway urbanism. Station tsuro are passageways monitored by rail staff and local authorities, protected by traffic and railway commerce laws, and influenced by competing pressures from the overburdened network and local neighborhoods. Musicians sensitive to these shifting relationships identify leeway within, performing in ways that open tsuro up, producing temporary, finely balanced spaces of encounter and connection. Through these processes, the commuter system creates railspecific forms of human relationships.
Unscheduled Stops in Tokyo’s Spaces of Flow
Robert J. Simpkins
The publication timeline of the issues of volume 10 of Transfers has been informed by its own history and our now shared global history. Issue 10.1 commemorated the journal’s 10th anniversary and sought to take stock of the past, point to future avenues, and react to the immediate present. Issue 10.2/3 is a double issue that moves the journal further into a new era. It both reaffirm our commitment to interdisciplinarity, diversity, and cutting-edge theorization and remains faithful to our engagement to question accepted histories, especially in the case of infrastructures, these seemingly perennial elements of our lived environment. Editing this journal remains a collaborative and interdisciplinary effort. As such, this double issue presents a collection of research articles on aeromobility, human-elephant relations, LGBT refugees in Germany, and mobility justice in Australia, followed by a special section on railways in Europe and Asia. In both parts of this issue, the articles weave together acts of authoring and reading mobility, by challenging our understanding of our field’s accepted terms and concepts, developing their semantic richness, and asking of us to fully reflect on their meaning today.
Precarious Connections: On the Promise and Menace of Railroad Projects
Peter Schweitzer and Olga Povoroznyuk
This introduction attempts to situate railroads, which have rarely been the object of ethnographic attention, within current debates of anthropology and related disciplines. While mobility is certainly one dimension of human-railroad entanglements, the introduction calls to explore political, social, material, and affective lives of railroads in Europe and Asia as well. Often, connections provided by railroads are precarious at best: enveloped in state and local politics, they appear to some as promise and to others as menace. Planning, construction, decay, and reconstruction constitute the temporal and material life cycle of these infrastructures. Attending to particular ethnographic and historical contexts, the introduction aims to demonstrate how railroads, these potent symbols of modernity, continue to be good to think with.
The version of record is December 2020, though the actual publication date is May/June 2021.
Continuity and Change of (Post)Socialist Infrastructure
The construction of the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) in East Siberia and the Russian Far East in the 1970s and 1980s was the largest technological and social engineering project of late socialism. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the BAM was dogged by economic bust, decline, and public disillusionment. BAM-2, a recently launched state program of technological modernization, aims to complete a second railway track. The project elicits memories as well as new hopes and expectations, especially among “builders of the BAM.” This article explores continuity and change between BAM-1 and BAM-2. It argues that the reconstruction efforts of the postsocialist state are predetermined by the durability of the infrastructure as a materialization of collective identities, memories, and emotions.
Educating the First Railroaders in Central Sakha (Yakutiya)
Sigrid Irene Wentzel
In July 2019, the village of Nizhniy Bestyakh in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutiya), the Russian Far East, was finally able to celebrate the opening of an eagerly awaited railroad passenger connection. Through analysis of rich ethnographic data, this article explores the “state of uncertainty” caused by repeated delays in construction of the railroad prior to this and focuses on the effect of these delays on students of a local transportation college. This college prepares young people for railroad jobs and careers, promising a steady income and a place in the Republic’s wider modernization project. The research also reveals how the state of uncertainty led to unforeseen consequences, such as the seeding of doubt among students about their desire to be a part of the Republic’s industrialization drive.
This Perspective piece marks the ten-year anniversary of Transfers’ life as a journal and its contributions to aeromobilities research. Reflecting on my own past decade learning and writing about aeromobilities, the article takes stock of some significant threads in the field, before charting out three key future directions for aeromobilities research prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic and health crisis. Without prejudice to existing scholarly threads, the article discusses the burgeoning salience of new (aero)mobility injustices, automation, and aerial (in)civilities, amid an aviation industry struggling to reboot itself. The next ten years present enduring possibilities for aeromobilities inquiries, and the article hopes to inspire future thinking on the subject as societies connect again through aviation.
Transfers as Interdisciplinary Site
Ten years ago a new journal that would anchor and foster what would become known as the “new mobility studies” appeared: Transfers. The intervening years have seen it grow into an important multidisciplinary, if not yet quite interdisciplinary, journal for researchers around the world. Reflecting on Transfers’ founding and first decade, this essay comments on the salutary development within the journal's pages of “worlding” the European and North American analyses that had characterized early mobility studies, and cautions against underestimating the continuing power of the state in constructing and administering environments of mobility.
This current issue marks the tenth anniversary of our journal. The jubilee also coincides and clashes with a critical time for all of us as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences. Ten years ago, when Gijs Mom's team launched Transfers, the journal responded to an urgent need to think through and beyond mobilities scholarship. Today, as our mobilities have been upended and disrupted, it is with a renewed sense of urgency that we must assess the field and the impact of Transfers over the past decade. Indeed, many things have changed since the journal's founding.
In this paper I reflect upon my own micro-mobilities and embodied mobile practices living and working under COVID-19 government restrictions in Wales in mid-2020. I use the opportunity to reflect upon the past ten years of Transfers and to think about future research in the field of mobility studies, arguing that an attention to seemingly ordinary embodied movements and mobilities provides one avenue by which mobility scholars could move beyond the mobility/immobility binary and approach mobility as being more than transport, migration, and communication. Mobility is, I suggest, ubiquitous—even during government lockdowns—and I explain how Deleuze and Guattari's concepts of the “molar” and “molecular” can be useful for understanding how some movements become perceptible and others imperceptible, and why scholars frequently draw a clear distinction between mobility and immobility.
A Critical Perspective
Despite how the fields of mobility and disability studies have vastly contributed to our understanding of our lifeworld, the two, however, share asymmetric acknowledgement of each other. Mobility recurs as an aspiration for those with a disability yet disability tends to be ignored or inadequately dealt with in mobility studies. This article seeks to achieve two main objectives: first, to discuss how and what the journal has achieved over the years; and, second, to highlight that the denial of mobility is a negation of what it means to be human. Overall, the article seeks to deploy a critical intervention required for mobility studies to return the gesture to disability studies in equal magnitude. By situating the discussion within the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, this article argues that at the interface of mobility and disability lies a politics of possibility for people with disabilities in their struggles for equal access and full citizenship.