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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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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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Stéphanie Ponsavady

This issue of Transfers showcases the first part of a thought-provoking special section edited by Supurna Banerjee (Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata) and Eva Gerharz (Fulda University of Applied Sciences). The collection of articles uses the interrelation between aspiration and desperation as a powerful analytical framework to interrogate the relationships between mobility, immobility, migration, and sedentarization. By confronting these termpairs, they also seek to deconstruct their seemingly antinomic associations. The contributions interrogate them beyond binary opposition and bring to light new connections. The second part of the special section, which will focus on negotiating aspirations in intimate social relations, as well as the response to the project will be published in an upcoming volume of our journal.

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Introduction

Interrogating Aspirations through Migratory Mobilities

Supurna Banerjee and Eva Gerharz

While questions focused around social, economic, and physical movement have long been central to human lives, state policies, and economic regimes, the ‘mobility turn’ in academic scholarship has often seen a straightforward association of mobility as an upward trajectory mitigating socioeconomic inequality, as well as equating physical movement emerging from migration with mobility. Here, however, we argue that the relationship between migration and mobility is hardly so automatic, and needs to be considered in its complexities and contradictions. Rather than uncritically celebrating mobility, we consider it as a lens through which disruptions, inequalities, differential access, and the role of identities can be understood.

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Stéphanie Ponsavady

True to our original mission, this new issue of Transfers brings together a plurality of disciplines, from history to anthropology and literary criticism. It showcases reactions to the current pandemic as well as far-reaching reflections on the meanings of mobility. Bracketing our issue, two articles engage with the history of mobility. Drawing our attention to the extent of the automobility system, in “The Freeway Journey: Landscape and Mobility in the Southern Auto Industry,” John E. Mohr questions the economic and social costs of developing the I-85 highway corridor through the American South. Hugo Silveira Pereira interrogates “The Past, Present, and Future of Peripheral Mobilities in Portugal” through a history of the Portuguese narrow-gauge railway system that spans over a century.

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Multilocality and the Politics of Space in Protracted Exile

The Case of a Palestinian Refugee Camp in the West Bank

Dorota Woroniecka-Krzyzanowska

Abstract

This article employs the concept of multilocality to analyze the politics of space under the condition of protracted encampment. Rather than adopting a common synchronic approach to how refugees relate to space, the theoretical lens of multilocality grasps the diachronic dimension of protracted camps understood as places that encompass multiple attachments across time and space: the remembered and imagined places of origin, sites of residence in exile, and future geographies of hope or anticipation. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in al-Am'ari, a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank, I analyze multilocality as a political practice whereby local residents and organizations nurture the refugee identity of their communities, resist the permanence of protracted exile, and manifest the necessity for political change.

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Place Making in Transit

Literary Interventions at the Airport and in the Underground

Emma Eldelin and Andreas Nyblom

Abstract

Spaces of transit and transportation are often thought of as one-dimensional and as defined by their functionality and rationality, but recent literary texts challenge such preconceptions by representing those spaces as multidimensional and meaningful. In this article, we examine literature through the lens of place making, seeking to understand in what ways literary representations are involved in renegotiations of transit space. Addressing two generic spaces of transit—the underground and the airport—we analyze a body of texts generated through initiatives relating to the London Underground and Heathrow Airport respectively. Arguing that literature contributes to a processual understanding of place, we conclude that literary texts should be considered as instances of place making, and thus deserve serious consideration in research.

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Stéphanie Ponsavady

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 reaffirms 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.

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Introduction

Precarious Connections: On the Promise and Menace of Railroad Projects

Peter Schweitzer and Olga Povoroznyuk

Abstract

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 202.

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Ernst van der Wal

Abstract

This article examines how photographic interviews can be used to represent the life stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender refugees. Transnational and cross-border movements have a significant impact on the photographic and narrative self-representation of such refugees. By focusing on the example of a photographic interview project, The Story That Travelled, this article demonstrates how ideas surrounding community, citizenship, and transnational mobility are interpreted and visualized by refugees who have fled their countries of origin because of their sexuality and/or gender. In addition, this article considers how digital technologies impact lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender refugees and their experience and negotiation of borders.