Gijs Mom and Georgine Clarsen
Judith A. Nicholson and Mimi Sheller
What good are mobility scholars? And what does our scholarship—be it rooted in history, geography, sociology, anthropology, or any other discipline—provide the world outside academia? Those are questions I have been pondering for the last year, ever since Gijs Mom and Peter Merriman engaged in a stimulating polemic in the pages of Yearbook Six. Must we move beyond our academic silos, as Mom suggested, and peek (if not step boldly) into interdisciplinary work and even policy? Can the scholar be a planner or policy maker? Can the historian offer insights on the future of mobility? And what of our subjects? Should our gaze be turned to the international? The comparative? Or, as Merriman argued, should we polish well-trod national mobilities in ways that allow new subjects, local particularities, and actors to shine through?
Deborah Breen and Gijs Mom
“Mobility crisis”: These are the words used by Anumita Roychoudhury, the executive director of Delhi’s Centre for Science and Environment, to describe the growing pollution in India, especially in large cities like Delhi, as a result of the dramatic increase in the use of motorized vehicles in the past two decades. Although the population of Delhi and its surrounding cities more than doubled (to twenty-two million) between 1991 and 2011, she points out that registered cars and motorbikes increased fivefold, to eight million.1 Th is growth, along with increased but poorly regulated construction, underinvestment in public transport, and local and national policies that privilege automobiles at the expense of other forms of transport, has resulted in pollution rates that are now, according to a World Health Organization report, the worst in the world.2
Transfers seeks to broaden the geographical, empirical, and theoretical reach of mobilities scholarship. Our editorial team especially aims to foster innovative research from new locales that moves our field beyond the social sciences where the “new mobilities paradigm” was first articulated. Th is journal is part of a growing intellectual project that brings together theoretical developments and research agendas in the humanities and the social sciences. Our ambition is to bring critical mobilities frameworks into closer conversation with the humanities by encouraging empirical collaborations and conceptual transfers across diverse disciplinary fields. Th e articles presented in this special section forward those aims in several ways.
Sunny Stalter-Pace and Gijs Mom
How do you represent a moment when crossing a bridge became a major historical fl ash point? Th e twenty-fi fth of March of this year marked the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s fifty-four-mile march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital of Montgomery, a march to protest the lack of voting rights for African Americans in the southern United States. Th e major point of contention, where infrastructure and politics met, was the Edmund Pettus Bridge leading out of Selma. Th e first attempt to march occurred on what was later known as Bloody Sunday. Black protestors attempted to cross the bridge, against the instruction of local and state troopers. Th ey were beaten mercilessly and the footage was broadcast on national television. Th e second attempt took place after Dr. King put out a call to all Americans who identify with the civil rights movement. Th ey gathered on the bridge and knelt to pray. King sensed trouble and called off the march. After a court decision in favor of the protestors, the march took place.
Engineers as Cultural Actors—Introduction
Massimo Moraglio and Bruce Seely
We argue that road engineers—in the cases presented in the articles in this special section—were acting as cultural actors, playing a greater role than experts and especially policy makers. Even as they utilized technical information in cultural debates, road representation had huge symbolic value in driving the social and political discussions. However, once road experts used and accepted such political tools, they could not disconnect themselves from the political process, which determined success and failure in these projects.
Heike Weber and Gijs Mom
The final months of 2014 have seen many critical events in respect to mobility: Apple introduced its Apple Watch, a cyborg technology that adds a novel, substantially corporeal layer to our “always on” connectedness—what Sherry Turkle has termed the “tethered self.”1 Moreover, it is said to revolutionize mobile paying systems, and it might finally implement mobile body monitoring techniques into daily life.2 Ebola is terrorizing Africa and frightening the world; its outbreak and spread is based on human mobility, and researchers are calling for better control and quantifi cation of human mobility in the affected regions to contain the disease.3 Even its initial spread from animals to humans may have had its origin in human transgressions beyond traditional habitats, by intruding into insular bush regions and using the local fruit bats as food. Due to global mobility patterns, the viral passenger switched transport modes, from animal to airplane. On the other hand, private space fl ight suff ered two serious setbacks in just one week when the Antares rocket of Orbital Sciences, with supplies for the International Space Station and satellites on board, exploded, and shortly after, SpaceShipTwo crashed over the Mojave Desert. Th ese catastrophic failures ignited wide media discussion on the challenges, dangers, and signifi cance of space mobility, its ongoing commercialization and privatization, and, in particular, plans for future manned space travel for “tourists.”4
Georgine Clarsen and Gijs Mom
This is the twelfth issue of Transfers, and perhaps it is time to stop calling it a “new” journal! Our “baby” is growing up, thriving in an expanding landscape of interdisciplinary mobilities research. Transfers is maturing into a robust vehicle for global conversations.
Our rather ambitious mission has been both conceptual and empirical: to “rethink mobilities” and provide publishing opportunities for innovative research. For us, that has been exemplified in our commitment in several areas. Most importantly, we fly the flag for the new theoretical approaches that continue to move the field beyond the social sciences, where the “new mobilities paradigm” was first articulated. We position ourselves as part of a vibrant intellectual project that bridges theoretical developments and research agendas in the humanities and the social sciences.
Introduction to the Special Section
M. William Steele and Weiqiang Lin
If we now live in the “Asian Century,” what and how are we to think about the seeming incongruence of the traditional rickshaw and the high-speed shinkansen? What is the historical context behind the growing and sometimes alarming statistics of Asian motoring, both their production and use? How do we explain the explosion of mobilities, both local and global, in and about Asia? Amid this evident desire to be on the move, the articles in this Special Section begin to tackle some of these questions, by means of exploring three different iterations of organized transport in East and Southeast Asia in the last century. In the process, they seek to provide some answers (and pose further questions) to the conduits through which historical Asia moved, why it did so in the way it did, and whether there was anything qualitatively different in the way Asia embraced its potential to move.