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.
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.
Mobility and Memory in Michèle Rakotoson’s Juillet au pays: Chroniques d’un retour à Madagascar (2007)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Literary Interventions at the Airport and in the Underground
Emma Eldelin and Andreas Nyblom
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.
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.
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 202.