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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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Pandemic Drones

Promises and Perils

Julia M. Hildebrand and Stephanie Sodero

When the novel coronavirus moved around the planet in early 2020, reconfiguring, slowing down, or halting everyday mobilities, another transport mode was mobilized: the pandemic drone. We highlight the increasing prominence of this aerial device by surveying international media coverage of pandemic drone use in the spring of 2020. To address a range of pandemic drone affordances and applications, we organize manifold cases under two broad categories: sensing and moving with the pandemic drone. Here we ask: what roles do, and could, drones play during the pandemic? Following the empirical examples and related mobilities research, we theorize the drone versus virus and the drone as virus. As such, the work identifies avenues for mobilities research into pandemic drones as a growing mobility domain. Moreover, in thinking through the pandemic drone, we demonstrate creative extensions of mobilities thinking that bridge biological and technological, as well as media and mobility frameworks when multiple public health and safety crises unfolded and intersected.

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Place Making in Transit

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.

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(Re)Constructing the Baikal-Amur Mainline

Continuity and Change of (Post)Socialist Infrastructure

Olga Povoroznyuk

Abstract

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.

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State of Uncertainty

Educating the First Railroaders in Central Sakha (Yakutiya)

Sigrid Irene Wentzel

Abstract

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.

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Weiqiang Lin

Abstract

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.

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Discipline and Publish?

Transfers as Interdisciplinary Site

Cotten Seiler

Abstract

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.

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Stéphanie Ponsavady

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.

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Peter Merriman

Abstract

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.

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Mobilizing Disability Studies

A Critical Perspective

Kudzai Matereke

Abstract

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.