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Mobile Disasters

Catastrophes in the Age of Manufactured Uncertainty

Steve Matthewman

Abstract

Sociologists of disasters and those agencies dedicated to disaster risk reduction and emergency relief tend to fix disasters, to confine them in time and space. This article argues for the necessity of a mobilities turn within mainstream disaster studies, demonstrating what the new mobilities paradigm (NMP) can contribute to disaster scholarship. Disasters should be seen as mobile agents with spatially and temporally dispersed effects. They are mobile because people, nonhuman life-forms, information, and commodities move. The ecosystems and earth systems that sustain us are also always in flux. Instead of focusing on isolated disaster cases, this article calls for a “big picture” ecological sensibility that recognizes the complexity and interconnectivity of our world, and addresses the new forms of mobility, temporality, spatiality, and potency inherent to today’s disasters. This task is urgent: while previous eras may have announced the apocalypse, ours may well be the last one to do so.

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Nighttime Navigating

Moving a Container Ship through Darkness

Maria Borovnik

Abstract

The seafaring trade is considered one of the most dangerous occupations. Dealing with their daily tasks while skippering across seascapes, seafarers are exposed to weather, wind, currents, and changeable ship movements. Container ships operate day and night along tight schedules and constitute physically and mentally exhausting environments, amplified during nighttime. This article draws on mobilities research that conceptualizes seascapes as sensitive and affective, and as spaces of production and social transformation. Nighttime traveling is multisensual. Darkness may dim landscape and intensify the effect (and affects) of the unpredictable seascape. Ships must slow down and rely on technology, and the experience and knowledge of navigators and ship crews. The buildup of stillness accompanying slower movements is filled with alertness in response to the known and unknown dangers that the seascape holds at night. This article uses seafarers’ narratives and my own observations to unfold the complexities of steering a container ship through the night.

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Mariana C. Françozo

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“That’s Where I First Saw the Water”

Mobilizing Children’s Voices in UK Flood Risk Management

Alison Lloyd Williams, Amanda Bingley, Marion Walker, Maggie Mort, and Virginia Howells

Abstract

This article reports on a project, led jointly by Lancaster University and Save the Children UK, that used mobile, creative, and performance-based methods to understand children’s experiences and perceptions of the 2013–2014 UK winter floods and to promote their voices in flood risk management. We argue that our action-based methodology situated the children as “flood actors” by focusing on their sensory experience of the floods and thus their embodied knowledge and expertise. The research activities of walking, talking, and taking photographs around the flooded landscape, as well as model making and the use of theater and performance, helped to “mobilize” the children not only to recall what they did during the floods but also to identify and communicate to policy makers and practitioners how we can all do things differently before, during, and after flooding.

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Holly Thorpe

Abstract

This article advocates the value of a mobilities approach to examining the lived experiences of youth in contexts of war, conflict, and disaster. With the aim of moving beyond “victim” narratives, it critically examines three cases of youth engagement in alternative sporting forms in post-earthquakes Christchurch and conflict-torn Afghanistan and Gaza. These are contexts in which youth physical mobilities are highly constrained, yet in each of these cases we also see youth creatively developing an array of strategies and initiatives to help improve their own and others’ health and well-being, for social and physical pleasure, and in some cases to challenge power relations. The three brief cases highlight the multiple and complex layers of transnational mobilities, with the flows of people, objects, and ideas across borders, being negotiated and (re)appropriated by youth in locally specific ways.

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Automobiles and Socioeconomic Sustainability

Do We Need a Mobility Bill of Rights?

Daniel Newman

Abstract

This article argues for the establishment of a Mobility Bill of Rights. That the current car system is not sustainable in environmental terms has been much discussed in academic circles and is increasingly accepted in wider society, as reflected by governmental attempts at reform. The current trend for remodeling this car system largely involves the substitution of petrol/diesel for potentially more ecologically sound methods of powering the vehicles such as electricity. Attempts to reach environmental sustainability in this manner do little to impact social or economic sustainability and thus will fail to address the triple bottom line. Rather, reliance on automobiles in the present vein may continue trends for mobility-related exclusion. To tackle this, we need a debate on how the transport needs of ordinary people can be met.

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Michael K. Bess, David Lipset, Kudzai Matereke, Stève Bernardin, Katharine Bartsch, Harry Oosterhuis, Samuel Müller, Frank Schipper, Benjamin D’Harlingue, and Katherine Roeder

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Mimi Sheller and Gijs Mom

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Dhan Zunino Singh

Abstract

This article traces a genealogy of sexual harassment in Buenos Aires public transport, analyzing the intersection between gender and mobility through cultural history. It focuses on the first decades of the twentieth century in which the city became a modern metropolis and women became more visible commuters using public transport. It deals with the tensions, interactions, expectations, and representations that emerged from the increasing presence of female passengers within the male imaginary and how women became a sexualized object in order to contextualize sexual harassment and explain how it became a “natural” practice over time. Finally, this article argues that the case study triggers the need to analyze gendered mobilities paying more attention to the relationship between sexuality and transport to understand passengers as sexualized bodies.

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Historical Fragments’ Mobile Echo

Encountering the Current Refugee Crisis with Ai Weiwei

Susan E. Bell and Kathy Davis