The COVID-19 pandemic has not just prompted the widespread deceleration and halting of human movement, but also reconfigured enduring mobilities. This visual essay examines work commutes on Tokyo’s urban railway system as an example of an urban mobility practice that partially withstood the immobilizing effect of the pandemic. Combining text and comic-style drawings, it explores the viral transformation of passenger practices and experiences during Tokyo’s first “state of emergency” (April–May 2020) to ask how passengers on one of the world’s busiest urban railway systems learned to move with viral risk in a city that refrained from imposing official mobility restrictions. The essay introduces the notion of anxious mobilities to highlight how mobility experiences and practices in pandemic cities came to be characterized by a sense of unease. It calls attention to undulating processes of (de)sensitization to risk that mobile subjects may undergo when movement becomes associated with danger.
A Visual Inquiry into Pandemic Disruptions of Urban Railway Mobilities in Tokyo
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.
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.
COVID Pandemic and the Politics of Mobility
This article reflects on the dissenting act of mobility as articulated by migrant workers in India, who, during the nationwide lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, are walking back home, hundreds of miles away, in lieu of public transport. Their mobility—precisely, the act of walking—has thus acquired a metaphoric status, and laid bare the ideological practices of territorializing the city-space. This article argues that the migrant worker's mobility, from within the axiomatic of the prevalent “mobility regime,” can be read as a powerful metaphor of our tensions within the global political-economic order that the pandemic has so starkly exposed. The article provokes less literal, but more literary, understandings of mobilities in general, in order to come to grips with the manifold contradictions, paradoxes, and counteractions in the way the world moves.
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.
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.
A Critical Perspective
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.
Mobility Studies and Social Change during a Pandemic
In a brief reflection on the multiple disruptions of mobilities imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, this article shows the significance of the scholarship published in Transfers over the last ten years for thinking about the future. Clearly the encounter with a novel and deadly virus—transferred between people, traveling rapidly across geographical regions, crossing over the threshold of our bodies, buildings and borders—has drastically changed many things about us, about cities, about economies, and about the world. An analysis inspired by critical mobility studies highlights the inequities of the mobility disruption, especially in the United States, the importance of histories and representations of mobility for understanding the present situation, and the need for changed choreographies of mobility after the pandemic.
Some Reasons Why Literary Scholars Have Been Slow to Hop on the Mobilities Bus
This article explores three reasons why literary scholars have been slow to engage with both the New Mobilities Paradigm and the New Mobilities Studies promoted by Transfers, namely: (1) the residual conservatism of “English studies”; (2) the sort of textual practice associated with “literary criticism” (where the text remains the primary object of study); and (3), the tension between the humanist and/or “subject-centered” nature of most literary scholarship and the posthumanist approaches of mobilities scholars based in the social sciences and other humanities subjects. However, the close reading of literary and other texts has much to contribute to mobilities studies including insight into the temporalities—both personal and social—that shape our long-term understanding of contemporary events such as the current pandemic.
An Anthropological Perspective
Noel B. Salazar
In this short article, I offer a personal reflection on my own mobilities and how these influenced my academic interest in human movement and brought me in contact with mobility studies and Transfers. On the special occasion of the journal's tenth anniversary, I look back at how the journal has fared. I remind readers of the initial plans and expectations that were expressed by the founding editors, with a focus on issues that are important from an anthropological point of view. I complement this critical and constructive analysis with a brief look into the future. In which direction should Transfers ideally be moving? What are the implications of societal developments such as the ones surrounding the coronavirus pandemic for the journal and its thematic focus?