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Gatherings of Mobility and Immobility

Itinerant “Criminal Tribes” and Their Containment by the Salvation Army in Colonial South India

Saurabh Arora

In retelling the history of “criminal tribe” settlements managed by the Salvation Army in Madras Presidency (colonial India) from 1911, I argue that neither the mobility–immobility relationship nor the compositional heterogeneity of (im)mobility practices can be adequately captured by relational dialecticism espoused by leading mobilities scholars. Rather than emerging as an opposition through dialectics, the relationship between (relative) mobility and containment may be characterized by overlapping hybridity and difference. This differential hybridity becomes apparent in two ways if mobility and containment are viewed as immanent gatherings of humans and nonhumans. First, the same entities may participate in gatherings of mobility and of containment, while producing different effects in each gathering. Here, nonhumans enter a gathering, and constitute (im)mobility practices, as actors that make history irreducibly differently from other actors that they may be entangled with. Second, modern technologies and amodern “institutions” may be indiscriminately drawn together in all gatherings.

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Commentary

Breathing Fresh Air into Mobility Studies from Down Under

Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga

As Georgine Clarsen summarizes this special section on Australian and settler colonial Pacific, these four articles add to the “rereading [of] settler-colonial formations through practices and representations of movement [and] circulation.” But that is only half the truth. They also constitute counterrepresentations. They deal not only with the stasis that follows European settling as a process but also with counter- and antimobilities that Indigenous peoples mount: against inward movement, against disruptive settling and forceful displacement of the Indigenous from their lands, and against emplacement and settlement upon it. The scholars in this special section present an example for studies of mobility in the colonial setting in two ways. First, they decenter technology and center the human factor, for which they get full marks. Second they allow mobilities to emanate from the subjects and context of study, rather than letting conceptions of Western-centric, technocentric history of transport and mobility studies guide them.

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Sue Frohlick, Kristin Lozanski, Amy Speier, and Mimi Sheller

What mobilizes people to take up reproductive options, directions, and trajectories in ways that generate the possibilities and practices of mobilities? People’s desires for procreation or to resolve fertility challenges or partake in sperm donation, egg freezing, or surrogacy; the need for abortion services; and forced evacuation for childbirth care all involve movement. Reproductive aspirations, norms, and regulations move people’s bodies, as well as related technologies and bioproducts. At the same time, these corporeal, material, in/tangible mobilities of bodies, things, and ideas are also generative of reproductive imaginaries and practices. Reproduction is mobile and movement affects reproduction. Building from an interdisciplinary workshop on reproductive mobilities in Kelowna, Canada, this article aims to push the mobilities framework toward the edges of feminist, affect, queer, decolonizing, materialist, and nonrepresentational theories in thinking through both reproduction and movement.

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Cropscapes and History

Reflections on Rootedness and Mobility

Francesca Bray, Barbara Hahn, John Bosco Lourdusamy, and Tiago Saraiva

Crops are a very special type of human artifact, living organisms literally rooted in their environments. Crops suggest ways to embed rootedness in mobility studies, fleshing out the linkages between flows and matrices and thus developing effective frameworks for reconnecting local and global history. Our focus here is on the movements, or failures to move, of “cropscapes”: the ever-mutating ecologies, or matrices, comprising assemblages of nonhumans and humans, within which a particular crop in a particular place and time flourishes or fails. As with the landscape, the cropscape as concept and analytical tool implies a deliberate choice of frame. In playing with how to frame our selected cropscapes spatially and chronologically, we develop productive alternatives to latent Eurocentric and modernist assumptions about periodization, geographical hierarchies, and scale that still prevail within history of technology, global and comparative history, and indeed within broader public understanding of mobility and history.

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“Containers, Carriers, Vehicles”

Three Views of Mobility from Africa

Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga, Jeroen Cuvelier, and Katrien Pype

Africa-focused Perspective The articles included in this first special section were originally presented at an international workshop titled Technology and Mobility in Africa: Exploring a New Analytical Field, which we organized at the University of

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David Burel

Despite the ubiquity of recreational vehicles traveling America’s highways, only a few scholars have chosen to study them closely. This certainly cannot be because recreational vehicles (RVs) are not significant enough in their scope or scale to warrant attention. In fact, they are very prevalent, as demonstrated by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association’s estimate that 8.9 million American households own one. It certainly cannot be that their impact is not felt in many communities across the country in the form of branded RV parks, mega dealerships, and tourist destinations purposefully outfitted with all the hookups a land yacht captain requires. It is, therefore, hard to understand how such a highly visible transportation and recreation technology has remained largely invisible for many scholars, even among those working on related topics. The RV’s place in American society has only been studied in a piecemeal fashion, with contributions frequently authored by those outside the discipline of history. This article will review RV-related scholarship and suggest how the lacunae in our understanding of the RV phenomenon would best be filled.

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Sandra Swart

Conceptual work on the history of mobilities has been devoid of animation other than humans and their machines. The deafening automobility of the present has drowned out memories of an “animal past” teleologically, and the raucous rapidity of the mobile machine drives over the “animal present.” This article is an attempt to explore what a history of mobility that takes animals seriously might look like. It is based on the argument that living nonhuman creatures have their own mobilities and that these animobilities have shaped and been shaped by human societies. It is intended to open up historical narratives of a complex, shifting, nonlinear relationship between animals and changing human technologies of transport—as part of this journal's mission to rethink mobility and include more subaltern approaches. A key finding is that mobility's negative sociopolitical and environmental effects on different groups, in fact species, are inversely correlated to their proximity to power. This article touches on several research trajectories, but the focus is on control of mobility by the state, with case studies drawn from southern Africa's history.

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Rosa E. Ficek, Shanshan Lan, Walter Gam Nkwi, Sarah Walker, and Paula Soto Villagrán

Decentering the State in Automobility Regimes

Kurt Beck, Gabriel Klaeger, and Michael Stasik, eds., The Making of an African Road (Leiden: Brill, 2017), 278 pp., 34 illustrations, $78 (paperback)

Understanding Globalization from Below in China

Gordon Mathews, with Linessa Dan Lin and Yang Yang, The World in Guangzhou: Africans and Other Foreigners in South China’s Global Marketplace (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 256 pp., $27.50 (paperback)

Rethinking Mobility and Innovation: African Perspectives

Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga, ed., What Do Science, Technology, and Innovation Mean from Africa? (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2017), 256 pp., 25 black-and-white illustrations, $36 (paperback)

When Is a Crisis Not a Crisis? The Illegalization of Mobility in Europe

Nicholas De Genova, ed., The Borders of “Europe”: Autonomy of Migration, Tactics of Bordering (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017), 376 pp., $27.95 (paperback)

City, Mobility, and Insecurity: A Mobile Ethnography of Beirut

Kristin V. Monroe, The Insecure City: Space, Power, and Mobility in Beirut (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2016), 204 pp., 7 photographs, $27.95 (paperback)

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As announced in our most recent editorial, this issue of Transfers features a series of reflections on the role of movement and mobilities in the fields of history of science, technology, and medicine. Four major collaborative projects in different stages of completion are introduced: “Moving Crops and the Scales of History”; “Individual Itineraries and the Circulation of Scientific and Technical Knowledge in China (16th–20th Centuries)”; “Migrating Knowledge”; and “Itineraries of Materials, Recipes, Techniques, and Knowledge in the Early Modern World.” Over the past few years, historical research on scientific and technological change and movement has altered substantially in form and content. Many projects have taken on a collaborative format as globalization and global exchange methodologies advanced and brought about an increased awareness of geographies, cultural differences, and postcolonial debate but also as sources became increasingly visible and available through digital means and researchers themselves became more mobile. The four examples selected can inevitably provide only a glimpse into this changing landscape and were chosen as offering a representative geographic coverage of European and US American scholarship in which, however, colleagues from a wide range of areas including India, South America, and Asia were involved.

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Robert C. Post, Urban Mass Transit: The Life Story of a Technology Zachary M. Schrag

Joel Wolfe, Autos and Progress: The Brazilian Search for Modernity J. Brian Freeman

Georgine Clarsen, Eat My Dust: Early Women Motorists Liz Millward

Virginia Scharff and Carolyn Brucken, Home Lands: How Women Made the West Margaret Walsh

Jeffrey W. Alexander, Japan’s Motorcycle Wars: An Industry History Steven L. Thompson

Lewis H. Siegelbaum, Cars for Comrades: The Life of the Soviet Automobile Valentina Fava

Per Lundin, Bilsamhället: Ideologi, expertis och regelskapande i efterkrigstidens Sverige Bård Toldnes

Ruud Filarski and Gijs Mom, Van transport naar mobiliteit: De Transportrevolutie, 1800–1900 and Van transport naar mobiliteit: De Mobiliteitsexplosie, 1895–2005 Donald Weber

William J. Mitchell, Christoper E. Borroni-Bird, and Lawrence D. Burns, Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century Joe Schultz

Randal O’Toole, Gridlock: Why We’re Stuck in Traffic and What to Do About It Bob Post

Edna Bonacich and Jake B. Wilson, Getting the Goods: Ports, Labor, and the Logistics Revolution Vaclav Smil

Ian Carter, British Railway Enthusiasm Stephen Cutcliffe