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Modern Mobilities in Mainland China

A Review of the Academic Field

Nanny Kim and Xu Tao

Modern transport history in China is rooted in academic support of the modernization effort. Influential and creative historians of the Republican period (1911–1949) reformulated “mobility history” (交通史) as an academic discipline. Its approaches were inspired by Western historical method as well as sociology and ethnology, but retained the tradition of an erudite consideration of all written texts as potential sources. From the 1950s, however, the field became a rarely visited sideline of history. With the restoration and vigorous expansion of academic research since the 1980s, transport and mobility gradually reemerged as a key interest among historians. By the turn of the century, the number of scholars working in this subdiscipline approached critical mass. In 2009, a group of historians working on railroads founded the Association for the History of Modern Chinese Mobility and Society (中国近代交通社会史研究学会). Jiang Pei 江沛 of Nankai University, Tianjin, was the initiator of the association and organized the first meeting. The second meeting, in 2011, was organized by Ding Xianyong 丁贤勇 of Hangzhou Normal University. The third meeting in fall 2012 will be hosted by Fudan University, Shanghai. The following is a brief survey of the field of mobility studies in mainland China, aiming not for exhaustive completeness but for an introduction to non-Chinese-speaking colleagues.

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Gijs Mom and Nanny Kim

How topsy-turvy can the world of mobility become? Th e London cab has recently been revived by a Chinese automotive group,1 General Motors had to be rescued by the American taxpayer, and BMW is converting its cars to electricity. In Delhi, after a rape and murder of a woman in a bus, rickshaw pullers introduced “safe for women” rickshaws.2 In Brazil riots against corruption and poverty started in a bus, out of outrage at increased ticket prices.3 In Rio de Janeiro there are three bus accidents per day, in part caused by drivers racing against each other.4 How can we understand the plethora of confusing messages from a world of mobility that seems to spin out of control, more so with every new decade? New Mobility Studies tries to make sense of this turbulence and as editors of Transfers we seek fresh approaches that are not afraid of transgressing boundaries. Th is issue, in which we present scholarship beyond the immediate reach of Western mainstream mobility studies, is an example of such boundary crossing.

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Gijs Mom, Georgine Clarsen, Nanny Kim and Dorit Müller

What is mobility worth? What is the value of a trip? These questions have many answers, which depend on who is doing the trip, and where, for what purpose, and using which vehicle, as well as what happened before.

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Gijs Mom, Georgine Clarsen, Nanny Kim, Cotten Seiler, Kurt Möser, Dorit Müller, charissa N. Terranova and Rudi Volti

In 1873 Edouard Manet finished his famous and beautiful “Railroad” painting. In it a woman in a blue travel coat, sitting on the stone base of a gate, stares us in the face, looking up from her book and gazing through us as if digesting what she just read, a little dog sleeping on her lap. Next to her a girl (her daughter?) stands with her back toward us, a big blue bow on her white Sunday dress, gripping the gate bars and looking through them at … a cloud of steam. No train in sight. They are waiting, for what, for whom? Perhaps the girl’s attention is not drawn by what she sees but by what she hears: a steam valve must be hissing loudly.

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Phillip Vannini, Nanny Kim, Lisa Cooke, Giovanna Mascheroni, Jad Baaklini, Ekaterina Fen, Elisabeth Betz, Federico Helfgott, Giuseppina Pellegrino, Reiner Ruppmann and Alfred C. Mierzejewski

Tim Ingold, Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description; Tim Ingold (ed.), Redrawing Anthropology: Materials, Movements, Lines; Tim Ingold and Jo Lee Vergunst (eds.), Ways of Walking: Ethnography and Practice on Foot Phillip Vannini

Tom Standage, A History of the World in 6 Glasses Nanny Kim

Simone Fullagar, Kevin W. Markwell, and Erica Wilson (eds.), Slow Tourism: Experiences and Mobilities Lisa Cooke

Jennie Germann Molz, Travel Connections: Tourism, Technology and Togetherness in a Mobile World Giovanna Mascheroni

Hazel Andrews and Les Roberts (eds.), Liminal Landscapes: Travel, Experience and Spaces In-between Jad Baaklini

Les Roberts, Film, Mobility and Urban Space: A Cinematic Geography of Liverpool Ekaterina Fen

Helen Lee and Steve Tupai Francis (eds.), Migration and Transnationalism: Pacific Perspectives Elisabeth Betz

David Pedersen, American Value: Migrants, Money and Meaning in El Salvador and the United States Federico Helfgott

Leopoldina Fortunati, Raul Pertierra and Jane Vincent (eds.), Migration, Diaspora, and Information Technology in Global Societies Giuseppina Pellegrino

Daniel Flückinger, Strassen für alle: Infrastrukturpolitik im Kanton Bern 1790-1850 Reiner Ruppmann

Richard Vahrenkamp, The Logistic Revolution: The Rise of Logistics in the Mass Consumption Society Alfred C. Mierzejewski

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Jason Lim, Anne-Katrin Ebert, Jennifer Reut, Ernie Mellegers, Malcolm Tull, Liz Millward, Stéphanie Ponsavady, Patricia Lejoux, Nanny Kim, William Philpott and Steven D. Spalding

Pál Nyíri, Mobility and Cultural Authority in Contemporary China (Jason Lim)

Friedrich von Borries, ed., Berliner Atlas paradoxaler Mobilität (Anne-Katrin Ebert)

Toni Morrison, Home (Jennifer Reut)

Antonio Amado, Voiture Minimum, Le Corbusier and the Automobile (Ernie Mellegers)

Kurt Stenross, Madurese Seafarers. Prahus, Timber and Illegality on the Margins of the Indonesian State (Malcolm Tull)

Gordon Pirie, Cultures and Caricatures of British Imperial Aviation: Passengers, Pilots, Publicity (Liz Millward)

Christine R. Yano, Airborne Dreams: “Nisei“ Stewardesses and Pan American World Airways (Stéphanie Ponsavady)

Christophe Gay, Vincent Kaufmann, Sylvie Landriève, Stéphanie Vincent-Geslin, eds., Mobile/Immobile: Quels choix, quels droits pour 2030/Choices and Rights for 2030 (Patricia Lejoux)

Zhang Ellen Cong, Transformative Journeys: Travel and Culture in Song China (Nanny Kim)

Susan Sessions Rugh, Are We There Yet? The Golden Age of American Family Vacations (William Philpott)

Justin D. Edwards and Rune Graulund, Mobility at Large: Globalization, Textuality and Innovative Travel Writing (Steven D. Spalding)