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Public Policy or Popular Demand?

Why Californians Shifted from Trains to Autos (and Not Buses), 1910-1941

Gregory Thompson

This essay examines the transition from a rail-based intercity transportation system in California in 1910 to a road/private auto-based system thirty years later, with hypotheses that the transition could be explained by either corporate and state decisions for supplying infrastructure or by public demand. The essay examines trends of automobile ownership, road investment, bus organization and service provision, intercity passenger rail service provision, and intercity rail revenues, both within California and to and from California in each of the three decades. It concludes that public preference for private automobility explains most of the transition but that unserved demand remained for fast passenger train service between the state's large metropolitan areas. Failure to serve that demand derived from California's legacy of popular disdain for the private railroad industry.

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New Horizons for Sustainable Architecture

Hydrological Design for the Ecologically Responsive City

Brook Muller

In this article, I explore conceptual strategies encouraging an ecologically responsive, water-centric approach to architectural design, such that design interventions become nature/culture hybrids connecting urban dwellers to larger hydrological conditions. I consider the notion of horizons as one mechanism for working out a trajectory for sustainable architecture, one that highlights experiential and environmental concerns simultaneously. In a conceptual shift, theorist David Leatherbarrow’s treatment of “three architectural horizons” (the equipmental—the objects of one’s immediate setting; the practical—the enclosure of a building; and the environmental— what lies beyond) are reshuffled: the practical expands to the watershed (the bioregion as common dwelling place) while environmental processes couple with the equipment of buildings, such that architectures deliver net positive watershed impact.

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Owen White and Elizabeth Heath

This introduction to the dossier “Wine, Economy, and Empire” surveys the place of economic history in the field of French Empire studies over the last twenty years. Drawing upon the concept of “economic life” as defined by William Sewell, the authors argue that a renewed focus on economic activity within the French Empire offers new opportunities to interrogate commonplace ideas about chronology, imperial forms, and structures of power. The article briefly examines some of the specific avenues of inquiry opened by a conception of economic life as socially “embedded,” while highlighting recent works that exemplify the possibilities of this approach for scholars of empire.

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Fuels and Flows

Rethinking Histories of Transport and Mobility through Energy

Victor Seow

Despite obvious links, the relationship between transport and energy remains generally understudied among historians of transport. By briefly examining the ways in which energy resources and energy flows have intersected with transport patterns, transport costs, and transport technology, this thought piece makes a case for bringing considerations of energy into our writing of transport histories. It goes on to argue that a focus on energy and its movement also offers new insights and objects of study to those with broader interests in questions of mobility, for in tracing energy's pathways, we can better see how social, political, and environmental phenomena of varying scales have been constituted and connected in motion.

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Dagmar Haase

Whereas environmental and social impacts of urban sprawl are widely discussed among scholars from both the natural and social sciences, the spatial consequences of urban decline are nearly neglected when discussing the impacts of land transition. Within the last decade, "shrinkage" and "perforation" have arisen as new terms to explain the land use development of urban regions faced with demographic change, particularly decreasing fertility, aging, and out-migration. Although shrinkage is far from being a "desired" scenario for urban policy makers, this paper argues that a perforation of the built-up structure in dense cities might bring up many positive implications.

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Mobilities and the Multinatural

A Test Case in India

Thomas Birtchnell

This article examines whether the mobilities paradigm could be more sensitive to recent debates about the more-than-human (animals, plants, and insects) and indeed the inhuman (geological, planetary, and biophysical). Many possible examples spring to mind: the forced movement of people due to “natural” catastrophes, the annual migrations of birds across vast distances, the accidental and intentional spread of invasive weeds. “Multinatural mobilities” are at present both inside and outside of the paradigm’s core themes. Can mobilities go beyond transportation, migration, urban development, the hypermobility of the few, and the comparative immobility of the world’s majority of people to encompass everything that moves? Or does this risk diluting the novelty of the paradigm? By presenting a test case of a potential research theme on wild animals in India’s urban spaces, this article argues that by thinking multinaturally progress can be reached in applying the rich mobilities framework to problems in mobility systems.

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Carrie A. Rentschler

Young feminists use social media in order to respond to rape culture and to hold accountable the purveyors of its practices and ways of thinking when mainstream news media, police and school authorities do not. This article analyzes how social networks identified with young feminists take shape via social media responses to sexual violence, and how those networks are organized around the conceptual framework of rape culture. Drawing on the concept of response-ability, the article analyzes how recent social media responses to rape culture evidence the affective and technocultural nature of current feminist network building and the ways this online criticism re-imagines the position of feminist witnesses to rape culture.

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Janell Rothenberg

Viewed from a distance, a large container port looks like any other. Terminals and stacked containers are marked by a narrowing set of multinational operators and shipping companies. Fences project promises of security and safety that are often enacted by the local hires of global security firms. Perhaps longshoremen are visible locking a container into place aboard a vessel, although the docks of contemporary container terminals are more notable for the seeming lack of men at work. Critical scholars of supply chains are revealing the global logics behind such visible similarities in port economy and governance. While this work responds to the call of John Shaw and James Sidaway to recognize how “[ports] matter beyond being entities in and of themselves,” ports are also shaped by more proximate, sociocultural logics.

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Denielle M. Perry and Kate A. Berry

At the turn of the 21st century, protectionist policies in Latin America were largely abandoned for an agenda that promoted free trade and regional integration. Central America especially experienced an increase in international, interstate, and intraregional economic integration through trade liberalization. In 2004, such integration was on the agenda of every Central American administration, the U.S. Congress, and Mexico. The Plan Puebla-Panama (PPP) and the Central America Integrated Electricity System (SIEPAC), in particular, aimed to facilitate the success of free trade by increasing energy production and transmission on a unifi ed regional power grid (Mesoamerica, 2011). Meanwhile, for the United States, a free trade agreement (FTA) with Central America would bring it a step closer to realizing a hemispheric trade bloc while securing market access for its products. Isthmus states considered the potential for a Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the United States, their largest trading partner, as an opportunity to enter the global market on a united front. A decade and a half on, CAFTA, PPP, and SIEPAC are interwoven, complimentary initiatives that exemplify a shift towards increased free trade and development throughout the region. As such, to understand one, the other must be examined.

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Airports as Urban Narratives

Toward a Cultural History of the Global Infrastructures

Nathalie Roseau

This article focuses on the process of the design of airports and how in particular the urban context has shaped their specific histories. Far from being merely pure technical or functional equipment, they have been mirrors for contemporary expectations, just as they informed the modern urban imaginary. According to this perspective, an urban history of airports can be traced from the first aerodromes dedicated to large urban publics to the development of spectacular airports driven by the massive recent routinization of air transport so intricately bound up with globalization. Based on research on specific cases of the design and building of New York and Paris airports, this article aims to resist the temptations to dehistoricize the airport topic, and to introduce a narrative mode of thinking about these specific and concrete spaces.