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Mobility in the Margins

Hand-pulled Rickshaws in Kolkata

Gopa Samanta and Sumita Roy

This article examines the marginal mobilities of hand-pulled rickshaws and rickshaw-pullers in Kolkata, India. It traces the politics of rickshaw mobilities, showing how debates about modernity and the informal economy frequently overshadow the experience of the marginalized community of hand-rickshaw pullers. It shows how the hand-pulled rickshaw rarely becomes the focus of research or debate because of its marginal status—technologically (being more primitive than the cycle rickshaw); geographically (operating only in Kolkata city); and in terms of the social status of the operators (the majority being Bihari migrants in Kolkata). Drawing upon both quantitative and qualitative research, this study focuses on the backgrounds of the rickshaw-pullers, their strategies for earning livelihoods, the role of social networks in their life and work, and their perceptions of the profession—including their views of the state government's policy of seeking to abolish hand-pulled rickshaws. The article concludes by addressing the question of subalternity.

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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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Emma Terama, Juha Peltomaa, Catarina Rolim and Patrícia Baptista

The popularity of car sharing as part of the urban mobility repertoire has barely increased from a niche contribution in recent decades. Although holding potential to address local issues such as congestion and air quality, but even more crucially to meet the urgent need to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions from traffic, car sharing often meets barriers stemming from local contexts, regulatory environments, and/or lack of political support or consumer awareness. In this article, we discuss the interdependencies of these barriers and provide some key elements to consider in the future when planning practical implementation, research initiatives, and policy support for car sharing in order to overcome the complex and interrelated barriers.

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Black Moves

Moments in the History of African-American Masculine Mobilities

Tim Cresswell

Th is article explores the mutual constitution of blackness and mobility in the context of the United States. Using insights gained from the interdisciplinary field of mobility studies, it argues that mobilities have played a key role in the defi nition of blackness (particularly black masculinity) at the same time as blackness has been mapped onto particular forms of mobility. The article is constructed through a series of suggestive vignettes moving backward through time that illustrate continuities in the way forms of movement, narratives of mobility, and mobile practices have intersected with representations of African-American male bodies. Examples include end-zone celebrations in American. football, stop and frisk procedures in New York City, the medical pathologization of runaway slaves, and the Middle Passage of the slave trade.

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Mobility and Infrastructure in the Russian Arctic

Das Sein bestimmt das Bewusstsein?

Nikolai Vakhtin

This special issue approaches the interrelated themes of mobility and infrastructure in the Russian Arctic. I will discuss the general topics covered in this set of articles and how these contributions help us understand the lives of people in northern Siberia today, and I will give some context on how these articles came about in the first place. Does being determine consciousness? Or does consciousness determine being? This special issue looks at the complex interplay between people’s perception of well-being and behavior, and their understanding and discourse around infrastructure. Several case studies examine the tension between perception, mobility, and infrastructure in communities across the Russian Arctic.

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Automobiles and Socioeconomic Sustainability

Do We Need a Mobility Bill of Rights?

Daniel Newman

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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Abin Chakraborty

Accounts of early European travelers show ample textual evidences of travelers oscillating between the cultural and religious biases and prejudices that obviously conditioned them and a candid sense of wonder and admiration that directly contradicted inherited stereotypes of one kind or another. In the process such travelogues, letters, and observations not only become sites of ambivalence and hybridity but also testify to processes of “cultural mobility” (Greenblatt et al. 2010) and attendant self-fashioning that did not conform to the racial and imperial con- structs generated by the “White Man’s Burden” at a later date. This article examines such issues through an analysis of the descriptions and letters of Thomas Coryat, who wandered across Mughal India between 1612 to 1617. What emerges through his accounts is an interstitial perspective that fosters a vision of cultural mobility without the teleological triumphalism often associated with empire and theology.

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Introduction

Print Culture, Mobility, and the Pacific, 1920–1950

Victoria Kuttainen and Susann Liebich

This special section considers the interconnections of print culture and mobility across the Pacific in the early twentieth century. The contributors explore how print culture was part of the practices, experiences, mediations, and representations of travel and mobility, and understand mobility in a number of ways: from the movement of people and texts across space and the mobility of ideas to the opportunities of social mobility through travel. The special section moves beyond studies of travel writing and the literary analysis of travel narratives by discussing a range of genres, by paying attention to readers and reception, and by focusing on actual mobility and its representation as well as the mediation between the two.

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Making a Community Embedded in Mobility

Refugees, Migrants, and Tourists in Dharamshala (India)

Natalia Bloch

This case study of Dharamshala (India), a community that emerged as an outcome of mobility just a few decades ago and is constantly fueled by refugees, migrants, and tourists, aims to challenge the conceptual boundary between a receiving society and mobile Others, and to pose questions about community making in the context of postcolonial mobility. The history of Dharamshala reflects both the legacy of colonialism and the modern processes of mobility in postcolonial Asia. The town’s highly fluid and heterogeneous community consists of people of different nationalities, ethnicities, religions, and castes from Tibet, Nepal, the Global North, and various Indian states. Most are seasonal migrants attracted by the success of Tibetans in turning this in fact refugee settlement into a popular tourist destination, while some have already settled there. Communities embedded in mobility—for which mobility is an everyday lived experience—reshape our thinking about adaptation processes and social coexistence.