Let us begin with the jokey new term ‘ferrosexuals’, meaning people who experience wanton fetishistic desire for trains—also more romantically labelled ‘buffer kissers’. When I was a lass too young to have heard of the Mile-high Club, ferrosexuals were called ‘train-spotters’ and their ardour was seen as innocuous, if pitiably nerdy. Does the new term mean that machines for travel are now seen as sexy, because we live in increasingly sexualised societies? Or does it mean that an underlying sexual charge in people’s interest in trains is finally being made explicit and taken seriously? We do not know. And the reason we do not know is that scholarly work—particularly historicised work—has yet to be done on sexualities’ many interfaces with transport and mobility.
In his famous 1925 travelogue, Roland Dorgelès writes about his first encounter with the Mandarin Road in Indochina:
When you have dreamed for years of the Mandarin Road, the very name of which evokes all the splendors of the Orient, it is not surprising that you experience a flash of annoyance if you are suddenly held up at a corner, between a street-car and an autobus, by some numbskull who triumphantly announces, with the idea that he is delighting you:
“Well, there it is, your Mandarin Road!”
And then he shows you a guidepost with a blue sign, executed in the purest style of the Department of Bridges and Highways, whereon you read simply, “Colonial Road No. 1.”
Disappointment resides in the resemblance with metropolitan roads, signified by a generic blue sign. Dorgelès laments the lack of exotic experience, even though his presence is only permitted by colonial modernization and administrative uniformity. This tension between the desire for alterity and the rationalization ofspace is characteristic of the French experience in colonial Indochina.
In his reply to my diatribe about the crisis of transport and mobility history, my friend Peter Merriman casually drops the term “modernist” three times (one time in combination with “desires”), as if to suggest that mine is a backward struggle. He seems to ask: haven’t we now moved into the postmodern condition, beyond the illusions of grand narratives and all-permeating questions, into a meadow of a thousand blooming flowers? Apart from the fact that Mao was more modest than Merriman (Mao used ba¯i, a hundred, not qia¯n, a thousand, my Chinese teacher here in Shanghai explains to me, and he used “blossoming” rather than “blooming,” though the difference between the two escapes me with my limited mastery of English), Peter might be right: I confess I am an antimodernist modernist. Like Deng Xiaoping, for whom this term was coined by the Chinese historian Wang Hui and with whom (for several reasons) I don’t like to be compared, I like to stir things up to keep us awake. I need to ask questions—often with a vengeance. Perhaps the main difference between Peter and I is that I dare to use the word “us.” I feel a member of an association, while Peter might be considered a monad in a network. While I bask in the illusions of a community of scholars, Peter advocate a mild postmodernism, perhaps feeling more at home in a fragmented environment, of which even the mobile practices of the Australian Pitjantjatara form a part. Do we have a case of Gesellschaft versus Gemeinschaft here?
ambitions of the state and the interests of investors and private companies. They have brought desired forms of mobility to some. Railroads have also held the hope of socio- economic development, which rarely ends up materializing for the local communities
Lucy Baker, Paola Castañeda, Matthew Dalstrom, Ankur Datta, Tanja Joelsson, Mario Jordi-Sánchez, Jennifer Lynn Kelly, and Dhan Zunino Singh
, 2012). Listening for Erasure Race, Desire, and Sound in the Caribbean Jocelyne Guilbault and Timothy Rommen, eds., Sounds of Vacation: Political Economies of Caribbean Tourism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019), 234 pp., $25
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Peter Schweitzer and Olga Povoroznyuk
of collective life. 45 Finally, in her essay about a golden spike, anthropologist Heather Swanson notes that “railroads … put the world on a new track,” 46 emerging from and contributing to dreams of empires and desires of capitalist accumulation
COVID Pandemic and the Politics of Mobility
of the last desperate act of maintaining the urban disavowal of migrants and the disenfranchisement of their mobility—a desire to expunge the dirty and obscene face of our present economic system by an active cleansing of its human manifestation
Ernst van der Wal
, “the claim for the mobile transgressivity of queerness as its own diasporic category—the idea that it is necessarily disruptive of categories of nation, home, and family—misses the way in which queer desire is necessarily constituted in relation to such
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. Mobility Study: More and Less than Training Train stations are places of both habit and hope. Their imagined futures … present a desire for change. … Listen closely and you can hear an old song performed new. 48 The railway platform Trained Man
Human-Elephant Mobility and History across the Indo-Myanmar Highlands
Paul G. Keil
fortunately for me, the fresh traces of their movement opened a wide, accessible path that appeared to be going in my desired direction. Trusting in the elephants’ better judgement, I followed the path and found an appropriate crossing. This part of the