True to our original mission, this new issue of Transfers brings together a plurality of disciplines, from history to anthropology and literary criticism. It showcases reactions to the current pandemic as well as far-reaching reflections on the meanings of mobility. Bracketing our issue, two articles engage with the history of mobility. Drawing our attention to the extent of the automobility system, in “The Freeway Journey: Landscape and Mobility in the Southern Auto Industry,” John E. Mohr questions the economic and social costs of developing the I-85 highway corridor through the American South. Hugo Silveira Pereira interrogates “The Past, Present, and Future of Peripheral Mobilities in Portugal” through a history of the Portuguese narrow-gauge railway system that spans over a century.
As material objects, vehicles have a short lifespan serving as means of transportation, but they have long and mobile afterlives in daily life, histories, and memories. In “Your ‘Eyesore,’ My History? People and ‘Dead’ Cars in a Remote Aboriginal Community,” Kate Senior, Richard Chenhall, and Daphne Daniels write a history of automobility through ethnographic observations of a car junkyard in Australia's Northern Territory. They remind us that, though now immobile, the stories automobiles encapsulate continue to circulate and reverberate with the complexities and tensions of Indigenous mobilities. Reconstructing the alternative narratives that have been muted or ignored by dominant stories, the authors interrogate our own understanding of waste and the lifecycle of the automobile. “What does this waste mean” to us and the way we conceptualize automobility?
Seeking to expand and challenge our understanding of mobilities, Emma Eldelin and Andreas Nyblom wonder in what ways literary representations are involved in renegotiations of transit space. “Place Making in Transit: Literary Interventions at the Airport and in the Underground” focuses on a body of texts relating to the London Underground and Heathrow Airport respectively. The authors argue that literature contributes to a processual understanding of place and advocate for literary texts to be considered as instances of place making, deserving of our full scholarly consideration.
In “Forced Immobility: Undocumented Migrants, Boats, Brussels, and Islands,” Godfrey Baldaccino urges us to reflect on how the current pandemic has mainstreamed the practice of quarantine. All over the world, populations have come to accept this measure as a way to balance the need to maintain connectivity and travel, while protecting and keeping communities safe. Baldaccino warns us against normalizing the unprecedented extension of the confinement of undocumented migrants to cruise ships and boats, particularly by Malta and Italy, with no end in sight. In her article, Dorota Woroniecka-Krzyzanowska uses the concept of multilocality to analyze the politics of space under the condition of protracted encampment. Based on ethnographical fieldwork conducted between 2010 and 2016 in the West Bank, she emphasizes the diachronic dimension of this experience that encompasses multiple attachments across time and space: the remembered and imagined places of origin, sites of residence in exile, and future geographies of hope or anticipation.
While the world lingers in pandemic, through this selection of articles, essays, and reviews, Transfers remains devoted to interdisciplinarity and scholarly engagement with our daily lives, highlighting the new promises and perils of mobility.