There is a humorous old anecdote, told perhaps to greatest effect by the American novelist David Foster Wallace (1962–2006) to open his speech to the graduating class of Kenyon College in 2003:
There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how's the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and then goes, “What the hell is water?”
Wallace drew upon this anecdote to nudge his audience toward “awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us.” He was referring especially to the lives of others, whom we too often regard through the “default-setting” perception of ourselves as the main characters of every scene and narrative of our lives.1
This issue of Transfers, which features the second part of the “Unruly Landscapes” special section thoughtfully curated and edited by Lynne Pearce, Chiara Rabbiosi, Giada Peterle, Laura Lo Presti, and Margherita Cisani, will surely stir readers into a similar apprehension of what generally goes unthought in our everyday lives: the landscapes that we move through, under, across, and over. The editors note in their introduction how scholars in human geography have emphasized the dynamism of modern landscapes, their repleteness with actors and objects that are human, animal, vegetal, mineral, living, and nonliving. That holistic view anchors this special section.
As the editors note, the articles they present “focus on embodied, practiced and multi-sensory engagements with the environment in question” in generative and unexpected ways. These articles offer readers ghostly, unfinished transport infrastructures, the politics of place-naming, the “uncanny” English wetlands as a site of human care and representation, stories’ power to conjoin past and present, and the harrowing view from a jet aircraft's wheel bay. The thread running through this eclectic set? Each of them, in its way, challenges us to perceive the “water” in which we swim.
This issue also features an appropriately provocative “Ideas in Motion” contribution. In it, Yi Fan Liu marshals dreams—individual, collective, entrepreneurial—as resources for sustainable mobility practices, policies, and systems. “What kinds of rhythms, circulations, geographies, and materialities of sustainable mobilities do people dream of,” she asks; and “where can these dreams go?” What mobility paradigms constrain our dreams, and how might they spur our breaking free from those paradigms?
The issue closes with the book reviews that are a key part of Transfers’ job of surveying and evaluating the timeliest work in new mobility studies. This is a task we take seriously; so seriously, in fact, that we are poised to revamp this part of the journal. The near future will see the introduction of “Trajectories,” overseen by our book review editor, James Watson-Krips, and consisting of review essays of approximately three thousand words.
These review essays are intended to identify, gather, assess, and catalyze new subfields that our scholarly community sees emerging across the wonderfully unruly (if I may give a shout-out to our special section) landscape of new mobility studies. We are excited about this new section, and seek “Trajectories” contributions that creatively cluster a number of books together, the logic of that cluster being up to the reviewer. New work on Singapore? A theoretical frame in ascendancy? An exciting vein of work on music and mobility? Analyses of indigenous and/or settler-colonial mobilities? Intrepid Transfers reader, what trajectories do you discern in the field, and would like, just like the old fish in Wallace's story, to alert your colleagues to?