Transgressional Mobilities: Strategies, resistence, possibilities

Guénola Capron and Priscilla Connolly

In recent years, one derivation of the “spatial turn” in social sciences is the increasing attention to the centrality of mobility -movement through time and space- in our everyday lives. The construction of our identities, the ways we relate to each other, our success or failure in a competitive world, our inclusion or exclusion in the benefits of development and our position relative to the power apparatus: all these social facts seem to be determined by the way we move. At the same time, the “Right to the City” movement includes access to means of mobility in the list of benefits a city should offer its citizens, while governments all over the world have re-packaged “public transport” as “mobility policy”, as a vital part of policies goals of ensuring sustainable, efficient and competitive cities. Successful participation in a rapidly globalizing world is depicted in terms of faster and more frequent travel by airplanes and helicopter, state-of-the art ultra-velocity trains and urban transit, private cars and smartphone-summoned taxis.

Yet many cities, and not only in the Global South, cannot provide their inhabitants with clean, fast, comfortable and cheap mobility. Only a minority may have access to private cars, and those that do face long hours driving in heavy traffic. Public transport not cheap or fast, let alone clean or comfortable, while it is often unhealthy and dangerous. Many people have difficulties in accessing any means of mobility. In spite of this, many cities move ten, twenty, thirty million people daily by diverse strategies both on the part of traveller and transport providers working both within or outside the institutionally regulated public and private systems, or somewhere in between.

This stream proposal invites proposals from researchers who have studied the production and consumption of the social spaces of daily mobility within cities, including, the following: personal and family mobility strategies and “tactics”, effects of lack of mobility (immobility being sometimes a strategy), informal transport provision, mobility as a dimension of habitat, among other topics.

Some of the main questions that we hope to able to discuss include:

  • How do so-called “anarchic” or “chaotic” means of transport reproduce de facto urban governance?
  • To what extent can the individual and collective strategies and “tactics” employed by the population in moving round the city be considered subversive, with potential for significant social outcomes?
  • Do similar transport policies deployed in different cities have the same social effects?
  • Can conflicts over transport and mobility have productive outcomes?