AAG 2015, Chicago: Mobility and Morality
Pablo Bose, University of Vermont (USA)
Denver Nixon, UBC (Canada)
Justin Spinney, Cardiff University (Wales, UK)
Call for Papers
Despite the burgeoning of bike and car-share programs in many cities and towns around the globe, governments find that their users are overwhelmingly white, middle-class and male, and ask why more black and Hispanic people won’t ride bikes or carpool. SUV-drivers are viewed askance for their apparently narcissistic, selfish and anti-environmental world-view. Package tourists are warned about the havoc wreaked by their extensive jet fuel habit. Others decry investments in costly subway systems while bus routes lie untended. In a similar vein, different agencies encourage a focus on sourcing local produce but how does this position those for whom ‘local’ food may relate to a home nation thousands of miles away? How do we understand what it means to jaywalk in Ferguson for a young black man when it is so clearly something very different from a DUI stop for a celebrity? Why do passports, borders, identification papers, and many other forms of surveillance, securitization, and legitimation mean something so different to different kinds of migrants?
Through a focus on a broad range of these and other practices and policies this session seeks to raise awareness of and problematize the normative dimensions, moralizing, and the subsuming of often very real differences and possibilities implicit within many mobility practices. A key theme is a concern that in promoting specific mobile practices as a new orthodoxy (such as walking or cycling) a moral geography is produced where those who ‘choose’ to move around in these ways become ‘good’ environmental citizens and those who move around in other ways (such as driving or flying) are denigrated as irresponsible, uncaring and negligent. Such normative and prescriptive approaches to what mobility means often presuppose a ‘flat’ or ‘undifferentiated’ user that largely ignores or downplays the real physical, social, economic and cultural barriers to particular kinds of movement. As Baviskar, Mawdsley, Guha and many others have pointed out in the emergence of what they call a form of “bourgeois environmentalism”, certain kinds of behavior, attitudes and perspectives are lionized, celebrated and indeed commodified in contemporary culture and can often be catalytic in the remaking of both the built and natural environments. At the same time, the so-called ‘anti-environmental’ tendencies of poor, marginalized, and often racialized groups are identified as central to the pathology of modern dysfunctions.
As this suggests, distinctions based on class, race, ethnicity, gender, health and sexuality are often at the heart of what allows one to be more or less mobile, yet such differences are rarely acknowledged in the moral geographies of mobility. Indeed there is a very real danger that in attempting to combat particular forms of mobility inequality and exclusion, rather than eradicate them, the ‘ought to’ prescriptions of academics, activists and policy-makers are in reality displacing or translating these onto different social groups. The main concern of this session is to analyse the processes through which these displacements and translations occur, and ask what steps need to be taken to prevent them. Accordingly, issues of governance, trans-nationality, participation, discourse, design, regulation, and the socio-legal come to the fore in order to understand the power relations and processes at play. We welcome abstracts of no more than 250 words from scholars who wish to engage with these debates both theoretically and empirically. These should be submitted to the organisers ([log in to unmask]; [log in to unmask]; [log in to unmask]) by Friday 24th October 2014.