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Cities & Mobilities Series

The aim of this seminar series is to develop a conversation on how mobilities shape cities as well as to foster exchange and collaboration between scholars from different disciplines and practitioners working on urban mobilities at UvA and beyond.

1. Mobility and Place

Recording of 'Mobility and Place' Seminar

In the first seminar of this series (27 October 2017), we focused on mobility and place. Guest speaker Tim Cresswell provided a talk on: “Maxwell Street: Writing and Thinking Mobility and Place in a Chicago Market”. His presentation was a reading of a selection of fragments from his forthcoming book that features the theme of interacting mobilities (of people, things, ideas) within the place that is and was Maxwell Street.

Tim Cresswell

Is Professor of American Studies, Dean of Faculty and Vice-President for Academic Affairs at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Trained as a cultural geographer, Cresswell’s research focusses on the role of mobility, place, and space in the constitution of social and cultural worlds. Recent work has centered on the relations between forms of mobility and power in modern life. He is currently completing a book on the 100-year history of the Maxwell Street market in Chicago framed as an account of interactions between place and mobility. Cresswell is the author, co-author or co-editor of a dozen books including On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World(2006) and Geographies of Mobilities: Practices, Spaces, Subjects (2011). As a poet he is the author of two collections: Soil (2103) and Fence (2015), which continue his explorations of place and mobility. He is co-editor of the AAG journal GeoHumanities: Space, Place, and the Humanities.

Click here for the recording of Cities & Mobilities Seminar #1

2. Mobility and Diversity

Recording of 'Mobility and Diversity' Seminar

In the second seminar of this series (17 November 2017), we focussed on mobility and diversity. Guest speaker Adrian Favell provided a talk on: “Diversity and Mobilities in Eurocities: The Case of London and Brexit” . His presentation was a reading of a selection of fragments from his forthcoming book that features the theme of interacting mobilities (of people, things, ideas) within the place that is and was Maxwell Street.

Consequences of Brexit

London in the 2000s was the Eurocity par excellence. It was the destination of choice for a generation or two of Eurostars (Favell 2008): young, professionally mobile, post-national populations from Europe, West and East, who thrived in the cosmopolitan, non-discriminatory atmosphere of the largest and most dynamic global city, in a Europe of open borders.  Will Brexit change all that?

For sure, there will be a new natural experiment as regards the regional economic and cultural fortunes of London’s binary twin, Paris, which declined markedly in the shadow of London from 1997-2010. Other competing cities, such as Amsterdam and Berlin are also clearly benefitting. The presentation will also focus on theoretical issues about the limits of mobilities in a still nationalised and colonially ordered world. One of the great attractions of London was its “superdiversity”, a legacy of ethnic and racial diversity with deep roots in British colonial domination. Free moving Europeans and Black and Asian Minority (BAME) British, were widely thought be in tension. Yet Brexit has revealed the underlying racialised and colonial logic of British (English) island nationalism, which has re-cast all of these mobile, transnational and diasporic populations as subordinate “immigrant” foreigners to be nationally “integrated”—or else. The limits of cosmopolitanism have also been revealed by the sharp intercession of national sovereignty in the shape of a referendum, which ostensibly restored to “the people” the power to politically reject the legitimacy of economic and cultural mobilities that were thought to be constitutive of a global society; literally to reduce “demography” to “democracy”.

Adrian Favell

Adrian Favell is Chair in Sociology and Social Theory at the University of Leeds. He is the author of various works on multiculturalism, migration, cosmopolitanism and cities, including Philosophies of Integration: Immigration and the Idea of Citizenship in France and Britain (1998), The Human Face of Global Mobility: International Highly Skilled Migration in Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific (with Michael Peter Smith, 2006), and Eurostars and Eurocities: Free Movement and Mobility in an Integrating Europe (2008). A collection of his essays, Immigration, Integration and Mobility: New Agendas in Migration Studies, including more recent work on East-West migration and anti-EU politics in Britain, was published by ECPR Press (Jan 2015). He also writes about urban development and politics in Turkey, and Japan as a model of the “post-growth” society, particular in terms of its contemporary art and architecture.

Click here for the recording of Cities & Mobilities Seminar #2 (only voice recording)

3. Cities, Tourism & AirBnB

Recording of 'Cities, Tourism & AirBnB' Seminar

In the third seminar on 15 December 2017, we focused on the impact of tourist mobilities on cities and paid particular attention to AirBnB. Guest speaker Jennie Germann Molz (Associate Professor of Sociology at the College of Holy Cross, Massachusetts) provided a talk on  “Sharing the City: Tourism Mobilities, Network Hospitality, and the Politics of Scale”.

Sharing the City

As tourists increasingly turn to peer-to-peer hospitality networks such as Airbnb to arrange homestays in urban destinations, they unlock experiences of the city that span the private enclaves of hosts’ homes and the public spaces of the city. For better or for worse, these platforms are disrupting urban transportation and hospitality industries, with critical repercussions for local economies, for urban planning and housing policy, for permanent residents who inhabit the city, and for the temporary visitors who come and go. In this talk, Jennie reviewed current and recent research on Airbnb in urban settings to explore the implications of network hospitality for urban transformation across the scales of private and public spaces.

Jennie Germann Molz

Jennie Germann Molz is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the College of Holy Cross, Massachusetts. Her research interests include tourism mobilities and mobile technologies; hospitality and the ethics of welcoming strangers; global citizenship, home, and belonging; food, consumption, and identity; and mobile methodologies. She is co-editor of the journal Hospitality & Society. Her publications include Travel Connections: Technology, Tourism and Togetherness in a Mobile World (Routledge) and Disruptive Tourism and its Untidy Guests: Alternative Ontologies for Future Hospitalities (Palgrave Macmillan). She is currently researching families who take their children out of school and 'roadschool' them while traveling the world.

Click here for the recording of Cities & Mobilities Seminar #3

4. Mobility transitions

The guest speaker during the fourth edition of the Cities and Mobilities seminar series on February 2nd was Tim Schwanen (Director of the Transport Studies Unit, University of Oxford). He provided a talk titled Transitions in Urban Mobility Beyond State and Market: Insights from London and São Paulo.

Transitions in Urban Mobility

The idea that urban mobility systems are undergoing radical transformations has gained traction over the past decade among policy makers, professionals and academics alike. Given that markets are widely seen as crucial sites where these transformations take place and are configured, private firms and policymakers are often considered as the key actors in transition processes. The role of community or grassroots organisations is often not neither considered nor understood.

In his presentation, Tim Schwanen will concentrate on the initiatives by such organisations by focusing on the provision or improvement of infrastructures for cycling and walking. Adopting a broad and inclusive understanding of infrastructures and drawing on empirical materials from London and Sao Paulo, he critically examines the contributions to mobility transitions that community initiatives can make.

Functions of community initiatives

While those initiatives are unlikely to trigger mobility transitions themselves, they fulfill at least two critical  functions in mobility transitions that both revolve around questions of justice. One is that they cater to the mobility -- and many other -- needs of social groups at risk of marginalisation in most transport policy, private sector activity and wider discourses. The other is that, at a time that most policy and private sector activity is committed to ethical individualism and market logics, community initiatives play a key role in 'commoning' -- the creation and harnessing of networked and interwoven commons such as physical structures, knowledges and atmospheres that facilitate and encourage walking and cycling. Differences between London and Sao Paulo in how community initiatives regarding walking and cycling infrastructures fulfill these functions will be explored.

Speaker: Tim Schwanen

Ou guest speaker is Associate Professor in Transport Studies and Director of the Transport Studies Unit (TSU) in the School of Geography and the Environment as well as a Fellow at St Anne’s College, all at the University of Oxford. Further, he is a co-director of the RCUK funded Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand. In 2013-2015 he was the editor-in-chief of Journal of Transport Geography and he currently serves on the editorial advisory boards of nine academic journals in geography, transport studies and sustainability research. 

Click here for the recording of Cities & Mobilities Seminar #4

5. Mobility, Equity and Cycling

During the fifth seminar on 23 February 2018, three shorter presentations on the theme were followed by a guest lecture by Rachel Aldred. 

Dimensions of cycling equity

Rachel Aldred will talk about how to conceptualise cycling equity, drawing on her own research and other work from different contexts. What do we mean by cycling equity? How might we identify or measure – and change – current inequalities? What are the limitations of current knowledge and which dimensions of cycling equity are currently under-researched? Using examples such as gender, age, disability, ethnicity, and income, Rachel will argue for a structural approach that aims to create a truly inclusive cycling system.

Rachel Aldred

Rachel Aldred is Reader in Transport at the University of Westminster. She teaches on Westminster’s MSc Transport Planning and Management and is member of the editorial board of Transport Reviews. In 2016 she was awarded the ESRC Outstanding Impact in Public Policy Prize, and the first annual Westminster University Prize for Research Excellence. She also been named as one of the Progress 1000 Most Influential Londoners. One of her research projects (Near Miss Project) was awarded Cycling Initiative of the Year 2015 by Total Women’s Cycling. Since November 2012 she has twice been elected as a Trustee of the London Cycling Campaign and I’m Chair of its Policy Forum.

Click here for the recording of Cities & Mobilities Seminar #5

6. Staging and Designing Mobilities

The sixth Cities and Mobilities seminar focuses on how mobilities are 'designed' and discussed the very fabric of mobile cities as well as the methods of studying it. Ole B. Jensen (Aalborg University, Denmark) provided the keynote lecture.

His lecture takes point of departure in the latest material shift of attention within the 'new mobilities turn'. Notions of non-human agencies, actor-network-theories, assemblages, and post-human perspectives have drawn new and interesting boundaries up in many different research areas. At the same time there has been a turn towards design and architecture within the 'new mobilities turn'. The lecture presents the contours of this new map emerging between the existing mobilities research over the new material turns toward the interest in design. In the presentation the positioning of 'material pragmatism' will be explored as a viable platform for integrating these perspectives. In particular, the 'situational' perspective of everyday life mobilities will be addressed and it will connect these to the micro-details of material designs (curbs, asphalt, transit spaces etc.) as well to larger scales of 'systemness' (socio-technical networks, infrastructures, design protocols etc.). The presentation ends with some pointers for future Mobilities design research.

 Speaker: Ole B. Jensen

Ole B. Jensen is Professor of Urban Theory at the Department of Architecture, Design and Media Technology, Aalborg University (Denmark). He is deputy director, co-founder and board member at the Centre for Mobilities and Urban Studies (C-MUS), and Director of the research cluster in 'Mobility and Tracking Technology' (MoTT). Ole B. Jensen is board member at the Center for Strategisk Byforskning (CSB), PhD Program Coordinator at the Media, Architecture and Design Doctoral Program, and Editorial Board Member on the Journal Applied Mobilities. His main research interests are within Urban Mobilities, Mobilities Design, and Networked Technologies. His most recent book (with Ditte Bendix Lanng) is Urban Mobilities Design. Urban Designs for Mobile Situations, 2017, Routledge. 

Click here for the recording of Cities & Mobilities Seminar #6

7. Mobility Justice

The seventh Cities and Mobilities seminar focused on politics of mobility and mobility justice, discussing mobile practices of specific ‘vulnerable’ groups and engaging with a broader theoretical framework of understanding mobility and justice, presented by Mimi Sheller (Drexel University, USA).


Based on my forthcoming book Mobility Justice (Verso, 2018), this talk will present three core concepts. First, the idea that cities and mobilities are inextricably linked, each producing the other. Second, the idea that there is a kinopolitics of infrastructure – that is, a political struggle over the infrastructural shaping of (im)mobilities, or the ways in which infrastructures mobilize and demobilize. And third, I will conclude with the idea of the mobile commons as a political movement for mobility justice. I will argue that dynamic constellations of urban mobility and communication exhibit uneven topologies, turbulence, disruptions, differential speeds, and frictions, which at the same time offer handles, channels, and frequencies for interruption “from below” or glitches from within. Through kinopolitical struggles over “infrastructuring” the excluded majority create fissures and new possibilities for connection, which potentially may have important effects on urban space, on scalar relations, and on the governance and control of mobility regimes.

Building on the work of Anna Nikolaeva and others, the mobile commons refers to access to the cooperative social territories and shared infrastructures of movement (both material and immaterial) – i.e., the pathways, ways, and means of moving, sharing, and communicating, which have been cooperatively produced by human relation to others, both human and more-than-human, through common passage, translation, and co-usage over time. The commons, in other words, is not land or resources as such, but is an action and a verb – a movement to make life in common, a commoning. Ultimately I seek to show how shared mobility commons suggest forms of autonomous social cooperation outside of capitalism, and beyond or beneath the limits of national borders, existing as an undercommons in the interstices of planetary urbanization.

Speaker: Mimi Sheller

Mimi Sheller is a professor of sociology and founding Director of the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy at Drexel University. She is the current President of the International Association for the History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility (2014-2017), and co-editor of the journal Mobilities, which she co-founded in 2006. She is author and co-editor of nine books, including most recently the monographs Aluminum Dreams: The Making of Light Modernity (MIT Press, 2014) and Citizenship from Below (Duke University Press, 2012); and the co-edited volumes The Routledge Handbook of Mobilities (2013) and Mobility and Locative Media (2014). As founding co-editor of the journal Mobilities, Associate Editor of Transfers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies, co-editor of Mobile Technologies of the City (2006) and Tourism Mobilities (2004), and author of several highly cited articles, she helped established the new interdisciplinary field of mobilities research (source: Drexel University).