Cities and Mobilities Seminar Series #7 Mobility Justice with Mimi Sheller

When: 13.45 -17.00, 20 April, 2018

 Where: Roeterseiland campus, bldg M room 1.01

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.

In the seventh seminar, we’ll focus 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.

Guest speaker Mimi Sheller (Drexel University, the US) will give a talk:

 Mobility Justice: Cities, Infrastructure, and Kinopolitics

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.

Mimi Sheller

Mimi Sheller, AB Harvard University (1988), MA (1993) and PhD (1997) New School for Social Research, 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)


13.45 – 13.50    Opening by Anna Nikolaeva (CUS, organizer of the seminar series)

13.50 – 15.10    Presentations

Hanna Murray-Carlsson, Radboud University Nijmegen

 ‘The city center might be technically accessible, without being accessible to me’: A Relational Time-Geographic study of the mobility of visually impaired people

Martin Šimon, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic

Homeless mobility seen through GPS tracking data: what can we learn from less cool urban nomads?

15.10-15.30     Coffee break

15.30-17.00     Mobility Justice: Cities, Infrastructure, and Kinopolitics by Mimi Sheller

Comments and discussion

 Discussant: Tina Harris, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology  (CUS/UvA)

17.00               Drinks

Seminar is free and open to anyone. Please let us know if you are coming by sending an e-mail to


Abstracts of presentations:

The city center might be technically accessible, without being accessible to me’: A Relational Time-Geographic study of the mobility of visually impaired people

Hanna Murray-CarlssonRadboud University Nijmegen

In societies where mobility is a prerequisite for participation in society, the low mobility of  visually impaired people is a pressing issue. Quantitative data concerning the mobility of this group as well as data on how visually impaired persons experience mobility already exists. However, qualitative and quantitative insights have not been brought together into a model of how visually impaired peoples’ mobility experiences result in mobility patterns. Furthermore, though we know much about quality of mobility experiences, there is less information about what constitutes a satisfying pattern of mobility. The aim of this study was therefore to explain how mobility experiences result in mobility patterns, and to describe the qualitative and quantitative components of a good quality of mobility for people with a visual impairment.

The weekly mobility patterns of 14 visually impaired adults living in the town Västerås, Sweden were mapped and discussed with the participants .To bring together the qualitative and quantitative aspects of mobility in the analysis, the study takes a novel approach to time geography. In addition to emotions (McQouid and Dijst, 2012) I bring embodiment to time geography and understand all time-space constraints as being interpreted and negotiated by the individual in relation to the social and physical environment. This allows for a view of impairment as “neither simply subjective, nor medical, nor a part of the built environment, but a state of perpetual being that is relational, contingent, material and temporal” (Sawchuk 2014, 447). Such a relational approach goes beyond the dualistic debates on disability/impairment and highlights how the body as well as the physical environment and social structures shape opportunities for mobility.

Homeless mobility seen through GPS tracking data: what can we learn from less cool urban nomads? 

Martin Šimon, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic

Abstract: The aim of this presentation is to examine spatially explicit mobility of homeless persons in urban areas. To our knowledge, there has not been any thorough attempt to explore spatial behaviour of homeless people with GPS location devices. The research uses mixed methods approach: it combines GPS tracking method with mobility interviews. The explicit spatial mobility of homeless men and women is measured by GPS location device. The GPS data are further contextualised by the interviews with homeless people (n= 80) about their daily mobility. Groundwork for interviews are printed maps of participants´ spatial mobility for each day (n=598). The study offers a novel understanding of links between use of space and mobility behaviour of homeless people, which can inform current welfare policies related to the poor. Technology enabled insight into daily life of homeless people can influence the way we approach homelessness, but it also can challenge the terminology and tools we use for our understanding of mobility. Do our tools (developed for homed populations with mobilities driven by work and by leisure) hold well also for vulnerable and elusive population of homeless?


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