Volume III, number 3, November 2006
In our continuing series on T2M people, new EC committee member Maria Luisa de Sousa braves the famous questions.
1. How did you become interested in the world of transport and mobility?
My rst approach to this fascinating new eld was made mostly through two international networks of scholars, SHOT and T2M. To get there I was supported by Professor Maria Paula Diogo, a well-known Portuguese historian of technology, with whom I had and have the chance to work with. After working as a quality technician in the automobile industry I got the chance to be part of a research project and work on the history of the automobile assemblage industry. In the meantime I am preparing my PhD proposal on which I intend to start working next year. Apart from Professor Diogo, also professor Gijs Mom supports me in this by taking me into a “reading session” he is organizing with his current PhD students. Up to now, I have presented papers on my assemblage industry project both at SHOT and at T2M annual conferences and am moving now into a different approach to the history of automobilism, by considering other actors, namely the users, which will be developed in my future work.
2. You have a degree in industrial engineering and a master’s in sociology. That’s quite an unusual combination. Can you tell us how the two complement each other?
I am not sure that this is such an unusual combination. Industrial engineering has direct relations with industrial sociology, namely in what concerns the study of work processes and methods. For that matter, one can find contrasting approaches on the same subject in those two disciplines.
3. T2M is generally unrepresented by scholars from the Iberian peninsular. Do you think there are any reasons for this?
Maybe that under-representation also exists in other peripheral European countries (not to mention the even lower representations of countries from Asia, Africa, Australasia or South America). Up to now T2M is largely a North-Western European and US dominated association. That is something that should concern the Association: to have a more balanced geographical orbit. I think there are two main reasons for the under representation of scholars from the Iberian peninsula. On the one hand, there is an intrinsic reason, at least in Portugal, which has to do with research tradition; the elds covered by T2M are still not very well developed here. On the other hand, maybe this has also to do with research networks that need to be fostered. For instance, by doing a national survey in these under-represented countries of who is doing work in related areas and inviting them to join the Association, and by promoting trans-national research projects.
4. And are there any new developments in the eld in Portugal that members may nd interesting?
Mobility issues are becoming of a greater public interest in Portugal, for instance through associations within civil society and in academia, but the questions raised and the studies developed are mostly contemporary. Traditionally, the history of transport and mobility in Portugal, where railways have received most attention, has been dominated by business and economic history. There have also been recent research projects on the history of tourism and of other transport modes, such as buses, and infrastructures, such as roads. An important contribution, I think, will be given by people who are working in the eld of history of technology, such as a research project that studies railways and roads in two former Portuguese colonies (Angola and Mozambique).
5. You alluded to some ideas about fundraising and summer schools in your election statement. Would you like to say more about these, and what you would like to see the association doing?
I think fundraising is a very important issue, which the Association must face now and do something about. My main idea is to set up institutional membership campaigns at national and transnational levels, similar to what I have done this year in Portugal. Besides a campaign for getting more institutional members, other campaigns should be initiated to specically get more companies to nance the management of the Association and all its current and future projects. Paul Van Heesvelde and I, with other members from the EC, are working on this and members can join us in this effort, by helping us set up national institutional membership campaigns.
Regarding the summer school, this fits into the general concept of the Theme Groups proposed by Heike Wolter and Jan Oliva. It would be a place where graduate students would present and develop their work with the supervision of senior scholars, who could also be invited to give lectures. Unfortunately, the organization of summer schools is related to fundraising, and we are still thinking about the best solution to organize and make it possible for the majority of the graduate scholars from the Theme Groups to attend.
6. Lastly, as a woman, you’re still in a minority at T2M. How do you think the association could attract more women, and do you think it matters?
The asymmetries within the association do not only regard gender, and all of them are reflected in the way our Association and the field itself develops. Those asymmetries should be considered and we should do our best, keeping in mind they exist, to decrease them, by considering others’ perspectives, by fostering values of respect and critical open mindedness. For instance, race and geographical provenience, already mentioned above, are also things that should concern us. And, as suggested for the geographical asymmetries, I think probably members should use their personal networks to invite people they know that work within the field to join the Association.