Warm greetings from cold and icy Lancaster in the UK, where the temperatures have been ranging from -6C to 4C in the first half of December. The cold spell isn’t unusual for this time of the year. December and January are the months when record-low temperatures cluster for readings kept at the nearest meteorological station, Hazelrigg, since 1966. Temperatures are definitely below the median (2C-3C) for this time of the year. Key in 2022 is the capacity of households to heat up their homes against the background of a cost-of-living crisis affecting the UK and Europe. This crisis is the direct result of the war in Ukraine, the other crisis about which I wrote in the previous newsletter. Different countries in Europe have introduced different measures to help low-income households through this winter, showing the scale and depth of the effects triggered by Russia’s invasion of a sovereign country. The war in Ukraine has been raging for over nine months, with constant recent reports of missile and drone strikes targeting key infrastructure and the prospects of a dark cold winter for thousands of people. Theirs is a crisis and disruption not many of us may be able to fathom which is not to say that we can’t relate to the very significant challenges fellow Ukrainians and Ukrainian residents face this winter.
Reflecting on and debating Disruptions and Reconnections as we did in Padua (see conference report below) is a means of realising the scale and consequences of crises in the past, including those related to war. Many of the institutions, borders, thriving social movements which are still with us today have been shaped because of important disruptions triggered by natural disasters, political unrest, armed conflict, and more. A number of these emerged and have been sustained in the hope that the causes of those disruptions might be mitigated if and when the chances of their reoccurrence escalate in comparable circumstances.
Moments of crisis and disruption often limit the span of the horizons we may otherwise consider when thinking about the future. Needs are immediate and urgent, as ought to be the actions. It is also difficult at times of crises to realise the relevance and usefulness of interrogating the past which, nevertheless, provides guidance and insights to reveal the conditions determining the present. It is often poetry, and the arts more generally, where I think some of the tensions around resisting and responding to the challenges that crises trigger can be found.
Impersonating one of his many poetic voices, Fernando Pessoa captured how brittle our relationship with truth and hope can be in a poem written in 1928 called ‘In the Terrible Night’. Here’s a brilliant excerpt (translated by Jonathan Griffin in my Penguin edition):
Maybe I could bring what I have dreamed to some
But could I bring to another world the things I forgot
In this night when I can’t sleep and peace encircles me
Like a truth which I’ve no share in,
And the moonlight outside, like a hope I do not have,
is invisible to me.
Poetry, music, the arts remind us of the pivotal role that beauty and truth play in realising the vastness of moments of change. Our next conference invites reflection precisely on these issues, placing aesthetics and ethics at the centre of how we may query mobilities, the infrastructures that support them, the contexts in which they have been built, and the shifting meanings they adopt as times change.
The T2M team, the local organising committee of Konkuk University in Seoul, in particular their Academy of Mobility Humanities, look forward to receiving your contributions to the 2023 conference. 2023 is also a special year for T2M, as it marks 20 years since its foundation. Do join our collective reflection, in person or online, part of which will involve taking stock of where the field is, not least through its associated journals and the many book series dedicated to charting how transport and mobility continue to matter for individuals, families, societies, polities and cultures, everywhere, in war and peace.
With warm wishes for the festive season,
Carlos López Galviz