T2M President’s Letter, March 2017
Our 2017 joint CeMoRe, T2M , Cosmobilities conference Mobile Utopia: Pasts, Presents, and Futures (Lancaster University, 2-5 November 2017) has had an excellent launch with an exciting Call for Participation for both papers and artists presentations, and a beautiful website and poster design [http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/t2mc2c/call-for-papers/]. Many thanks to our organizing committee at Lancaster University and our collaborators in the Cosmobilities Network! We also want to call attention to the PhD Bonfire School that will take place just prior to the conference from October 29th to November 2nd and we invite graduate students to look out for the call for participants that will be circulated shortly. We are looking forward to an exciting artistic program, excursions by foot and bike in the region, and a Mobility Utopia Experiment.
Please spread the Call for Participation far and wide, and consider forming special panel sessions that anyone is welcome to organize and chair, or submit your own individual abstracts by the March 31st deadline. If you wish to propose a thematic panel please do so as soon as possible and send to firstname.lastname@example.org, and Julia will post it online and circulate to our mail list.
In fact I hope the historical relation between mobilities and utopias will be a subject of conversation at our conference and I invite abstracts for a panel on this theme: What can we learn from the history of relations between mobilities and utopia? Literary accounts of utopia traditionally hinge on some sense of distance, and the implied mobility needed to cross that distance, with the classics being Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) and Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis (1627) set in faraway places, often imagined as islands. Yet literary scholar J.H. Pearl also notes the ways in which Daniel Defoe’s work “smuggles utopia home”, such as his radical character Captain Singleton’s re-creation of the egalitarian sea-borne life of pirates back in England, thereby “unsettling our notion of the totality of state power to which his utopias are opposed.” * In what ways are such proximate utopias possible today? How are they enacted through new experiments engaging in alternative mobilities, subversive mobilities, low-carbon mobility transitions, and intentional communities built around various kinds of sharing, commons, and mobility justice? The full call for this panel session can be found in the Newsletter and on the conference website.
We hope you have also noticed the wonderful launch of our new Mobility in History Blog, edited by Mike Bess. Three new pieces having gone to press over the last two months, two of which are bilingual (English/Spanish) for the first time! While the blog differs from our previous annual yearbook format, it helps disseminate the work in our field to a wider public audience. We invite you to read these pieces and share them on social media. Behind the scenes we have also been working on important improvements to several of our administrative functions, including our Secretary Julia Hildebrand’s hard work to convert to our new membership enrolment system, and our Treasurer Luisa Sousa’s hard work updating our accounting, banking and payment systems. I am incredibly appreciative of all they have done. We also remind members of the special promotion of T2M Membership which runs just through the end of March. Please take advantage of this attractive offer to renew your annual membership. Membership gives you a discounted conference registration rate, as well as all members now having free access to the excellent Journal of Transport History, which has launched a new online platform with Sage. Members also can choose discounted subscriptions to our companion journals, Transfers and Mobilities.
On a more serious topic, since our last conference we have witnessed some disturbing changes in migration and travel policies in the United States under the new Trump administration, and in the European Union in the face of both a “refugee crisis” and Brexit. In addition to taking a moral stance on these issues, as an international organization we are also directly affected by what increasingly seems to be a mobility dystopia. Due to President Trump’s Executive Order halting travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries (recently re-written to include only six), and ceasing refugee resettlement from Syria, there has been great consternation and concern amongst academic communities. It has affected our students, international faculty and researchers, and it has led a number of academics to boycott conference travel to the US. Meanwhile in Europe there are great anxieties for EU citizens living in the UK over changes to their residency rights, in addition to the hardening of borders, refugee and migration policies in many countries. As we plan future conferences we remain acutely aware of these uncertainties around travel, and that we need to do all that we can to support our colleagues and students around the world, as well as standing up for the kind of world we believe in.
Finally, with a view to developing a roadmap for the future strategic plan of T2M, I want to note that in the coming months the Executive Committee will be working on a proposal for advancing our goal as a professional body by more clearly identifying our interests in both transport history and mobility studies, from a multidisciplinary and international perspective. We seek to build our membership, advance the field, and build cooperation with other existing groups and institutions. One proposal that will be on the table is a potential name change. Once it is drafted we plan to circulate this proposal to all members, and we invite your input and active participation in the discussion. There is also a related Call for Papers being circulated by Peter Cox on this issue of “Bridging Transport History and Mobility Studies”, and we invite those interested to submit ideas for this panel, and for all members to attend it and be part of the discussion.
We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in Lancaster!
* Pearl, J.H. (2017) “Defoe and the Distance to Utopia”, The Public Domain Review, http://publicdomainreview.org/2017/01/25/defoe-and-the-distance-to-utopia/. See also J.H. Pearl, Utopian Geographies and the Early English Novel (University of Virginia Press, 2014); Frederic Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (Verso, 2007); and Ruth Levitas, The Concept of Utopia (Peter Lang, 2011).