Special Section on Railways and Urban Cultures
Mimi Sheller and Gijs Mom
Transitioning to a Low Carbon Society? The Case of Personal Transportation and Urban Form in Copenhagen: 1947 to the Present
Andrés Felipe Valderrama Pineda and Nina Vogel:
Our objective is to account for the transitions in urban form and personal transportation in Copenhagen since 1947. Sustainability objectives are currently framed as efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. Urban transportation is a key area of intervention. In public debates, political parties, experts, and citizens make assertions about what is possible by referring to past experiences. Our contribution is to explore the official histories of Copenhagen in order to account for the transitions in mobility during the last six decades. We make a critical application of the multilevel perspective (MLP), which is the most used theory to study transitions. Our application is critical because the context of urban mobility necessarily includes a discussion of urban form development; therefore, we suggest ways in which the MLP should be adjusted in order to account for the historical dynamics evidenced in the empirical material collected for this study.
Learning from Electric Cars as Socio-technical Mobility Experiments: Where Next?
Daniel Newman, Peter Wells, Paul Nieuwenhuis, Ceri Donovan and Huw Davies
This article considers electric cars as socio-technical experiments in meeting mobility requirements. There have been numerous trials and government incentives to promote such vehicles, but with a notable lack of success. The article thus seeks to address an urgent need to understand such “transition failure,” which may ultimately impact upon how progress is measured in sociotechnical transitions. Presenting results from a recent research project, it is suggested that shared usage models hold greater potential for achieving sustainable personal mobility. It is concluded, however, that multiple niche experiments present a highly complex situation in which cumulative learning is problematic.
SPECIAL SECTION ON RAILWAYS AND LITERATURE
Rail Networks, Mobility, and the Cultures of Cities: Introduction to the Special Section
Steven D. Spalding
Scholars writing about railway mobility have pointed to the rails’ impact on the culture of cities, while urban theorists and critics have cited the crucial importance of movement and mobility to how cities are lived. A truly interdisciplinary approach, which balances the priorities of mobility studies and urban studies, and informs itself through compelling cultural artifacts (including visual, literary, or other media) offers insight into the processes of urban cultural production and their close link to the discursive valences of urban rail mobility.
“Behind the backs of houses”: Landscapes of Englishness in the Postwar Railway Poetry of John Betjeman and Philip Larkin
Railways in John Betjeman’s and Philip Larkin’s poems of the 1950s and 1960s function as provocative signifiers that interrogate and encourage definition of what constitutes the modern English landscape. Through their works, which recognize how railways have been held to register the cultural health of the nation from their inception, it becomes clear that the panoramic perception that railways make possible aptly represents the self-conscious cultural gaze filtered through crisis that critics argue prevails in the postwar context. Betjeman’s and Larkin’s speakers reveal the capacity for railway travel to disrupt the settled vision of nationhood at the heart of heritage-based Englishness; at the same time, railways – and they themselves – are not outside of this discourse. For Betjeman and, to a greater extent, Larkin, it is the possibility of double return embodied by the railway system that perhaps proffers a desirable mode of inhabiting the modern English nation.
The Subte as Looking Machine into the City: Moebius’ Trajectory through Buenos Aires
Moebius (1996) is the first cinematographic production of the “Universidad del Cine” of Buenos Aires. It is the collective project of forty-five film students under the general direction of Gustavo Mosquera. The film narrates the mysterious disappearance of a subway train along the last addition to its underground network: the “línea perimetral.” In search for answers, a topologist named Daniel Pratt initiates an allegorical journey into Moebius, a subway trajectory that is timeless but includes all times. This article explores the role of Moebius‘ subway as a metaphor to understand the urban. Drawing from Buenos Aires’ urban history this filmic analysis ties the Subte to Buenos Aires’ processes of capital accumulation and unveils the fissures of its modern spaces.
Harry Beck’s London Underground Map: A Convex Lens for the Global City
John D. Schwetman
After Harry Beck designed his map of the London Underground, it became an icon of the city and a model for maps in other large transit networks around the world. The map allowed its readers to see themselves as components of the large, organized structure of the metropolis but also confronted them with the possibility of losing themselves to that structure. An analysis of the postBeck subway map tradition shows it to be a battleground between the zeal for order and the latent chaos at the heart of the urban communities that the map represents and also situates this conflict in a larger context of the emergence of a global societal structure bound together by the control of capital and of the information that enables such control.
Reworking Appropriation: The Language of Paris Railways, 1870–1914
By tracking railway language through periodicals and poetry, this article examines the words and images used to make sense of Paris’s new subway and streetcars between 1870 and 1914. It proposes a new threefold approach to understanding the appropriation of technology, which reworks its agents, sites, and chronologies. It maintains that appropriation takes both material and symbolic forms, and that appropriation processes transform both appropriated objects and their cultural contexts. Language anchors appropriation as it operates through circulating texts. For Paris, railways were both transportation technologies and versatile tools for making meaning. Railways set spaces, customs, identities, and images adrift, which traditionalists found threatening, progressives found promising, and avant-gardists found inspiring. Fitting Paris with railways required both reimagining and rebuilding the city, and reshaping what railways could be. The article concludes that appropriation is neither linear nor complete, but rather an ongoing and unfinished negotiation of the meaning of technologies.
Reflections on Rails and the City
IDEAS IN MOTION
A City for Woody Allen? The New Banks of the Seine in Paris, a Product of Rootless Sociology and City Planning
June 2013 saw the completion of a project to transform the riverside expressway on the Left Bank of the Seine in Paris into a pedestrian promenade, accompanied by a series of leisure and recreation features. This article critiques that project as a purely cosmetic measure for the prestigious city centre, decrying both its underlying ideology and its unintended consequences, and raising questions concerning the new urban quality of life and the moralization of mobilities.
MOBILITY AND ART
Turtle 1: The First System D Car
Old Model, New Parts
The Migrant Experience: The Red Star Line Museum
Mari Hvattum, Brita Brenna, Beate Elvebakk and Janike Kampevold Larsen, eds., Routes, Roads and Landscapes (Kevin James).
Joe T. Darden and Richard W. Thomas, Detroit: Race Riots, Racial Conflicts, and Efforts to Bridge the Racial Divide (Bruce Pietrykowski)
Adria Imada, Aloha America: Hula Circuits through the U.S. Empire (Chase Smith)
Noel B. Salazar, Envisioning Eden: Mobilizing Imaginaries in Tourism and Beyond (Julia Harrison)
Leon Fink, Sweatshops at Sea: Merchant Seamen in the World’s First Globalized Industry, from 1812 to the Present (John T. Grider)
Diana Glenn, Eric Bouvet and Sonia Floriani, eds., Imagining Home: Migrants and the Search for a New Belonging (Irene Belperio)
Thomas Birtchnell, Indovation: Innovation and a Global Knowledge Economy in India (Kevin Hannam)
Giuseppina Pellegrino, ed., The Politics of Proximity (Jonas De Vos and Frank Witlox)
John Parkin, ed., Cycling and Sustainability (Manuel Stoffers)
Luis Vivanco, Reconsidering the Bicycle: An Anthropological Perspective on a New (Old) Thing (Matthew Calarco)