Archive: 2022 GMHC
GLOBAL MOBILITY HUMANITIES
and the Humanities
28th~29th October 2021
From its earliest days, mobility studies has been intensely concerned with “the infrastructure of social life,” (Urry 2017, 13). Mobility might be seen as a kind of infrastructure for the social while it is undergirded by infrastructures of systems that enable and disable mobilities. Notably, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, mobility infrastructure came to be recognized as indispensable for human life itself, while brutely materializing its geographical inequality and acutely strengthening racial, sexual, and class discrimination and their intersections. But which infrastructures enable the movement of people, things, ideas, and information; that makes possible not only the socialities of everyday life but the circulation of power and wealth, especially as they have undergirded the formations and afterlives of empire and settler-colonialism (Cowen 2020)? For example, logistics, roads, railways, ports, sea routes, transportation networks, pipelines, and the like have been taken into consideration by many researchers in the mobility studies field. So too have internet servers, mail and postage systems, under-sea cables, charging points, bike docking stations, as well as churches, cafes and corner-shops, bodies and practices as ‘arrival’ infrastructures for mobile subjects (Jung and Buhr 2021; Meues et al. 2019). What, then, might count as a mobility infrastructure?
Many narratives of infrastructure, and indeed mobility, suggest their invisibility . Where it is only in their breakdown that we are forced to see the usually sunk or hidden qualities of infrastructures beneath our feet. Studies of infrastructure often involve staying with, following, and especially maneuvers of looking beneath and (un)concealment (Hetherington 2019). Sometimes these seek to reveal the political and power relations infrastructures perform and reproduce, and the (often mobile) lives and livelihoods that service and labour the infrastructures we depend upon. Might we foreground mobility infrastructures, then, if (in)visible and unthought, ‘deep’ or ‘under’, in the way they are unearthed by the (im)mobile practices of research that elicit, know, reveal, uncloak, surface, dig, spotlight, or perhaps write, draw, envision, revision, among other modalities of looking, sensing, writing and creative expression?
The 2022 GMHC is to be a platform to discuss mobility infrastructures in its technologies, geographies, histories, cultures, as well as its social being, ethics, justice, and affects from the mobility humanities perspective. Indeed, as the humanities are challenged not only by COVID, but structural changes in academia and its funding in many contexts, the conference might reflect upon what new infrastructures and (im)mobilities are possible and necessary in the Humanities? Given the emphasis on (virtual) labs, digital platforms, networks and emerging practices to share and collaborate and engage publics in new spaces (Eccles 2021), what might mobility infrastructures offer for a Humanities under threat?
This conference presents an opportunity for scholars to share their ideas and inquiries at the intersection of mobilities studies and humanities, transcending the sometimes conventional divide between the social sciences and humanities and the arts. The conference theme, “Mobility, Infrastructure, and the Humanities,” enables scholars to engage with the mobility humanities from different academic disciplines. With the advent of a ‘high-mobility’ (Viry and Kauffmann 2015) society, infrastructures come to have more far-reaching power, but are perhaps even more taken for granted. Wary of the dangers that they are assumed as universal and taken as ungrounded or uncritically, we encourage studies that contemplate geographic variation, difference and specificity of context across different global regions, national contexts, locations and places.