ABSTRACT

Moving your hand, walking, dancing, exercising, driving to work, moving home, going on holiday, marching, running away, immigrating, traveling, exploring, attending conferences. All of these are forms of mobility but they rarely enter each other’s orbit in social and cultural enquiry. The slippery and intangible nature of mobility makes it an elusive object of study. Yet study it we must for mobility is central to what it is to be human. It is a fundamental geographical facet of existence and, as such, provides a rich terrain from which narratives—and, indeed, ideologies—can be, and have been, constructed. From the first kicks of a newborn baby to the travels of international business people, mobility is everywhere. Mobility, it seems, is also ubiquitous in the pages of academia. It plays a central role in discussions of the body and society. 1 It courses through contemporary theorizations of the city. 2 Culture, we are told, no longer sits in places, but is hybrid, dynamic—more about routes than roots. 3 The social is no longer seen as bound by “societies,” but as caught up in a complex array of twenty-first century mobilities. 4 Philosophy and social theory look to the end of sedentarism and the rise of foundationless nomadism. 5 Finally, but perhaps most importantly, mobility bears a number of meanings that circulate widely in the modern Western world. Mobility as progress, as freedom, as opportunity, and as modernity, sit side by side with mobility as shiftlessness, as deviance, and as resistance. Mobility, then, is more central to both the world and our understanding of it than ever before. And yet mobility itself, and what it means, remains unspecified. It is a kind of blank space that stands as an alternative to place, boundedness, foundations, and stability. This space needs examining, and that is the purpose of this book. With this in mind, it explores the geographical imaginations that lie behind mobilization in a diverse array of contexts. It investigates the ways in which mobilities have been given meaning within contexts of social and cultural power. How, in other words, mobility has emerged as an object of knowledge in a range of practices from physiology to international law, dance notation to architecture, and simultaneously, how imaginations of mobility have informed judgments about people and their practices over the last several centuries in the Western world. In order to provide an interpretive framework for these explorations it is first necessary to start, as it were, at the beginning.