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This paper proposes an approach to mobility that takes both historical mobilities and forms of immobility seriously. It is argued that is important for the development of a politics of mobility. To do this it suggests that mobility can be thought of as an entanglement of movement, representation, and practice. Following this it argues for a more finely developed politics of mobility that thinks below the level of mobility and immobility in terms of motive force, speed, rhythm, route, experience, and friction. Finally, it outlines a notion of constellations of mobility that entails considering the historical existence of fragile senses of movement, meaning, and practice marked by distinct forms of mobile politics and regulation.
The last few years have seen the announce ment of a`new mobilities paradigm' (Hannam
et al, 2006; Shelle r and Urry, 2006a), the launch of the journal Mobilities, and a number
of key texts and edited colle ctions devoted to mobility (B×renholdt and Simonsen,
2004; Cresswell, 2006; Cres swell and Merriman, 2008; Kaufmann, 2002; Sheller and
Urry, 2006b; Urry, 2 000; 2007; Uteng and Cresswell, 2008). Work inspired by the new
mobilities paradigm has informed a diverse array of work on p articular forms and
spaces of mobility ranging from driving and roads (Beckmann, 2001; Merriman, 2007;
Urry, 2004) to flying and airports (Adey, 2004a; 2004b). This is not the plac e to review
the work on mobility (see Blunt, 2007). Rather, the overall aim of the paper is to move
forward with some of the insights of the mobility turn, or new mobilities paradigm,
and furthe r develop some of the ideas that have been associated with it (Cresswell,
2006; Urry, 2007). I n particular, this paper develops the approach I uti lized in On the
Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World (2006). In that book I outlined the role
of mobility in a number of case studies ranging in scale from the micro-movements of
the body to the politics of global travel. But, for the most part, mobility re ma ined
a singular thing. There was no detailed accounting of various aspects of mobility that
have the capac ity to make it powerfully political. T his paper, then, i s an attempt at
outlining some key ideas for a mesotheoretical approach to th e politics of mobility.
Strategically, it uses ideas from other theorists an d a variety of real-world examples.
It does not subscribe to a singular theo retical model but seeks to contribute to the
development of a geographical theoretical approach to mobility. It is part of an ongoing
process of mesotheoretical constru cti o n.
The paper seeks to meet these aims in two pri ncipal ways. First, by breaking
mobility down into si x of its constituent parts (motive force, velocity, rhythm, route,
experience, and friction) in order to fine-tune our accounts of the politics of mobility,
Se cond, by developing the notion of `constellations of mobil ity' as h istorical ly and
geographically specific fo rmations of movements, narratives about mobility and mobile
practices; which reveal the importance of an historical perspective which mitigates
against an over whelming sense of newness in mobilities research. First, however,
consider the notion of a `new mobilities paradigm'.
Towards a politics of mobility
Tim Cresswell
Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX,
England; e -mail:
Received 13 November 2007; in revised form 3 July 2009
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2010, volume 28, pages 17 ^ 31
Abstract. This paper proposes an approach to mobility that takes both historica l mobilities and forms
of immobility seriously. It is argued th at is important for the develop ment of a politics of mobility.
To do this it suggests tha t mobility can be thought of as an entanglement of movement, representation,
and practice. Following this it argues for a more finely developed politics of mobility th at thinks
below the level of mobility and immobility in terms of mot ive force, speed, rhythm, route, experience,
and friction. Finally, it outlines a notion of `constellations of mobility' that entails considering the
historical existe nce of fragile sense s of movement, meaning, and practice marked by distinct forms
of mobile politics and regulation.
doi:10.1 068/d11407
The new mobilities paradigm?
Bruno Latour has suggested that there are only three problems with the term `actor-
network theory'
and they are the words `actor', `network', and `theory' (Latour,
2005). A similar point could be made of `new mobilities paradigm'. First of all the
word `paradigm' suggests the Kuhnian notion of normal science being transformed
by sudden revolutions where what went previously is unceremoniously tipped into
the junkheap of academic h istory (Kuhn, 1996). We have to be careful about such
implications. Any study of mobility runs the risk of suggesting that the (allegedly)
notions su ch as b oundaries and borders, place, territory, and landscape
is of the past and no longer relevant to the dynamic world of the 21st century. This
would b e wrong and, to be fair, does not seem to b e the point of advocates of the
new mobilities paradigm where `moorings' are often as important as `mobilities'.
The se cond problem conc er ns the different ways that `new mobilities' can be read. If
the emphasis is on the word `new' then this suggests an old mobilities paradigm.
If the emphasis is on the word `mobilities' then this suggests that old paradigms were
about the immobile or sedentary. The second of these options seems untenable
because movements of one kind or another have been at the heart of all kinds of
social scien ce (and particularly geography) since their inception. In sociology,
notions of movement and mobility were central to the con cer ns of thinkers such as
Georg Simmel and the Chicago School sociologists, for instance (Park a nd Burgess,
1925; Simmel, 1950). If we think of geography there have been any number of
subdisciplinary con cer ns with things and p eople on the move, ranging from Saurian
concer ns with origins and dispersals (Sauer, 1952) through spatial science's fixa-
tions of gravity models and spatial interaction theory (Abler et al, 1971) and notions
of `plastic space' (Forer, 1978), to feminist approaches, to daily mobility patterns
(Hanson and Pratt, 1995; Pickup, 1988). Trans port geography, migration theory, time
geographies, geographies of tourism
the list is endless. The same could be said of
anthropology. So the question that arises is, what is `new' about the new mobilities
paradi gm?
Despite all the caveats above, there clearly is something `new' about the ways
mobilities are being approached currently that distinguishes them from earlier
accounts of movement, migration, an d transport (to name but three of the modes
of mobility that have long been considered). If nothing else, the `mobilities' approach
brings together a diverse array of for ms of movement across scales ranging from the
body (or, indeed parts of the body) to the globe. These substantive areas of research
would have been formerly held apart by disciplinary and subdisciplinary boundaries
that mitigated against a more holistic understanding of mobilities. In addition, the
approaches l isted above were rare ly actually about mobility but rather took human
movement as a given
an empty space that needed to be expunged or limited.
In migration theory, movement occurred bec ause one place pushed p eople out and
another place pulled p eople in. So, despite being about movement, it was really
about places. Similarly, transport studies have too often thought of time in transit
as `dead time' in which nothing happens
a problem that can be solved technically.
Mobility studies have begun to t ake the actual fact of movement seriously.
I have argue d that mobility exists in the same relation to m ovement as place does to
location ( Cresswell, 2006) and that mobility involves a fragile entanglement of physical
movement, representations, and practices. Furthermore, these entanglements have
broadly traceable histories and geographies. At any one time, then, there are pervading
constellations of mobility
particular patterns of m ovement, represe ntations of move-
ment, and ways of practising movement that make sense together. Co nstellations from
18 T Cresswell
the past can break through into the present in surpris ing ways.
In addition, they
entail parti cul ar `politics of mobility'. In general, though, I have not considered how
mobility is made of interconnected elements such as speed and rhythm which merit
separate consideration. Before moving on to six aspects of the politics of mobility
it is necessary to define mobility as the entanglement of movement, representation,
and practice.
Move ment, re pr esentation, practice
Consider, then, these three aspects of m obility: the fact of physical movement
from one place to another; the representations of movement that give it shared mean-
ing; and, finally, the experienced and embodied practice of movement. In practice
these elements of mobility are unlikely to be easy to untangle. They are bound up
with one another. The disentangling that follows is entirely analytical and its purpose
is to aid theory constru cti o n. Different forms of mobility research are likely to explore
facets of any one of these. Transport res earchers, for instan ce, have developed ways of
telling us about the fact of movem ent, how often it happ ens, at what speeds, and
where. Rece ntly, they have also inform ed us about who moves and how identity might
make a difference (Bullard and Johnson, 1997; Hoyle and Knowles, 1998). They have
not been so good at telling us about the representation s and meanings of mobility
either at the individual level or at a societal level. Neither have they told us how
mobility is a ctually embodied and practised. Real bodies moving have never been at
the top of th e agenda in transport studies. Understanding mobility holistically means
paying attention to all three of these aspects.
Physical movement i s, if you like, the raw material for the producti on of mobility.
People move, things move, ideas move. The movement can, given the right equipment,
be measured and mapped. These measurements can be passed through equations and
laws c an be derived from them. This positivist analysis of movement occu rs in all
manner of domains. The physical movement of the human body has been extracted
from real bodies and used to develop model mobilities fo r, amongst other things,
sports therapy, animation, and factory motion studies (Price, 1989; Yanarella and
Reid, 1996). In cities, transport planners are endlessly creating models of mechanically
aided physical movement in order to make transport more efficient, or less environ-
mentally harm ful (Eliasson and Mattson, 2005). In airports and railway stations
modelers have used critical path analysis to measure the time taken to get between
two points and then reduce it (Adey, 2004a). So understanding p hysical movement
is one aspe ct of mobility. But this says next to nothing about what these mobilities
are made to mean or how they are practised.
Just as there has been a multitude of efforts to measure and model m obility so
there has been a plethora of representations of mobility. Mobility has been figured
as adventure, as tedium, as education, as freedom, as modern, as threatening. Think
of the contemporary links made between immigrant mobilities and notions of threat
reflected in metaphors of flooding and swamping used by journalists and politicians (Tuitt,
1996; White, 2002). Or, alternatively, the idea of the right to mobility as fundamental to
modern Western citizenship which is expressed in legal and governmental documents
(Blomley, 1994a). Consider all the meanings wrapped up in car advertisements or
mobile phones. To take just one kind of mobile practice, the simple act of walking
has been invested with a profound array of meanings from conformity to rebellion in
literature, film, philosophy, and the arts (Solnit, 2000). Geographers, social theorists,
and others h ave been complicit in the weaving of narratives around mobility. We have
This use of the term constellation reflects the use of the term by Walter Benjamin (1999).
Towards a politics of mobility 19
alternately coded mobility as dysfun ctional, as inauthentic and rootless and, more
recen tly as liberating, antifoundational, and transgressive in our own forms of
representation (Cresswell, 2 001).
Finally, there is practice. By this I mean both the everyday sense of particular
practices such as walking or driving and also the more theoretical sense of the social
as it is embodied and habitualised (Bourdieu, 199 0). Human mobility is practised
mobility that is enacted an d experienced through the body. Sometimes we are tired
and moving is painful, Sometimes we move with hope and a spring in our step. As we
approach immigration at the airport the way our m obility feels depends on who
we are and what we can expect when we reach the front of the line. Driving a car is
liberating, or n erve wracking, or, i ncreasi ngly, guilt ridden. Whethe r we have chosen
to be mobile or have been forced into it affects our expe rience of it. Sometimes our
mobile practices conform to the representations that surround them. We do, indeed,
experience mobility as freedom as the airplane takes off and the undercarriage retracts.
At other times there is a dissonanc e between representation and practice. As we sit in
a traffic jam maybe. Mobility as practised br ings together the internal world of
will and habit (Merleau-Ponty, 1962; Seamon, 1979) and the external world of expec -
tation and compulsion. In the end, it is at the level o f the body that human mobility
is produced, reproduced, and, occasionally, tran sfor med.
Getting from A to B can be very different depending on how the body moves. Any
consideration of mobility has to include the kinds of things people do when they move
in various ways. Walking, dancing, driving, flying, running, sailing. All of the se are
mobile practices. Practice s such as these have played impo rtant roles in the construc-
tion of social and cultural theory, philosophy, and fiction. Take walking, for instance.
We can think of the way Michel d e Certeau uses walking to examine the spatial
grammar of the city that p rovides a preconstructed stage for the cunning tac tics of
the walk.
``The long poem of walking manipulates spatial organizations, no matter how
panoptic they may be: it is neither foreig n to them (it can take place only within
them) no r in conformity with them (it does not receive its i dentity from them).
It c reates shadows and ambiguities within them'' (1984, page 101).
This story about walking replic ates a number of literatures in which the walker is held
forth as an exemplar of rebellion, freedom, and agency in the city
the p edestrian hero
(Berman, 1988) or the fla
neur (Tester, 1994). Practices are not just ways of getting from
A to B; they are, at l eas t partially, discursively constituted. The possibility of walking
is wrapped up in n arratives of worthiness, morality, and aesthetics that con stantly
contrast it with more mechanised forms of m ovement which are represented as
less authentic, less worthy, less ethical (Thrift, 2004). And it matters where walking
the walk in 19th-century Paris is very different from the walk in rural Mali
or the walk in the contemporary British countryside.
In addition to b e ing a traceable and m appable physical movement which is encoded
through representation, walking is also an embodied practice that we experience in ways
that are not wholly accounted for by either their objective dimensions or their social and
culture dimensions. Here the approaches of both phenomenological inquiry and forms
of nonrepresentational theory give insight into the walking experience (Ingold, 2004;
Wylie, 2005). Similar sets of observations could b e made about all for m s of mobility
they have a physical reality, they are encoded culturally and socially, and they are
experien ced through practice. Importantly, these forms of mobility (walking, driving,
etc) and these aspe cts of mobilities (movement, representation, and practice) are
they are implicated in the production of power and relations of domination.
20 T Cresswell
Six elements of a politics of mobility
By politics I mean social relations that involve the production and distribution of
power. By a politics of mobility I mean the ways in which mobilities are both produc-
tive of such social relations and produced by them. Social relations are of course
complicated and diverse. They include relations between cl asses, genders, ethnicities,
nationalities, and religious groups as well as a host of other form s of group identity.
Mobility, as with other geographical phenomena, lies at the heart of all of these. The
illustrations I use in what follows are designed to illuminate a variety of politics rather
than privileging one over another. My point in this paper is the development of a
geographical understanding of mobility that can in turn inform theorisations of gender,
ethnicity, or any other form of social relation.
Mobility is a resource that is differentially accessed. One person's sp eed is another
person's slowness. Some move in such a way that others g et fixed in place. Exampl es of
this ab ound. Consid er the school run that allows women (for the most part) to e nac t
an efficient form of mobility so often denied them. At the same time it impacts on the
ability of ch ildren to walk to school and makes the streets less safe for pedestrians.
There is l ittle that is straightforward about such an entanglement of gender, age, and
mobility. Consider the opening up of borders in the European Union to enable the
enactment of the EU mantra of free mobility. This in turn dep ends on the closing
down of mobilities at the borders (often airports) of the new Europe (Balibar, 2004;
Verstraete, 2001). Sp eeds, slownesses, and im mobilities are all related in ways that are
thoroughly infused with power and its distribution.
This politics of mobility is enriched if we thi nk about mobility in terms of material
movement, representation, and practice. T here is clearly a politics to material move-
ment. Who moves furthest? Who moves fastest? Who moves most often? These are all
impor tant components of the politics of mobility that can be answered in part by the
traditional approaches of transport studies. But thi s is only the beginning. There is also
a politics of representation. How is mobility discur sively constituted? What narratives
have been constructed about mobility? How are mobilities rep resented? Some of the
found ational narratives of modernity have been constru cte d around the brute fact of
moving. Mobility as liberty, mobility as progress. Everyday language reveals some
of the meanings that accompany the id ea of movement. We are always trying to get
somewhere. No one wants to be stuck or bogged down. These stories appear every-
where from car advertisements to political economic theory. Con sider the act of
walking once again. The disability theorist Michael Oliver has suggested that there
is an ideology of walking that gives the fact of walking a set of meani ngs associated
with being human and being mas culine. Not being able to walk thus falls sh ort of being
fully human. Popular cu lture tells us that `walking tall' is a sure sign of manhood:
medical professionals dedicate themselves to the quest to make those who can't walk,
walk aga in. All manner of technologies are developed to allow pe ople to walk. T he
effect of such an ambulatory culture, he tells us, can be quite devastating on those
who are being `treated'. As Oliver puts it, ``Not-walking or rejecting nearly walking
as a perso nal choic e threatens the power of professionals, it exposes the ideology of
normality and it challenges the whole rehabilitation exercise'' (1996, page 104). Here
mobility, and particularly the represented meanings associated with particular practices,
is highly political.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, th ere is a politics of mobile practice.
How is mobility embodied? How comfortable is it? Is it forced or free? A man and a
woman, or a businessman and a domestic servant, or a tourist and a refugee m ay
experience a line of a map linking A and B completely diffe rently. The fact of movement,
the represented meanings attached to it, and the experienced practice are all connected.
Towards a politics of mobility 21
The representati on of movement can certainly impact on the experience of its
practice. Th ink about Mexican immigrants in the United States, for instance.
Compare that with a member of a multinational corporation jetting bet ween world
cities. Consider the image of a train with Pullman carriages steaming through the
landscape of late-19th- century America. Here is a description from a journalist in
th e Chicago News.
``The world respects the r ich man who turned to be a globe-trotter and uses first
class cabins and Pullman cars, but has inclination to look over his shoulder at
the hobo who, to satisfy this so strong impulse, is compelled to use box-cars,
slip the board under the Pullman or in other ways whistle on the safety of his life
and integrity of his bones'' (Ernest Burgess archives of the University of Chicago
Sp ecial Collections, box 126, page 13).
Here we have exactly the same act of moving from A to B but completely different
practices of mobility and sets of represented meanings associated with them. The
globetrotter sits in plush velvet seats and chooses from extensive wine lists while
the hobo travels close to death on a wooden plank precar iously balanced on the
same carr iage's axels. The mobile subject `globe-trotter' s ignifies a different world
from the mobile subject `hobo'. The narratives and discourses surrounding them both
make their mobil ities possible and impact upon these very di fferent practices. Indeed,
just fifty years earlier the subject identities of `globe-trotter'and `hobo' did not exist, just
as the Pullman carriage or the transcontinental railroad did not exist. These m obile
spaces, subjects, and practices were all entangled in that particular moment.
To recap, I want to develop an approach to human mobility that considers the fact of
movement, the represented meanings attached to movement, and the experienced
practice of movem ent. Taki ng all these facets ser iously, I argue, will help us delineate
the politics of mobility. And this is important, as there seems little doubt that mobility is
one of the major resources of 21st-century life and that it is the diffe rential distribution
of this resource that produces some of the starkest differences today.
But this argument is still more suggestive than specific. There re ma ins the task of
breaking mobility down into different aspects of moving that each have a role to play
in the constituti o n of mobile hierarchies and the politics of mobility. In the process of
breaking mobility down in this way we get som e analytical purchase on how mobility
becomes political. Below I outline six aspects of mobility that each has a politics that
it is ne c essary to consider.
why does a person or thing move? An object has to have a force applied to
it b efore it can move. With humans this force i s complicated by the fact that it can be
inter nal as well as external. A major distinction in such motive force is thus b etween
being compelled to m ove or choosing to move. This is the distinction at the heart
of Zygmunt Bauman's discussion of the tourist and the vagabond.
``Those `high up' are satisfied that they travel th rough life by their heart's desire and
pick and choose their destinations according to the joys they offer. Those `low
down' happen time and again to be thrown out from the s ite they would rather
stay in ... . If they do not move, it is often the site that is pulled away from under
their feet, so it feels like being on the move anyway'' (1998, pages 86 ^ 87).
Of course, the difference between choosing and not choosing is never straightforward and
there are clearly degrees of necessity. Even the members of the kinetic elite who appear to
move so easily through the world of flows must feel obligated to sign in to airport hotels
and book first class flights to destinations twelve time zones away. Nevertheless, this basic
difference in mobilities is central to any hierarchy and thus any politics of mobility. To
choose to move or, conversely, stay still, is central to various conceptions of human rights
within the nation-state (Blomley, 1994b) and within `universal' regimes (Sassen, 1999).
22 T Cresswell
how fast does a person or thing move? Velocity is a valuable resource and
the subje ct of considerable cultural investment (Ker n, 1983; Tomlinson, 2007; Virilio,
1986). To Paul Virilio speed, connected to the development of military technology
in particular, is the prime engine for historical development. In Speed and Politics
and elsewhere he paints a picture of ever-increasing velocity overwhelming humanity.
Even such apparently fixed things as territory, h e argues, are produced through vari-
able speeds rather than through law and fixity. He proposes a ``scienc e of speed'', or
dromology, to help us understand our present predicament. The faster we get, Virilio
argues, the more our freedoms are threatened:
``The blindness of the speed of means of communicating destruction is not a
liberation from geographical servitude, but the extermination of space as the field
of freedom of political action. We only need refer to the ne cessary controls and
constraints on the railway, airway or highway infrastruc tures to see the fatal
impulse: the more speed increases, the faster freedom decreases'' (1986, page 142).
At its extreme, speed becomes imm ediacy
the speed of light that Virilio claims is
at the heart of globalisation. This is the speed with which infor mation can travel
around the globe having profound impacts of relatively solid, relatively permanent,
places (Thrift, 1994; Tomlinson, 2007).
But speed of a more human kind is at the centre of hierarchies of mobility. Being
able to get somewhere quickly i s i ncreasingly associated with exclusivity. Even in air
where, sin c e the demise of Concorde, all classes of passenger travel at the same
those `high up', as Bauman would put it, are able to pass smoothly through the
airport to the car that has been parked in a special lot close to the terminal. In airports
such as Amsterdam's Schiphol, frequent business travellers are able to sign up to the
Privium s cheme where they volunteer to have th eir iris scanned to allow biometr ic
processing in the fast lane of immigration. This frees up immigration officials to
monitor the slow lane of foreign arrivals who are not frequent business travellers.
Sp eed and slowness are often logically and operationally related in this way. And it is
not always high velocities that are the valued on es. Consider the slow food and slow
culture movements. How b ourgeois can you get? Who has the time and space to be
slow by choice? As John Tom linson has put it in relation to the Italian slow city
movement, Citta
Slow, in promoting the development of small towns (of 50,000 inhabitants or
less) represents the interests of a particular spatial ^ cultural constituency and
related localized form of capital. In a sense then, and w ithout being unduly cynical,
Slow] could be seen as defending enclaves of interest, rather than offering
plausible models for more general social transformation'' (2007, page 147).
For some, slowness is impossible. Co nsider the workers in Charlie Chaplin's Modern
Times. In its famous opening scenes we see a line of workers at a conveyer belt
tightening nuts on some unspecified element of a ma ss p roduction line. The factory
boss is seen reading the paper and enjoying a leisurely breakfast. This is interrupted
only when he makes occasional demands for `more speed' on the production line
below. Here the principles of Taylorism are used by Chaplin to satirise the production
of speed among workers through time and motion study. Here speed is definitely not
a luxury. Rather it is an imposition experienced by those `low down'.
in what rhythm does a person or thing move? Rhythm is an important
component of mobility at many different scales (Lefebvre, 2004; Mels, 2004).
Rhythm s are composed of repeated moments of movement and rest, or, alternatively,
simply repeated movements with a particular m easure. Henri Lefebvre's outline
of rhythmanalysis as a method of interpreting the social world is richly suggestive. It
brings to mind the more phenomenological conceptions of `place-ballet' developed by
Towards a politics of mobility 23
David Seamon (1979) and recently reincorporated into a geography of rhythms by Tom
Mels (2004). But unlike Seamon, Lefebvre delineates how rhythms, such as those
visible on any such city square, are simultaneously organic, lived, and endogenous
and exterior, imposed, and mechanic al. Frequently the exterior rhythm of rationalised
time and space comes into contradiction with lived and embodied rhythm: ``Rhythm
appears as regulated time, governed by rational l aws, but in contact with what i s least
rational in human being, the lived, the car nal, the body'' (Lefebvre, 2004, page 9).
Rhythm, to Lefebvre, is part of the production of everyday li fe; thus: ``rhythm seems
natural, spontaneous, with no law other than its own unfurling. Yet rhythm, always
particular (music, poetry, danc e, gymnastics, work, etc) always implies a measure. Every-
where there is rhythm, there is measure, which is to say law, calculated and expected
obligation, a project'' (page 8). Rhythm, then, is part of any social order or historical
period. Senses of movement include these historical senses of rhythm within them. Even
the supposedly organi c embodied rhythm s of the walker vary histor ically: ``Old films
show that our way of walking has altered over the course of our century: once jauntier,
a rhythm that cannot be explained by the capturing of images'' (page 38).
Crucially, for Lefebvre, rhythm is implicated in the production and contestation of
social order for ``objectively, for there to be change, a social group, a class or a caste
must intervene by imprinting a rhythm on an era, be it through force or in an
insinuating manner'' (page 14). Indeed, it is possible to see a particular politics of
rhythm across a range of human activities. The rhythms of som e kinds of music and
dance, for instance, have famously upset those `high up'. Jazz, punk, and rave are but
three examples of rhythms that have proved anxiety provoking to certain onlookers
(Cresswell, 2006). In the case of rave this led to the Criminal Justice and Public Order
Act of 1994 in the United Kingdom that explicitly referred to repetitive rhythms
amongst its reasons fo r cracking down on people having fun. But rhythm is important
in more sinister ways. `Gait analysis' can now identify bodies moving with cur i ous
rhyth m s in airports and mark them for extensive searches and intens ive surveillance.
A s trange rhythm of movements over a longer time p eriod can sim ilarly mark a person
out. Too many one-way trips, journeys at irregular intervals, or sudden bursts of
mobility c an make someone suspect. Alongsi d e these curious rhythm s are the implicit
correct and regular movements of the daily commute, the resp ectable danc e, or the
regular movements of European bu siness p e ople through airports. There is an aesthetics
of correct m obility that mixes with a politics of mobility.
What route does it take? Mobil ity is channeled. It moves along routes and
conduits often provided by conduits in space. It does not happen evenly over a
continuous space like spilt water flowing over a tabletop. In Gilles Deleuze and Fe
Guatarri's (1987) account of nomadology they point out that it is not simply a case of
free, mobile nomads challenging the `royal science' of fixed division and cla ssification.
Mobility itself is `channele d' into acceptable conduits. Smooth space is a field without
conduits or channels. Producing order and predictability is not simply a matter of
fixing in space but of channeling motion
of producing correct mobilities through
the design ation of routes.
More concretely, Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin (2001) have developed the
notion of a `tun neling effect' in the contemporary urban landscape. They show how
the routing of infrastructural elements ranging from roads to high-speed computer
links warps the time ^ spa ce of cities. Valued areas of the m etropolis are targeted so
that they are drawn into ``intense interaction with e ach other'' whil e other areas are
effectively disconne cted from these routes (p age 201). Examples include the highways
that pass though the landscape but only let you get off at major hubs. Or think of
high-speed train lines that pass fro m airport to city centre whil e bypassing the inner city
24 T Cresswell
in between. T hese `tunnels' faci litate speed for some whi le ensuring the slowness of those
who are bypassed. Routes provide connectivity that in turn trans forms topographical
spac e into topological and, indeed , dromological spa ce: ``Space ^ time no longer corre-
sponds to Euclidean spa ce. Distance is no longer the relevant variable in assessing
acc essibility. C o nne c tivity (being in relation to) is added to, or even impo sed upon,
contiguity (being next to)'' (Offner, quoted in Graham and Marvin, 2001, page 20 0).
Think of the development of a commuter rail network in Los Angeles. Built at
huge expense to facilitate speedy tran sit from suburb to city centre it effec t ively
bypassed the predominantly black and Hispanic areas of the city. Wh ile train riders
were disproportionately white, bus riders were overwhelmingly black, Hispanic,
and female. A radical social movement, the Bus Riders Union (BRU), took the
Metropolitan Transit Association (MTA) to court in order to halt the use of public
money to fund the tra in system at the expense of the bus system. In court the MTA
made the claim that train lines passed through many minor ity areas of the city such
as Watts. In response, the BRU argued that the populati on of areas the train lines
passed through was not the relevant fact. The arrival of the train line had been
matched by the removal of bus services. Wh ile the bus servic es had stopped frequently
along the corr idor (serving a 95% minor ity community) the train hardly stopped at all
and thus tended to serve white commuters traveling comparatively long distances.
In addition, the BRU pointed out that the Blue Line was built at grade (rather than
being underground or elevated), and had resulted in a high number of accidents
and deaths in inner- city minor ity communities. So not only did the rail system
produce `tunneling effects' by passing through minority areas it was also logically
and economically related to a decrease in convenient bus routes and an in crease
in rates of death and injuries among inner-city residents (Cresswell, 2006).
how does it feel? Hum an mobility, like place, surely has the notion of
experien ce at its centre. Thus Bob Dylan's question ``How does it feel? To be on your
own? With no direction home? Like a rolling stone?'' is a pertinent one. Moving is an
energy-consuming business. It can be hard work. It can also be a moment of luxury
and pa mpering. The arrangement of seats on a trans-Atlantic flight is an almos t p erfect
metaphor for an experiential politics of m obility. Upper, first, or conn oisseur class
provides you with more space, nicer food, more oxygen, more toilets per person,
massage, limousine service, media on line. Those at the back are cramped, uncomfort-
able, oxygen starved, and standing in line for the toilet. A nd then there might be the
body, frozen and suffocated in the undercarriage well waiting to drop out in a suburb
of a global city.
Consider walking once more. Tim Ingold has descr ibed how walking (and pretty
much all manner of traveling) was expe rienced as drudge ry and work by the well-to-do.
``The affluent did not undertake to travel for its own sake, however, or for the
experience it might afford. Indeed the actual process of travel, especially on foot, was
considered a drudge
literally a travail
that had to be endured for the sole purpose
of reaching a destination'' (2004, page 321). Before the Romantic poets turned walking
into an experience of virtue ``Walking was for the poor, the criminal, the young, and
above all, the ignorant... . Only in the 19th century, following the example set by
Wordsworth and Coleridge, did pe ople of leisure take to walking as an end in itself,
beyond the confines of the landscaped garden or gallery'' (page 322). And even then
the experience of walking was conne cted to the development of mechanised forms of
transport that allowed the well-to-do to get to scenic environments for walking. Poor
people, unaffected by the peripatetic poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge, presumably
did not experien ce walking i n a new, more positive way. It was still drudgery.
Towards a politics of mobility 25
when and how does it stop? Or to put it another way
does the mobility experience? There is no perpetual motion machine and, despite the
wilder prophecies of Virilio and others, things do stop. Spatial scientists famously
formulated the notio n of the `friction of distan ce' as part of the development of gravity
models (Cliff et al, 1974). Here it is the distance between two or more points that
provides its own friction. But in a world of immediacy that is rarely flat and isotropic
and where connectivity has become the most ``relevant variable in assessing accessi-
bility'', forms of friction are more particular and varied. As with the question of
reasons for mobility (motive force) we need to pay attention to the process of stopping.
Is stopping a choice or is it forced?
Graham and Marvin, in their consideration of a city of flows draw on the work of
Manuel Castells and Carlo Ezachieli to point out that the new points of friction are not
the city walls but newly strengthened loc al bound aries: ``global interconnectio ns
between highly valued spaces, via extremely capable infrastructure networks, are being
combined with strengthening investment in s ecur ity, access control, gates, walls, CCTV
and the paradoxical reinforcement of local b oundaries to movement and interaction
within the city'' (2001, page 206). One of the effects of tunneling is to produce new
enclaves of immobility within the city (Tur ner, 2007). Social and cultural kinetics
means reconsidering borders. Borders, which once marked the edge of clearly defined
territories are now popping up everywhere (Rumford, 2006). Air ports are clearly
borders in vertical space.
Often certain kinds of people, possibly those with suspicious rhythms, are stopped
at national borders. Sometimes for hours, sometimes only to be sent back. Black
people in major cities across the West are still far more likely to b e stopped by police
due to racial profiling and the mythical crime of ``driving while black'' (Harris, 1997).
In post 9/11 London people of Middle-Eastern appearance are increasingly stopped by
the police on suspicion of activities associated with terrorism. In the most extreme
case, in July 2005 Jean-C harles de Menezes, a Brazilian man mistaken for a Middle-
Eastern terrorist, was shot in th e head seven times to stop him from moving on
a L ondon underground train. Racial profiling also appears to take place in airports
in Western nations where nonwh ite people are frequently stopped and searched in
customs or before boarding a flight. Those `high up', meanwhile, can stop and
enjoy the scenery while others work at frantic pace around them. Frictio n is variably
distributed in spa ce and is an important compo nent of mobility studies.
So here then we have six facets of m obility, each with a politics: the starting poi nt,
speed, rhyth m, routing, experience, and friction. Each is important in the creation of
a modern mobile world. Each is linked to particular kinds of m obile subject identities
(tourists, jet-setters, refugees, illegal immigrants, migrant labourers, academics) and
mobile practices from walking to flying.
Constellations of mobility
So far I have outlined the importance of movement, representation, and practice to the
study of mobility. I have shown how each of these is implicated in the production and
reproduction of power relations. In other words, how they are political. I have also
suggested six facets of mobility that can serve to differentiate people and things into
hi erarchies of mobility. I would argue that each of these needs to be taken into account
to provide acc ounts of mobil ities at any given time. In the following section I develop
a notion of constellations of mobility as a way of accounting for historical senses of
movement that is attentive to movement, repres ented meaning, and practice and the
ways in which these are interrelated.
26 T Cresswell
The ways in wh ich physical movement, representations, and mobile practices are
interrelated vary historically. There is no space here for a charting of changing con-
stellations of mobility through history. Rather, I illustrate this point with reference to
feudal Europe and its continuing influence on the contemporary mobile world with
particular reference to the regulation of mobility. A key point of this section, and the
paper in general, is to damp e n the enthusiasm for th e `new' that characterises some
of the work in the new mobilities paradigm, and to illustrate the continuation of the
past in the present.
Carefully controlled physical movement characterised a feudal European sense of
movement where the monopoly on the definition of legitimate movement rested with
those at the top of a carefully controlled great chain of being. The vast majority of
people had their movement controlled by the lords and the aristocracy. For the most
part mobility was regulated at the loc al level. Yet still mobile subject positions existed
outside of this chain of command in the minstrel, the vagabond, and the pilgrim.
Within th is constellation of mobility we can identify p articular practices of mobility,
representations of mobility, and patterns of movement. In addition, the re are charac-
teristic spaces of m obility and modes of control and regulation (Groebner, 2007). This
was the era of frankpledge and of branding. As feudalism began to break down a larger
class of mobile masterless men arose who threatened to undo the local control of
mobility (Beier, 1985). New subj ects, new knowledges, representations, and discourses,
and new practices of mobility combined. The almshouse, the prison, and the work
camp became spaces of regulation for mobility. By the 19th century in Europe the
definition and control of legitimate m ovement had passed to the nation-state, the pass-
port was on the horizon, national borders were fixed and enforced (Torp ey, 2000).
New forms of transport allowed movement over previously u nthinkable scales in short
pe riods of time. Narratives of mobil ity-as-liberty and mobility-as-progress accompa-
nied notions of circulatory movement as healthy and moral (Sennett, 1994). By the
20th century, mobility was right at the heart of what it is to b e modern. Modern man,
and increasingly modern woman, was m obile. New spac es of mobility from the
boulevard to the railway station [the spaces of Benjamin's (1999) Arcades Project]
becam e iconic fo r m odernity. New subject positions such as tourist, citizen, globetrotter,
and hobo came into b eing.
Broadly speaking, the scale of regulation for mobility has moved in the past 500
years or so from the local to the global. Whil e mobility of the poor was always a
problem for those h igh up, it was a more local problem in feudal Europe where
wandering vagabonds were regulated by the local parish through a system known as
frankpledge (Dodgshon, 1987). By the 18th century, mobility was beginning to become
a national responsibility, Passports were just around the corner and poor people moved
over greater distances and more frequently. By the end of the 19th century the nation-
state had a monopoly o n the means of legitimate movement and national borders, for
the first time, became key points of friction in the movement of p e ople (Torpey, 2000).
By World War Two passports h ad b ecome commonplac e and nations were coop e rating
in identifying and regulating moving bodies. I n each case it was indeed bodies that
proved to be the key element even as the scale of mobility expanded and speeded up.
While feudal vagabonds had their bodies branded like cattle, later travelers had to
provide a photograph and personal details including `distinguishing marks' for the
new passes and passports that were being developed (Gro ebner, 2007). Now we are
in a new phase of mobility regulation where the means of legitimate movement is
increasingly in the hands of corporations and transnational institutions. The United
Nations and the Europ ean Uni on, for instance, have defined what counts and what
does not account as appropriate movement. T he Western Hemisph ere Travel Initiative
Towards a politics of mobility 27
is seeking to regulate movement between the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the
Caribbean in evermore sophisticated ways (Gilbert, 2007; Sparke, 2006). Increasingly,
national interests are combined with so-called pervasive commerce as innovative forms
of identification based on a hyb rid of biometr ics and mobile technology are developed
(Ful ler, 2003).
One of the latest developments in mobile identification technology is the Rfid
(Radio Frequency Identification) chip. These chips have been attached to objects of
commerce sin ce the 1980s. The Rfid chip contains a transponder that can emit a very
low power signal that is readable by devices that are looking for them. The chip c an
in clude a large amount of data about the thing it is attached to. The Rfid chip has the
advantage over b arcodes of being readable on the move, through paint, and other
things that might obscure it, and at a distance. It is, in other words, designed for
tracking on the move. Unlike a barcode it does not have to be stationary to be scanned.
And Rfid technology is being used on people. As with most ki nds of contemporary
mobility regulation the testing ground seems to be airports. In Manchester airport a
trial has just been conducted in which 50 000 passenge rs were tracked through the
termi nal using R fid tags attached to boarding p asses. The airport authorities have
requested that this be implemented permanently. Washington State together with the
Department of Homeland Security has recently conducted a trial involving Rf id tags
on state driving lic ences allowing the users to travel between the states participating
in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. These tags can i nclude much more infor-
mation than is normally found on a dr iver's licenc e and c an, of course, be tracked
It is experiments such a s these that have led some to predict the development of
a global network of Rfid rec eivers placed in key mobility nodes such as airports,
seaports, h ighways, distribution c entres, and warehouses, all of which are constantly
reading, processing, and evaluating p e ople's behaviours and purchase s.
Information gathering and regulation such as this is starkly different from the
mobility constellations of earlier per iods. Regulation of m obility, to use Virilio's
(2006) term, is increasingly dromological. Dromology is the regulation of differing
capacities to move. It concerns the power to stop and put into motion, to incarcerate
and accelerate objects and pe ople. Virilio and others argue that previous architectural
understandings of space ^ time regulation are increasingly redundant in the face of
a n ew information al and computational landscape in which the mobility of people
and things is tightly integrated with an infrastru cture of software that is able to provide
a motive force or increase friction at the touch of a button (Dodge and Kitchin, 2004;
Thrift and French, 2 002), The model for this new mode of regulation is logistics.
The spaces fro m which this mobility is produced are frequently the spatial arrangement
of the database and spreadsheet.
The purpose of this paper is to raise a se r ies of questions about the new mobilities
paradigm and to suggest some ways in which a m obilities approach can d evelop. I have
suggested two caveats it is necessary to take on board in contempo rary mobility
research. One is an awareness of the mobilities of the past. Much that passes fo r
mobilities research has a flavour of technophilia and the love of the new about it. In
this formulation it is now that is mobile while the past was more fixed. We only have to
consider the words of the 1909 Futurist Manifesto to see how this is a recycled notio n.
Consider point 8: ``We are o n the extreme promontory of the centuries! What i s the
use of looking behind at the moment when we must open the mysterious shutters of
the impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute,
28 T Cresswell
since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed'' (Marinetti, 1909). Here
too the present and the future were about the mobile and the dyna mic while the past
was about stasis and stagnation. Yet their dynamism now seems quaintly nostalgic.
Nothing seems mo re archaic than the futures of the past.
Taking an even longer backward look i nto history, consider the role of the medieval
vagrant in the constitution of contemporary mobilities. It was the presen ce of these
masterless men that prompted the invention of all kinds of new forms of surveillan ce
and identity document ation th at form the basis for what is going on now in airports and
at national borders (Bauman, 1987; Groebner, 2007). The figure of the vagabond,
very much a mobile subject of 15th-century Europe, still moves through the patterns,
representations, and practices of mobility i n the present day (Cresswell, 2010).
We cannot understand new mobilities, then, without understanding old mobilities.
Thinking of mobilities in terms of constellations of movements, representations, and
practices helps us avoid historical amnesia when thinking about and with mobility.
Reflecting Raymond Williams's (1977) notions of emerging, dominant, and residual
traditions that work to shape cultural formations we can think of constellations of
mobility as emerging, dominant, and residual. Elements of the past exist in the present
just as elements of the future surround us.
The se cond caveat is that, in addition to being aware of continuities with the past
that make c ontemporary mobilities intelligible, we need to keep notions of f ixity, stasis,
and immobility in mind. As proponents of the mobility turn h ave shown, mobilities
need moorings (Hannam et al, 2006). Even the seemingly frictionless world of global
capital needs relative `permanenc es' in o rder to reproduce itself (Harvey, 1996). So
while there is a temptation to think of a mobile world as something that replaces
a world of fixities (Virilio's dromology is an example of this), we need to constantly
consider the politics of obduracy, fixity, and friction. The dromological exists alongside
the topological and the topographical.
Finally, in addition to recognising the important of historical constellations of
mobility in understanding the present and taking on board the importance of fixity
I have argued that mobility itself can be fine-tuned through considering more spe cific
aspects of mobility, each of which has its own politics and each of which is implicated,
in different ways, in the constitution of kinetic hierarchies in particular times and
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... O planejamento de transportes atualmente passa por uma transição intensa de seus paradigmas (SHELLER e URRY, 2006;BANISTER, 2008;CRESWELL, 2010;ALDRED, 2013). Entre as principais alterações está a mudança de foco exclusivo em uma abordagem da engenharia, voltada aos aspectos físico e de tempo para uma visão sustentável, com enfoque nas pessoas e no meio ambiente. ...
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O objetivo deste artigo é discutir os paradigmas de gestão e financiamento do transporte público coletivo e apontar caminhos alternativos ao modelo predominante concessionado. Há anos se observa a tendência de decréscimo dos passageiros nesse modo de transporte em toda a América Latina, porém sua degradação atingiu pico com a redução drástica de passageiros promovida pela pandemia de COVID-19. As disfunções dos contratos de concessão baseados essencialmente pela receita tarifária vinculada à quantidade de usuários pagantes ficaram evidentes. Neste artigo, analisaremos estudos de caso de adoção de Tarifa Zero ou tarifas sociais e que rompem o ciclo vicioso do transporte, combinação de precarização e aumento da tarifa para responder à redução de passageiros, se reproduzindo até sua falência. Esses novos modelos se fundamentam no princípio do transporte como direito social, reconhecido constitucionalmente desde o ano de 2015, mas distante de ser uma realidade nas cidades brasileiras. Essas cidades fogem da precarização do transporte coletivo e mostram que existem caminhos alternativos para fornecer acesso à cidade a todos.
... Mobilities also require contextualization across time. Cresswell (2010) suggests that 'new mobilities' need to be understood in the context of 'old mobilities' (p. 29). ...
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This chapter focuses on the experiences of Syrian refugees living in Jordan and the relational ties they form and sustain across borders and within Jordan. The data was collected during 9 months of ethnographic research in Jordan. The findings from this research reveal the challenges Syrians face in waiting for reunification with their spouses and children in Europe, as well as the challenges of maintaining connections with family and friends still in Syria and in other countries. The findings draw attention to everyday practices during periods of waiting, including dealing with family dynamics and jealousy, and the coping strategies used to maintain relationships. They highlight the tensions, regrets, disclosures and silences affecting separated families. This chapter contributes to knowledge on waiting, family dynamics, gender and mobilities, deepening our understanding of social relationships and relational wellbeing during forced migration, to enable academics and policymakers to understand the complexity of refugees’ everyday experiences during displacement.
This paper contributes to the robust dialogue in animal geographies by adding a focus on mobilities. Trans-paw-tation establishes a framework for understanding animal mobilities by drawing on a range of epistemological and methodological approaches, all of which aim to better understand animals and their role in the world. It goes on to propose three approaches to trans-paw-tation and the theoretical possibilities of thinking across animal geographies and mobilities: first, by reflecting on the movement of animals and animals’ movements in both the historic and contemporary city; second by examining animal policies and the ways in which animals are included and excluded from urban mobilities; and third, by considering the metaphorical and symbolic associations between animals and mobilities. These deliberations are based in South African cities where both animal and transport geographies have been exploited as a mechanism for discrimination and control, and in the postapartheid context, offer opportunities for social and spatial integration. In so doing, this paper moves beyond anthropocentric approaches to mobilities by bringing animal geographies into conversation with African and urban studies and by offering a methodological contribution towards understanding trans-paw-tation.
In this paper, key findings are presented from an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage project that investigated the geographies, mobilities and politics for disabled people who roll powered assisted devices (wheelchairs and mobility scooters). We offer a spatial framework to think about the politics of exclusion/inclusion from public space along three dimensions: as a distributed institutional decision-making process, as personal, and as an event/journey. We recruited 68 disabled people to collaborate in a multi-stage, mixed-method qualitative project from 2020–2022. Four themes emerged from our thematic analysis of everyday power-assisted device practices that offer insights to what enables or constrains access to public space: the desire for social connections and independence, normative assumptions of standing design, the built form when going places (steps, gutters and stairs) alongside the interdependencies of various care and transport networks. We point to the implications for policy, planning and future research.
The future of airports and aeromobilities looked much different before Covid-19. Being a global growth-sector with a problematic environmental impact, the sector showed little inclination to radically re-think its potential futures. However, the advent of Covid-19 dramatically changed this. This paper is based on a research project related to Airport City Futures that was initiated before Covid-19. This timing, however, has enabled us to see a dramatic change in the assessment of future scenarios. In the paper we present four basic future scenarios that include both utopian and dystopian elements (business as usual, fortress airports, Ecoports, and Smart airports). We explore these on the background of a theoretical framework containing three themes: aeromobilities, future scenarios as a methodology, and the epidemic society. The paper thus explores the future of aeromobilities and potential innovations in air space by ‘thinking with’ Covid-19. It presents critical reflections on how to democratize the future of aeromobilities in light of global disruption.
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This introductory chapter challenges the classic – and often tacit – compartmentalization of tourism, migration, and refugee studies by exploring the intersections of these forms of spatial mobility: Each prompts distinctive images and moral reactions, yet they often intertwine, overlap, and influence one another. Tourism, migration, and exile evoke widely varying policies, diverse popular reactions, and contrasting imagery. This chapter reviews prior scholarly inroads concerning intersecting forms of human mobility and highlights contributions made by the book’s 13 chapters, as well as insights from the editors’ research in India and Indonesia. Key themes explored include (1) the ramifications of these siloed conceptions for people on the move; (2) the extent to which gender, class, ethnic, and racial global inequalities shape moral discourses surrounding people’s movements; and (3) the value of ethnographic research for generating insights into these issues. In spotlighting research on refugees’ and migrants’ returns, marriage migrants, voluntourists, migrant retirees, migrant tourism workers and entrepreneurs, mobile investors and professionals, and refugees pursuing educational mobility, this chapter aims to cultivate more nuanced understandings of intersecting forms of mobility. Ultimately, the volume’s introduction underscores the need to foster not only empathy but also greater resolve for forging trails toward mobility justice. For more information and abstracts of all of the chapters in the volume, see
Cars are nowadays being programmed to learn how to drive themselves. While autonomous cars are often portrayed as the next step in the auto-motive industry, they have already begun roaming the streets in some US cities. Building on a growing body of critical scholarship on the development of autonomous cars, we explore what machine learning is in open environments like cities by juxtaposing this to the field of mobilities studies. We do so by revisiting core concepts in mobilities studies: movement, representation and embodied experience. Our analysis of machine learning is centred around the transition from human senses to sensors mounted on cars, and what this implies in terms of autonomy. While much of the discussions related to this transition are already foregrounded in mobilities studies, due to this field's emphasis on complexities and the understanding of automobility as a socio-technological system, questions about autonomy still emerge in a slightly new light with the advent of machine learning. We conclude by suggesting that in mobilities studies, autonomy has always been seen as intertwined with technology, yet we argue that machine learning unfolds autonomy as intrinsic to technology, as the space between the car, the driver and the context is collapsing with autonomous cars.
A concern for travel disadvantaged groups arose during the ‘relevance’ debate that dominated all aspects of planning activity from the early 1970s and which can be traced back in Britain to the conceptual work of Pahl (1975) and Harvey (1974) or, more specifically in the transport field, to the work of the Independent Commission on Transport (1974) and to the research of Hillman et al. (1974). Such work represented a shift in thinking and reflected a growing recognition of the wider social context within which transport operates. A new perspective emerged which saw travel mobility as a special catalyst rather than merely as one influence producing a pattern of ‘trips’.
Over the past fifteen years or so, there has been a widespread and increasing fascination with the theme of mobility across the social sciences and humanities. Of course, geographers have always had an interest in mobility, but as yet they have not viewed this in the same 'mobility turn' as in other disciplines where it has been used to critique the standard approaches to the subjects. This text brings together leading academics to provide a revitalised 'geography of mobilities' informed by this wider 'mobility turn'. It makes connections between the seemingly disparate sub-disciplinary worlds of migration, transport and tourism, suggesting that each has much to learn from each other through the ontological and epistemological concern for mobility.