CfP: Session on “Mobilising, producing and contesting transport and mobility from below” at RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2021

PUTSPACE team members Wojciech Kębłowski and Wladimir Sgibnev organise a session at the Royal Geographical Society RGS-IBG Annual International Conference in 2021. The session theme is “Mobilising, producing and contesting transport and mobility from below: collectors, enthusiasts, activists, revolutionaries”.

The conference takes place from Tuesday 31 August to Friday 3 September 2021.

The deadline for submitting abstract to the organisers is 28 February 2021.

CfP: Mobilising, producing and contesting transport and mobility from below: collectors, enthusiasts, activists, revolutionaries

Download the CfP as a PDF.

While transport and mobilities are multi-layered and complex phenomena, research into transport continues to be dominated by economistic and technocratic approaches geared towards efficiency and rationality. This, supposedly, justifies the predominantly top-down fashion in which transport is designed, produced and managed (Kębłowski & Bassens, 2018). We would, however, advance that mobility should also be viewed as a site of bottom-up interests and contestations organised by diverse social actors, groups and movements. Many of them approach transport as a means of discussing broader geographical patterns of uneven regional development, struggle for more democratic decision-making and appropriation of space in Global North and South (Armano et al., 2013; Barghouti, 2009, Enright, 2016; Larrabure, 2016; Legacy 2016), and propose governance alternatives. We argue that embracing bottom-up actors opens up pathways towards researching mobility as intense and intimate sites for encountering cultural diversity, negotiating normativities, shaping mobility futures, and bringing socio-economic cleavages into the spotlight of academics and practitioners alike – all what makes public transport a truly public and collective endeavour.

This conviction builds on an expanding body of critical literature in transport geography and mobilities, which situate movement in the context of space and power (Sheller & Urry, 2006; Kwan & Schwanen, 2016). In this vein, we side with approaches conscious of how class, race, or gender shape mobility practices, alongside social relations and contestations. This includes an exploration of regulatory frameworks, divergent logics and discourses of governing mobility, and the capacity of citizens and workers to participate in shaping transport policies (Timms et al., 2014; Rekhviashvili & Sgibnev, 2018).

With this in mind, we invite contributions addressing any of the following underlining themes and objectives:

  1. Not only to criticise prevalent technocratic and a-political transport policies, but also to augment the conceptualisation of transport by emphasising its aesthetics, normativities, political economies, complexity and non-linearity;
  2. To learn how diverse bottom-up actors engaged in transport pursue (conflicting, normatively understood) goals in environmental, economic, political or spatial/social justice terms, and which conflicts, structures and actor constellations are involved in this process;
  3. To expand spatial and ethnographic analyses of bottom-up transport and mobility actors across scales (urban/rural/local vs. trans-local/international) and across geographical contexts, including transport consultants and lobbyists, passengers, workers, activists, NGOs, enthusiasts, collectors, online forum participants, or public intellectuals;
  4. To understand which ideologies, assumptions, knowledge inequalities govern our ideas of present and future mobilities;
  5. To critically reflect on the “publicness” of public transport as a particular type of transport mode, as compared to other forms of “collective” and “commoned” mobilities;
  6. To empirically explore experiences, normativities, contestations, self-positionings and knowledge flows, and their roles for the construction of different policy trajectories, and (lack of) attempts at socially and environmentally just mobility transitions.


We welcome both empirical and conceptual contributions addressing one or more of the themes outlined above, without geographical or disciplinary restrictions. Please send your abstract of no more than 250 words including a title, and the names, affiliations and email addresses of all authors to the session organisers (wojciech.keblowski(a)vub.be & w_sgibnev(a)leibniz-ifl.de) by 28 February 2021 the latest.

The session is organised online.

The session is organised as part of the PUTSPACE project, which is financially supported by the HERA Joint Research Programme, co-funded by AKA, BMBF via DLRPT, ETAg, and the European Commission through Horizon 2020.

The conference takes place from Tuesday 31 August to Friday 3 September 2021 virtually and potentially with in-person elements in London, UK. For more information, see the conference website.