By Tauri Tuvikene and Wojciech Kębłowski
The special issue on decolonial approaches to urban transport geographies published in a leading academic journal for transport scholars Journal of Transport Geography was driven by the desire to socialise transport studies as argued in the PUTSPACE project. By taking the decolonial perspective, the special issue proposes a radical departure from predominantly northern, technical and formalist approaches to transport geography, offering to draw from theoretical perspectives produced outside the global north, beyond techno-managerial preoccupations, and employing informality as a way of understanding transport policies and practices across geographical contexts. Working on diverse modes of transport – such as cycling (cf. articles by Astrid Wood and Lucy Baker), informal public transport (cf. Petra Samaha and Amer Mohtar) and walking (cf. Elina Trubina) – as well as practices of knowledge production (cf. Tim Schwanen and Ersilia Verlinghieri and Jennie Middleton), the special issue favoured approaches that involve counter-hegemonic shifts in what exactly is studied, where and how such content is understood and conceptualised.
The special issue thus suggests being inclusive in the geographical scope of analysis and recognises knowledge gains from unexpected sites as potentially valuable not just as interesting empirical snippets but as something that challenges or revises existing conceptualisations. While decolonial approaches have influenced many spheres of social sciences and urban studies, transport geographies have yet remained relatively untouched by these currents, maintaining a rationalist, technical and engineering-oriented perspective, which the humanities-driven project PUTSPACE seeks to push forward to different and more culturally sensitive currents. Moreover, in conjunction with the approach in the special issue, PUTSPACE is focused on European cities and maintains a critical eye on what is considered “Europe”, and how Europe functions as an idea driving policies in a variety of contexts, whereas not always advancing livelihoods of all the citizens.
For more on the special issue, read the introduction by Astrid Wood, Wojciech Kębłowski and Tauri Tuvikene.