31 March 2011

Bicycle Anthropology - Academically Speaking

I was kindly invited to speak at an AAA conference later this year. No... not the American Automobile Association... that would be weird and unlikely. It's the American Anthropological Association we're talking about here.

Regrettably, I am unable to attend but I find the subject for their annual conference to be fascinating. So here's the conference description and here's a link for a Call for Papers. I, for one, am certainly looking forward to hearing about some of the content from the conference in November.

Situated Mobilities: Transport, movement and risk in cross-cultural perspective

Panel Organizers: Professor Hastings Donnan and Professor Fiona Magowan, Queen’s University, Belfast


Chosen modes of transport and their relationships to place have wide-ranging ramifications for the ways in which people assess, negotiate and engage with practices and regulations of moving within and between different kinds of environments and countries.

Factors such as timing, decision-making, speed and propensities for risk-taking or risk aversion affect how road users perceive, interpret and embody the rules and practices of moving around familiar and unfamiliar locales. How road users adapt to different road conditions and vehicular technologies can create conflicting perceptions of moving between one road user and another, raising questions about how effectively people can assimilate contradictory information and process perceptions of moving between vehicular forms and contexts and between one country and another. Theories of situated learning have significantly advanced our understanding of the relationships between propositional knowledge and embodied practices that require skill, articulation, compliance and knowledge transfer (see Polanyi 1958; Lave and Wenger 1991: Wenger 1998).

Yet, learning to move in official or unofficial ways is not straighforward as country-specific regulations and expectations differ widely, invariably involving transformations of practice and experience.

This panel invites contributors to explore the relationships between risk-taking, risk avoidance and conformity within and between countries in the following ways: according to types of transport chosen; in interactions between vehicular and non-vehicular traffic; in official and unofficial texts and practices; in the differential effects of moving as learners, migrants, the elderly, those with impaired mobility or as professionals. The panel seeks to problematise the situatedness of mobility around the following questions:

- How are everyday perceptions, practices and technologies of mobility affected by cultural, social and material dimensions of place?
- What factors are key in facilitating, incentivising and directing flows of transport in everyday life? How effective are they?
- How do the practices of moving with others whether by plane, bus, rail, car generate new senses of self and other?
- How do road users perpetuate, negotiate, or contest official and unofficial discourses of movement and practice within their own or other cultures?
- How do perceptions of risk change when moving in unfamiliar places and cultures?
- What kinds of processes and practices underpin risk-taking and risk avoidance within and across different forms of mobility?
- How effective are national and international regulations in managing risk?
- Can we speak of national mobilities? What would this mean and how might their insights inform government policy?


2 comments:

Step-Through said...

Fascinating. I did my undergrad in anthropology. I think about this stuff a lot, because the cultural norms (and geography, etc.) are so different from city to city. It seems to have a big impact on the type of infrastructure that works best in each setting.

Anonymous said...

Interesting indeed. I am since recently organizing bicycle lessons for immigrant women (many with a muslim background) in a Dutch town (Zaandam). Such lessons are seen here as a useful tool for integration and participation. From what I have seen in our bicycle courses I think that learning to cycle and to move around in traffic for an immigrant equals in many respects learning a new language and culture.