Call for Papers: The Global Middle East in the Age of Speed
Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Birmingham (UK)
2-3 June 2016
Keynote Speaker: Nile Green (UCLA)
Over the past century, motorised vehicles and the new kinds of mobility they enabled gave birth to a radically new social, cultural and political experience. They worked to refashion built environments through urban planning and landscapes through infrastructure programmes, and they altered conceptions of time and the production and experience of space. Whether people took the wheel, loitered at the curb, hitched a lift or crossed the road, automobiles and other kinds of motorised vehicles worked to transform notions of class and gender, of identity and otherness, of inclusion and exclusion. (Auto)mobility, as Nile Green and others have shown, also refigured domestic, regional and international travel in contexts such as pilgrimage or tourism. Meanwhile, national road networks functioned implicitly to produce ‘national’ spaces and explicitly to facilitate state control. Urban roads reshaped the texture of cities dividing inner cities (which often became symbolic ‘heritage’ sites and objects of neoliberal gentrification) from pericentral areas of varied vintage, (often seen as either exclusive gated communities or “problem” areas and laboratories of dissent).
The study of (auto)mobility in western countries and in selected non-western contexts has recently given rise to a flourishing field led by scholars including Mimi Sheller and Cotten Seiler, as influential master narratives - of the expansion of (auto)-mobility from Western genesis to global diffusion – yield to an emphasis on the interplay of empire, capitalism and expertise in an interconnected global carscape. But with a few notable exceptions this new field is less well developed in the context of the Middle East. This two-day conference at the University of Birmingham aims to redress the balance by bringing together both established and emerging scholars working on automobiles and other motorised vehicles, and the kind of mobilities and constructions of space they enable (or, conversely, preclude) in the Middle East. We hope to bring into conversation scholars from a variety of disciplines, notably historians, social scientists, and urban planners, working on local, regional or global issues, but to place the Middle East at its centre.
We encourage papers/submissions that address the following issues, either historically or from a contemporary perspective:
- Histories of the automobile from above and below, including car-based urban planning and infrastructure whether in imperial and national contexts; its uses and effects, such as the reshaping of notions of gender, class, domesticity and national community & economy. Attention to the gradations and specificities of space going beyond the urban-rural binary are especially welcome, as are studies of trans-regional and long distance networks and spatial imaginaries.
- The impact of Fordist ideologies, production and consumption practices, and infrastructures of automobility in the Middle East in the twentieth century.
- Studies that connect anthropological or historical study of (auto)-mobility with histories of migratory mobility, forced displacement and global diaspora formation.
- The intellectual and environmental history of (auto)-mobility`s regulatory and scientific framing in the Middle East, from the rise of impact biomechanics, traffic engineering and environmental politics, to the rhetorics and hierarchies of risk.
- Social, intellectual and political histories of modernization theory’s characteristic dualism of static indigenous archaism and mobile colonial modernity, and of the racialized, gendered and class-based forms of violence it promoted.
- Non-vehicle based forms of urban mobility that co-exist within the framework of vehicular mobilities: walking, loitering, strolling and the varied and continuing role of animals in the age of speed.
- Subversive and coercive mobilities: joyriding in cars, motorcycles, trucks or else practices of congregation in spaces designated exclusively for traffic flow; conversely, motorized counter-insurgency, data-gathering and surveillance systems focused on (auto)-mobility in authoritarian political and/or legislative orders.
- Public transport histories across the colonial to contemporary period, accounting for the imperatives of planners and for social practice developed from below. Relatedly, social and cultural studies of transient urban spaces: public transport as a liminal zone that facilitates social encounters, and the attendant political economies of labour for groups such as drivers, hauliers, mechanics and retrofitters, delivery workers, or gas station attendants.
- (Auto)-mobility and the production of social time: traffic jams, parking lots, garages and other non-spaces.
- Histories of energy and hydrocarbons elaborated in systematic dialogue with studies of (auto)-mobility and the car system.
The Institute of Advanced Studies is able to fund accepted participants` return economy travel from their home institution, accommodation and meal expenses.
Speakers will be asked to pre-circulate their paper, and we plan to publish a selection of papers in the wake of the conference.
Please contact the lead organiser, Dr. Simon Jackson (S.Jackson.firstname.lastname@example.org) should you have further questions.
300 word proposals and a 1 page CV should be sent to Sarah Jeffery (S.Jeffery@bham.ac.uk) by 1 March 2016 and accepted participants will be notified shortly thereafter.