EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(W064)

Thinking about roads, movement, and environment

Location JHT1
Date and Start Time 25 Aug, 2010 at 11:30

Convenors

Tanya Argounova-Low (University of Aberdeen) email
Gabriel Klaeger (Goethe University Frankfurt) email
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Long Abstract

Roads connect, join and facilitate communication and movement. Yet they are more than just features in the landscape or connections between two locations. For instance, they can be seen as extension of power and means of progress. People who engage with roads invest them with meanings and particular symbolics which frequently relate to nation-building and development, or to automobility with its simultaneously attractive and destructive potentials. Moreover, roads constitute sites for everyday practices, skills, manoeuvres and encounters between people who live, work and travel on and along them. These and other phenomena have led a growing number of scholars to realize that roads represent a vast field for empirical inquiry and theoretical conceptualization in anthropology and related disciplines. This panel provides an opportunity for scholars to present case studies for ethnographically and historically informed explorations of roads in various countries and continents.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Inequality on the road: mapping the divisions on the highway that connects the continents

Author: Berna Yazici (Bogazici University)  email
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Long Abstract

Built in the 1970s as a sign of progress, The Bosphorus Bridge which connects the Asian and European sides of Istanbul has become one of the primary visual signifiers in campaigns to position Istanbul as a global-city. Slogans such as "Let's meet where the continents meet" foreground the bridge's (hence the city's) uniting capabilities. In contrast to these public representations, I turn my ethnographic gaze to the morning traffic jam on the highway that run through the Bridge where thousands commute to work each weekday. What emerges in the daily experience of and passing encounters among the commuters and workers on the highway is not connections but deep divisions which reflect inequalities in a global urban economy. Focusing on the hierarchies among the commuters and workers as well as those excluded from this ethnographic scene, I ask how the anthropology of roads offers invaluable tools 1) to illuminate the disjuncture between public authorities' representations of cities and roads and the experience of dwellers/commuters and 2) to challenge analytical accounts of neoliberal cities which suggest that social inequalities are reproduced exclusively through segregated urban environments.

Real roads and imaginary highways in southern Belize: freedom, fear and a potent proposal

Author: Sophie Haines (University of Oxford)  email
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Long Abstract

Transport infrastructure in rural southern Belize distils many aspects of regional debates concerning environment, citizenship and development. Both tangible existing roads and less-tangible proposals play into this dynamic, the effects of which are experienced as emotive and sensorial as well as economic, ecological, political and social. This paper examines routes and mobility in local narratives and practices of 'community', morality and natural resource management in Mopan, Q'eqchi and mestizo villages in Toledo district, where debates over land use and security are urgent and volatile. It also explores tensions of hope and fear surrounding a proposed paved highway which would cross the contested border between Belize and Guatemala. The discussion challenges conventional views of roads as 'non-places', unilinear paths of power or unquestioned routes to 'progress', highlighting instead complex local, national and international negotiations of livelihoods, land (in)security, place-making, bodily experience, and political participation along and near these routes.

Roundabout ethnography

Author: Jean-Yves Durand (CRIA-UMinho)  email
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Long Abstract

After centuries-old attempts at achieving smoother, faster road surfaces, a recent trend has been the introduction of speed-reducing devices. This is one of the functions of roundabouts, relative newcomers in road-building history. Now dotting European roads, these focal points are frequently used as a support for staged presentations of the local natural or cultural heritage, or for public art display. An ethnography of the massive introduction of roundabouts in France and Portugal in the last 20 years leads to considerations on how they inscribe on the landscape a specific conception of displacement, and on how they express and are shaped by a certain type of relation to the environment. It is also a roundabout way to stress how, in the practices prompted by a trivial object, socio-economic and cultural features interact with strict technical constraints.

Death on roads

Authors: Arnar Árnason (University of Aberdeen)  email
Sigurjon Hafsteinsson (University of Iceland)  email
Tinna Gretarsdottir  email
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Long Abstract

In 2006 thirty four white wooden crosses were erected along the Suðurlandsvegur, one of Iceland's busiest routes. A private initiative at their unveiling the man responsible for the crosses claimed that each represented a life lost on that road. He added that the crosses would remain there until the road had been made safe by turning it into a dual carriageway. The erection of the crosses expressed increasing concerns over road deaths in Iceland during the summer of 2006, many of which were attributed to speeding drivers. It coincided with the height of the Icelandic economic boom, understood to be the result of the speed with which Icelandic entrepreneurs operate. This paper tells the story of the wooden crosses in order to discuss roads as a site of opportunity and danger, crisis and promise, individual grief and global capitalism.

Forest paths and roads as ways of perceiving the environment: the Sámi case in Finnish Lapland

Author: Nuccio Mazzullo (Arctic Centre)  email
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Long Abstract

In this presentation I shall focus on the importance of the notion of movement in the perception of the environment among the Sámi people in Finnish Lapland.

Despite numerous technological changes have affected the ways in which the Sámi move about in the environment, their relationship is still remarkably different compared to that, for example, of the Finnish residents.

I shall argue that the differences are based on a cultural background that lies on nomadic pastoralism for the Sámi and on farming for the Finns. Although in Finland both Sámi and Finns practise reindeer herding, their fundamental styles are based on two different worldviews.

With the construction of roads, started in the early sixties, we can see a diverse influence on both Sámi and Finns. My aim is to explore these differences and the ways in which the symbolic aspects of movement guide people's understanding of their actions in the landscape.

Road to the new South: South Carolina and the debate over I-95

Author: Mark Evans (University of South Carolina)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper examines how South Carolinians responded to Interstate-95, the principle north-south artery of the United States Interstate Highway System. Construction of I-95 commenced during the 1950s, a period when Southerners promoted a regional identity of cultural distinctiveness from the rest of the United States. Disdain for federal intervention in state affairs was the hallmark of this Southern identity, and South Carolina was arguably the most vocal champion of Southern exceptionalism.

I-95, which required millions of dollars in federal funding and drew the regions together, was--contrary to rhetorical posturing and historiographical emphases--widely accepted by South Carolinians. This case will be made through an investigation of a heated debate between two cities over the highway's route through the state. Ultimately, South Carolina's response to I-95 speaks to the birth of the New South--one culturally similar to the rest of the nation.

Ning Ying's cinematic handscrolls and roads of Beijing

Author: Elizabeth Parke (University of Toronto)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper argues that in I Love Beijing (Xia Ri Nuan Yang Yang dir. Ning Ying, 2000), the city’s roads are captured on film as cinematic handscrolls that an incomplete, yet to be built Beijing is made visible. Ning Ying’s right-to-left panning shots of road construction, borrows the viewing motion of handscrolls, in which scenes are manipulated one arm’s length at a time allowing the narrative to progress as the viewer streams (or scans) the image. Secondly, I also argue that Ning Ying’s filmic composition of the roads draws on the amateur-scholarly style of xieyi (sketching the idea) in which painted suggestions are favoured over verisimilitude. Through cinematographic techniques, Ning captures the roads of Beijing in a state of becoming, suggesting the Beijing that is yet to be. In I Love Beijing the unfinished roads and infrastructure of Beijing represent a future in the process of arriving.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.