Key figure of mobility: the pedestrian
Jo Vergunst (University of Aberdeen)
Paper short abstract:
De Certeau’s figure of the pedestrian underpins work on everyday experience in urban life. Yet for him, the action of being is more important than the identification of a type of actor. I present memories of journeys and absenses, in contrast to the supposed here-and-now presence of the pedestrian.
Paper long abstract:
De Certeau's theorisation of the act of walking has spoken to anthropologists and other scholars in different ways since its publication. In the field of mobility studies, his emphasis on practice provides the foundation for a range of work on everyday experience in the constitution of urban life. 'The pedestrian' appears as a person who enunciates tactics in resistance to the gazing strategies of the planner. Yet for De Certeau the action of being is more important than the categorical identification of a type of actor. I read his use of 'pedestrian' in an adjectival sense, such that figures (which are figures of speech) may have pedestrian qualities. From this perspective, walking speaks through its gestures. In my paper I will continue the critique that anthropologists have brought to the neat dichotomies of vision and speech, which map on to domination and resistance, that have been read into de Certeau's work. As an alternative, I will pursue de Certeau's psychoanalytic framing of memory and temporality in the experience of movement. Drawing on my own fieldwork in Scotland, I present ordinary people's memories of journeys and absenses perceived in both urban and rural environments, which contrast with the supposed here-and-now presence of the pedestrian. This opens up more than just an angle on city life and mobility, and reaches instead to the politics of gesture and expression.
Key figures of mobility (ANTHROMOB)