This session features contributions that “open up” the debate on urban transport. In departing from what can be identified as predominantly technical, Northern and formalist approaches to mobility, this session proposes to explore a de-colonial/postcolonial view on urban transport.
The conversation about de-colonial/postcolonial transport highlights the necessity to move past purely technical and technocratic ways of defining mobility-related problems, formulating visions, and delineating specific policy solutions. This involves, on the one hand, confronting head-on the conceptualisation of transport as a “neoclassical” discipline that is focused on utility, efficiency and economic growth, and that continues to rely on the supposedly predictive powers of mathematical modelling and forecasting. On the other hand, important questions have to be posed with regard to the scholarship that frames the discussion about transport as a matter of “sustainable” development, which ostensibly denounces the economic rationales of the neoclassical approaches, yet advances primarily technological and behavioural innovations.
Instead, we propose, de-colonising the “neoclassical” and “sustainable” transport by moving beyond the geographical centres of knowledge in the Euro-American mainstream. Focusing on the apparent “periphery” means not only looking at case studies in the global South, but also raising questions about mobility of transport policy not only within or from the North, but also from South to North, South to South. This process may often involve cities that are seldom to be found in “best practice” catalogues and do not have the ambition to act as outposts of “cutting-edge” policy models, exchanging knowledge along paths much less travelled by transport “fixes” and “recipes.”
A de-colonial/postcolonial approach to urban transport also suggest attending more closely to policy, practice and knowledge through which formal transport infrastructures and networks are made. A critical inquiry into informal transport for example, may also provide a fertile ground to negotiate dominant narratives of urban transport policy. Furthermore, explicitly anchoring research to “critical” considerations means inquiring into the politics and power relations that undergird the process of conceptualising and implementing particular transport solutions, the ownership structure on which they hinge, the working conditions they involve, and the role of passengers they envision. This session thus employs a de-colonial/postcolonial framing to advocate for a radical re-politicisation of transport, to explicitly frame it as urban discipline and agenda, and to re-connect it with critical urban studies.
To respond to the challenges outlined, we look forward to receiving papers offering theoretical discussions and empirical studies alike, presenting insights informed by one or more sites in the global South, global North or post-socialist environment, and answering to one or more issues raised in this call.