Addressing Cycles of Inequality: A Talk on Mobility Justice featuring Mimi Sheller

Event Date

International Center Multipurpose Room, University of California, Davis

A Talk on Mobility Justice featuring Mimi Sheller

Day One:  Keynote Talk by critical mobilities scholar Mimi Sheller, author of Mobility Justice: The Politics of Movement in an Age of Extremes
1:10pm - 3:00pm, with short reception to follow. 

Day Two:  Workshop  Participants will collaborate at a closed workshop to produce an interdisciplinary mobility justice research agenda that draws on bike equity and racial justice. 


Day One:  Keynote Talk

The Kinopolitics of Cycling Infrastructure: Creating Space for Mobility Justice

Mimi Sheller

Professor of Sociology, Drexel University
Director, Center for Mobilities Research and Policy


Transport planners and policy makers have embraced cycling for its many benefits, from easing congestion and reducing carbon emissions to improving air quality and individual health; yet most cities are still dominated by the system of motorized automobility (even the most “cycle-friendly” European cities). This gap between aims and outcomes occurs because cycling policies are necessarily entangled with deeper questions about cities and citizenship, spatial justice and mobility justice. Modes of transport are part of complex constellations of material movement, cultural meanings, competencies and social practices all of which are deeply shaped by historical patterns of racialized, sexed, classed, and gendered status and power. Especially in “white settler” societies grounded in coloniality, we cannot escape the politics of infrastructure, part of a wider “kinopolitics” involving the struggles for mobility justice through which political subjects are mobilized. Recent urban social movements in several North American cities have criticized active transport and new mobility policies (including the implementation of bike share, bike lanes, and Vision Zero) for their exclusionary effects. Through more equitable practices of community-based, anti-racist, women-led, and LGBTQ-friendly cycling advocacy, these movements shift attention away from bicycling solely as transport, and focus more on the role of cycling in building health, supporting local economies and community, and strengthening frayed social infrastructure. This talk will open a space for thinking about reparative justice, racial justice, and gender and sexual equity, as crucial to advancing post-car and post-carbon futures through cycling policies and projects grounded in mobility justice.

Mimi Sheller, Ph.D., is Professor of Sociology and founding Director of the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She is founding co-editor of the journal Mobilities and past President of the International Association for the History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility. She is author or co-editor of twelve books, including Island Futures: Caribbean Survival in the Anthropocene (Duke University Press, 2020); Mobility Justice: The Politics of Movement in an Age of Extremes (Verso, 2018); Aluminum Dreams: The Making of Light Modernity  (MIT Press, 2014); Citizenship from Below: Erotic Agency and Caribbean Freedom (Duke University Press, 2012); Consuming the Caribbean: From Arawaks to Zombies (Routledge, 2003); and Democracy After Slavery: Black Publics and Peasant Radicalism in Haiti and Jamaica (Macmillan Caribbean, 2000).  Sheller helped to establish the new interdisciplinary field of mobilities research. She was awarded the Doctor Honoris Causa from Roskilde University, Denmark (2015). She has received research funding from the National Science Foundation, the British Academy, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Macarthur Foundation, the Mobile Lives Forum, and the Graham Foundation in Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. She has held Visiting Fellowships at the University of Miami (2019); the Annenberg School of Communication at University of Pennsylvania (2016); the Penn Humanities Forum (2010); the Center for Mobility and Urban Studies at Aalborg University, Denmark (2009); Media@McGill, Canada (2009); the Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University (2008); and Swarthmore College (2006-2009).


Day Two: Workshop

Participants include:

  • Jesus Barajas
  • Genevieve Carpio
  • Tim Choi
  • Gordon Douglas
  • C. Sequoia Erasmus
  • Jaimey Fisher
  • Peter Garcia
  • Susan Handy
  • Josephine Hazelton
  • Melody Hoffman
  • Do Lee
  • Amy Lubitow
  • Adonia Lugo
  • Alejandro Manga Tinoco
  • Sarah Rebolloso McCullough
  • Susan Pike
  • Dana Rowangould

The workshop will consider how frameworks of mobility justice and racial justice offer new pathways toward creating more robust research models for bike equity and sustainable transportation futures. In a two-day convening, we will engage in deep discussion about how bicycling researchers can account for the complexity of equity with the goal of making bicycling, new mobilities, and other modes of sustainable transportation accessible and desirable for all. The goals of the event will be (1) to develop new collaborative research relationships, (2) to develop a shared research agenda that presumes the centrality of equity and justice for sustainable transportation futures, and (3) to share insights with our broader communities and track their impact. 

Addressing histories of injustice and ongoing systemic inequalities is crucial to creating lasting sustainable transportation solutions such as bicycling. Mobility justice and racial justice offer powerful frameworks that account for how complex systems of history, power, and oppression affect people’s movement and ability to live, work, and play. Mobility justice emerged simultaneously from the field of critical mobilities studies and from a collective of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) working in bicycling and sustainable transportation. Mobility justice examines how the racialized histories of cities and transportation systems limit the mobilities of certain communities in uneven ways. Racial justice scholarship seeks to account for how histories of colonialism and ongoing structures of white supremacy have produced systems of inequality for communities of color. It also examines alternative models that undo harmful practices and foster healing.

The nexus of mobility justice, racial justice, bike equity, and sustainable transportation futures motives us to ask questions such as the following:

  • What questions do mobility justice and racial justice frameworks raise for current frameworks within bike equity research?

  • How can questions of equity and justice be made central to research, policy & practices on smart/connected cities, autonomous vehicles, and other emergent new mobility systems?

  • How can we adopt a more intersectional approach that takes into account multiple vectors of oppression within their historical and situational context?

  • How do we account for and challenge hierarchies of expertise that have historically disempowered BIPOC communities within the development and life of transportation systems? 

  • How do we produce, use, and analyze data that is humanizing and better accounts for the complexity and diversity of human experience?

  • How do we ensure that the ways we collect and use data contribute to greater mobility, particularly for those whose mobility is historically and currently constricted?

  • What kinds of research questions fundamentally challenge colonial and patriarchal systems of exploitation and harm?

This event is hosted by the National Center for Sustainable Transportation, the UC Davis Institute for Transportation Studies and the UC Davis Feminist Research Institute

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