Mimi Sheller


On her book Mobility Justice: The Politics of Movement in an Age of Extremes

Cover Interview of April 24, 2019

In a nutshell

Mobility justice is one of the crucial political and ethical issues of the contemporary world. We are currently experiencing a series of crises related to how we move. As cities across the world face the effects of climate change, congestion, and pollution, and as nations struggle with debates over social inequality, immigration, and growing racism, it is increasingly evident that our old ways of moving around and of governing mobilities (and dwelling) are broken. This book contributes to generating new ways of thinking about transforming mobility to make a more sustainable and equitable world. I argue that the transition toward sustainable mobilities and greater social justice must happen together, because they are fundamentally interconnected. The societal challenge consists in democratically transitioning towards both low-carbon and socially just mobility systems, locally and globally.

What is unique about this book is that it highlights the power relations between bodies, streets, cities, nations, and the globe. Mobility justice is an overarching concept for thinking about how power and inequality shape connected patterns of mobility and immobility across many scales. It allows us to see how class, race, gender, sexuality, age, ability, and citizenship all are affected by mobility design and the systems that control and channel our mobilities. It asks: Who is able to exercise rights to mobility and who is not capable of mobility? How can sustainable transport in cities be more aware of the micro-politics of racial, gendered, (dis)abling embodiment? And how does the management of migration, tourism, and travel intersect with both everyday mobilities and with wider geo-ecological problems surrounding energy consumption and resource extraction around the world?

Mobility Justice seeks to push forward debates around sustainable cities and social movements for transport equity toward a more holistic and multi-scalar approach that I call “kinopolitics” – meaning the politics of movement. While much attention has been given to sustainable transportation in response to climate change, including by the Green New Deal currently being proposed by progressive Democrats in Congress, future mobility transitions must encompass wider mobility justice concerns. The introduction of cleaner electric vehicles, alternative fuels, bicycling lanes, complete streets, and congestion charging will promote sustainability only in a very limited sense if it is not coupled with reconfigurations of the wider power relations and cultural practices that guide urban planning and decision making.

I hope this book will help readers to think about how to transform mobility systems in deeper ways. I hope readers will find ideas about how to link together movements for environmental justice, racial justice, migrant justice, climate justice and infrastructure justice through the lens of the overarching concept of mobility justice. I hope they will be inspired to debate and discuss the principles for mobility justice that are at the end of each chapter and listed in the Appendix. I hope they will mobilize to build more just and sustainable mobile commons.