Mimi Sheller


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

Cover Interview of April 24, 2019

A close-up

If you were to encounter this book in a bookstore, I hope you would first turn to the appendix and read the “Principles of Mobility Justice.” These principles range across diverse topics and sections of the book. Some for example, refer to individual bodily movement: “Individual mobility shall not be involuntarily restricted by threats of violence, including enforced forms of clothing, segregated means of movement, or unevenly applying temporal or spatial limits on mobility.” Other principles refer to the scale of the city and transport planning: “Public investments in transport systems shall not afford mobility to some groups by imposing undue burdens, externalities, or limitations on others who do not benefit.” And some refer to the global scale: “People displaced by climate change shall have a right to resettlement in other countries, especially in those countries that contributed most to climate change.” I hope these principles might intrigue you and make you want to find out more.

I want readers to think about how these different scales are connected, and why they are all necessary for mobility justice. Maybe you would also flip through the glossary and encounter some new terms and ideas that would entice you to read the book. For example, what is a commons? “Neither state nor market, private nor public, a commons is a shared resource of a community of people with negotiated rules to sustain it and allocates its benefits, according to George Monbiot. According to Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, the commons ‘designates an equal and open structure for access to wealth together with democratic mechanisms of decision-making. . . it is a social structure and a social technology for sharing.’”

Or, for example, what is extractivism? “Extractivism generally refers to an economic model based on the large-scale removal (or “extraction”) of natural resources for the purposes of exporting raw materials, including industrial-scale agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining and hydrocarbons. Such extractive activity, it is argued, does not benefit local economies, produces high rates of underemployment and poverty, leads to unequal wealth distribution, and leaves behind waste and pollution. Extractivism has become a significant subject of political debate, especially in Latin America, where it is contrasted with postextractivism, neoextractivism, and postcapitalism.” Here, I draw on the ideas of Arturo Escobar. One book connects to another, and readers might be led on a journey to read other works, including Anna Tsing, Donna Haraway, Keller Easterling, Deborah Cowen, and others.