TSU Seminar Series - Hilary Term 2012

Socio-spatial Inequalities, Transport and Mobilities

Seminars were delivered during Hilary Term (January - March) 2012 in the Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford.

For more information on this seminar series, please contact


Week 1: 5pm, 18 January 2012, Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, SoGE

Unequal Mobility and its Social Consequences

Dr Karen Lucas, Transport Studies Unit, Oxford.

It has long been recognised that significant inequalities exist in the mobility patterns of different population groups. This is a universal phenomenon and is largely driven by factors such as income, age, gender, race and disability, as well as by the provision and availability of both privately-owned and public transport and the generalised nature of the urban structure. What has been less well understood within both academic and policy circles are the social consequences of this unequal mobility in terms of its effects on the lifestyles and life chances of individuals, as well as its wider effects on society a whole. This presentation will explore this issue with specific reference to the case study evidence of research with people in different social and geographical contexts, who have been identified by policy makers as "socially excluded". It is designed to provide a platform for the subsequent presentations in this TSU Annual Seminar Series, as well as to open up some new areas of discussion and debate in terms of the social value of transportation within contemporary society.

Dr Karen Lucas is a Senior Research Fellow with the Transport Studies Unit at the School of Geography, University of Oxford. She is noted for her pioneering social research on transport and social exclusion and the mobility needs of low income communities. She has published an important book on this subjected entitled Running on Empty: transport, social exclusion and environmental justice, as well as many notable relevant journal articles. Karen has recently been awarded a mid-career research fellowship by the UKs Economic and Social Research Council to broaden her research in this area through a project to model the relationship between social disadvantage and transport poverty. She has also won an EU Marie Curie Researcher Exchange award to develop new methods and indicators of transport exclusion through national comparison studies of cities in the UK, Belgium and Chile.


Week 2: 5pm, 25 January 2012, Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, SoGE

Automobile Subjects

Dr Katharina Manderscheid, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Universität Luzern.

Modernity and its accompanying processes of differentiation and extension created the need to bridge increasing spatial distances through means of transportation and communication. In my presentation, I want to argue for an understanding of automobility as dispositif in the Foucauldian sense. This dispositif became constitutive for the socio-spatial formation and order in the western world in the second half of the 20th century. The conceptual framing emphasises the multiple interweavings of discursive knowledge, material structures, social practices and subjecti-fications as crucial for a sociological understanding of the car. Using mainly data from Germany, I will sketch the emergence of the automobile subject, who's long lasting undisputed hegemony has started to fade. Especially the new figure of the creative nomad equipped with various mobile technologies and connected to the internet presents a differently mobile subject. Against the background of the concept of automobility as dispositif, I will explore and compare these two figures in regards to their social preconditions and exclusions, thereby highlighting the inherent power structurations.

Katharina Manderscheid studied in Freiburg, Germany, and finished her PhD thesis on a topic of urban sociology in 2004. She held posts as a lecturer at the Department of Sociology at the University of Basel/Switzerland, as visiting research fellow at the Centre for Mobilities Research at Lancaster University and as lecturer at the Department of Sociology and Political Science at Innsbruck University, Austria. Since 2009, she has been teaching and researching at Lucerne, Switzerland. Her current research concentrates on the conceptualisation and interplay of spatial mobilities, social power and inequality, materialities and the built environment as well as knowledge and discourse, drawing on the discourse and dispositif terms introduced by Michel Foucault. Other works include comparative analysis of mobility patterns in England and Switzerland and reflections on Bourdieu's relationality and geographical space.


Week 3: 5pm, 1 February 2012, Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, SoGE

Transport and Daily Mobility in Sub-Saharan Africa: Exploring young people's experiences

Dr Gina Porter, Department of Anthropology, Durham University.

This seminar will explore young people's experiences and perceptions of transport, mobility and mobility constraints in sub-Saharan Africa, drawing on a three-country study (Ghana, Malawi and South Africa) which involved both adult and child researchers. Following a review of the research methods employed, I will consider the diversity of young people's daily mobility experiences, relating these to a range of factors including gender, age, young people's incorporation in local economies, cultural context and local transport provision and examine the impact of mobility opportunities and constraints on young people's access to services (notably education) and livelihoods, and their potential for participation in social networks and peer culture. Discussion will extend across a wide range of issues, from fear of rape or harassment on the journey to school, to the interconnectedness of mobilities across the life course and the impact of growing mobile phone use.

Gina Porter is Senior Research Fellow in the Anthropology Department at Durham University. She has long-standing research interests in transport and daily mobility among disadvantaged rural populations in sub-Saharan Africa (particularly Nigeria and Ghana) but has more recently extended her research into African urban transport issues.


Week 4: 5pm, 8 February 2012, Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, SoGE

Transport Is Social Policy: Focus on higher education in the UK context

Dr Susan Kenyon.

Social policy is that which responds to social need and which aims to improve human welfare. Social policy can be understood as public policy that affects the well-being of members of society, by intervening to influence access to economic and other goods and resources. In the UK, social policy has traditionally been viewed in the context of Beveridge's five 'giant evils': disease, idleness, ignorance, squalor and want (1942), leading to policy to rectify need in terms of health, employment, education, housing and poverty, respectively. More recently, understanding of welfare has been expanded to consider wider influences upon welfare and the achievement of well-being. Cahill (1994, 2010) has pioneered this 'new social policy': social policy which looks beyond the five giants to consider modern influences such as the environment, the information society, consumerism, leisure - and transport. This presentation contends that transport is social policy. Transport will be shown to influence the success of social policy that aims to tackle each of the five giants, but with a particular focus upon higher education in the UK, demonstrating an unbreakable link between transport and social development.

Dr Susan Kenyon is an academic with 14 years experience of research and lecturing at UK Universities, most recently as Lecturer in Qualitative Research Methods at the University of Kent. Her subject specialisms include: transport and social policy; social exclusion; transport and time use, specifically, multitasking; and qualitative methodologies in transport. Susan began a year-long career break in January 2012, to care for her two young children. However, she continues in her role as book reviews editor for the Journal of Transport Geography; as a reviewer for international journals, conferences and funding councils; and she continues to write, publish and present.


Week 5: 5pm, 15 February 2012, Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, SoGE

The Prosthetic Citizen: Forms of citizenship for a mobile world

Professor Tim Cresswell, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London.

The paper considers the role of mobility in the changing geographies of the legal figure of the "citizen. It focuses on the "relationships" that act of make up citizens - the relationships with both citizens' others, and with the material world that co-constitutes citizen mobilities. The citizen is a figure who stands at the intersection of three geographical imaginations - the imaginary of a sedentary nation, the imaginary of a heterogeneous city and the imaginary of free mobility in an interconnected world. This triple imaginary presents us with some paradoxes in the mobile world of the 21st Century. I chart what happens to the citizen in changing constellations of mobility developing the notion of a "prosthetic citizen" as a mobile assemblage of body and world.

Tim Cresswell is Professor of Human Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London. His work inhabits the borderlands of the humanities and the social sciences focusing on the central geographical themes of place and mobility and the way in which they are constitutive of and constituted by social and cultural life. He is the author of four books including Place: A Short Introduction (Blackwell, 2004) and On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World (Routledge, 2006). He has co-edited a further four volumes including: Gendered Mobilities (Ashgate, 2008) and Geographies of Mobilities: Practices, Spaces, Subjects (Ashgate, 2011).


Week 6: 5pm, 22 February 2012, Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, SoGE

Auto-Disabilities: The case of shared space environments

Professor Robert Imrie, Department of Geography, King's College, University of London.

Many urban environments are being redesigned around a relatively new approach to street design termed shared space or, in the North American context, complete streets. Shared space is a traffic engineering concept that eliminates physical barriers between motor vehicles, pedestrians, and other road users to encourage a sharing of street space. Such sharing is seen as a means to calm traffic and create convivial urban spaces. The evidence shows that local authorities in the UK, and elsewhere, are enthusiastic about shared space for its potential to enhance the urban realm. Vulnerable street users, such as vision-impaired people, do not share this enthusiasm. They perceive shared space as likely to bring them into increasing contact with automobiles, and compromising their safety and well being. Shared spaces are, potentially, what I refer to as auto-disabling environments. Referring to data from the UK, I develop the proposition that shared space can be characterised as 'disembodied urban design' that fails to capture the complexity of corporeal form and the manifold interactions of bodies-in-space. The disembodied understanding of the interactions between bodies, space, and movement, propagated by shared space design, (re) produces both existential insecurity and ontological uncertainty amongst certain categories of users, such as vision-impaired people. Shared space can be understood as a manifestation of disabling design in the built environment, and a reaffirmation of disabled people's relative invisibility in relation to the crafting of designed spaces.

Rob Imrie is Professor of Geography at King's College London and former Director of the Cities Group. His background is in geography, sociology, and planning studies and he has a doctorate in industrial sociology. He was previously Professor in Human Geography in the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway University of London (1991 to 2005). His main research interests are urban governance and community development in cities, the impact and implications of urban policy in British and international cities, the geographies of disability and the built environment, and urban design and the codification and regulation of architecture.


Week 7: 5pm, 29 February 2012, Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, SoGE

Breathing Unequally: Environmental justice and transport-related air pollution

Professor Gordon Walker, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University.

Breathing good quality air is a fundamental requirement for a healthy life. Around the world pollution from traffic (alongside other sources) diminishes the quality of breathed air, but not in a consistent way, and we might expect uneven social patterns to exist. Environmental justice activists have argued some of the most vulnerable in society are exposed to the worst traffic-related air quality problems, and that they can also be the least responsible for their production. In this seminar I will consider the ways in which evidence, justice and process claims about air quality inequality are combined and examine some of the research evidence which has attempted to investigate the relationships that are at work.

Gordon Walker is Professor at the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University. He has a distinctive profile of research on the social and spatial dimensions of environment and sustainability issues. This includes work on environmental justice and the social patterning of environmental goods and bads; social practice, sociotechnical transitions and energy demand; community innovation and renewable energy technologies; and the concepts of vulnerability, resilience and governance in relation to forms of 'natural' and technological risk. His latest book Environmental Justice: Concepts, Evidence and Politics has recently been published by Routledge.


Week 8: 5pm, 7 March 2012, Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, SoGE

Gender and Transport, the Neglected Dimension: Social inclusion, access and sustainable urban mobility

Professor Margaret Grieco, Transport Research Institute, Edinburgh Napier University.

This presentation will make use of the contents of a recently edited (Grieco and McQuaid, 2012) special issue of Research in Transportation Economics on gender and transport to indicate the adjustments required in the treatment of gender and transport if a sustainable urban mobility framework is to be achieved both globally and locally. It will draw attention to the importance of new participatory modes of research made possible by new information communication technologies in the detailing and planning of the urban mobility environment, most specifically in respect of gender. It will draw attention to the complexity of household travel and transport decision making and the pivotal role of gender within this nexus. It will draw attention to the range of urban mobility strategies adopted in respect of gender across the full range of urban actors and agencies from individual travellers to major planning authorities.

Margaret Grieco is Britain's first Professor of Transport and Society, a post which she holds at Edinburgh Napier University. She holds her doctorate from the University of Oxford where she attended Nuffield and Jesus Colleges. She has been Professor at the University of Ghana, the University of North London, Cornell University and the Technical University of Braunschweig where she held a chair in Gender and Transport. She has also taught at Georgetown University, University of Oxford, and the University of Cambridge amongst others. She was a staff member of the Africa Region of the World Bank and has worked for national governments and international agencies on a range of transport issues including gender and transport. She has published extensively in a range of transport and social policy journals and is currently involved in UNHabitat's urban mobility strategy. With gender and transport, she has along with colleagues a particular interest in Africa's pattern of maternal mortality.


Week 9: 5pm, 14 March 2012, Halford Mackinder Lecture Theatre, SoGE

Bodies, Buses and Bureaucracy: Reflections on common interests in disability rights and service provision

Dr Ruth Butler, Department of Social Sciences, University of Hull.

A large body of literature debating the nature of disability has reflected upon the complexity of disabled people's embodied experiences. They have considered how impairments, social discourses, and institutions interact with one another to create the lived experiences of disabled people. In this paper I suggest that not just disabled people themselves, but the service providers with whom they must interact, are also 'embodied'. They too have a 'corporeality' in the form of premises and infrastructures, many of which are 'impaired' by past architectural design or engineering limitations. They equally, through marketing and other such processes, interact with social discourses. They are also expected to abide by institutional regulations and targets which do not always sit comfortably with the accessibility agendas. Drawing on examples the paper considers the difficulties that the 'embodiment' of transport service providers can create for both their managers and disabled clients. In considering what may be restricting potential good practice it concludes by suggesting that it is time for us to reflect on how the disability rights movement and service providers can engage with one another and with government to address issues of inaccessibility in a more productive manner.

Dr Ruth Butler is Senior Lecturer in Applied Social Research in the Department of Social Sciences, at the University of Hull. She has worked conducted various research projects on different aspects of disabled people's access to public space funded by the ESRC, NHS and Comic Relief. Her recent work on service provision for disabled people attempts to look at the restrictions on service providers as well as their clients and points to new agendas for cooperation between the disability rights movement and businesses.