Friday, March 24, 2006

An attempt to get my brain to unclench

Tom Coates used the phrase in the post-title to describe his motivation for making a map of his recent journeys. (Bless him! He's as obsessive-compulsive as I am.) And I think that Katherine and Jonah still keep a rather comprehensive log and map of their travels. For my part, I make lists and maps of my travels whenever I start to feel overwhelmed by them. (You know, in a vain attempt to control the uncontrollable.)

It took my students until nearly end of term to talk about the fact that all our readings on mobility were written by privileged European and North American academics and architects who travel a lot. No modern primitives, today's nomadic elite stop only long enough to capture and project their own movements - or as Meaghan Morris says, to 'memorialise only movement, speed and perpetual circulation'.

Tim Cresswell points out that the nomad is seen as 'unmarked by the traces of class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and geography', but Sally Munt reminds us that our heroic flaneur is not unmarked but rather ambiguous. His masculinity may be affirmed in his gaze, sexualisation and consumption of the city, but it is also threatened by a more feminine passivity that invites the city to inscribe itself upon him. Still, to undermine these privileged experiences of mobility we need only stand them beside the trafficked and traded, the refugee, the detainee, the migrant worker, the urban gypsy, the homeless drunk, the sex-tourist.

Being mobile isn't just about changing social habits - it's part of the trouble with being human these days.

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