International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015

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40 Architectures of hurry: Mobilities and modernity in urban environments (1)
Convenor(s) Richard Dennis (University College London, UK)
Deryck Holdsworth (The Pennsylvania State University, USA)
Philip Gordon Mackintosh (Brock University, Canada)
Chair(s) Philip Gordon Mackintosh (Brock University, Canada)
Timetable Tuesday 07 July 2015, Timeslot 1 (09:15 - 11:00)
Room RGS-IBG Council Room
Session abstract The ‘mobilities turn’ has implied a range of new perspectives on the movement of people, things, concepts, policies, and information at a variety of temporal and spatial scales, and on the infrastructure necessary to accommodate both ‘flows’ and ‘stocks’ – not only streets, tracks, pipes and wires, but warehouses, banks, exchanges, offices and different types of housing, especially those designed to accommodate new arrivals or to facilitate a mobile lifestyle. Concepts such as time-space compression draw attention to the political economy and structural, including spatial, consequences of circulation, and to experiences of speeding-up, both objectively, as people, money, credit, commodities migrate, commute or are traded and transferred ever more quickly, and subjectively, as captured in terms with more emotional content, such as ‘haste’ and ‘hurry’. But circulation can be countered by congestion, and speeding-up can also be countered by or experienced as slowing-down. ‘Modernity’, while a contested and ambiguous concept, still has utility in connecting literatures on political and technological modernization with themes of identity, experience and lifestyle in an increasingly pluralist world. This session includes papers which seek to connect mobilities and modernity in the context of a range of nineteenth- and twentieth-century cities in Britain and North America.
Linked Sessions Architectures of hurry: Mobilities and modernity in urban environments (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details:
“Peaceful and profitable relations with the ends of the earth”: International trade, the Manchester Ship Canal, and the (re-)imagination of the city
Harry Stopes (University College London, UK)
In 1894 the completion of the Manchester Ship Canal transformed the inland industrial city into a seaport. Its construction was envisaged as a way to overcome economic depression and obstacles to Manchester's industrial progress: charges levied by the Port of Liverpool and railway freight companies. Thanks to the canal, raw materials and finished goods could flow more freely into and out of the factories and warehouses of the city. This paper considers the conceptual implications of this transformative technology of mobility. The canal made even more apparent the global aspect of the city's industrial economy: one cartoon in the popular press depicted a procession of the world’s peoples marching from the docks to the town hall bearing their national produce as tribute. The world was figuratively, (and literally), closer than ever in the minds of Mancunians. The heightened mobility of goods engendered a new way of imagining the city, with different scales of measurement to match different directions of travel. Manchester stood in a metropolitan relation to its local region, but it was now also transformed, as a local councillor wrote, into “a place in the world”.
"What shall we eat, what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be lighted?" Orchestrating commodity flows into and through New York City
Deryck Holdsworth (The Pennsylvania State University, USA)
Commodity exchanges extend the notion of mobilities from the physical to the virtual. Several thousand members negotiated contracts for the delivery of hundreds of items needed for the urbanizing and industrializing world. Transportation of, storage of and insurance of these commodities generated the need for considerable nearby office space. The New York Produce Exchange is illustrative of the multiple scales at which this architecture of mobility was shaped. The Exchange played two main roles: one, orchestrating the through-put of food commodities from the American Midwest to global markets, and two, helping to feed the millions in the New York metropolitan region, which in time begat some major industrial food companies. By plotting membership lists across several decades from the 1870s to the beginning of the 20th century, the shifting clusters of merchants in a burgeoning office district in lower Manhattan are identified, their office mobility influenced by the changing locations of the Exchange building itself. Subsets of exchange membership addresses reveal the presence of Midwest and European managers of these commodity chains. And, as lower Manhattan increasingly was associated with paper transactions, another subset reflect the rearticulated wholesale, industrial and transportation landscape now across the East and Hudson River waterfronts.
Session: [40] Architectures of hurry: mobilities and modernity in urban environments (1)
Technologies of Segregation on the Streets of East London
David Rooney (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
In 1936, the British Ministry of Transport erected three miles of guard rails along a major traffic highway in East London, separating pedestrians from motor vehicles. It was the first large-scale installation of such technology, and was presented as a modern response to a modern problem: an attempt to reduce the carnage of traffic accidents on the increasingly motorized streets. Its promoter was the new Metropolitan Police Traffic Commissioner, Alker Tripp. Yet the word Tripp used to describe his scheme—‘segregation’—raises interesting questions about the cultural geographies of mobility in modern London. Tripp had recently visited Chicago to study traffic control, but spent his nights there accompanying local police on their night-time cruises around Black and minority ethnic neighbourhoods. His secret report on the visit, together with his other writing on the problem of traffic control, reveals attitudes towards race, class and gender that invite a deeper reading of the guard rails. What urban architectures did Tripp construct—and how influential were they?
The London bus: an unlikely architecture of hurry
Richard Dennis (University College London, UK)
While ‘speed’ is hardly a characteristic we associate with the London bus, artists and writers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries frequently associated travelling by bus with the sensation of ‘hurry’, and depicted it as a quintessentially ‘modern’ experience – mixing with diverse ‘others’, observing the city in intimate detail, yet at a distance. Under the watchful eye of the conductor, the bus provided a safe space for female engagement with urban space. Yet its operation, initially anarchic, was steadily subject to increasing discipline, regulation and reordering, so that it came to be seen as part of the city’s ‘establishment’. This paper explores selected representations of the London bus, from the novelty and excitement portrayed in the 1830s through the sophisticated insouciance of impressionism to literary modernism and futurism in the early 20th century; and seeks to reconcile these depictions of ‘hurry’ and liberation afforded by bus travel with contemporary journalism and magazine illustration which emphasised congestion, inefficiency and the bus as an ever-obsolete technology. Londoners’ ambivalent but deeply felt relationship with their buses continued into the later 20th century, exemplified by the iconic status afforded to the ‘routemaster’, but also in the endearing irony of Flanders and Swann’s 1950s hymn to the ‘transport of delight’.