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AAG 2022 NYC Annual Meeting

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CfP: Session "Challenging knowledge hegemonies in transport geography" – Deadline: 31 October 2021


  • Wojciech Kębłowski, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Université libre de Bruxelles
  • Wladimir Sgibnev, Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde

Transport geography continues to be strongly underpinned by top-down logics, procedures and instruments of quantitative analysis, decision-making, and design — largely developed in the global North. While the role and impact of transport goes well beyond technical and economic efficiency, research exploring how mobility reflects and frames political ideologies, mirrors and contributes to the social production of space continues to be conducted by “experts”, be it academics, policy-makers, or consultants. This top-down bias has its geography, as it produces a limited portfolio of “best practices” emanating from a very small circle, predominantly in the Global North — including Amsterdam and Copenhagen as blueprints for cycling policies, Paris and Oslo as cases of anti-automobility measures, Vienna and Zurich as benchmarks for mass transit development. As these blueprints often uncritically reproduce the Northern discourse of urban sustainability, resilience, equity and inclusion, “success stories” from the global South — for instance from Bogotá and Medellin — are either less heard, or circulated predominantly for global South planning imaginaries. At the same time, according to the Shanghai rangking, the great majority of “top” engineering schools are located in the global North and in China, and virtually none in South America and Africa.

In this session, we intend to explore and address this double top-down and Northern bias by turning to diverse bottom-up dynamics, actors and spaces that contribute to producing transport knowledge that is alternative to the dominant — or perhaps even hegemonic — frames, narratives, concepts and methods developed in the global North, and in particular in Western Europe and North America. We invite papers that, on the one hand, explore alternative theoretical approaches to transport, as well as practices of contestation and creation of “alternative” knowledge, e.g. through novel bottom-up production of transport knowledge and practice. On the other hand, as thinking and knowing critically is certainly not limited to any particular language or place—for instance the Anglophone academia of the global North — we welcome contributions that question the domination of Western thought in transport studies, and seek to provincialise it (Roy, 2009, 2016). We are interested in learning through local articulations of social relations that underpin transport in diverse contexts in the Global South or Global East, opening up transport to epistemologies and subjectivities (Davidson, 2021) that do not originate in the scholarly traditions developed in the global North (Mignolo & Walsh, 2018). Crucially, this relates to a long overdue decolonisation of transport theory and practice (Schwanen, 2018; Wood et al., 2020), to embrace voices from these subaltern localities and subjects as sources of theory, and not just empirics (Robinson, 2002, 2016).

We welcome theoretical or empirical papers that may take up (but are not limited to) the following set of questions:

  • Where is transport knowledge produced? What is its geograph, its cores and peripheries?
  • Who is (not) a transport “expert”?
  • How is legitimacy in transport conceptualised? What makes some knowledge sources and frames more legitimate than others?
  • What counts as legitimate methodologies, processes, practices?
  • Which theorisations of transport and mobilities come from peripheral, global East or global South locations?
  • What empirical work can they inspire?
  • Which alternative forms and processes of creating transport knowledge are emerging, succeed or fail, and in which contexts? What are the trade-offs?

To participate in the session, please abstract of no more than 300 words, as well as a short biographical note of no more than 100 words to wojciech.keblowski(at) and w_sgibnev(at) by 31 October 2021. As of writing, we are planning to travel to New York to physically attend the conference, but this may change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If AAG permits, we will make this a hybrid (in-person/virtual) session. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to be send us an e-mail.


Davidson, A. C. (2021). Radical mobilities. Progress in Human Geography, 45(1), 25–48.

Mignolo, W. D., & Walsh, C. E. (2018). On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis. Duke University Press.

Robinson, J. (2002). Ordinary Cities: Between Modernity and Development. Taylor & Francis Ltd.

Robinson, J. (2016). Starting from anywhere, making connections: Globalizing urban theory. Eurasian Geography and Economics, 57(4–5), 643–657.

Roy, A. (2009). The 21st-century Metropolis: New geographies of theory. Regional Studies, 43, 819–830.

Roy, A. (2016). Who’s Afraid of Postcolonial Theory?: Debates & Developments. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 40(1), 200–209.

Schwanen, T. (2018). Towards decolonised knowledge about transport. Palgrave Communications, 4(1).

Wood, A., Kębłowski, W., & Tuvikene, T. (2020). Decolonial approaches to urban transport geographies: Introduction to the special issue. Journal of Transport Geography, 88, 102811.

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