[Workshop Regensburg] The post-socialist street: rising car mobility in comparative perspective

06.10.2016 - 2016-10-08

The Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies hosts the international workshop "The post-socialist street: rising car mobility in comparative perspective" in Regensburg, Thursday 6 to Saturday 8 October 2016.

The three-day workshop is organized by Prof. Dr. Ger Duijzings (Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies & University of Regensburg) and Dr. Tauri Tuvikene (Centre for Landscape and Culture, Tallinn University; visiting researcher at Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography).


Life on city streets has always enjoyed great interest amongst scholars, philosophers, and artists. Rightly so, as the urban street triggers unexpected and unpredictable encounters: the urban social fabric is, as it were, woven by people moving around, accompanied by others or transporting stuff from A to B, on foot, using animal power or public transport, or vehicles such as bicycles, cars, trucks, and buses. Yet, where these various forms and modes of mobility meet, there is inevitably ‘friction’, resulting from differences in speed, weight, maneuverability and symbolic value of the vehicles used (see for example Henderson 2013; Katz 1999; Truitt 2008). Hence the street does not only facilitate movement (Blomley 2011), it is also a site of multiple colliding mobilities that need to be negotiated and regulated. Despite the global spread of street signs, traffic regulations, and engineered devices, traffic often ‘looks’ and ‘feels’ very different in cities around the world (Edensor, 2004; Miller, 2001). These differences are due to the variety of conditions: the cultural environment and the geographic terrain or climate, the quality of roads and the composition and density of the built environment, the vehicles used and the regulations imposed by authorities, the urban demography in terms of ethnicity and class, and the social and cultural perceptions towards various modes of mobility.

For this workshop we propose to reflect on traffic interaction and street life in post-socialist central and eastern Europe, as ‘friction’ has been particularly intense here due to the sudden and explosive rise of car ownership and car mobility after 1989. Here, but also in other (still) socialist countries such as China, political changes have led to radical transformations in the way people move around, as former ‘socialist’ modes of mobility such as public transport and bicycles have been marginalized and replaced by a culture of privately owned cars. The sudden rise in car mobility in these (former) socialist countries is still an underexplored topic, especially when it comes to understanding the social and cultural aspects of these transformations in the everyday life of post-socialist cities (Burrell and Hörschelmann, 2014; Siegelbaum, 2011). This workshop therefore seeks to advance our empirical and conceptual understanding of the post-socialist street.

The discussion is framed around two related phenomena: how the post-socialist street is the site of an unrivalled growth in car mobility but is also becoming the venue of renewed political engagements, where claims to shared public spaces and visions for urban futures are again articulated and contested against the background of the recent socialist past. Seen the large Critical Mass cycle protests in Budapest, Bucharest and other east European cities, the demand for alternative and more sustainable forms of mobility is on the rise,  as it has been for some time already in traditional car dominated countries such as the USA, Germany, and Japan. The analysis and comparison of these transformations, interactions, intersections, and political engagements with regard to (car) mobility in post-socialist contexts, is what this workshop tries to achieve. 

Three keynote speakers with strong expertise in the rise of car mobility in the ‘traditional’ car (and car producing) countries USA, Germany, and Japan will offer the historical and comparative framework needed: these countries had their own specific trajectories in terms of introducing, accommodating and domesticating cars in society and in public spaces. Accepted keynote speakers are Kurt Möser (Karsruhe​ Institute of Technology) discussing Germany, Peter Norton (University of Virginia) the US and Joshua H. Roth (Mount Holyoke College​, US) Japan. Following the keynote lectures we will extend the discussion around these specific historical cases to the post-socialist context. 

The workshop seeks to address the following issues but is not limited to these: interaction in public spaces and on streets and conflicts between road users; the negotiation and regulation of differential speeds and flows; official and informal approaches to mobility and immobility, mooring and fixity; cultural perceptions of ‘order’ and ‘chaos’ in traffic; social identity and inequality in traffic; socialist and national path-dependencies of current traffic conditions; political and media discourses and their role in changing the parameters of public space and traffic interaction; the promotion and regulation of car ownership and mobility through legal provisions and forms of law enforcement; etc.


The programme will be scheduled after March 24, 2016.

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