Bodies and Structures


“Flows” is a deliberately broad term to describe diverse forms of movement of people, things, ideas, and energy that both structure spatialities and make places as they are channeled by them. While one approach to human flows is to categorize them (as, e.g., migrations, pilgrimages, invasions, refugee  flows, commuter patterns, etc.), Cresswell's concept of "constellations of mobility" -- "historically and geographically specific formations of movements, narratives about mobility and mobile practices" -- offers a useful framework for thinking about the ways in which mobilities both produce and are produced by social relations of power (Cresswell 2010, 17, 22). Massey, meanwhile, calls attention to the "power geometry . . . [that] concerns not merely the issue of who moves and who doesn't . . . [but also] power in relation to the flows and the movement" (Massey 1994, 149). Flows of people interact with the circulation of commodities and money (and people can flow as commodities) and of ideas, from the global transmission of expert knowledge (e.g., on frontier settlement) to the local exchange of social information (e.g., through intimate encounters with others).

As for energy, we can consider the transformations of given material environments as a core element of place-making and spatialization. The creation of an urban “second nature” that subsumes nature to capitalism constitutes one critical part of the modern history with which we are engaging, as does the constitutive power of networks to both cohere and “splinter” places (Graham and Marvin 2002; Hirsch 2016). Yet energy flows, in the form of ocean currents, northern continental winters, coal deposits or camphor forests, etc., conditioned and were subjected to human interactions and social power structures. Ideas of the tropics informed not only Japanese colonialist projects but a global set of exploitative and disciplinary enterprises with which they articulated (Tomiyama 1995; Tierney 2010). Manipulation of air flows also helped bring the empire to its collapse by magnifying the destructive power of American fire bombings in Tokyo (and elsewhere), while the heat these events produced turned riverine circuits, long part of the world of urban circulations, into boiling portals to the world beyond (e.g., Sumida Local Culture Resource Center 2011).

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