Past and Future Infrastructuring Processes in Belgium
Seminar organised in the framework of the mobility infrastructure research theme.
Mobility scholars have written extensively on mobility infrastructures. First taken as fixed and bounded elements that structure –and upon which rely– mobilities (Hannam, Sheller, et Urry 2006; Merriman 2007), physical infrastructures and materialities of mobility and transport networks were naturalised and their complex character and powerful spatial fixity stressed in terms of infrastructural lock-in (Kaufmann 2014). Nevertheless, they’ve recently started to be seen as ‘mobile moorings’ or ‘relative immobilities’ (Adey 2006). As Merriman puts it, the dialectic of mobility/moorings is indeed problematic: it overlooks ‘the affective resonances, atmospheres, vibrations and enchanting qualities of mobility infrastructures and practices’ (2016). Firstly, the binary of stillness or movement is too simple to account for qualities, temporalities, rhythms (Lefebvre 1992), vibrant materialities (Bennett 2001) and affective resonances across and through infrastructures, environments, vehicles and bodies. Secondly, as long accounted by theories of ambiance and atmosphere, infrastructure is not simply static contextual setting for action but immersive environments that are central to mobility experiences and, at the same time, ‘produced and shaped through embodied movements, interactions and techniques of inhabitation’ (Merriman 2016). Both mobility infrastructures and practices get caught up in affective relations and atmospheres that differ around the world because of ‘the convergences and collisions between emotion cultures and material cultures’ (Sheller 2004). According to Sheller, there are such things as ‘emotional geographies’. Those emotional geographies make mobility transition to more sustainable and ethical mobility consumption even more complex to understand and to lead. Infrastructures are in constant social and material process (requiring physical maintenance, gathering meanings and generating atmospheres). There have been for a decade some research that frame Belgian automobility infrastructure as a social construction, that attempt to theorise the relational processes between the material infrastructure, its sensitive aspect (affect, emotional geographies, enchantment, atmosphere, landscape), the construction stakeholders, the practices … and how all this evolves in time. None of this has been done yet on active mobility infrastructure in Brussels or in Belgium, despite the fact that it is of great importance in order to engage a cultural transition towards more sustainable mobilities.
The different interventions will give insight, in a diachronic perspective, into the infrastructuring processes. The question is twofold. The morning session is devoted to infrastructuring processes of automobility by which infrastructure spaces, subjects and practices emerged in the past. The afternoon session focusses on how the same infrastructure spaces, subjects and practices could nevertheless evolve in a transition towards more sustainable and ethical mobility. It aims at engaging with this large research agenda and identify possible food for thought from more field-based presentations.