Postdoctoral Fellow: Samuel Mutter

Towards a kin-aesthetic politics: the sensory mobilities of urban infrastructure

My project examines the roles of the mobile and the sensory in how urban infrastructures and logistical systems are governed and experienced, building upon theoretical insights and empirical data from a PhD thesis on the governance of the London Underground. This thesis claimed that current understandings of infrastructural governance, in their emphasis upon technical, technological, and symbolic features, underplay the significance of multi-sensory cues and interactions in differentially shaping the passenger experience, encouraging onward movement and attentiveness to various risks, as well as extracting value through advertising.    

Advancing the concept of kin-aesthetic politics, the fellowship aims to impress upon academia, policy, and industry the need to move beyond strategic ideals of speed, economic efficiency, and network security in thinking about urban infrastructural spaces and the inequalities they may produce. This involves incorporating a fuller understanding of the embodied practices by which individuals move through and sense such spaces – not just by seeing, but by touching, hearing, smelling and emotionally engaging with environments on the move – and investigating the consequences of such an understanding for approaches to political questions of power, inclusion and accessibility.

As well as journal publications, the fellowship will disseminate research findings via the hosting of an academic-practitioner exchange workshop engaging professionals and policy-makers across the transport and logistics industries in June 2022. Additionally, it is intended that the project will facilitate the organisation of dedicated panel sessions on the concept of kin-aesthetic politics at the 2022 RGS-IBG Annual International Conference.    

Mentor: Prof. Pete Merriman, Aberystwyth University, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences.

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