Drifting: Towards mobilities at sea

Kimberley Peters

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This paper advocates a critical analysis of drifting as a particular typology of mobility. Drifting is a commonplace term used across the social sciences and particularly within physical, urban and psycho-geographic strands of geography. However, drifting has not been unpacked within a mobilities framework as a specific trope of moving, nor has it been taken ‘to sea’ by social scientists. This is surprising given the long-standing relationship between drift, drifting and the ocean. Recent years have witnessed a ‘filling out’ and ‘deepening’ of mobilities studies in geography and the broader social sciences, wherein mobility is not taken as singular and undifferentiated, but rather can be broken down into more specific parts that constitute particular technologies, experiences, forms and
conditions of moving. This study dissects drifting by investigating the intricacies of this mobile quality and the quality of mobility. In particular, the paper draws on drifting in the context of the sea in order to demonstrate the new knowledges made possible by moving examinations from city spaces (where drifting has been most readily employed as conceptual tool and method). Indeed, drawing on case studies of drifting at sea, this paper argues that a focus on this distinctive form of mobility generates new insights into the politics of what it means to move in the maritime realm, a space often neglected in studies of mobilities. Document embargo until 15/12/2016.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-272
Number of pages11
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number2
Early online date15 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • drifting
  • mobilities
  • sea
  • politics
  • speed
  • force


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