Mobility and Simplicity

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Mobility and movement have always lain at the heart of my research. Throughout much of that time, John Urry’s writings have been an inspiration and important source of reference, but I have had some difficulty dating my first encounter with his work. I have a vague recollection of reading sections of The Tourist Gaze (1990) while completing a tourism essay at school in 1993. 1 But a far more influential set of encounters with the man and his work occurred between 1998 and 2001, in the latter phases of my doctoral research and writing. John’s early writings on mobility, alongside those by Tim Cresswell, Doreen Massey and Nigel Thrift, led me to incorporate more conceptual approaches to mobility, subjectivity and sociality into what had, up to that point, been a fairly straightforward contextual history of England’s M1 motorway. As these scholars have variously (and separately) argued, mobility does not simply occur in spaces or through places. Movements produce or co-produce socio-spatial configurations and distinctive geographies. John’s bold manifesto-like statements (e.g. Urry 2000) appealed to me as an early career geographer trying to rethink mobility history and transport history through social and cultural theory. His synthetic sociologies demonstrated a broad and magisterial knowledge of their subjects, covering huge ground, and this was invaluable for me as a non-sociologist starting to think about the social dynamics of mobility and movement. I also recall John’s encouragement and hospitality when I met him for the first time in May 2000, as I visited Lancaster to deliver a seminar in the Department of Sociology. During the following 16 years we crossed paths regularly in workshops, conferences, publications and thesis examinations, and I owe a considerable amount to John for his influence on, and support of, my work.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMobilities and Complexities
EditorsOle B. Jensen, Sven Kesselring, Mimi Sheller
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9780429892707
ISBN (Print)9781138601437, 9781138601420, 113860142X
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2018


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