no choice but to go where they are going
August 1, 2011, 5:53 pm
Filed under: departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags: , ,

Everyone and no one is talking about trains.  How subversive they are  to our car driving ways.  How they’re a good idea but they probably won’t get built.  How China will win the race to prosperity and world dominance because they are building fast ones and we aren’t.  How expensive they are, even though they’re actually much cheaper in the long run than cars and roads and freeways.

Very few people are talking about the psychology of trains, however.

When I was eight, my parents drove me to our local train station where we met on the platform a small group of other kid travelers in shorts and sandals with tin trunks with their names stenciled on talking wildly about their summers — and parents needlessly rushing around to finalize seat assignments and to tie up emotional loose ends. Continue reading


simultaneously and substantially dual


This is from an article by Arjun Appadurai.  In it, he describes how the world we accept as empirical, the spaces we see and touch and know can only be properly negotiated when we add in an intangible dimension, what we remember and imagine from other places – ones we’ve inhabited, dreamed about, seen at the movies.  By adding the new dimension, which by the way is very real, we see that we live in a much different place than commonly described.

“Because of the degree of media penetration and saturation – which frequently also means media of many kinds and media from many places, particularly television, where it’s available – people live, as it were, in layered places, which in themselves have a variety of levels of attachment, engagement and, if you like, reality … In a world of migration and mass mediation, everybody is living in a world of image flows, such that it’s not simply and straightforwardly possible to separate their everyday life from this other set of spaces that they engage with through the media, either as receivers, or as workers in call centers, or on interactive websites.  The work of the imagination allows people to inhabit either multiple localities or a kind of single and complex sense of locality, in which many different empirical spaces coexist.  So one of these call center people is simultaneously living a little bit in the United States and also living substantially in Bombay.  But Bombay itself, because of films and so on, is not merely empirical Bombay.

In this sense you have a kind of creative, spatial form which isn’t reducible to its empirical facts.  Now those empirical facts – for example, that the trains in Bombay are incredibly crowded  – must be faced at the end of the day.  Even if you’re inhabiting many localities, this one will always be present to you.  But because I do believe in the work of the imagination, I believe your engagement with this empirical world can be somewhat different depending on what translocalities you inhabit mentally, in and through the imagination.  So the train isn’t the same for everyone, not only because there’s a better part and a less good part of the train, but simply because the train is only one element of people’s localized existence.  Again I would say, remembering the urban poor, that the relationship of their experienced spaces to their imagined spaces is always at a disadvantage.  And this must be changed.  But the poor, too, negotiate a relationship between experienced spaces and imagined spaces.  They’re not only living in sheer experience while the rest of us live in the imagination.  That’s my sense of the political economy of these spaces.”

~Arjun Appadurai, The Right to Participate in the Work of the Imagination, Trans Urbanism, V2_Publishing/NAi Publishers