Video abstract – “Placing Transport Workers on the Agenda: The Conflicting Logics of Governing Mobility on Bishkek’s Marshrutkas”

We’ve just published the last issue of volume 50 (number 5), and here we’re pleased to present a video abstract by two of the authors, Lela Rekhviashvili and Wladimir Sgibnev from the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography in Germany. Their paper, “Placing Transport Workers on the Agenda: The Conflicting Logics of Governing Mobility on Bishkek’s Marshrutkas”, explores the conspicuous absence of transport workers from both mobilities and urban studies literature.

The extant research on transport workers, they argue, which is mostly focused on the global South, remains outside recent and ongoing debates in critical urban transport studies. Offering empirical insights from post-Soviet Central Asia, their paper strives to “close these gaps and delve into the struggles and cleavages that structure informal transport workers’ positions and livelihoods. We argue that the diverse and contradictory logics that govern urban mobility affect the livelihoods and working conditions of informal transport workers, as well as their choices and motivations. These, in turn, significantly shape mobility provision, in terms of urban transport’s (lack of) affordability, accessibility, convenience and safety.”

Here at Antipode, we ask all of our authors to think about the implications of their papers for praxis – how might they make a difference, “out there”, to activists, policy-makers, and others? Who might they speak to? And in what ways might they become relevant? Available below, Lela and Wladimir’s answer to these questions, and their discussion of “Placing Transport Workers on the Agenda” more generally, work together as an excellent primer to their research and why and it matters…

When assessing the options, scope and quality of transport provision, planning agencies, political bodies and interested citizens mainly focus on economic indicators (cost of service provision, accessibility, impact on economic growth) and passenger satisfaction (quality, safety, affordability). This focus, however, largely leaves transport workers – drivers in most cases – outside of the scope of consideration. We argue that drivers are key to improve transport options in terms of mobility provision, affordability, accessibility, convenience and safety, and to reach overall mobility justice goals.

Transport policies, we claim, cannot be seen outside of their social context and connected labour relations. Policies directly impact the livelihoods and working conditions of transport workers, as well as their choices and motivations. Our paper substantiates the argument by bringing in empirical evidence from the informal marshrutka minibus services in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek. The findings are, nevertheless, relevant and transferable to other contexts. Moreover, the recent rise of digital ride-sourcing options and microtransit schemes urges for a re-assessment of informal transport, and its implications on transport workers in the global North and South.

As well as Antipode, Lela and Wladimir’s work has been published in the Journal of Transport History (“Uber, Marshrutkas, and socially (dis-)embedded mobilities”). They’re both researchers at Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde, and you can read more about them and their work here and here.

And as well as “Placing Transport Workers on the Agenda”, Antipode 50(5) contains some brilliant essays, all of which are available online now:

A “Scented Declaration of Progress”: Globalization, Afropolitan Imagineering and Familiar Orientations
Grace Adeniyi Ogunyankin

Unsettling “Inner City”: Liberal Protestantism and the Postwar Origins of a Keyword in Urban Studies
Bench Ansfield

Uneven Urbanization: Connecting Flows of Water to Flows of Labour and Capital Through Jakarta’s Flood Infrastructure
Bosman Batubara, Michelle Kooy and Margreet Zwarteveen

The Dark Side of Transformation: Latent Risks in Contemporary Sustainability Discourse
Jessica Blythe, Jennifer Silver, Louisa Evans, Derek Armitage, Nathan Bennett, Michele-Lee Moore, Tiffany H. Morrison and Katrina Brown

Youth, Temporality, and Territorial Stigma: Finding Good in Camden, New Jersey
Kate Cairns

The Urban Village, Agrarian Transformation, and Rentier Capitalism in Gurgaon, India
Thomas Cowan

Placing Angola: Racialization, Anthropocentrism, and Settler Colonialism at the Louisiana State Penitentiary’s Angola Rodeo
Kathryn Gillespie

State Spaces of Resistance: Industrial Tree Plantations and the Struggle for Land in Laos
Miles Kenney-Lazar, Diana Suhardiman and Michael B. Dwyer

Nightscapes of Play: Enjoyment of Architecture and Urban Space through Bicycling
Lusi Morhayim

Toxic Encounters, Settler Logics of Elimination, and the Future of a Continent
Neil Nunn

Material Footprints: The Struggle for Borders by Bedouin-Palestinians in Israel
Sharri Plonski

Placing Transport Workers on the Agenda: The Conflicting Logics of Governing Mobility on Bishkek’s Marshrutkas
Lela Rekhviashvili and Wladimir Sgibnev

What if Edward Abbey’s “Monkey Wrench Gang” had Succeeded? The Ghosts of Glen Canyon Past, Present, and Future
Laura Smith

San Juan, the Fragile City: Finance Capital, Class, and the Making of Puerto Rico’s Economic Crisis
Joaquín Villanueva, Martín Cobián and Félix Rodríguez