The Marshrutka project members, Lela Rekhviashvili, Wladimir Sgibnev and Tonio Weicker have recently presented their research outcomes at the workshop The Post-Socialist Street: rising car mobility in comparative perspective. The international workshop was held in Regensburg throughout October 6-8, 2016. The workshop was organized by Prof. Dr. Ger Duijzings (Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies, University of Regensburg) Dr. Tauri Tuvikene (Centre for Landscape and Culture, Tallinn University; visiting researcher at Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography) and hosted by The Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies (University of Regensburg and LMU Munich).

 

About the Workshop:

Life on city streets has always enjoyed great interest amongst scholars, philosophers, and artists. Rightly so, as the street triggers unexpected and unpredictable encounters: the urban social fabric is, as it were, woven by people moving around, accompanied by others or transporting stuff from A to B, on foot, using animal power or public transport, or vehicles such as bicycles, cars, trucks, and buses. Yet, where these various forms and modes of mobility meet, there is inevitably ‘friction’, resulting from differences in speed, weight, manoeuvrability and symbolic value of the vehicles used. Hence the street does not only facilitate movement, it is also a site of multiple colliding mobilities that need to be negotiated and regulated.

The workshop seeks to address the following issues but is not limited to these: interaction in public spaces and on streets; conflicts between road users; the negotiation and regulation of differential speeds and flows; official and informal approaches to mobility and immobility, mooring and fixity; cultural perceptions of ‘order’ and ‘safety’, and ‘chaos’ and ‘risk’ in traffic; social identity and inequality in traffic; socialist and national path-dependencies of current traffic conditions; political and media discourses and their role in changing the parameters of public space and traffic interaction; the promotion and regulation of car ownership and mobility through legal provisions and forms of law enforcement; etc.

 

The Marshrutka Project Presentations:

A Vicious Circle? Marshrutka Mobility in Bishkek

 

Lela Rekhviashvili– Leibniz Institute for regional geography, Leipzig – L_rekhviashvili@ifl-leipzig.de

 

Abstract

In this presentation I discuss the early results of the recent fieldwork concerning the marshrutka mobility system in in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I start the discussion with a puzzle articulated by one of the fieldwork informants, namely the fact that unlike majority of public transport systems, the marshrutka system is not only deprived of state subsidies, but is profitable and contributes significantly to the state budget annually. I suggest that drawing profit from the marshrutka sector is possible at the expanse of [1] citizen’s risk and inconvenience, [2] drivers extreme self-exploitation and [3] undermined capacity to re-invest in public transport fleet or infrastructure. To understand how and why marshrutka mobility system has remained unregulated by the state, risky for the passengers and exploitative for the drivers I look into the logic of action of diverse actors. I first discuss how responsibilities on the mobility offer provisioning are divided between the drivers, companies and the city government. Secondly I delve into the complex scheme of formal and informal payments that travel from the drivers to the companies and ultimately to the state officials. Third, I place marshrutka mobility within broader public transport offers illustrating that it is the lack of states investment capacity in public transport that leads to predominance of marshrutkas, but in its turn such predominance and competition from the marshrutkas also undermines state investment capacity. I conclude by asking whether despite all sins, the marshrutka system is to be appreciated for its capacity to address citizen’s mobility needs and also to provide for the livelihoods of numerous transport workers.

 

Lela’s presentation:  vicious-circle-marshrutkas-in-bishkek

 

Infrastructures as fluidities: how marshrutkas help us to overcome static conceptions of     road-based mobility service provision

Wladimir Sgibnev – Leibniz Institute for regional geography, Leipzig – w_sgibnev@ifl-leipzig.de

Tonio Weicker – Technical University, Berlin – t.weicker@campus.tu-berlin.de

 

Abstract

In spite of the recent reception of assemblage and actor-network theories into infrastructure research, public transport is still very much seen as an arena of negotiation between state and society – the former as benevolent or neglecting provider, regulator and financier; the latter as paying, enduring or protesting passenger. However, “informal” public transport solutions, both in the global South ( dolmu ş , matatu , tro tro and cognates) and North ( Uber , Lyft etc.) challenge this vision, exploiting liberal laissez-faire regimes, post-colonial state absenteeism, or filling the gap of state failures. Their atomistic structure, elusive definitions, self-employment, low market entry barriers and (at least initially) non-existent legal frameworks, favoured the emergence of bottom-up regulation arrangements and thwarted many top-down attempts of including them in normatively appropriate “official” and corporate frameworks. The same goes for the infrastructural ”back-end” of these public transport options, which cannibalise on pre-existing road surfaces and stations, and largely lack depots and dispatchers, instead relying on customary or ad-hoc solutions. Against this backdrop, we propose to conceptualise public transport infrastructures as fluidities, where not only the vehicles are in motion, but also services, facilities and regulations. Actants constantly experience a condition of liminality, relating to the qualification of Soviet and post-Soviet life as “societies of remont” (Gerasimova and Čujkina 2004) – providing a stark contrast with the state-funded public transport services of the Soviet era. The proposed contribution will take on post-Soviet marshrutkas in order to empirically substantiate this argument, bringing in material from Tajikistan and Southern Russia.

Wladimir’s and Tonio’s presentation: sgibnev_weicker_infrastructures-as-fluidities_regensburg-2016

 

 

 

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