Accepted Paper:

Bonding: how the first electric tramway of Latin America transforms social connections  


Laura Kemmer (University Hamburg and Technical University Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the co-construction of transport infrastructures and practices of social connectivity by orienting attention to the first e-tram of Latin America. The affective power of single techno-material elements shape movements and spatio-temporal constellations beyond the local.

Paper long abstract:

During its over 120 years of existence, the Bonde ("tramway") of Rio de Janeiro has acquired a meaning that goes well beyond providing physical access to the city. The construction of the tramway-technology has since its beginnings in the early twentieth century shaped local modes of social connectivity. Drawing from archival- and fieldwork between 2014-16 I show how the very techno-material design of the tramway has transformed the way people relate to each other - and to the space-times they inhabit. I suggest that everyday practices in urban public space are influenced by single elements of the Bonde to such extend that a footboard serves as "prolongation of the sidewalk". Focusing on local protests for a tram come-back during its suspension between 2011-15, I show how the possible introduction of features such as an electronic breaking system, GPS-tracking, or new ways of ticketing have brought together not only bourgeois and favela inhabitants of/with one specific neighborhood. By attending to the affective forces that transport technologies give rise to, my overall aim here is to open up a conceptual space to imagine the entanglements of local cultures with global policies, and how they play out in specific movements and socio-spatial constellations.

Panel WIM-GF05
Technology, movement, and the cultural production of meaning