A blocking highway: clashing regimes of mobility on Romania's western border
Florin Faje (Babes-Bolyai University)
Paper short abstract:
My ethnography documents the contestations over reduced mobility between agriculturalists and public officials in the town of Nădlac due to the construction of a highway connecting Romania and Hungary. I argue that local spatial and ecological knowledge is key in improving future regimes of mobility
Paper long abstract:
My research explores a case where improved spatial mobility greatly disrupted locally entrenched mobility regimes. The construction of the highway and border crossing between Romania and Hungary, bypassing the town of Nădlac, severed the access of agriculturalists to half of their arable land. The locals, the largest Slovakian community in Romania, mounted a struggle to show that by rendering them immobile their livelihood is in peril. The pubic contestation made it to the higher echelons of European politics and included the staged funeral of "local agriculture" on the streets of Nădlac . This clash of mobility regimes is particularly revealing in that it pitted against each other local and national visions of mobility development, mediated by EU's intervention. On the one hand, new highways are the outstanding material icon of post-socialist Romanian modernization. The widely shared post-socialist political consensus holds that facilitating the circulation of people, goods and services on roads assures the upscaling of the economy and society. On the other hand, the agriculturalists showed the limits that road infrastructure pose for established regimes of mobility. They proved that locally specific needs and ecological knowledge are key in creating spaces where different regimes of mobility could coexist and thrive. Consequently, I argue that the spatial and social disruptions brought about by new infrastructures could be mitigated by acknowledging existing forms of mobility and accommodating the knowledges and practices they are made of.
The winding roads: infrastructures and technologies of (im)mobility