Accepted Paper:

Trains of affect: slowness and postsocialist imaginaries  


Adrian Deoanca (University of MichiganUniversity of Bucharest)

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates the ways that the slowness of Romanian trains functions as a material quality that inspires both abjection and the possibility of a more sustainable postindustrial future.

Paper long abstract:

Romanian trains have a bad reputation for being slow, all-to-often late, and quite shabby materially. Once a paragon of state-sponsored technological modernity, the Romanian railway system now stands for backwardness and desolation, plagued by overexploitation in the 1980s (Murgescu 2010; Ștefan 2015; Turnock 2006), and then by neoliberal politics aimed to unbundle (Collier 2011) the vertically-integrated Romanian Railways Company. Despite their poor condition and the growing prevalence of roads, the rails continue to carry substantial numbers of passengers, as they are deemed more affordable, secure, environmentally sustainable, and capable to deliver a less stressful means of travel.

This paper, informed by ongoing mobile ethnography in Southern Romania, explores the types of conflicting and complementary visions of modernity constrained and invited by the slowness of trains. It is suggested that, with respect to Romanian trains, 'slowness' functions both as an affordance (sensu Gibson 1979), that fuels reinterpretations of an industrial past and imaginaries of a more sustainable future, and as a material qualia (Munn 1992; Peirce 1955) that invites social commentary and affective responses from passengers.

Panel P069
Slow travelling: a precious heritage or a sustainable strategy for future mobilities? [ANTHROMOB & IUAES-Tourism]