Andrew Baldwin: Mobility and the Anthropocene: Rethinking The Route via the Planetary

16. November 2023

Andrew Baldwin (Durham)
Mobility and the Anthropocene: Rethinking The Route via the Planetary

This paper rethinks the ‘figure of the route’ in the context of the Anthropocene by placing it in dialog with the concept of the Planetary. ‘The route’ is conventionally understood as the path one follows to get from one location to another. In this way, the route comes to play a defining role as the means, or infrastructure, that enables a broad range of mobilities. The route shapes the everyday mobilities of commuting, for example. But it also plays a key role in transnational patterns of mobility, for example, in the form of migratory routes and trade routes. However, with the advent of the Anthropocene, and the commensurate ‘geologic turn’ in the humanities and interpretive social sciences, the paper sets out to challenge this prosaic understanding of the route. It argues that the route, and its corresponding routinization, should be rethought as a geosocial formation, an attribute of human social, economic, and political life that cannot be conceptualized independently from planet Earth and the processes of which Earth is composed. To develop this idea, the paper draws empirically from the migratory routes that have played so central a role in shaping the petroleum-based economy of the United Arab Emirates.

Andrew Baldwin is a professor of human geography at Durham University. His research examines how ideas about migration and mobility shape contemporary political discourses on climate change and the Anthropocene. His books include The Other of Climate Change: Racial Futurism, Migration, Humanism (2022) and Life Adrift: Climate Change, Migration, Critique (2017).