Public transport as a 'contact zone' in urban multicultures — ASN Events

Public transport as a 'contact zone' in urban multicultures (17072)

Kurt Iveson 1 , Ruth Fincher 2
  1. University of Sydney, Darlington, NSW, Australia
  2. The University of Melbourne, Melbourne

In our previous work on diversity in cities, we argued that the provision of opportunities for encounter should be one of the guiding principles of policy interventions designed to foster more just cities. But of course, not all encounters contribute to social justice. Encounters do not have a pre-determined politics – they can work against or reinforce prejudice, they can promote or undermine assimilationist ideologies, etc. This has led us and other scholars to seek out the various geographies, conditions and practices of encounter that might sustain urban multicultures in which inclusion is not predicated on assimilation.


In this paper, we contribute to that work by considering public transport networks as spaces of encounter. As mobilities scholars have emphasized, train carriages, station platforms, buses, and bus stops are simultaneously infrastructures of movement and places of situated practice and experiences. The paper will focus in particular on the ways in which embodied encounters in transit spaces are mediated by infrastructural elements that ostensibly have nothing to do with multiculture or encounter per se, such as timetabling, fare structures, and network staffing. We reflect on how these infrastructural elements can influence the contours and prospects of urban multicultures.