David Bissell, "Transit Life: How Commuting Is Transforming Our Cities" (MIT Press, 2018)


What kind of time do we endure on our daily commutes? What kind of space do we occupy? What new sorts of urbanites do we thereby become? In Transit Life: How Commuting Is Transforming Our Cities (MIT Press, 2018), geographer David Bissell contends that to commute is to enter a highly eventful domain, an atmosphere in which new “capsular collectives” form and reform, opening onto new political and ethical possibilities for being in public. With Sydney, Australia, as its setting, Transit Life develops a non-representational geography on the move, attentive to the blockages and flows that give infrastructural life its contours. Dwelling on embodiment, temporality, sound and other senses, and a broadly Deleuzian vision of micropolitics, Bissell makes the case that the commute should be understood as anything but an empty interval of time, passively submitted to and upheld only through the force of habit. Rather, he contends, out of its repetition emerges a richly differentiated palette of urban encounters, subjectivities, and agencies. If urban life is increasingly spent in transit, Bissell suggests, geographers’ interventions should begin with an interest in its rhythms.

Peter Ekman teaches in the departments of geography at Sonoma State University and the University of California, Berkeley. He received the Ph.D. from Berkeley in 2016, and is at work on two book projects on the cultural and historical geography of urban America across the long twentieth century. He can be reached at psrekman@berkeley.edu.

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