Call for Papers: Session on “Aviation and shipping. Blind spots within the debate over sustainable mobilities” (STS Conference Graz, 06-07/05/2019)

This is a call for abstracts at the Annual STS Conference in Graz which takes place on the 6th and 7th of May 2019. The extended deadline for submission is 28 January 2019. You can find further information here:

Organizers: Mirko Suhari (Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen), Mario Neukirch (University of Stuttgart)

S15: Aviation and shipping. Blind spots within the debate over sustainable mobilities

The session aims to shed light on the potentials, limits, and challenges of greening aviation and shipping as being vastly unexplored fields in the debate of sustainable mobilities. Whereas the electrification of car traffic, urban public transport infrastructures, or bicycle cultures are regularly addressed as key topics, the transport of goods and people in the air and at sea tend to fall short of comprehensive analysis. However, new initiatives, particularly in the maritime sector, searching for alternative fuels and new driveline technologies indicate increased attention of economic actors towards lowering their carbon footprints. In this context, the growing number of flights, cruise vessels, ocean cargo, and the associated harbour and airport infrastructures are relevant fields of analysis.

Considering the aspect of sustainability, aviation and shipping not only have in common that they receive little attention in public, policy, and STS discourses. As both sectors are growing year by year, their development (whether incrementally greening or not) will have a bigger effect on several agendas such as climate policy as well as regional effects on nature, environment and health. Beyond this, there are strong differences between both sectors: In contrast to shipping, in the aviation sector “green technologies” seem far out of sight. Apart from cruise shipping, the ocean traffic is dominated by the transport of goods. Compared to that, for aviation, the mobility of people is much more relevant. The availability of low-cost flights even became an institution in western societies. Thus, we don’t primarily aim for direct comparisons between both technologies, but rather discuss them as neglected issues in the discourse of sustainable mobilities.

For this purpose, the proposed session will deal with economic, political, cultural, social and technical aspects. Bearing in mind the international dimension of mobility leads to questions concerned with global inequalities and interdependencies. Bringing into view the different sectorial practices, institutions, and imaginaries may enhance our understanding of sustainability transitions in a globalized world. We also encourage papers that discuss the role of consumer practices, resource intensive lifestyles, and environmental awareness. In how far the reference to cultural aspects is giving sufficient explanations for the mobility’s tendency of “unlimited growth”? Do, for example, carbon offsetting practices to compensate flight emissions and new eco-friendly travelling initiatives contribute to more sustainable ways of organizing leisure and holiday? Or do these ideas just bring about contradictory and unintended effects, e.g. stabilizing and legitimizing unsustainable mobility regimes? Finally, we are strongly interested in theoretical perspectives: How do path-dependencies just as organizational and institutional lock-ins perpetuate established routines and impede change? What kind of governance arrangements and regulative frameworks may support technical breakthroughs and social innovations, and what are the conditions of more incremental change? Are there emerging niche-and-regime-dynamics or conflict fields like they are known from the energy sector?