Mobility is a defining feature of postindustrial, globalized societies. In critical theory, models of institutional mobility emphasize large corporations colonizing local economies, but what about smaller and more street-based forms of institutional movement? This essay looks at bookmobiles as a way of thinking about the politics of institutional mobility, drawing on case studies in Port au Prince, Haiti, and a Palestinian community in Haifa, Israel. The essay considers the coextensive relationships between institutions and infrastructure as illustrated by the circulation of media, practices, and memories. Contexts of economic and political precarity both produce the motivation for sponsoring bookmobiles and sharpen the contours of relationships between institutions, infrastructure, people, and texts. A critique of bookmobiles opens up two avenues of theoretical implications: first, as a model for institutional fragmentation and, second, as a catalyst for reimagining relationships to and the capacities of infrastructure.
A Bookmobile Critique of Institutions, Infrastructure, and Precarious Mobility
Jessa Lingel is an assistant professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studies digital culture and technological distributions of power. A former librarian, she is currently a John W. Kluge Fellow in Digital Studies at the Library of Congress.
Jessa Lingel; A Bookmobile Critique of Institutions, Infrastructure, and Precarious Mobility. Public Culture 1 May 2018; 30 (2): 305–327. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-4310942
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