Research Team: USA

IMG_0295bearbUnion Station in Washington, D.C. (credit: Julia Hildebrand)

The US Research Project:

The Imaginary of Rail Transport and Mobilities in the United States

We are conducting a qualitative study of how decision-makiers, policy-makers and passengers think about rail travel in three different regions of the United States, as part of a wider cross-national study of the future of rail funded by the Mobile Lives Forum (Paris). The aim is to understand the “imaginaire” of rail, a French term meaning the collective representations or shared perceptions, that may influence decision making around the future development of rail projects. In particular, we are interested in the potential development of higher speed passenger rail in the Northeast Corridor (NEC), the Mid-West, and California.

The US Research Team:


Allen Batteau

Allen W. Batteau is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Wayne State University.  Dr. Batteau received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1978, and has held positions at Michigan State University (Associate Professor), the Institute for Illinois (founder and Executive Director), and Wizdom Systems,  Inc. (Director of Research).  In 1984-85 Dr. Batteau held the American Anthropological Association’s Congressional Fellowship, under which he worked on economic development legislation in the U.S. Senate.

He is the author of The Invention of Appalachia (University of Arizona Press, 1990), “Negations and Ambiguities in the Cultures of Organization” (American Anthropologist), “Lab Apps and Production Environments” (Social Science Computing Review), “Anthropology with an Altitude” (Anthropology News), “New Views on Aviation Human Factors,” (Human Factors in Aerospace Safety), “The Anthropology of Aviation and Flight Safety” (Human Organization), “Aggressive Technology in a Century of Industrial Disasters” (Practicing Anthropology), plus numerous articles on regional studies, technology, and organizational culture.


Mimi Sheller

Dr. Mimi Sheller is Professor of Sociology and founding Director of the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy at Drexel University. She is founding co-editor of the journal Mobilities; Associate Editor of the journal Transfers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies; and serves on the Scientific Board of the Mobile Lives Forum and on the Michelin Challenge Bibendum Task Force on Road Safety and Connected Mobility. As co-editor, with John Urry, of Mobile Technologies of the City (Routledge, 2006), Tourism Mobilities (Routledge, 2004) and several key articles, she helped to establish the new interdisciplinary field of mobilities research. Her recent books are Aluminum Dreams: The Making of Light Modernity (MIT Press, 2014); the co-edited Routledge Handbook of Mobilities (Routledge, 2013); and the co-edited book Mobility and Locative Media: Mobile communication in hybrid spaces (Routledge, 2015).

She was awarded her A.B. from Harvard University (1988, summa cum laude) in History and Literature, and MA (1993) and PhD (1997) in Sociology and Historical Studies from the New School for Social Research. She has held Visiting Fellowships at the Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University (2008-09); Media@McGill in Montreal, Canada (2009); the Center for Mobility and Urban Studies at Aalborg University, Denmark (2009); and the Penn Humanities Forum at the University of Pennsylvania (2010-11). She has also authored several books in Caribbean Studies, including Democracy After Slavery (2000); Consuming the Caribbean (2003); and Citizenship from Below (2012).


Susan Zielinski

Susan Zielinski is the first and current Managing Director of SMART (Sustainable Mobility & Accessibility Research & Transformation) at the University of Michigan. In 2006 she was engaged to grow the SMART initiative and eco-system as a key global catalyst for transforming transportation (and the emerging New Mobility industry) for an increasingly complex and urbanizing world. Just before joining SMART she spent a year as a Harvard Loeb Fellow focused on New Mobility innovation. Before that, she spent 15 years at the City of Toronto Planning Department developing programs and policies advancing innovative, integrative, sustainable transport; healthy cities, green tourism, and green industry and economic development.

She also developed and directed “Moving the Economy”, a municipality-based “link tank” focused on New Mobility innovation and economic development. There she commissioned the first formal study on the emerging global New Mobility industry. Ongoing, she advises to a wide range of local and global agencies and businesses, including Ford Motor Company, the World Economic Forum, the World Business Council on Susatainable Development, the OECD International Transport Forum, the National Academy of Sciences, theTransportation Research Board, and more.

2772bd0Fred Gamst

Frederick Gamst taught at Rice University and the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He received the Conrad Arensberg Award for anthropology of work and industry in 1995. He worked in the US and Canadian rail industries for 58 years as employee, researcher, and consultant (railroads, rail unions, government agencies).

avatarMaria Roti

Maria R. Roti received her PhD in cultural anthropology from Wayne State University in 2014. Her dissertation topic focused on Russian business practices, from the perspective of both Russian entrepreneurs who engage in semi-legal behaviors and from multi-national corporations who are able to circumvent the gray areas of business. She is currently a research assistant on the imagineTrains project at Wayne State University, which is funded by the Mobile Lives Forum of the National Society of French Railways (SNCF).

Komal Anand, SMART light smallKomal Anand Doshi

Komal Anand Doshi works at SMART (Sustainable Mobility & Accessibility Research & Transformation) to catalyze and support global collaborations that demonstrate a systems approach to achieve integrated, user-focused, equitable and sustainable transportation in global urban regions, and resulting economic opportunity. She is also the co-developer and project manager of the MobiPlatform (MobiPrize, MobiNet and MobiLab) a global platform for entrepreneurs and industry players in the emerging New Mobility (sustainable transportation) industry. Her research and project management work focuses on understanding the trends and opportunities that are emerging in the field of sustainable transportation) along with focusing on new integration models and new business models that accelerate New Mobility implementation and related industry and economic development.

Julia Hildebrand small

Julia Hildebrand

Julia M. Hildebrand, M.A. is a doctoral student in Communication, Culture, and Media at Drexel University. She earned her BA in American Studies with a double minor in Media Studies and Intercultural Communication at the University of Regensburg, Germany. During her MA degree in Comparative Media at the same institution, she drew on experiences from two study abroad semesters to explore research and education in Communication and Media at the Hawai’i Pacific University and Ateneo de Manila University. For her Master’s thesis, she analyzed the shift in the perception of space and mobility in paradigmatic film and video projects about everyday life on Earth. At Drexel University, she is working as a research assistant on the ImagineTrains project, which is funded by the Mobile Lives Forum of the National Society of French Railways (SNCF).

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