文化研究國際中心

Relating Railways and Trains: Notes on Dr. Celine Belledent’s Seminar

  • 2019-02-27
  • emily

Relating Railways and Trains: Notes on Dr. Celine Belledent’s Seminar
by Desmond Sham
 
Since its invention, the railway has been transforming people’s perception of time and space. Dr. Celine Belledent believes that railway and train is not only transport for people and goods, but also moves emotions. In her talk “Railway and Trains: A Set of Relations”, Dr. Celine Belledent attempted to map a set of relations of railways and trains, in particular, that of France and the French colonial empire. She is interested in how to question and observe the bodies and affects.

According to Dr. Belledent, the development of train in France was historically primarily for transporting goods. It was only after people climbing on trains for goods, railway companies began to operate trains for passengers. In the process of industrialization and the building of railways, many farmers were turned into workers. The understanding of railways primarily for goods, and using it as fuel to implement progress and development was in particular obvious in the colonial empire. In many French colonies, railways and trains were even more goods-oriented, while costs were further cut down. For instance, less wood was used in building the railway in the colonies. Meanwhile, many railways in the colonies were funded almost entirely by colonies, yet the colonized were less likely to travel on it. Dr. Belledent argued that colonizers even believed that railways and trains even brought the notions of “value of time, of money, and of saving” (Jules Harmand) to the colonized population.

Throughout the talk, from the past to the present, Dr. Belledent also articulated issues of violence, race and ethnicity, nationalization and privatization, relationship of major cities and poor towns, the nation-state and refugees, through the railways and trains. Members of audience were able to relate her talk with the personal experiences and knowledge backgrounds. During the discussion, members of audience, for instance, also suggested how the railways and trains have become a place of racial profiling, wondered whether and how the railway networks in the metropolis and colonies had significant differences, and the context of militarization of the space in train and stations.

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