Authored by: Matthew Paterson

The Routledge Handbook of Mobilities

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  January  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415667715
eBook ISBN: 9781315857572
Adobe ISBN: 9781317934134


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Carbon has become increasingly pervasive as a signifier for the socio-ecological dimensions of mobilities. It could be argued it has attained the status of an empty signifier – standing in for long chains of equivalence, subsuming food, transport, housing, cooking, forests, oceans, and so on in a single fetishized frame of reference. As a concept, it has itself become mobile, ceasing to be a simple reference for a specific chemical element, becoming instead a signifier of personal virtue and vice, novel financial markets, innovative industrial practices, and a whole host of other things. Conversely, this discursive reframing has enabled the construction of new property rights that directly re-mobilize ‘actual’ carbon, in the form of ‘carbon credits’ and other carbonified financial instruments, as well as in practices like ‘carbon capture and storage.’ Perhaps surprisingly however, it has received little attention within the turn to mobilities in recent research (for a notable exception, see Urry 2011, especially ch. 5). This chapter seeks to fill this gap and explores how carbon has come to be so mobile, and interrogates the consequences of its unleashing.

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