Mobility transitions are crucial for reaching global sustainability goals — however, the ambitious goals are barely met. Current projections predict that the measures taken are by far not sufficient to guarantee timely decarbonisation. We believe, the failure is due to a pervasive reliance on technological fixes, eurocentrism, and a simplistic understanding of power relations.

Currently, the mobility transitions toolbox relies on socio-technical innovations: e-mobility, digitalised and networked mobility options, shared ownership and consumption. In European public discourse, mobility transitions are framed as a necessary endeavour, aiming at a mitigation of CO2 emissions, as a central component of the Paris Agreement 2° goals. Mobility transitions include the move away from fossil fuels towards sustainable resources (“decarbonisation”), and new, sustainable mobility formats and cultures for both people and goods aiming at reducing energy consumption. Further goals include the mitigation of health risks and traffic-related accidents, improved quality of live, and smooth traffic flows. Electric and autonomous driving are being promoted as major components of both mobility transitions and Europe’s response to the challenges of the move towards data-driven manufacturing (“Industry 4.0”).

This project, instead, emphasises the contentious character of mobility transitions, and the underlying conflictual experiences of modernisation, digitalisation and globalisation. We explore unintended consequences and adverse effects, complex local-to-global, core-to-periphery (and back) dynamics of mobility transitions, and their everyday negotiations. Doing so, we adopt a decolonial perspective to explore dependencies, inequalities, and conditions of coloniality in terms of knowledge and power disparities. The recent “gilets jaunes” protests in France, which have emerged in response to “elitist” fuel taxation plans, and the positioning of the German populist AfD party as “saviour of the diesel engine” underline the academic and societal need for a re-conceptualisation of mobility transitions.

This project brings a novel lens to mobility transitions literature by combining critical mobilities research and post-Soviet decolonial thinking. CoMoDe opens up new pathways for devising policy instruments able to contribute to environmentally viable and socially inclusive mobility futures. The project conceptualised mobility transitions beyond technocratic fixes, and adopts a perspective sensitive to emic perceptions and power constellations, opening up a novel academic perspective on the topic, still unexplored in human geography and mobility studies.

Empirically, the project is set at the post-Soviet periphery, where mobility transitions arise in most salient and contentious ways. The region is marked by sharp crisis and change, and multi-layered conditions of modernity and coloniality, which promises an exceptional density of insights and transferable outcomes.

Study cases include:

  • Labour contentions of transport workers: implications for livelihoods, navigating new technologies and modernisation policies;
  • Regulations and resistances in new digital mobility services: capital circuits and power constellations in a salient but understudied field;
  • Public transport enthusiasts and activists: circuits of knowledge production, contested ideals of modernity.

The envisioned sub-projects carried out by the PI, post-doc and two PhDs, bring the yet side-lined post-Soviet region to the attention of global academic discourse. The novel, decolonial, perspectives out of the periphery are slated to change mobility transitions paradigms and policies as we knew them.

The project is funded by the Leibniz Association as part of the “Leibniz Junior Research Group” programme from 2020 until 2025. It is carried out by the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography (IfL) in Leipzig, Germany.