Beth E. Notar received her Ph.D. from Michigan Anthropology in 1999.
We reformulate Heidegger’s question in “Building Dwelling Thinking” to ask – What is the state of dwelling in our precarious and mobile age? – and consider the “politics of dwelling” in relation to the “politics of mobility”. Drawing on interviews with taxi cab drivers in Yangon (Rangoon) while stuck in traffic, we argue, drawing on Dwyer’s (2009) formulation for waiting, that while the taxi drivers engage in situational dwelling they do not and cannot engage in existential dwelling, due to the environmentally unsustainable “system of automobility” in which they are enmeshed. This article contributes to a discussion of the relationship among im/mobility, dwelling and sustainability, to research within mobility studies on marginalized mobile subjects and to an emerging urban social science within Burma.
A plastic bottle for water, a newspaper, a cell phone, a pair of sunglasses, a string of flowers, a picture of a monk or nat spirit, a small Buddha – these are the “companions” of a Yangon (Rangoon) taxi driver, other than the human “companions” – the passengers, the “orders” – he drives throughout the city, 12–14 hours each day.
“From 4am to 6pm”. “From 8am to 8pm”. Yangon taxi drivers are stuck in their mobility in increasingly worse traffic congestion, spending most of their time behind the wheel of their taxis – second-hand sedans from Japan imported on or off the books via the port of Yangon or overland from Thailand.
In this article, we examine Yangon taxi drivers’ experiences of im/mobility in the rapidly transforming metropolitan area of over seven million persons (“Yangon” 2014), and ask, although they are “stuck” in traffic and “stuck” behind the wheel of their cabs, although they must wait for fares, green lights and fuel, to what extent do they “dwell” in their taxis?