Call for Papers: Critical and Conceptual Advances in Urban Studies

Call for Papers: Critical and Conceptual Advances in Urban Studies

Call for Papers: Urban Transport as a Social Construct

Yingling Fan1, Astrid Wood2, and Evelyn Blumenberg3

1Professor of Urban and Regional Planning and Associate Dean for Faculty, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. 

2Senior Lecturer in Economic Geography, School of Geography, Politics, and Sociology, Newcastle University. 

3Professor of Urban Planning and Director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, Luskin School of Public Affairs, University of California, Los Angeles. 



Urban Transport as a Social Construct forms a pivotal segment of the 2024 Call for Papers initiative being launched by Urban Studies. This initiative, known as Critical and Conceptual Advances in Urban Studies, aspires to be a catalyst for groundbreaking research and thought-provoking discussions that will shape the future of urban studies and contribute to the sustainable and equitable development of cities around the globe. As a key part of this extensive initiative, the call for Urban Transport as a Social Construct seeks to foster a deeper, more nuanced understanding of urban transportation. It encourages a departure from conventional perspectives, catalysing new dialogues on how social, cultural, and political elements influence and are influenced by urban transport systems.



The Critical and Conceptual Advances in Urban Studies Call for Papers initiative sets against the backdrop of evolving urbanisation patterns and dynamic urban life seen globally, aims to fill gaps in urban scholarship, generate conversations, and spark seminal debates on how cities are being transformed, reshaped, and reimagined through diverse processes and actors.  The editorial team at Urban Studies welcome scholars from a wide range of disciplines to contribute new insights and approaches to understanding urban conditions, experiences, and social actions. It aims to foster a multidisciplinary, collaborative dialogue, encouraging innovative ideas and solutions for the challenges and opportunities presented by modern urbanisation. It represents a unique platform for exploring the diverse and dynamic nature of cities, their inhabitants, and the policies that shape them, ultimately contributing to a more inclusive and forward-thinking understanding of urban life.


The following themes have been identified so far under the Call for Papers Initiative:

  • Urban Transport as a Social Construct
  • Climate Urbanism, Resilience, and Justice
  • Platform Urbanism, Artificial Intelligence, and the City in the Metaverse
  • Urban Science, Big Data Analytics, and Digital Cities
  • Urban Democracy, Governance, and Social Movements in the City
  • Urbanism and Urbanisation in the Global South
  • Black and Indigenous Geographies and the Racialisation of Urban Spaces
  • Other-than-human Cities: Animals, Plants, and Urban Life
  • Urban Imaginations and Urban Futures
  • Urban Health Equity
  • Crime in Urban Contexts
  • Urbicide: The Lifecycle of Cities
  • Urban and Aging Population
  • Urbanisation, Violence, and Conflict

Each of these will be the subject of future specific calls.


The Critical and Conceptual Advances in Urban Studies Call for Papers initiative directly aligns with Urban Studies' mission to support pioneering research and stimulate critical debates that will influence the trajectory of urban studies. This initiative not only invites original research articles but also encourages submissions of critical commentaries or debate papers. For further details on these article types, refer to the Journal’s submission guidelines. This inclusive approach is expected to create synergy with other Journal initiatives, including webinars and podcasts. Dependent upon the number of submissions received under each thematic topic, special issues may be developed to increase the visibility of accepted papers. In addition, the Journal welcomes Special Issue proposals appropriately aligned to the Critical and Conceptual Advances in Urban Studies themes, especially when devised by scholars working in different geographies and disciplines.



Transportation has traditionally been viewed in terms of its physical and spatial characteristics, such as networks, flows, and nodes, focusing on the efficient movement of people and goods. While crucial for understanding the functional aspects of transportation systems, this perspective often overlooks the complex social dimensions underlying them. Recent scholarly work in transportation studies has begun to explore transportation as a socially constructed entity. This means that transportation systems do not exist as neutral entities; they are shaped by and, in turn, shape social structures, cultural norms, economic conditions, and the power dynamics of the societies in which they are embedded.

Using this thematic focus, the Journal invites contributions that explore the critical and radical dimensions of urban transport studies, especially through a social constructivist lens. We welcome papers that examine the deeper societal implications embedded within urban transportation systems and how these systems can act as a medium for broader social, cultural, and political narratives and change. We are particularly interested in papers offering conceptual depth and novelty that can advance theoretical understandings of urban transport. Contributions may address a range of topics, including but not limited to:


Theoretical Perspectives on Transportation as a Social Construct:

We invite submissions that critically examine the developmental trajectory of transportation studies, emphasising the paradigm shift from a physical-functionalist to a social constructivist perspective. We seek papers that stimulate rigorous and profound debates, revealing the underlying social preferences or biases in the design, implementation, and operation of transportation systems. Contributions should critically analyse and challenge the entrenched power structures and systemic inequalities within contemporary transportation systems, significantly contributing to the advancement of theoretical discourse in transportation studies.


Decolonial approaches to urban transport:

We invite submissions that explore the underlying coloniality and racism of transport systems as well as decolonial interventions. Papers that draw on indigenous and informal transport modes are especially welcome. These contributions should connect transport logics with decolonial discussions in geography, sociology and politics and reflect the burgeoning disciplinary debates on knowledge production and circulation.


Transportation Disparities and Environmental Justice:

Also welcome are studies investigating the interrelationships among socio-economic status, access to transportation resources, and exposure to transportation-related externalities such as pollution, gentrification and displacement, and safety threats. We invite comprehensive analyses on how transportation disparities and environmental justice issues disproportionately affect marginalised communities, especially how disparate exposure to transportation externalities can perpetuate socio-economic inequalities. We also seek studies evaluating policy roles in either deepening or mitigating these inequities. We are interested in research that not only highlights problems but also identifies actionable solutions or policy recommendations for enhancing environmental justice in urban mobility.


Cultural Influences on Transportation Choices:

Here the interest is in analyses of how cultural norms and values inform and shape individual and collective transportation preferences and policies. We encourage submissions that delve into how different cultures perceive and prioritise various modes of transportation, such as car ownership, public transit usage, and alternative mobility options like cycling or walking. Papers might explore the symbolic meanings attached to different transportation modes within various cultural contexts, and how these meanings influence both personal choices and broader transportation policies. Additionally, studies could examine the societal implications of these transportation choices, including their impact on social status, community connectivity, and environmental attitudes. Research in this area should aim to illuminate the often-underappreciated cultural dimensions of transportation and offer insights into how cultural understanding can inform more responsive and inclusive transportation planning and policy-making.


Gendered Transportation, Family Structure, and the Dynamics of Caregiving:

Addressing these issues requires research examining the intricate ways in which caregiving responsibilities, gender roles, and family structure significantly shape transportation needs and behaviors. We encourage studies that scrutinise the nuanced transportation challenges faced by different gender and family structure groups, especially in relation to caregiving duties. Contributions should explore how these responsibilities dictate unique mobility choices and necessitate the adaptation of transportation systems. Such papers might include analysis of gender-specific safety concerns, mobility and accessibility issues associated with specific family structures, and the integration of diverse mobility and accessibility needs into transportation planning and policies.


Transportation, Health, and Well-Being:

Transportation is a crucial contributor to health and overall well-being; it not only directly shapes the social and physical environments in a myriad of ways but also determines the type of places where people can live, learn, work and play in their everyday life. We welcome submissions that dissect the various ways transportation systems affect physical and mental health, including how they intersect with and influence broader social determinants of health. Papers might explore topics such as the effects of transportation on access to healthcare, healthy food, social connection, and fitness opportunities; the psychological effects arising from the use of various modes of transportation; and the broader public health implications of transportation policies. Moreover, for those experiencing housing precarity, transportation environments can serve as informal shelters, offering places to sleep and opportunities for requesting money and food. We highly encourage papers that enhance our conceptual understanding of the diverse pathways and mechanisms through which transportation affects health and well-being, particularly for vulnerable and underserved populations.


Transportation as a Social and Cultural Space:

Submissions are invited of papers investigating transportation not merely as a practical means to connect people to destinations but as a space for social interaction, a reflection of social norms and behaviors, and a site of cultural production. We encourage papers that explore social dynamics within transportation settings, examining how these spaces act as microcosms of larger societal patterns and cultural practices. Submissions could explore how transportation influences community connections and potentially alleviates or reinforces social segregation. Papers might investigate how various forms of transportation, such as public transit and sidewalks, act as creative spaces and sites for cultural production, such as through busking, public art investments, and curatorship within stations and on vehicles using billboards and other mediums. Papers might also delve into the ways social norms are manifested within these environments and how individuals navigate and negotiate transportation spaces. We are particularly interested in research that highlights the significance of transportation as a space where various elements of urban life converge and the character of that interaction. While a recent special issue, Public Transport as Public Space in Urban Studies (Volume 60, Issue 15), has addressed some aspects of this subtheme, we recognise that public transport does not represent the full spectrum of transportation modes that can create social and cultural spaces. We welcome papers that address a wide range of transportation modes, expanding the discourse on their societal and cultural significance.


The Human Toll of Transportation Inequity:

We seek papers that explore the profound human impact of transportation inequity, understanding that transportation systems often mirror and reinforce the social structures and cultural assumptions predominantly shaped by dominant racial or cultural groups. Papers are expected to ignite critical and radical discussions by focusing on the transportation experiences of underserved communities. For these communities, the importance of transportation transcends the mere quality and maintenance of infrastructure. It touches upon fundamental aspects of human dignity, including the ability to secure stable housing, access to employment that offers a living wage, and the maintenance of crucial social connections with family and friends. We encourage submissions that examine the broader implications of transportation inequity on the daily lives and societal participation of underserved populations. Studies focusing on the lived experiences of underserved communities within transportation systems are particularly welcome.



Authors interested in contributing to this theme have two options for submission: 1) full-length paper submission, and 2) abstract submission for prioritised assessment.


Full-Length Paper Submission:

Urban Studies encourages researchers to respond to this call through existing paper submission mechanisms at the Journal as soon as possible if you have a full-length paper ready for submission. To do so:

  • Submit your full-length papers at any time to Urban Studies via
  • Ensure your cover letter explicitly states that the submission is in response to this call, and please include the call’s full title Urban Transport as a Social Construct in your cover letter.
  • The standard peer-review process of the Journal will apply, including pre-screening by a theme lead. If the paper passes pre-screening, it will undergo review by external reviewers in the normal way.


Abstract Submission for Prioritised Assessment

We encourage researchers who are still in the process of data collection, analysis, and/or writing to submit an abstract of 500 words outlining your research by Friday 28 June 2024 or earlier to Julia Macbeth at [email protected]. Specifically:

  • Abstracts will be reviewed on a rolling basis and those selected for advancement to a full manuscript invitation will be informed by Friday 19 July 2024 or earlier.
  • If invited, the submission of the full manuscript will be by Friday 11 October 2024 or earlier. All invited manuscripts will be peer-reviewed following the standard USJ guidelines.

Note that we strongly encourage authors to submit abstracts and papers before the suggested deadlines. We will process abstract and paper submissions as and when received. The invited full manuscript submissions will be prioritised during the internal screening and external review processes at the Journal to facilitate rapid response. In addition, unlike standard special issues that are published as a group when they are ready, the Journal is committed to the timely publication of the accepted papers under this call. The Journal will curate the accepted papers as an online collection and publish them individually in hardcopy as and when they are ready.


Thank you for your consideration. We appreciate your interest and are excited to receive your contributions, which will help advance the dialogue on understanding transportation as a social construct.