Sexual assault on public transport: Crowds, nation, and violence in the urban commons

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This article investigates sexual assault on commuter trains in Tokyo to unravel the folk theorizing that passengers engage in to make sense of sexual violence in the urban commons. Through what everyday conceptual work do commutersconstitute sexual violence on transit systems as a persistent aspect of city life? The discussion identifies national cultural discourses of gender and city crowds as key explanatory categories through which commuters diagnose and grapple with sexual violence on mass transit. Scenes of sexual assault on commuter trains in Tokyo bespeak the need for geographical analysis of stranger violence to articulate itself from the intersections between urban forms and manifestations of the nation in cities. By tracing these social relations on-the-move, the article highlights the value of bringing feminist studies of violence into dialogue with a sociology of urban crowds and critical geographies of public transportation. First, a focus on urban form reveals how the social properties of mass transit mediate violent intimacies between strangers in the city. Second, precisely because violence produces social knowledge by discriminating between people, analysis of sexual assault on public transport enables a more precise conceptualization of the links between passengering and urban social inequality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1087-1103
Number of pages17
JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2022

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© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


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