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Contentious Moves: The Freedom Riders in the U.S.A., Australia and Israel/Palestine

A Transnational Study

The Freedom Riders of 1961 combined a group of socially, racially, gendered and religiously mixed persons intending to test the legal ruling and challenge the segregation of the transportation system in the United States. As an integral part of the Civil Rights Movement, it impacted other similar struggles on a global scale which all campaigned for the “freedom to move”. Movements inspired by the US Freedom Rides occurred in Australia in 1965 and in Israel and the Palestinian Territories since 2011.

This project will provide the first comprehensive analysis of the Freedom Rides in a transnational perspective. It explores the transnational history of the Freedom Rides as they played out in the United States, Australia and present-day Israel/Palestine by focusing on the “constellations of mobility” (Cresswell 2010). Considering the state of research, two historiographical desiderata become obvious: First, starting out from a transnational perspective I will explore how the social movement of the Freedom Riders in the United States was adapted, translated, and moved across time and space. Second, I will investigate the specific constellations of mobility as historically and geographically specific formations of movement. These two connected approaches will make an essential contribution to the transnational studies of social movements as well as to the field of mobility studies. Foremost, this project speaks to the pressing questions of the past and present concerning the politics and inequalities of mobilities impacting different social groups in different ways. Likewise, from a historical perspective it will give answers to the recently increasing interest in the possibilities and limits of social movements in a globalized environment.