The Relational and Experiential Qualities of an Ambiguous Concept

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Noel B. Salazar KU Leuven, Belgium

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In this article, I discuss immobility as both an analytical concept and a lived experience. I review contemporary scholarly understandings of immobility and disentangle the unavoidable relational dynamics with its positive linguistic opposite, mobility. Concrete illustrations from migration studies and the global coronavirus crisis illustrate how immobility, at various scales of analysis and experience, is not only theoretically but also socially, economically, and politically relevant. Together with the in-depth review of existing scholarship, these examples confirm that the conceptual distinction made between immobility and mobility is often purely heuristic. In the messiness of people's lives, mobility and immobility are not mutually exclusive categories but, rather, two dynamic sides of the same coin.

Contributor Notes

Noel B. Salazar is Professor in Anthropology at KU Leuven, Belgium. He is editor of the Worlds in Motion (Berghahn) book series, coeditor of Pacing Mobilities (2020), Methodologies of Mobility (2017), Keywords of Mobility (2016), Regimes of Mobility (2014), and Tourism Imaginaries (2014), and author of Momentous Mobilities (2018), Envisioning Eden (2010), and numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on mobility and travel. He is secretary-general of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES), past president of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA), and founder of the EASA Anthropology and Mobility Network (AnthroMob). Email:

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Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies


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