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Introduction

Migrants, mobility, and mobilization

Pauline Gardiner Barber and Winnie Lem

This issue brings together the work of researchers who seek to illuminate the class configurations of contemporary global diasporas. Contributions proceed by problematizing the relationship between political mobilization and the class locations of women and men as they negotiate and renegotiate the social conditions under which they make a living as émigrés, people who are subject to and participants in the processes of global change. Although class and culture, as well as mobility and fixity, are often presented as oppositional lenses though which to view global transformations, articles in this issue explore the possibilities for translation of particularized local or cultural concerns into broader collective mobilizations of class activism, nationalist claims, or struggles for entitlement in the circumscribed political spaces migrants seek to create. The gender, ethnic, local, national, and other cultural components of identity and class formation are made explicit as contributors question how and why political struggles and activism may, or indeed may not, be carried forward in geographic and social border crossings as well as citizenship and migration scenarios. It is the contention of each contributor that any instance of activism, and also its absence, requires sustained critical examination of the politics and economics of its production and reproduction.

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Judith A. Nicholson and Mimi Sheller

Race matters. “Too often scholars discuss mobility in the abstract, assuming or omitting the highly consequential matter of the identity of those who move and its effects on how they move.” This special issue on Mobility and Race has invited contributors to rethink how unequal relations of power inherent in both mobility and race shape a racialized mobility politics. Th e articles that follow examine what Cotten Seiler has called the “racialization of mobility,”2 meaning the ways in which “the modern practices and institutions of mobility have been and remain highly racialized.”

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Introduction

Postcolonial Intersections. Asia on the Move

Mayurakshi Chaudhuri and Viola Thimm

The past decade has witnessed an exponential growth in literature on the diverse forms, practices, and politics of mobility. Research on migration has been at the forefront of this field. Themes in this respect include heterogeneous practices that have developed out of traditions of resistance to a global historical trajectory of imperialism and colonialism. In response to such historical transformations of recent decades, the nature of postcolonial inquiry has evolved. Such changing postcolonial trajectories and power negotiations are more pronounced in specific parts of the world than in others. To that end, “Postcolonial Intersections: Asia on the Move” is a special section that engages, examines, and analyzes everyday power negotiations, focusing particularly on Asia. Such everyday negotiations explicitly point to pressure points and movements across multiple geosocial scales where gender, religion, age, social class, and caste, to name a few, are constantly negotiated and redefined via changing subjectivities.

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"Traffic"

On the Historical Alignment of Media and Mobility

Dorit Müller and Heike Weber

In a nineteenth century context, traffic could mean both communication and the transportation of goods and people. For instance, the German term “traffic” (Verkehr), referred to “communicating” (verkehren) and to “traffic”/“transportation” (Verkehr). Historically speaking, before the age of telegraphy, any communication over distance required the physical transport of a message or a messenger. Many authors, thus, identified the latter as a fundamental caesura in the relationship between media and mobility, uncoupling media from their previous reliance on physical movement. At the same time, telegraphy and the railway formed a paradigmatic symbiosis that enforced the ongoing duality between media and mobility: traffic depended on and sometimes boosted communication and vice versa. Hence, traffic and media were not disconnected as such, but their connections were rearranged and new ones emerged while others such as the postal services persisted.

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Student Mobility and Internationalisation

Rationales, Rhetoric and 'Institutional Isomorphism'

Vered Amit

Drawing on interviews with Canadian and Australian officials, this article examines the frame of student mobility within the broad discourse of internationalisation. Difficulties in definition and admitted shortfalls in achieving progress even on the more easily articulated benchmarks of student mobility, do not seem to staunch the enthusiasm of a variety of officials for the idea of internationalisation. This article will examine some of the contradictions framing these institutional discourses of internationalisation. These include the gaps between institutional claims and their substantiation, between lauding the internationalism inculcated by student mobility programmes and the more mixed motivations or engagements of student clients, and between claims for the entrepreneurial potential of internationalisation as against the uncertainty of its outcomes. I argue that a long-standing Western view of travel as a vehicle for self-cultivation and transformation combined with competitive efforts to keep up with perceived trends in the fields of post-secondary education are producing a momentum that is elusive even as it threatens to bulldoze its way across important institutional practices and procedures.

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Home and Away

Place Appreciation and Purposeful Relocation in Later Life

Neil Thin

Worldwide, people’s attachments to places are typically ambivalent, and complemented by desires for mobility and scene-changing. So to understand relationships between place and wellbeing, we need to look beyond the simple idea that some kinds of place, local characteristics and place attachments make people’s lives go better. Places matter, but wellbeing is not environmentally determined, it is a complex outcome of lifelong interactions between people and places. Some of these are conscious and deliberate, and some involve deliberate relocation as well as processes of attachment. This article supplements the environmental determinism of ‘good place’ theories, and the social constructionism of ‘healthy place attachment’ theories, with recommendations for a systematic approach to mapping and analysing how wellbeing happens. It pays particular attention to deliberate ‘place appreciation’, which refers to these dynamic interactions through which people actively derive value from places. Ethnographic examples of deliberate ecological self-improvement in later life are explored to highlight three kinds of place-related wellbeing strategies: place-making, local mobility and relocation. A simple analytical system is proposed to highlight the potential relevance to policy and practice of a systematic sociocultural ecology of wellbeing.

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Jelena Tošić and Annika Lems

Th is contribution introduces the collection of texts in this special section of Migration and Society exploring contemporary patterns of im/mobility between Africa and Europe. It proposes an ontological-epistemological framework for investigating present-day movements via three core dimensions: (1) a focus on im/mobility explores the intertwinement of mobility and stasis in the context of biographical and migratory pathways and thus goes beyond a binary approach to migration; (2) an existential and dialogical-ethnographic approach zooms in on individual experiences of im/mobility and shows that the personal-experiential is not apolitical, but represents a realm of everyday struggles and quests for a good life; and (3) a genealogical-historical dimension explores present-day migratory quests through their embeddedness within legacies of (post)colonial power relations and interconnections and thus counteracts the hegemonic image of immigration from Africa as having no history and legitimacy.

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Florian Krobb and Dorit Müller

Travel is a special form of human mobility that is subject to different historical conditions and one that, deliberately or not, always entails knowledge acquisition and knowledge transfer. Travel facilitates the encounter with peoples, ideas, and material artifacts. In the age of Enlightenment, the nexus between travel and knowledge gained a new intensity, as the movement beyond the known turned into a specific scientific project with manifestations in theoretical reflection as well as literary practice. In the special section on Travel Writing and Knowledge Transfer contributors from the fields of Literary and Travel Studies investigate how human mobility gains epistemic significance in the exploration of nature and foreign cultures. Th e articles focus on conditions and forms of knowledge production while traveling (itinerant knowledge). They analyze how observations, experiences, and reflections made on the move are molded and transformed in fiction and nonfiction, and they discuss the impact on European cultural and intellectual horizons.

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A Social Negotiation of Hope

Male West African Youth

Christian Ungruhe and James Esson

This article examines the present-day perception among boys and young men in West Africa that migration through football offers a way of achieving social standing and improving their life chances. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among footballers in urban southern Ghana between 2010 and 2016, we argue that young people’s efforts to make it abroad and “become a somebody” through football is not merely an individual fantasy; it is rather a social negotiation of hope to overcome widespread social immobility in the region. It is this collective practice among a large cohort of young males—realistic or not—which qualifies conceptualizations of youth transitions such as waithood that dominate academic understanding of African youth today.

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Editorial

Labor mobility versus class mobilization?

Oscar Salemink

On Sunday, 23 February 2003, around twelve thousand foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong—largely, but not exclusively, Filipina “maids”—demonstrated in Victoria Park against government plans to levy a new charge on migrant labor contracts while lowering the minimum wage.