This article contributes to debates that consider things (buildings) that have previously been assumed to be bounded and fixed. When thinking about how literally anything can become mobile, this article addresses how buildings “live on” through the bodies of participants. The notion of material affects is advanced to draw together a complex set of ideas on vibrant materialities. Material affects, then, entangle the earth, forces, embodiment, and micro mobilities to expose the vibrant matter of buildings. Empirical material is drawn from semistructured interviews with people who relocated out of Christchurch following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes and aftershocks. In relocation, acute spatial awareness and sensitivity to movement and vibration—that is, the minute shudders and flexes of buildings—colonized the bodies of participants. Material affects are able to challenge the distinction between vital energy (life) forces and materiality.
Disastrous Mobilities in Relocation from the Christchurch Earthquakes, Aotearoa New Zealand
Itinerant “Criminal Tribes” and Their Containment by the Salvation Army in Colonial South India
In retelling the history of “criminal tribe” settlements managed by the Salvation Army in Madras Presidency (colonial India) from 1911, I argue that neither the mobility–immobility relationship nor the compositional heterogeneity of (im)mobility practices can be adequately captured by relational dialecticism espoused by leading mobilities scholars. Rather than emerging as an opposition through dialectics, the relationship between (relative) mobility and containment may be characterized by overlapping hybridity and difference. This differential hybridity becomes apparent in two ways if mobility and containment are viewed as immanent gatherings of humans and nonhumans. First, the same entities may participate in gatherings of mobility and of containment, while producing different effects in each gathering. Here, nonhumans enter a gathering, and constitute (im)mobility practices, as actors that make history irreducibly differently from other actors that they may be entangled with. Second, modern technologies and amodern “institutions” may be indiscriminately drawn together in all gatherings.
Interpreting, Experiencing, and Contesting Visa Policies and the (Im)mobility Regime in Algeria
This article explores the ways people targeted by restrictive migration and mobility policies in Algeria experience, interpret, and contest them. It focuses on the perspective of harragas, literally “those who burn” the borders. In the Maghrebi dialects, this is notably how people leaving without documentation are referred to. It reflects the fact that they do not respect the mandatory steps for legal departure. Also, they figuratively “burn” their papers to avoid deportation once in Europe. Drawing on qualitative fieldwork, this article outlines the complex and ambiguous attitudes toward the legal mobility regime of those it aims to exclude: compliance, deception, delegitimization, and defiance. It contributes to debates about human experiences of borders and inequality in mobility regimes. It helps deepen knowledge on why restrictive migration and mobility policies fail and are often counterproductive, encouraging the undocumented migration they were meant to deter.
From “Predicaments of Mobility” to “Potentialities in Displacement”
Stephen C. Lubkemann
In this article I draw comparatively on ethnographic material from my work with war-affected populations from postcolonial Mozambique and diasporan Liberia to argue for a fundamental shift in the conceptualization and study of displacement. I argue first for a need to shift from an emphasis on physical mobility as the sine qua non of “displacement,” to an empirical investigation of the less-than-self-evident relationship between physical mobility and social mobility. I illustrate how the meanings and outcomes of physical mobility are far from given but must be treated as an empirical problem, in which the social opportunity structures that cultural agents ultimately navigate are reconfigured in complex, contradictory, and inadvertent ways that simultaneously generate new and socially differentiated challenges as well as opportunities.
Institutional Narratives and the Mobile in the Australian and New Zealand Colonial World, 1870s–1900s
This article examines the interpretive framework of “mobility” and how it might usefully be extended to the study of the Australasian colonial world of the nineteenth century, suggesting that social institutions reveal glimpses of (im)mobility. As the colonies became destinations for the many thousands of immigrants on the move, different forms of mobility were desired, including migration itself, or loathed, such as the itinerant lifestyles of vagrants. Specifically, the article examines mobility through brief accounts of the curtailed lives of the poor white immigrants of the period. The meanings of mobility were produced by immigrants' insanity, vagrancy, wandering, and their casual movement between, and reliance on, welfare and medical institutions. The regulation of these forms of mobility tells us more about the contemporary paradox of the co-constitution of mobility and stasis, as well as providing a more fluid understanding of mobility as a set of transfers between places and people.
Har Ye Kan
In 1870, a report by a local commissioner in Zhenjiang, a city by the Yangzi River in Jiangsu Province, noted that “the Chinese are learning to appreciate traveling by foreign steamers. Not a few of the passengers who arrive and depart hence are officials, who have so far overcome their bigotry to acknowledge that steamer traveling is eminently satisfactory.” As foreign powers had used steamers in their economic expansion in China during the First Opium War (1839–42), the Chinese had at first associated this mode of transport with imperialism and Western dominance before they became an integral part of passenger and commercial conveyance.
In his famous 1925 travelogue, Roland Dorgelès writes about his first encounter with the Mandarin Road in Indochina:
When you have dreamed for years of the Mandarin Road, the very name of which evokes all the splendors of the Orient, it is not surprising that you experience a flash of annoyance if you are suddenly held up at a corner, between a street-car and an autobus, by some numbskull who triumphantly announces, with the idea that he is delighting you:
“Well, there it is, your Mandarin Road!”
And then he shows you a guidepost with a blue sign, executed in the purest style of the Department of Bridges and Highways, whereon you read simply, “Colonial Road No. 1.”
Disappointment resides in the resemblance with metropolitan roads, signified by a generic blue sign. Dorgelès laments the lack of exotic experience, even though his presence is only permitted by colonial modernization and administrative uniformity. This tension between the desire for alterity and the rationalization ofspace is characteristic of the French experience in colonial Indochina.
This article considers recent scholarship on the social dimensions of mass transit in the United States. It focuses on historical struggles to make urban conveyances serve the public and demonstrates that access to mass transit has been continually contested through legal challenges, economic boycotts, and everyday practice.
Twofold Mobility in the Appropriation of Crime Fiction in Interwar Germany
This article is concerned with travelling detectives in two different but related senses. On the one hand, it considers the relevance of trains and other vehicles of mobility for detective fiction, both as a topic of fiction and a place of consumption. On the other hand, it registers that detective fiction has to “travel“ in a more abstract sense before the reading traveler can enjoy it. German publishers appropriated the genre, originally a nineteenth-century American and British invention, at the beginning of the twentieth century. Based on contemporary observations by German cultural critics Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer, the essay examines German crime-fiction dime novels from the interwar period, compares them to their American predecessors, and analyzes their relationship to mobility and cultural transfer. The text argues that the spatial mobility of the fictional detective is only possible in a specific cultural environment to which the moving but corporeally immobile reader has to be transferred imaginatively.
Pragmatic Use of Infrastructure and Reflexive Mobility of Evenki and Dolgan Hunters, Reindeer Herders, and Fishers
Vladimir N. Davydov
This article addresses the problem of temporality and its potential use in mobility studies by providing examples from the author’s recent fieldwork among Evenkis and Dolgans. It examines the temporal dimension of hunters’, reindeer herders’, and fishers’ movements, and discusses the pragmatic use by local people, in the context of their mobility, of a variety of infrastructures and objects that were introduced to the landscape during the last century. It introduces the concept of points of constant return for ways of relating to places of intensive use beyond the binary opposition of settlements and the surrounding landscape. This article suggests analyzing movements in a broader context that includes not just their starting and final destinations but the relations of different locations in a set of movements of multiple actors and analyzes them as results of both reflexive and creative processes that lead to transformations of material objects and the landscape.