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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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Raili Nugin

The article looks at how cultural constructs of “urban” and “rural” are used in policy measures. The question is opened by analyzing twenty-five short films submitted for the competition Once upon a Time in Our Village organized by the Estonian Ministry of Agriculture and Just Film (a nonprofit organization). The competition calls for young people to “depict the future and possibilities of rural life.” The aim was to prevent out-migration of young people from the rural areas. As the data show, the films echo cultural constructions that depict the rural as opposed to the urban: traditional, quiet, and a haven of the national past. The future and technological possibilities are something that are constructed as an urban phenomenon, and thus, not present in the films.

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Holly Thorpe

This article advocates the value of a mobilities approach to examining the lived experiences of youth in contexts of war, conflict, and disaster. With the aim of moving beyond “victim” narratives, it critically examines three cases of youth engagement in alternative sporting forms in post-earthquakes Christchurch and conflict-torn Afghanistan and Gaza. These are contexts in which youth physical mobilities are highly constrained, yet in each of these cases we also see youth creatively developing an array of strategies and initiatives to help improve their own and others’ health and well-being, for social and physical pleasure, and in some cases to challenge power relations. The three brief cases highlight the multiple and complex layers of transnational mobilities, with the flows of people, objects, and ideas across borders, being negotiated and (re)appropriated by youth in locally specific ways.

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“My Visa Application Was Denied, I Decided to Go Anyway”

Interpreting, Experiencing, and Contesting Visa Policies and the (Im)mobility Regime in Algeria

Farida Souiah

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.

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Gatherings of Mobility and Immobility

Itinerant “Criminal Tribes” and Their Containment by the Salvation Army in Colonial South India

Saurabh Arora

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.

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Kudzai Matereke

Adopting an African-focused perspective in the analysis of African experiences of mobility enables us to confront the limits imposed by a historicist-induced articulation of African experiences of mobility. This article offers some concluding remarks to a section on African mobilities and attempts a critical analysis of how an African-based perspective of mobility serves to decenter or provincialize the Western-centric discourses of mobility. This undertaking is important in the attempts to fashion African modes of thought that serve as a counternarrative to European thought and to subvert the misrepresentations of im/mobilities of Africa and things African.

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Mobility Stopped in Its Tracks

Institutional Narratives and the Mobile in the Australian and New Zealand Colonial World, 1870s–1900s

Catharine Coleborne

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.

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“Looking for One’s Life”

Trapped Mobilities and Adventure in Morocco

Sébastien Bachelet

This article examines how “irregular” migrants from West and Central Africa make sense of their trapped mobility in Morocco: for many, crossing into Europe has become almost impossible, returning to home countries “empty-handed” a shameful option, and staying very difficult in the face of repeated infringement of their rights. I explore the limits of contemporary depictions of a “migration crisis” that portray migrants south of the Mediterranean Sea as simply en route to Europe and fail to engage with (post)colonial entanglements. The article recalibrates the examinationof migrants’ lived experiences of stasis and mobility by exploring the emic notion of “adventure” among migrants “looking for their lives.” A focus on how migrants articulate their own (im)mobility further exposes and defies the pitfalls of abstract concepts such as “transit migration,” which is misleading in its implication of a fixed destination.

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Jean-Baptiste Frétigny

Airports seem to be an endless ground for conceiving past and present (aero)-mobilities. Understood not only as air mobilities but also as the dominant mobility of international travel, aeromobilities offer an encompassing understanding of airports as sites of meaningful (im)mobilities of people, objects, ideas, and ideologies. These sites touch on more power relationships, across far larger and thinner scales of time and space, than the ones usually considered in the study of transportation places. As the first review on airport historiography in this journal showed, scholars have socially, politically, and culturally investigated airports in manifold ways, turning them into key transdisciplinary objects for the development of mobilities studies. In recent years, studies on European airports have been numerous. Few of these have engaged in deep historical analysis, although temporalities play a key role in airports. As spaces they are constantly changing, with terminals themselves being significantly more mobile than planes in terms of design and architecture. The existing literature misses links between the past and present times of airports.

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Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and Mette Louise Berg

Throughout history, migration has been at the heart of the transformation of societies and communities. At the same time, changing dynamics across social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental realms have influenced processes of migration and (im)mobility around the world in different ways, including by facilitating, forcing, preventing, normalizing, criminalizing, and securitizing the movement of diverse people and objects. As academic, political, policy, and popular interest in migration has increased in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, so too has the need to remain attentive to the long histories, wide-ranging geographies, and multiple directionalities of different forms of migration. Indeed, the growing interest in migration makes it important to continue to interrogate how, why, and with what effect different people and institutions study, teach, and respond to migration. This includes posing questions such as: how do we, and could we, conceptualize and resist particular ways of framing migration and mobility; whose vantage points are centralized and whose are erased from view and ignored in migration studies and policies; who counts as a migrant in the first place; and to what extent and how can a focus on migration stimulate more nuanced and engaged ways of being in and responding to the world around us?