This issue of Transfers showcases the first part of a thought-provoking special section edited by Supurna Banerjee (Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata) and Eva Gerharz (Fulda University of Applied Sciences). The collection of articles uses the interrelation between aspiration and desperation as a powerful analytical framework to interrogate the relationships between mobility, immobility, migration, and sedentarization. By confronting these term-pairs, they also seek to deconstruct their seemingly antinomic associations. The contributions interrogate them beyond binary opposition and bring to light new connections. The second part of the special section, which will focus on negotiating aspirations in intimate social relations, as well as the response to the project will be published in an upcoming volume of our journal.
Focusing on aspiration/desperation provides an analytical lens through which the authors can map the ways in which migrating individuals make sense of their movements, frame it in terms of mobility/immobility, and relate this framing to migration/sedentarization. Looking at socially shared patterns of meaning that can normalize, rationalize, or justify migration, the contributions connect the micro and macro level analysis of aspirational mobilities. This allows us to see the multiplicity of meanings and possibilities of aspiration and of migratory mobilities.
Migration is not just a matter of possibilities of the physical movement. Mobility capital or the entitlement to aspiration is the product of one's identity. Gender, class, caste, ethnicity, religion, and other positionalities frame aspirations to migration which in turn shapes one's lived experiences of migration, forced immobility, or sedentarization. Bal, Shewly, and Laila in “Aspiration and Desperation Traps in Trajectories of Physical and Social Mobility- Immobility: Young Female Migrants in the City,” and Banerjee in “‘Who Leaves Home If There is a Choice?’ Migration Decisions of Women Workers on Tea Plantations in India” specifically focus on gendered meanings of migration. Land's “Desperate Aspirations among Paraguayan Youths: The Renegotiation of Migration and Rural Futures” brings age to the foreground. In addition, the articles explore how aspirations to migrate are shaped by the shared history of a region and its present socio-political situation. In “The Post-Deportation Desperation and Refunneling of Aspirations of the Mexicans Deported from the United States,” Agnieszka Radziwinowiczówna highlights how migration shapes the aspirations of non-migrants, in places imbued with a culture of migration.
Built upon lived experiences, using ethnographic tools, this special section also argues that mobility and immobility remain embedded in unequal power relations, with different implications in different contexts. Through a contextualisation of aspiration across a diverse set of situations and locations, from Paraguay and Argentina, Bangladesh, India, Mexico, and the United States of America, the articles brought together problematize and nuance these terms. Social and family values appear flexible and negotiable across gender and ethnic differences, particularly as they differ widely in cases of privileged and underprivileged migrants. The authors show how aspirations shaping migration or sedentarization are closely linked to shaping the mobility regimes influencing such migratory movement in these geographical areas and societies.
Through rich and nuanced ethnographies, the special section disrupts false dichotomies defining the analytical categories that have shaped mobility studies. The articles reveal tensions between migrants’ aspirations on the one hand, and the lived realities of their lives in migration on the other, that demonstrate that mobility regimes, which shape and circumscribe imaginaries, are also malleable in the face of aspirants’ agency. The special section invites us to question approaches in mobility studies that take stability and dwelling as natural and desirable, as much as those that promote fluidity and liquidity as essential conditions of progress. It succeeds at destabilizing our preconceptions by pinpointing the nuances of mobility in the complexities and richness of people's lived experiences.
The commitment to finding the potential and questioning the perceived limitations of our everyday existence is shared by the contributors of the Ideas in Motion section. Geographers Sarah Bell and Simon Cook point to a new pathway with the concept of “Healthy Mobilities,” which they situate at the intersection of health and mobilities studies. Inspired by relational, multiscale, and more-than-human approaches, they invite us to question what it means to be in everyday healthy motion and whose health is considered. They challenge us to think critically about exercise as “healthy” and to deconstruct our normative preconceptions of differential mobilities or disabled experiences. While they acknowledge that their provocations are partial, they make clear the urgency of our political and intellectual need for a new and truthful consideration of what healthy mobilities mean, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the Mobility and Art section, Rodanthi Tzanelli offers a language through which we can try to grapple with another aspect of our times: the climate crisis. In “Eco-Aesthetics and Climate Change,” she offers one of her poems in a sort of guided meditation through pictures that help ground our critical contemplation. The journal's novel reviews and book review section carry a similar yearning for new tools, languages, or concepts to help deal with the turbulences of our present times.