ASA15: Symbiotic anthropologies: theoretical commensalities and methodological mutualisms

(P29)
Migration's desire: uncovering the global imaginaries and subjectivitites of (im)mobility
Location Room 11
Date and Start Time 14 April, 2015 at 09:15
Sessions 3

Convenors

  • Valerio Simoni (The Graduate Institute, Geneva) email
  • Francesco Vacchiano (ICS-UL, Lisbon) email

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Short Abstract

The panel addresses the moralities, aspirations and claims of belonging that underpin migratory aspirations and trajectories, exploring the global imaginaries, subjective orientations, and power dimensions of (im)mobility, and considering the ethnographic demands they place on anthropologists.

Long Abstract

In recent years, mobility has taken on a new centrality in the way people from across the world voice their personal and collective expectations. Doing anthropology today means to increasingly meet this relatively new and generalized "desire of elsewhere" through which hopes of success and search for opportunities are expressed. Whereas local conditions remain essential to understand the widespread wish to leave, these same conditions are increasingly measured against the standards of a paradigmatic "global form of life", one moulded upon a series of hegemonic models shaping the benchmarks of well-being and happiness on a wide-reaching scale, and which challenges the anthropologist's longstanding fascination with difference. The impact of these models and their role in forging contemporary "expectations of modernity" raises questions about how contemporary forms of power and global imaginaries produce aspirations for change, as expressed, for instance, in the longing for freedom from traditional obligations and claims for membership in a global society (Ferguson 2006; Piot 2010). The panel welcomes contributions that address the moralities, aspirations and claims of belonging underpinning people's migratory aspirations and trajectories. The aim is to explore mobility's entanglements with global images, local values and personal expectations, and to examine how the motivations associated with movement reinforce or subvert hegemonic constructions of power, subjectivity, and inequality in the contemporary world, (re)drawing lines of commonality and exclusion. This, in turn, will help us consider the kinds of theoretical commensalities and methodological mutualisms that people's desires to move- as ethnographic demands placed on anthropologists - call for.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Moving on: Italy as a stepping stone in migrant imaginaries

Author: Anna Tuckett (London School of Economics)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores Italy's migrants' desire to leave the country in the belief that quality of life would be superior elsewhere. This ethnographic data contributes to theories of flexible citizenship, transnationalism, and the hierarchical and uneven nature of globalisation.

Long Abstract

Examining migrants' creative use of Italian and European permit systems, in this paper I show how migrants, driven by their negative experiences and impressions of Italy, seek to take advantage of the Italian permit system's flexibility in order to improve their and their children's futures. In their minds, leaving Italy is the only way to do this. This highlights two central points. Firstly, it demonstrates non-elite migrants' ability to make laws work to their advantage in their efforts to become mobile, 'flexible citizens' (Ong 1999). And secondly, that destination countries are hierarchically ranked by migrants, which has profound effects on their understandings of themselves and their imaginations of the future. While migrants' journeys to Europe have been much theorized, few studies have focused on how migrants' trajectories continue to be mobile following arrival to the continent. Freedom of movement acts, changing labour markets and diasporic networks of communication add to migrants' mobility as destination countries shift and change. In this paper, I show how migrants and asylum seekers seek to become flexible citizens in their efforts to seek out improved life and working conditions, and to escape racism and xenophobia in Italy. In doing so, I situate their strategic navigation of Italian and European-wide immigration bureaucracy - and their desire for mobility - within broader processes that relate to the global and local inequalities resulting from the flows and flexibilities of late capitalism.

Bulgarian migration to the UK: the influential power of the imaginary West

Author: Polina Manolova (University of Birmingham)  email

Short Abstract

There has been an evident upsurge in Bulgarian migration to the UK in the years following the economic crash in 2009. The ethnographic data coming out of my recent fieldwork among Bulgarian migrants points to the significance of the utopian cultural construction of the West in explaining this phenomenon.

Long Abstract

The increasing popularity of the UK as one of the top migration destinations amongst Bulgarians is in contrast to the hostility with which migrants are met in British society and the precarious working and living conditions they often experience. This paper claims that this paradox of popularity despite hostility cannot be adequately explained with economic push factors or by conceiving of contemporary migrants as rational individuals who are seeking to maximize their utility. Instead, it argues that a collective imaginary of the West as offering the possibility of attaining a better quality of life, success and wealth, is the main factor encouraging Bulgarian migration to the UK. This argument follows Appadurai's (1996) theory of the joint effect of mass media and migration on the 'work of imagination'. By de-constructing the image of the West, as represented in would-be migrants' narratives, it is demonstrated how migration is not just a 'coping strategy' for economic survival but also as identification with imaginary spaces of belonging.

The matryoshka dolls of Cape Verdean (im)mobility: towards an inter-sited ethnography

Author: Elizabeth Challinor (CRIA/UM Centre for the Study of Social Anthropology, University of Minho)  email

Short Abstract

“Elsewhere” is integral to the practicalities and imaginings of life in Cape Verde. The paper explores the moral expectations in the cultivation of strategic and affective belongings of (im)imobility, suggesting that what we need is inter-sited ethnography.

Long Abstract

Ever since the settlement of the uninhabited archipelago in the fifteenth century, "elsewhere" has been an integral part of the practicalities and imaginings of everyday life in Cape Verde shaped by translocal and transnational relations. The "desire of elsewhere" is not, in this respect, a modern phenomenon equated with the expectations of modernity, but rather a structural characteristic of daily life which places moral expectations upon individuals to succeed. The terms of this success have been altered by the relatively recent increase of opportunities for education in both Cape Verde and abroad which have not only raised expectations for a better modern life, but in the case of vocational training in Portugal, discussed in this paper, have also inflated the mobility of young students from more impoverished rural areas of Cape Verde, susceptible to global imaginaries of well-being and happiness. Through an examination of the students' aspirations and trajectories and of the aspirations of some of their families in Cape Verde, the paper explores the entanglements between mobility and immobility, inclusion and exclusion and discusses the moral expectations created in the cultivation of strategic and affective belongings. The paper concludes with a discussion of how the Cape Verdean case suggests that going beyond methodological nationalism requires more than "multi-sited ethnography". Taking inspiration in the metaphor of matryoshka dolls, investigating how "elsewhere" is part of the "here" suggests that what we need is inter-sited ethnography

Migration desires: perspectives from Transylvania

Author: Alina Ioana Branda (Faculty of European Studies, Babes-Bolyai University)  email

Short Abstract

My presentation analyzes different articulations and representations of the “desire of elsewhere”, focusing on different migration experiences I have been encountering when conducting fieldwork in different parts of Transylvania/Romania.

Long Abstract

My presentation analyzes different articulations and representations of the "desire of elsewhere", focusing on different migration experiences I have been encountering when conducting fieldwork in different parts of Transylvania/Romania. Approaching life histories and semi structured interviews, I intend to explore different migration experiences as expressions of a "global form of life". In the last years, I conducted fieldwork in different Transylvanian settlements, both rural and urban (Nimăieşti, Fiziş, Feldru, Cluj) recording, archiving and interpreting different narratives of migration to Spain, Italy, France and United Kingdom. My paper aims to focus on both the recurrent issues and specificities, present in the interviews; the interlocutors motivations of their wish to leave and to return for a while, to move, to settle and to act sometimes as bridge persons. My intention is also to approach critically the concept of "regular" migration, having enough empirical evidence to demonstrate that, mostly, specific, peculiar, "irregular" motivations, experiences and consequences are in and behind these migration histories. Associated to these, fluidity, mobility, fragmentary lives, ruptures, displacements, new dynamics space/time- are key concepts and perspectives of great help in my effort to find an appropriate theoretical framework of the research. I am going to put these "new forms of nomadism" in the current macro context, in the very recent globalization dynamics, considering also the impact of recent EU policies on vivid migration phenomena.

Narratives of identity, multi-sited biography, and transnational life-modes of highly qualified migrants: two case studies

Authors: Hélène Oberlé (University of Basel)  email
Khadeeja Haddy Sarr (Basel University )  email

Short Abstract

Through their biographies and narratives the study will explore the present situation of unique groups of highly qualified migrants. It will focus on mobility and transnationalism, whilst examining (trans)local values and norms by analysing personal expectations and explanations.

Long Abstract

The joint project aims to contribute to this complex that is called globalization by focusing on highly skilled migration, mobility and transnationalism. The study consists of two case studies about highly qualified migrants:

1. Swiss in Israel and Israelis in Switzerland

2. Swiss in Senegambia and Senegambians in Switzerland

Through their personal accounts the study aims to understand life experiences of migrants and analyse how they justify their decision-makings leading to transnational/local activities. According to a range of scholarly fields the assumption is that one can only grasp people's experiences by how they express themselves. It is demonstrated that the method of biographical interviews and ethnography is an effective way to further contextualize narratives from a theoretical point of view. Furthermore, the study aims to consider mobility within global images, local/translocal values, personal expectations and experiences whilst examining motivations and processes of decision-making. Topics such as brain drain, brain gain, brain circulation, remittances, transnational marriages and networks will be addressed. The groups being researched have unique historical, cultural, religious and visibility profiles. The impact these factors have on life modes, experiences, imaginaries and decision-makings between and across boundaries are worth further exploration through innovative methodology.

The sense of belonging and the migration trajectories of the members of the Latin American community in Edinburgh

Author: Marta Sokol-Klepacka (University of St Andrews)  email

Short Abstract

The paper addresses the reasons for migration and also the sense of belonging that the members of the Latin American Community in Edinburgh have whilst feeling ‘rootless’. It looks at the construction of concurrent national and Latin American identities, transnational links and “home-making” processes.

Long Abstract

In this paper, based on my recent fieldwork in Edinburgh among the Latin American community, I explore the reasons for migration of the members of the Latin American community in Edinburgh as well as look at the dynamics of concurrent identities, i.e. the maintenance and reconstruction of national identity as well as the emergence of the Latin American identity, thus the construction of their collective system of representation by shaping categories of identity relating to collective history, language, music, food and traditions. I argue that belonging to the Latin American community helps counter the feeling of being 'rootless'. What is more migrants' frequent movement and the fact that Edinburgh is for many a second or a third destination, make individuals' transnational links to various places one lived in during one's life trajectory 'invisible roots'. Not knowing whether one would stay in a particular place for a long time and a constantly changing world makes the 'home-making' processes of the members of the Latin American community in Edinburgh shift more to an imaginary and flexible level as well as being tied more to the closest family than to a particular place.

Concrete desires of im(mobility): architecture of remittances in indigenous Gutemala

Author: Andrea Freddi (University Of Turin)  email

Short Abstract

Architecture of remittances have changed indigenous Guatemala's landscape, marking it with the contradictory signs of conflicting desires. The migrants' newly built houses speak of their will to return and settle while at the same time fostering expectations of modernity and movement.

Long Abstract

The landscape of Todos Santos, formerly a lowly populated village of scattered adobe houses and milpa fields, transformed into an ever-growing improvised metropolis. This change occurred in the last twenty years due to the mass migration that brought one third of the population of this Guatemalan indigenous municipality to the United States. Remittances have quickly become the main source of income of a transnational town where roughly every household has one person residing abroad. Besides everyday expenses, dollars coming from the North are mainly invested in building houses. New multiple-story concrete building, often exhibiting the flag of the United States, are replacing the traditional Maya adobe houses, giving form to an urban environment that doesn't follow any established plan but local rules of prestige. This architecture without architects focuses on the facade, which is overly decorated and reproduces the housing models seen and experienced during migration. The widespread use of shiny and polished material, like reflective glass walls, gives a intended impression of impersonality, mimicking the aseptic style of banks, malls and airports. Despite their ambitions of grandeur, the new buildings are often left unfinished, integrated with traditional elements and used for storage of food and objects. They look like out of place non functional elements into what largely remains a rural environment.

Are they the proof of Western hegemony or a caricature of it? Are they monuments to mobility or the solid form of a desire of immobility? This paper aims to dig into this contradictions.

Dubliners: mobility, displacement and desire at the time of the Dublin regulation

Author: Fiorenza Picozza (King's College)  email

Short Abstract

The paper explores paradigms of restlessness and stuckness in asylum seekers' struggle for recognition and residence in Europe. Drawing on ethnographic work in Rome and London, the analysis focuses on the contrast between need and desire and between a legal life in Italy and an illegal one elsewhere

Long Abstract

This paper addresses the multiple ruptures that young Afghan asylum seekers undergo moving across Europe. Either deported or autonomously moving between EU member states, their continuous mobility, both geographical and between legal statuses, is a strong expression of their struggle for recognition and residence in Europe.

Drawing on ethnographic work in Rome and London, I explore the contrast between need and desire, especially in relation to Italy's reception/assistance regime. By focusing only on material needs, the latter fosters a sense of dependency and passivity, simultaneously failing to address migrant's desires, such an important part in the everyday life and aspirations of young people, driven to migrate by complex and overlapping aspirations relating to economic and physical security, more global lifestyles, education and self-development projects and also sexuality. Accordingly, when refugees who obtained protection in Italy move elsewhere, I analyse the contrast between an 'illegal' and autonomous life elsewhere, and a 'legal' one (in Italy) where their desires are often silenced.

Although this kind of migration can be interpreted through paradigms of interruption and circularity, Dubliners' desires drive them to attempt a move again, even though risking to be displaced again. Breaking the logic of the migrant coming from a 'home' to a 'hosting country', Dubliners multiple trajectories, interruptions and new beginnings put an accent on the new possibilities that could be found 'elsewhere'. This is manifested in a particular mode of being-in-the-world, an existential condition of lively 'restlessness' as opposed to the 'stuckness' in which they are usually represented.

Cosmology of destinations: imaginaries about the outside world and migratory aspirations of young Eritrean refugees

Author: Milena Belloni (CeMIS )  email

Short Abstract

Drawing from ethnographic research conducted in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Italy among Eritrean refugees, this paper explores the advantages of applying the anthropological concept of cosmology in the study of refugees’ migratory dynamics and aspirations.

Long Abstract

Eritreans have escaped their country for over 50 years because of war, poverty and lack of freedom and reached different destinations in Europe, USA, Africa and the Middle East. The long-term communal experience of migration, as well as the exposure (although limited if compared with other developing countries) to the flow of information and remittances from abroad have produced what I would define a "cosmology of destinations". This becomes noticeable when the ethnographer is confronted with migratory aspirations and strategies of young Eritreans who are fleeing the country nowadays. By "cosmology"—a concept which has a long standing history in anthropology (i.e. Griaule 1948; Leach 1982; Malkki 1995)—I refer to the widespread representations of the world as a hierarchically ordered whole that can be found in some groups of Eritrean society. The outside world is usually constructed as a source of moral value, social development and dynamic transformation, while Eritrea is often represented as a stagnant world, the sphere of the past which does not enable any progress for the individual and the community. Moreover, countries that belong to the outside world are associated with specific images and beliefs which make them more or less desirable as destinations of migration. Drawing from my multi-sited fieldwork (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Italy) among Eritrean refugees, this paper explores the advantages of applying the anthropological concept of cosmology in the study of refugees' migratory dynamics and in the interpretation of how individuals experience their conditions of being immobile or on the move.

Mobility, unintelligibility, uncertainty: frontiers of precarious manhood in Istanbul

Author: Janine Su (University College London)  email

Short Abstract

This paper highlights the intersection of mobility and manhood in Turkey through performances of 'hassling' tourists in Sultanahmet, Istanbul. The analysis focuses on how the already precarious nature of manhood comes under increased strain when detached from the normative pull of 'place identity'.

Long Abstract

My research follows single young men occupied with 'hassling' visiting foreign women in the touristic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. I examine this phenomenon through the notion of mobility in connection with local understandings of manhood, highlighting ambiguities that emerge from a slippage between normative or 'sedentary' frameworks of manhood and those relating to the 'nomadic' paths taken by my informants (Deleuze and Guattari 1987/1980).

I discern between 'migrant' and 'nomad' through local structures of 'place identity' (Mills 2008). These are mediated through sıla and gurbet, concepts that dichotomise dimensions of 'home' against those of 'exile' and presume all migrants to be in mourning for the place left behind. Instead, my informants are focused on transgressing new boundaries. This disposition is illuminated by the term garip, which can translate into both 'strange' and 'stranger', and which sets up the relationship between mobility and the moral subjectivity of the aspirational masculinities I examine.

My informants, who leave home during adolescence, aspire to manhood on terms they set for themselves rather than on those dictated by normative sociability. In other words, they use physical mobility—extracting themselves from the gaze of their home communities—to transcend their social immobility. Relationships with foreign women, which might lead to marriage and visas for international travel, are among the many sites of ambiguity associated with their psychosocial and spatiotemporal mobility. And outcomes depend on a combination of their performative skill and luck, with potential consequences for their relationships to the category of 'man'.

"Your plan is not my plan": mother's sacrifice and contradictions of desire in immigrated Latin American youngsters in Italy

Author: Alejandra Carreno-Calderon (Universita degli Studi di Torino)  email

Short Abstract

This paper aims to explore imaginaries of Latin-American youths, that came or “are brought” to Italy once they become adolescences. Often their desires clash with their mothers ambitions, expecting them to make the sacrifice of their own migration worthwhile.

Long Abstract

As a wide literature has underlined, Latin-American immigrants in Europe are mainly adult women workers that take part of global care chains. Most of them have left their small children under responsibility of other relatives, expecting to be capable of bringing them later. The strategies of these women to take care of their children in transnational terms have drawn anthropology's attention. Nevertheless few studies have enquired about children that after spending time in their original countries, once they become adolescence they migrate to Italy to join their mothers. They decide to migrate either for their own decision or because they are forced by their families. In both cases mothers expect them to be repaid for the sacrifice realized. They hope that they are able to benefit from the study and work opportunities that migration should give them. Nevertheless the parent's "desire of elsewhere" clashes with the desires of their sons and daughters: they are overly aware of the inner contradictions of migration, they don't believe in the myth of Europe and often they refuse to inherit the sacrifice of their mothers. Their young trajectories challenge their parents imaginary and subvert their hopes of success. Conflicts arising from these contradictions undermine the whole sense of familiar migration. What kind of imaginary of mobility do these newly arrived youngsters create? How are using using their bodies, their sexuality and their desires to subvert their parents' imaginaries of migration? Based on ethnographic and clinical cases, this paper aims to explore these contradictions.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.