ASA2016: Footprints and futures: the time of anthropology

Temporalities of migration, mobility and displacement
Location Calman - Rosemary Cramp
Date and Start Time 05 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 3


  • Fiorenza Picozza (King's College) email
  • Stefano Portelli (University of Rome) email

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Short Abstract

The panel addresses the temporal dimension of mobility and displacement, interrogating different variations of speed as both results of power relations and of strategies deployed by those displaced, specifically exploring the ethnographic limits and demands of capturing the dimension of temporality.

Long Abstract

Studies of migration, mobility and displacement often lack focus on the link between the management of space and the management of time (Griffiths et al. 2013). Beyond spatiality, power is exercised as a temporal force on mobile/displaced bodies, most notably in the experience of waiting (Khosravi 2014). Regimes of asylum, detention and deportation act on migrant bodies as temporal power, decelerating circulation and disassociating the body from its productivity (Papadopoulos et al. 2008). Migrants and refugees spend months, years, sometimes entire lives, in secluded or marginal spaces, liminal to the economic and political order. However, transnational migration is not the sole context in which the relationship between power, the state and the production of temporalities can be analysed; forced expulsions from urban environments, such as those produced by gentrification and urban renewal, also posit questions regarding the exclusion from space and the perceived "normal" flow of time (Kern 2015). Yet, the very spaces of spatial exclusion, such as camps or the new "planned" neighbourhoods can harbour new practices that challenge and subvert both the space and time of seclusion they aimed to enforce.

With the aim of bringing time "back in" in the anthropology of spatial practices, this panel explores the temporalities of mobility and displacement, also focusing on the challenges of capturing temporality within ethnographic description. We particularly welcome papers that ethnographically enquire into how power channels, disrupt, decelerate or speed up circulation; but also into the strategies through which the displaced produce contesting temporalities.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Enduring displacements in refuge: temporal contingencies of refugee resettlement

Author: Georgina Ramsay (University of Newcastle)  email

Short Abstract

Resettlement is, ostensibly, a process of inclusion through refugees are provided with 'refuge.' Yet the assumptions of resettlement as an automatic 'solution' to displacement overlook the ways in which a sense of being displaced endures beyond static temporal frameworks.

Long Abstract

Resettlement is designated by the UNHCR as a 'durable solution' to refugee displacement— but the term 'solution' implies that the experience of displacement is linear, temporary, and automatically resolved upon migrating to a third country of 'refuge.' Whilst flows of 'normal' time are suspended and subverted in spaces where refugees are spatially excluded in camps and settlements, I consider in this paper how the temporal contingencies of displacement are similarly contested in spaces of, and processes that ostensibly support, inclusion, such as resettlement. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted with African refugees resettled in Australia, I describe in this paper how resettlement is experienced as a contested temporal space. Mediating memories of past trauma, and often remaining connected with relations who remain in exile, I show how the affective feeling of being displaced endures for refugees in contexts of resettlement. However, when in resettlement, these refugees are shepherded through time-limited support systems which assume that the at-times immobilising insecurities of displacement are neatly resolved upon migration to Australia. These refugees live a contested sense of temporality, in which they are concurrently corralled into migrant support systems that assume a linear trajectory of settlement, but still often feel as if they live in a state of displacement. I argue in this paper that the 'refuge' which is implied through processes of resettlement does not take into account the temporal contingencies through which displacement is lived and experienced by refugees themselves.

Out of time: the temporality of urban displacement and evictions

Author: Stefano Portelli (University of Rome)  email

Short Abstract

Generally interpreted only as a transition in space, urban displacement has an important temporal dimension. Examples from Southern Europe illustrate the conflict between the planners' narrative of development as a linear progress, and the lived experience of displacement as a breach in time.

Long Abstract

Similarly to transnational migrations, displacement caused by urban renewal, gentrification or infrastructural development is generally read as a geographic phenomenon, a forced movement in space from one place to another. Old neighborhoods, demolished or gentrified, are compared to new houses, blocks, or estates, as if the two poles were coeval and synchronic. But the timing of this transition is often overlooked: temporality plays a crucial part in the experience of the evicted, and its effects can be both subtle and influential.

Drawing from ethnographic data collected from fieldwork on evictions in Barcelona and Rome, I reflect on the temporality of urban displacement, as an underestimated aspect of spatial transformations. For residents, the waiting years of the transition, when the old space is no longer as was and the new one not yet as will be, influence both how the new spaces are interpreted and how the old ones are remembered. As in the lefebvrian difference between conceived and lived urban spaces, a subjective temporality conflicts with the linear narrative of planners. Like sympathetic magic, that makes the desirable happen by connecting it to natural phenomena,

urban planning is justified by linking it to the inevitable passage of time, from the obsolete to modernity.

Beyond being spatially alienated, the displaced find themselves “unstuck in time”. To cope with this double disconnection, while investing the new spaces of meaning and legibility, they create periodic celebrations, invent rites of passage, create shared calendars, to reintegrate their experience in their personal flow of temporality.

Waiting in the queue, waiting for a future: an ethnography of the relationship between waiting and displacement among Syrian refugees in Mafraq, Jordan

Author: Ann-Christin Wagner (University of Edinburgh)  email

Short Abstract

The proposed paper investigates the relationship between displacement and “waiting” among Syrian refugees in Mafraq, a site of urban displacement in Jordan. Based on an active understanding of “waiting", its study provides a diagnostic of how Syrian refugees’ temporal and spatial mobilities are intertwined.

Long Abstract

While the anthropological study of displaced people tends to focus on "people on the run" or in refugee camps, the proposed paper investigates the relationship between displacement and the flip side of forced mobility, i.e. "waiting", in cities. Drawing on ongoing PhD fieldwork with Syrian refugees in Mafraq, a site of urban displacement in Jordan, my research coincides with the protraction of the Syrian civil war, a change of international development paradigms and increased legal limbo and precarity for Syrians in Jordan. The paper presupposes an active understanding of "waiting" not as an absence, but as filled with multiple and sometimes contradictory activities.

In Mafraq, Syrian refugees experience temporal dimensions of "waiting" at different time scales and for various purposes, such as waiting to sign up for humanitarian assistance, aid delivery or resettlement abroad. With respect to disrupted life projects and renewed attempts at "making plans", my research focuses on how informants deal with unpredictability, resulting from intransparent criteria for access to aid or visa and the confusing spectrum of humanitarian actors on the ground.

Furthermore, the study of "waiting" provides a diagnostic of how Syrian refugees' temporal and spatial mobilities are intertwined. Having turned into the final stop of interrupted migration journeys, Mafraq, a challenging urban environment marked by gender segregation, urban sprawl and the absence of a proper public sphere, produces specific forms of "waiting" experiences in space. How Syrians form knowledge about and navigate urban space is tightly linked to city landmarks associated with the humanitarian apparatus.

Governing the velocity of the migrant domestic workers market in Turkey through temporal borders

Author: Ayse Akalin (Istanbul Technical University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper argues that the primary aim of the amendment the Turkish government made to the Law on Residence and Travel of Foreigners in Turkey #5683 in 2012, was to govern the velocity of the mobility in and out of the migrant domestic workers market in Turkey and to create temporal borders for the migrants.

Long Abstract

Effective from Feb 1st 2012 on, the Turkish government made an amendment to the Law on Residence and Travel of Foreigners in Turkey #5683, which made the maximum length of legal time a tourist would be granted a visa for from "90 days" to "90 days in 180". This in fact revealed a policy change concerning the migrant domestic workers in Turkey. Until then for the twenty years in its existence, the migrant domestic workers market had established itself on the velocity of circular migration the the migrant workers pursued between their home countries and Turkey, partly to stay in a "semi-legal" status to avoid deportability. Now with this policy change, the Turkish government was insulating the gateways the migrant domestics have used for years for purposes of practical regularization so that they would be compelled to file for work permits. Enforcing work permits on the migrant domestic workers as the new norm of the market was not an attempt to pull them out of the predicament of undocumented but to reclaim the governance over the velocity of mobility in and out of the market. In doing so, the Turkish government has turned expiry dates of temporary legal statuses into temporal borders that now encircle the bodies of migrant domestic workers.

Waiting for movement: resistance in the face of control along the Balkan route

Authors: Johannes Balthasar Oertli (SOAS)  email
Kiri Santer  email

Short Abstract

This paper compares two spaces of waiting on the Balkan Route and interrogates the ways in which waiting is negotiated by migrants subjected to it. In this context, waiting interrogates the relation between time and space as both a tool of resistance by migrants and control of their movement.

Long Abstract

During the summer of 2015, migrants have cut paths through the fences of Fortress Europe. These recent movements, have made the European border regime appear less impenetrable. However, the state-controlled "humanitarian corridor", which currently channels people arriving on the Greek islands all the way up to Germany plays a paradoxical role in this celebration of movement. In temporal terms, this "Balkan route" entails many long hours of waiting for both, those who are let on it and those who are refused movement. In this paper, we examine and compare two spaces of waiting that have appeared along the "Balkan route": the abandoned service station of Adaĺevci, where people wait to cross the border between Serbia and Croatia and the discarded cargo train border crossing in Eidomeni, Greece before the Macedonian/FYROM border. In December 2015, many people were unable to cross the border in Eidomeni because of governmental decisions from the corridor states to decrease the flow of migrants. We ask how times of waiting are negotiated by those who are subjected to them? How is the time of waiting imposed by the state subverted by travellers? And how is waiting employed as a tool of resistance by those refused the right to travel on? As time cannot be analyzed without reference to space (Conlon 2011) we look at how the resilience that lingers in the process of waiting (Khosravi 2014) also becomes a critical point of the politics of control of the spaces in which these processes take place.

Fragmented temporalities: everyday practices of temporary refugees criss-crossing geographical and juridical borders

Author: Elena Fontanari (University of Milan, Italy)  email

Short Abstract

I here address the temporal dimension for an understanding of migration as subjective experience focusing on the case-study on crossing-border mobilities of temporary refugees between Italy and Germany. Their everyday live in Milan and Berlin, together with their contested mobilities will be exposed

Long Abstract

Addressing the focus on temporal dimension to migration, mobility and displacement studies is a crucial insight for a in-depth understanding of such complex phenomena in the globalization age. In my work I refer to the studies that focus on time rather than space dimension, underlining how migrants' experiences are characterized by flows and moments, rhythms and cycles, tempos, synchronicity and disjuncture, and the future (Griffiths et al. 2013; Anderson R., 2014). Drawn on 20 months (October 2013 - August 2015) of fieldwork in Milan and Berlin using multi-sited ethnography, my work investigates the everyday experiences of a group of temporary refugees and their contested crossing-border mobilities in Europe. Specifically, I will focus on the everyday life of my research protagonists in both cities and in the "illegal" movements across the national borders in order to highlights how the temporariness and waiting condition, typical of the refugees' camps, is reproduced and lengthen also in the urban space. Indeed, my research protagonists experience a strengthen and lengthen transit condition, that assume a spatial, temporal and juridical dimension. Furthermore, they internalize the transit becoming thus an existential statement that allows me to speak about "subjectivities en transit" across Europe. The theoretical attempt is here to underline how the frictions between the European border regime and the attempts to autonomously move and live enacted by the temporary refugees lead to the creation of lengthen temporal thresholds that caught migrant subjects in fragmented circuits of mobility within Europe.

Confined to Ciudad Vieja! An ethnographic approach to Peruvians experiences of intercultural interaction in the Old City of Montevideo

Author: Karina Boggio (Udelar)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores experiences of time and space in processes of intercultural interaction in the Old City of Montevideo, connected to Peruvian community.

Long Abstract

This paper explores experiences of time and space in processes of intercultural interaction in the Old City of Montevideo, concerning Peruvian community. It considers the experience and the diverse meanings of migration from the inside view of immigrants. It relies on fieldwork research. Data was collected during a long-term ethnography of the Old City of Montevideo immigrant communities and interethnic relations. Ethnographic project 2013-2015: Etnopolis. Identity negotiations in Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo.

The paper observes and analyzes the negotiation of frontiers in the processes of construction of Self and Other. Peruvian community network is considered as a form of "imagined community", in Benedict Anderson's terms. It is a small community of fishermen and families who own restaurants, clubs and cheap hostals. One of the most interesting emerging practices identified in

building community temporarilities are the transnational connections and the performance of Peruvian folk dances. Children participate and learn these traditions.

However, the experience of isolation is very strong, they describe they feel the old wall of the Old City as a very hard frontier that connect and disconnect them to the rest of the city. They narrate they feel confined to Ciudad Vieja!

Experiencing fragmented trajectories: ethnographic explorations of mental distress among refugees in Italy

Author: Francesca Morra (Oxford Brookes University)  email

Short Abstract

By ‘zooming in’ on micro experiences of divergent temporalities, this paper analyses the psychic life of the European asylum system and the long-term products of bordering practices. The paper considers mental ‘disorders’ as a way to explore the ambiguities of citizenship projects.

Long Abstract

Anthropologists have largely problematized mainstream narratives on the current European migration crisis, especially with regard to the proliferation of 'bordering' practices aimed at governing mobility. Yet, movement control is not limited to spatial dimensions. Borders draw both spaces of marginality and fragmented temporal trajectories, in which time becomes suspended, interrupted, or accelerated. Moreover, bordering practices act at different levels, from macro migration policies, to national projects of citizenship, to micro acts, and consequences, of control. By 'zooming in' on those micro experiences of divergent temporalities, this paper analyses the psychic life of the European asylum system and the long-term products of the related citizenship categories and trajectories. Drawing on Foucault's work about the historicization of non-sense, and de Martino's analysis of psychopathological facts as ethnographic documents, the paper considers mental 'disorders' as a way to explore ordering practices. Through an ethnographic exploration of mental distress among refugees in Italy, the paper looks at embodied relations between migrants and state, investigating the work, and the ambiguities in particular, of citizenship projects. Focusing on disruptions and other fractures resisting language, the aim is to put into dialogue idiosyncratic and collective experiences of liminality, thus asking: What are the psychic products of bordering categories, procedures and regulations? And as historical events, what can those products tell about the marginal spaces they inhabit - and are inhabited by?

Temporariness, belonging, and the mobile body: exploring seasonal agricultural workers' experiences in a regional Australian community

Author: Esther Anderson (University of Southern Queensland)  email

Short Abstract

The need for seasonal agricultural labour links transient populations to regional Australian communities. The mobile body offers a way of understanding how everyday interactions connect temporariness, stability, belonging and exclusion.

Long Abstract

Seasonal labour is integral to regional Australian social structures and has considerable significance for the maintenance of the agriculture industry. Seasonal labour is partially sustained by place- and industry-based migration schemes, which contribute to the maintenance of dynamic and diverse regional areas. Transient labour populations and regional communities continue to be mutually interdependent, but this relationship is made complex through narratives of stability and belonging that become embedded in the local space. Within employment contexts, the seasonal worker exists temporarily, but the need for their labour is more permanent. This economic focus limits the possibility for workers to become part of the community in a more social sense, creating a regional space understood through frameworks of stasis and exclusion. The temporal and spatial conditions that structure individual experiences of seasonal labour, transience, and temporary migration limit the performances of everyday life to marginal social spaces. The seasonal worker also contrasts understandings of a fixed, stable regional identity by moving through space in a seemingly unattached way.

In addressing these issues, this paper uses the mobile body to explore the state of being 'local', which assumes that belonging necessitates a deep, long-term personal connection with regional space. This paper forms part of a PhD research project focusing on sites in regional south-east Queensland, Australia where seasonal workers, farmers, and long-term residents intersect. Broader themes of temporality, migrancy, mobility and belonging touch on the exploitation of temporary migrant workers recently revealed Australian media discourse.

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Living inside temporally thick borders: IT professionals' experiences of Swedish immigration policy and practice

Author: Linn Axelsson  email

Short Abstract

This paper conceptualises border crossing as a temporal process that spans several years. It highlights the temporal and spatial consequences of several moments of waiting experienced by some highly skilled migrants in Sweden in relation to their admission, labour market access and settlement.

Long Abstract

This paper seeks to challenge the claim that highly skilled professionals are offered almost seamless mobility and a comprehensive set of rights. Focussing on highly skilled professionals in Sweden's information technology industry, it argues that just like the lower skilled, the highly skilled may experience a range of insecurities to do with their immigration status. It explores these insecurities by conceptualising border crossing as a temporal process that begins with the submission of a work permit application and ends with permanent status (or migrant departure) and which, consequently, spans several years. More pointedly, the paper demonstrates that some highly skilled migrants experience several moments of waiting in relation to their admission, labour market access and settlement. These moments of waiting have spatial and temporal consequences in terms of temporary losses of mobility rights, elongated pathways to citizenship, insecurity of presence and feelings of living in limbo. The paper shows that the practices of government institutions are every bit as important as legal frameworks in disrupting, decelerating or accelerating movements across borders, and that it is therefore necessary to extend the analysis of migration management beyond policy analysis in order to more fully appreciate the situation of the highly skilled.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.