EASA, 2008: EASA08: Experiencing diversity and mutuality
Ljubljana, 26/08/2008 – 29/08/2008
Immobilities: new challenges for anthropology in a globalised world (Young Scholars Plenary)
Date and Start Time [TBD] at [TBD]
This plenary aims to examine mobilities as an object of anthropological study in a globalised world. The plenary welcomes ethnographic case studies where mobilities and immobilities are at play.
Today's world is on the move. People, ideas, images, information, objects, symbols and capitals circulate in complex material and virtual flows around the planet. Whether for pleasure or work, desired or forced, physical or virtual, mobility seems to have become the new condition of a globalised world (Bauman, 1994; Shéller and Urry, 2006). In such a mobile world, the capacity to move and to circulate becomes essential. Being mobile or immobile changes our perception of what is proximal and distant, it redefines boundaries, identities and, with them, our sense of belonging. The dialectics between mobilities and immobilities thus becomes an exceptional standpoint to reveal the diversity, inequalities and differences in the way we live and experience a globalised world. But, how can we gain ethnographic knowledge about this dialectic? How could ethnographic knowledge contribute to the understanding of mobilities and immobilities? And contrariwise: how does this new mobile condition affect ethnographic principles and techniques? How to define anthropological locations in this mobile world?
Grounding mobility: rethinking the boundaries of our world and work
It has become fashionable to imagine the world in which we live as in constant motion. In theorizing what is distinctive about the condition of contemporary globalization, we tend to stress the breaching of boundaries by migration, mass communication, and trade, suggesting the emergence of novel forms of identity, economy, and community. This new reality is thought to be theoretically and methodologically challenging for a discipline that has accused itself in the recent past of representing people as territorially, socially, and culturally bounded.
Drawing on multi-sited and multi-temporal fieldwork in Indonesia and Tanzania, this paper critically questions the current 'mobility turn'. What are the contours of power, agency, and subjectivity in imaginaries of global mobility and the intersecting social categories those visions both reify and dissolve? How are widely spread practices of mobility (e.g. tourism and migration) erasing existing boundaries while at the same time erecting new ones? Is human mobility more than the newest form of accumulating symbolic capital? Who are the so-called 'immobile' and how are they creating their own forms of 'mobility'?
If mobility is the new mantra to be chanted by anthropologists, the chorus line might be older than most of us want to acknowledge. What makes my fieldwork on the circulation of mobility fantasies in two tourism destinations different from the research of Boas on the migration patterns of the Baffin Island Inuit or Malinowski on the trading cycle of the Trobriand Islanders? How can 'old' anthropology help us formulate answers to exciting 'new' questions?
Mediterranean cosmopolitanisms and the mobilities paradigm
In the midst of current geopolitical contests, the Mediterranean reemerges as a site of policy and scholarly attention. Initiatives in the policy realm such as the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and its associated Anna Lindh Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures are being paralleled in academia with a renewed interest in the Mediterranean as a site of convergence and exchange. In returning their gaze to the Mediterranean, politicians have called for a revival of its vocation as a human unit while scholars have found an experimental field for shifting cultural and social formations. In the first part of this paper we critically review the academic and policy discourses about the Mediterranean and note that both tend to be premised upon a paradoxical combination of 'nomadist' and 'sedentarist' visions of social life that fail to sufficiently acknowledge how the social is constituted in a place of such massive flows of people, objects and symbols. Our argument is informed by a 'mobilities perspective', an attempt to systematize and further develop a wide range of work on the mobile nature of social and economic life. When the current efforts to create a Mediterranean region are seen through a mobilities perspective it becomes evident that the material conditions for the creation of a common cultural and social space remain under-examined. This prevents acknowledging already existing potentialities to further develop Mediterranean cosmopolitanisms. In the second part of the paper we discuss the methodological challenges to study cosmopolitan dispositions from a mobilities perspective.
Producing immobility, preserving mobility
Tourism implies the production and reproduction of both mobile flows of people and of a seemingly 'fixed' place, the tourist destination. This paper will explore the dialectics between mobility and immobility through the analysis of the century-long (re)production of Majorca as a tourist destination, paying special attention to the relationship that in the urban context preservationist policies and practices maintain with the tourist industry and with processes of commodification and decommodification of place (including the social practices that constitute it). This (re)production unfolds through a permanent process of place transformation (in order to allow mobility) and place preservation, understood as the fixing of a determinate correlation between a certain space and certain characteristics and practices. As I will show, this is a changing and often contradictory process, as preservation can be deployed as a means of enhancing tourist flows or of protecting society from its deleterious effects. The paper will conclude that a dialectical approach to mobility and immobility attends to the struggle to define what parts of social reality are transformable and what are natural or given. I argue that this struggle constitutes a politics that is best understood in terms of hegemony.
"It's like belonging to a place that has never been yours." Forced return migration and perceptions of involuntary immobility
In migration cultures such as Cape Verde, border-crossing plays a crucial role in the individual life-making process. Particularly for young people, it's comparable to a rite de passage, which they must undergo to become respected members of their community. While current changes in migration theories discuss the diversity of mobile life worlds, this paper deals with the often neglected reality of involuntary immobility.
Drawing on anthropological fieldwork in Cape Verde, I focus on forced criminal return migration from the USA back to the country of origin, Cape Verde. Those who failed abroad, and were brought back 'home' by force are confronted with a melange of hostility, rejection, idealization, and envy. Thereby, their life-making comes to a dead-end. Though being Cape Verdean citizens per passport, their habits of consumption and ostentatious display of an American lifestyle demonstrate a sense of cultural and social belonging to the US. Thereby, they show a disdain towards local ways of living.
The paper examines and theorizes the ways in which the so-called 'deportados' navigate their sense of belonging to a foreign place. It concentrates on the corporeal aspects of forced immobility at a place, where mobility is central to social recognition.