Key figure of mobility: the migrant
(University of Edinburgh)
Paper short abstract:
The concept of the migrant is inflated with notions of territory and non-belonging. In order to rescue its analytical potential from its own metaphors, I will retrace 'the migrant' from Edward Said into contemporary thought, exploring it anew within current critical research on (im)mobility.
Paper long abstract:
Struggling to overcome the rift between exile and homeland, the migrant is often conceptualised as being in a state of in-between and non-belonging. Therein, identity and territory are closely linked. The migrant has become the nation-state's determining other. This is nowhere more evident than in Said's writings on exile, the starting point for my discussion about the 'migrant' as a key figure of mobility. This figure has often been approached either through the lens of nation-states, or through fludisim, while the interplay between space, identity, and power defining the ontological condition beneath the conceptual migrant was left unresolved. Our epistemological migrant has travelled into crisis. "Exiles cross borders, break barriers of thought and experience," writes Said (2001: 185). What does that mean, if we approach the 'migrant' not through its metaphor, but above all as a spatially situated, context-dependent social phenomenon informing identities? As a specific ontological manifestation of (im)mobility, the migrant's experience is more complex than its metaphor. This becomes clear in the case of "homeland minorities", such as the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Here, 'the migrant' operates in power-related fields of (im)mobilities where the Saidian experience becomes relevant in the absence of territorial exile. Turning conventional wisdom upside down, here the state "migrated" to Palestinians, not the other way around. Scrutinizing 'the migrant' against this background, we shall look at how (im)mobility, space and identity operate as ontological exile and what this may mean for its epistemological counterpart.
Key figures of mobility (ANTHROMOB)