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SIEF2013 11th Congress: Tartu, Estonia.
30 June - 4 July, 2013

SIEF2013: Circulation

Tartu, Estonia; 30th June - 4th July


The inequalities of (im)mobility

Location Ülikooli 18, 307
Date and Start Time 03 July, 2013 at 10:30


Pihla Maria Siim (University of Tartu) email
Laura Assmuth (University of Eastern Finland) email
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Short Abstract

This session explores inequalities of (im)mobility: people move or stay put on different terms and a transnational way of life is often not a matter of free choice. We invite contributions that address generational, ethnic, gender, class and other differences related to experiences of (im)mobility.

Long Abstract

When speaking about transnationalism and mobility, the freedom of movement is often stressed. But how free are people to move in today's putatively globalised world and integrated Europe?

This session focuses on inequalities relating to mobility and transnational ways of life. Presuming that not all people move on similar terms, we ask to whom is living a transnational way of life possible or desirable in the first place and under what conditions. To what degree is migration, commuting or staying put in the home country a matter of voluntary choice and how are these choices restricted? The panel is concerned with subjective and affective dimensions of mobility: ways in which mobility is experienced and constructed and how reasons for moving or staying put are narrated by grown-up migrants as well as by children of different age, by family members staying behind and return migrants who for one reason or another have moved back to their home country. We encourage papers that discuss generational, ethnic, gender and class differences related to experiences of mobility, look at transnational networks of people staying in their country of origin or at (symbolic) elements whereby transnational ways of life are connected to certain places.

The session is furthermore interested in moral dimensions of migration, exploring which kinds of mobility are valued highly or, on the contrary, stigmatised and associated with the ills of society and how notions of mobility, immobility and rootedness are used to imagine national, ethnic or other kind of communities.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Preventing mobility: national borders, urban gates and the political will to disable

Author: Speranta Dumitru (University Paris Descartes)  email

Short Abstract

According to the social model of disability, it is society that disables physically impaired people. By analogy, borders control can be viewed as a political decision to prevent mobility. The paper analyses how migration policies and urban plans reduce accessibility to opportunities to the very poor

Long Abstract

Since the 1970, the social model of disability has pointed out how "it is society which disables physically impaired people" (UPIAS, 1976). Rather than an individual bad luck, explained in medical terms, disability appeared to be more and more as the result of a social and spatial exclusion. As the decisions to build flights of stairs, inadequate public transport and unsuitable housing are often collectively taken and financed by public funds, they can be analyzed as political decisions with disabling effects.

This paper compares two kinds of political decisions whose effect or aim is to prevent mobility: urban plans and restrictions on immigration. The question it will address is how urban gates and national borders depart from an equal mobility?

The paper is divided in three parts. The first section reminds why mobility has been described as a central human capability (Nussbaum, 2000; Robeyns, 2003; Kronlid, 2008), a capability to choose between different movement-functionings. The second section compares the impact of national borders and urban gates in terms of accessibility to valuable opportunities but argues for taking labor-time, not distance, as the relevant unit of analysis. The third section compares accessibility in terms of the opportunities' values and argues that preventing mobility by national borders and urban gates is a way to increase the existing inequalities.

"Migration times" of migrant parents: constraints and opportunities in life course

Author: Aija Lulle (University of Latvia)  email

Short Abstract

Through detailed attention to mobility trajectories and roles and norms as performed and perceived by migrant mothers and fathers, who work in Great Britain to support their families in Latvia, I demonstrate how life stages, cycle and life course shape and are shaped by migrant parents.

Long Abstract

Work is based on ethnographic fieldwork in both countries during 2010-2012. The ontology of my research is based in a temporal-geographical perspective: the research subjects live in the physical world and have limited time-space resources. Each step in space is also a move in time and implicates effort to create bundles in particular places with relevant others, e.g., couple co-presence or a family reunion. Social mediums bridge physical movements with rich immaterial world in continuous systems and worldview.

Drawing on Hägerstrand's notions of various trajectories -- moving in time and space side-by-side, separation, encounter, and return to home -- I analyse the connections between transnational practices, the idea of 'return', and perceptions of a 'better life' and the roles of 'mother'/'father', 'partner', and 'daughter'/ 'son' in three steps: (1) a will to return, constraints and effort to overcome them in distanciated bundle-creating, its (dis)continuities and translations of roles and norms (2) return visits (3) and an imagined or real final (no)return.

Geographical mobility of parents are intrinsically linked to life courses of partners, children and grandparents that create specific 'migration times' of obligations, hope, togetherness and separation. These testimonies of migrant women's and men's lives signify wider on-going social changes with implications for gender regimes and inter-generational time in a post-socialist society.

Migration to the homeland: reflections on settlement, migration and mobility in the experience of the post-Soviet Greek migrants in Greece and Cyprus

Author: Kira Kaurinkoski (Aix-Marseille Université)  email

Short Abstract

The aim of this paper is to reflect on different patterns of settlement, migration and mobility in the experience of the post-Soviet Greek migrants in Greece and Cyprus.

Long Abstract

Since the late 1980s, Greece has received approximately 200 000 ethnic Greeks (Pontic and Mariupol Greeks) from the former Soviet Union. In parallel, some 20 000 have settled in Cyprus. Until 2000, in official Greek government rhetoric, the migrants were called "repatriates" who had "repatriated" to their homeland. In both countries, they constituted "privileged return migrants" who were entitled to Greek citizenship through a facilitated procedure. In the 1990s, also other measures were foreseen to facilitate their integration into the Greek and Cypriot societies. In reality, the reasons for migration varied and have been explained by a wide range of factors having to do with identity, security, economic and educational issues. In Greece, the migrants faced all sorts of difficulties, e.g., deskilling, exploitation and hostility from the local population. In the end, the disillusion was reciprocal as both the locals and the newcomers were disappointed by one another. Over the years, it seems that most migrants have adapted to their new environment. Some migrants have returned to their old home countries, some others have adopted transnational circulatory migration patterns with frequent travel between the old and the new home countries, or other places. The aim of this paper is to reflect on different patterns of settlement, migration and mobility in the experience of the post-Soviet Greek migrants in Greece and Cyprus. How is commuting or relocation experienced and explained by migrants and perceived by others, considering the migrants' age, gender, legal and social status.

Mobility and inequalities of creativity: defining belonging in post-Soviet Estonia

Author: Elo-Hanna Seljamaa (University of Tartu)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on interviews and other fieldwork data, this paper looks at how various actors in post-Soviet Estonia regard rootedness as a precondition for creativity and respectability and how they use this idea to stigmatize Soviet-era newcomers as well as to deny them agency and social mobility.

Long Abstract

Thousands of people from all over the Soviet Union moved to Estonia during the Soviet era, many of whom decided to stay put when the country regained independence and formerly symbolic borders between union republics became rigid frontiers. The position and status of Soviet-era newcomers and their descendants in post-Soviet Estonia is an emotional issue of much controversy as well as a matter of realpolitik addressed by means of a national integration policy. The concept of culture plays a multifaceted role in these negotiations as various actors utilize it to articulate similarities and differences, inclusions, exclusions as well as conditions of in-betweenness.

While conducting fieldwork on ethnic interactions and integration in contemporary Estonia, I noticed how individuals of different ethnic background would talk about "roots" and "rootedness" as a precondition for the capability to appreciate "high culture" and to behave in a respectable manner. Drawing on interviews in particular, I discuss in this paper how rootedness is regarded as a prerequisite for the ability and authority to be creative - to interpret and produce new meanings - while those who allegedly have lost or are in danger of losing their roots are seen to suffer from bad taste and weak morals. I am particularly interested in how interviewees intertwine rootedness and creativeness to stigmatize certain kinds of mobility, to deny people described as rootless agency and to establish hierarchies of belonging.

Understandings and practices of (im)mobility among Russian-speaking (foreign-born) Narvans

Author: Jaanika Kingumets (University of Tampere)  email

Short Abstract

This paper addresses mobility and immobility both as valued resources, depending on individual and familial circumstances in time and space. Empirically, the practices and understandings of their (im)mobility in post-Soviet space among Russian-speaking Narvans in Estonia are examined.

Long Abstract

The mobility of Russian-speaking Narvans born outside of Estonian state borders (but exclusively in former Soviet Union) is legally and physically constituted most of all by citizenship politics in Estonia and their countries of origin. It has to be noticed, however, that the actual practices of (im)mobility across borders are extremely diverse and personalized. Moreover, it is not purely the Narvans' individual (legal) possibilities to move across borders that have effect on their (im)mobility, but also the mobile capacity and behaviour of their significant others (usually family members) in the other end of mobility trajectories. In Narva, as a border-town with Russia which simultaneously stands as a gate between Russia and Schengen visa-free area, the mobility to East vs. West makes an important difference. East is where most of the Narvans I interviewed have kinship connections to, but generally speaking, those connections are weakening as years pass, and West is where the new kinship connections are increasingly formed as their children and grandchildren are looking for opportunities to migrate West-wards. I will explore the dynamics of different aspects in practicing and making claims about (im)mobility in post-Soviet space. I will highlight the particularities of generational, gender, ethnic and class differences in forming different avenues for practices and narrations of (im)mobility.

Crossing the Finnish-Estonian border

Author: Kirsi Laurén (University of Eastern Finland)  email

Short Abstract

Finland and Estonia have a sea frontier (Gulf of Finland) between them. This study focuses on Finns’ experiences of crossing the Finnish-Estonian border and travelling in Estonia during the period extending from the 1970’s Soviet Estonia till 2000’s independent Estonia.

Long Abstract

This study focuses on Finns' experiences of crossing the Finnish-Estonian sea frontier and travelling in Estonia during the period extending from the 1970's Soviet Estonia till 2000's independent Estonia. Historically Finland and Estonia have had a vivid interaction. The WWII changed the interrelationship between the countries and the people's relationship to the border changed as well. Regular shipping across the Gulf of Finland starts in 1965 and after that it was again easier to travel to Estonia.

The study is based on oral history theory and methodology by using written narratives as a research material. Memory and remembering are central concepts of the analysis. In 2010 Finnish Literature Society's Folklore Archive organized a national writing collection in Finland called "Across the Gulf of Finland". The aim was to collect Finns' oral history concerning their travelling experiences to Estonia. As a result the archive got 580 pages from 96 respondents. The narratives concentrate on e.g. border practices in Finnish-Estonian border and travelling experiences during and after the Soviet period. Most of the stories deal with the differences between the countries and the change from the Soviet regime to the time of independent Estonia. My research questions are: Who were able to travel Estonia in Soviet time and how it was to travel there? What kind of memories and perceptions Finns have about the Finnish-Estonian border and Estonia? The focus is on peoples' experiences and on their own interpretations of the past and present.

Transnational families, migration and gender: Romanian Roma in Romanian villages and in Helsinki

Authors: Airi Markkanen (University of Eastern Finland)  email
Anca Enache (Helsinki University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper investigates the experiences of migration and transnational life among the Romanian Roma families circulating between Romania and Finland. It looks specifically at the role of migration in shaping the households and lives of these families from the perspective of women and children.

Long Abstract

This paper explores the lived experiences of migration and transnational livelihood among the Romanian Roma families circulating in between Romania and Finland. It looks specifically at the roles of migration and transnationalism in shaping the households, lives of these families and the conditions as well as roles of women in them. The experiences, position and processes lived by children in migration as part of their everyday life are examined as well, from the perspective and through the voice of children themselves. The study is based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Helsinki and in Romania.

Forced ejection, forced repatriation: a double-displacement of Romania's Roma

Author: Erin McElroy (University of California, Santa Cruz)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will explore post-Communist Roma (in)voluntary migration from, and repatriation to, Romania. It will study how internal displacement from within the state triggers emigration, and then how returned Roma from Western states are forced to contend with conditions of a double-displacement.

Long Abstract

Since their medieval emergence into what is now Romania, Roma have been subjected an array of apparatuses that engender subjugation, including slavery, sterilization, forced assimilation, and genocide. One can argue that with the collapse of Communism, these apparatuses have metamorphosized, taking on forms of forced eviction and ghettoization. This precipitates not only internal displacement, but also destitution, environmental racism, increased susceptibility to police incursions and human trafficking rings, and conditions of rightlessness. Such effects incite increased migration from Romania to Western spaces, both voluntarily and not. While increased migration is often discursively privileged as newly founded access into the borderless European community, it is rarely discoursed as also resultant of neoliberal post-1989 xenophobia.

Whether in the West by choice or not, Roma are increasingly forced to face a concatenation of xenophobia that preceded, but also morphs upon, their arrival. In Western spaces, such as France and Italy, Roma are subjected to different formations of violence, including neo-Nazi attacks, state policies of exception, and state-sanctioned repatriation to Romania. In some places, such Northern Ireland, far right violence and state policies of exception lead to voluntary repatriation.

This paper will explore post-Communist Roma (in)voluntary migration from, and repatriation to, Romania. It will study how internal displacement from within the state triggers emigration, and then how returned Roma confronted with conditions of a double-displacement. It will question the effects of postnational Romanian assimilation into the whitened theatre of the EU, privileging narratives of Roma caught between the racisms of the East and West.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.