Society for the Anthropology of Europe
Invited - Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: This session adopts the AAA/CAS program theme of shifts in scenery or social climate to explore the ways in which mobile people experience movement between social spaces and physical places, as well as their emplacements and displacements. The papers suggest that mobility produces not only new connections and meanings of place, but also new power structures. Place can be seen as a site for contestation and power struggles, according to Feld and Basso (1996). For Bourdieu (1993), power dynamics are essential to understanding both lieu (site), which refers to localizations or positions in both social and physical space, and trajectory, which refers to social and geographic mobility. What connections can be made between physical landscapes and social landscapes? In what ways do mobilities make those connections and in what ways are mobilities affected by them? What spatial stories (Certeau 1984) accompany spatial practices? What questions of social justice arise from the differential experiences of mobility? Narratives of mobility can take different forms: they can be oral, textual and/or visual. The momentousness of mobility was recently identified by Noel Salazar (2018). Mobility is both ubiquitous and diverse, as well as ever expanding. Gupta and Ferguson (1992) early acknowledged the role of mobility in anthropological studies of place, and how places can be understood as produced by mobility. Attempts to conceptualize mobility and immobility in space and place raise issues of memory, nostalgia and longing. A social or physical landscape is altered by people who move through it, leave it, or settle in it. One of the consequences of mobility is the traces that are inscribed in a landscape, as well as the memories of it carried by those who have left it. Even when mobility is associated with a desire for a change of scenery, the experience of new landscapes and memories of those in the past have emotional force. This is a feature in the encounters of both involuntary and voluntary migrants, as well as among mobile professionals, pilgrims, sojourners, students, travelers, and tourists. Even though mobility studies are now established in anthropology, they accentuate conceptual and methodological questions, often producing innovative strategies. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the lens of mobility to study contemporary human societies? How can anthropologists research people on the move? Moving (and multi-site) fieldwork that follows the trajectories of mobile people or finds them in different locations may be the most useful method, combined with interviews especially focused on life stories. Fieldwork is itself often a form of mobility that entails reflexive approaches. By looking at space and place in narratives of mobility, the session aims to discuss the social climates of mobility as arenas of struggle. How is fixity, in the form of emplacement or displacement, related to fluidity, in the form of movement and mobility? How are space and place produced by both fixity and fluidity? In what ways are mobility and immobility produced by localizations and trajectories in space and place, and how is this related to social climates?