Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Migrant trajectories, especially those with an irregular character, are not only about moving. They are also characterized by immobilities, which take place in certain ‘places’ of rest, of being stuck/stopped, and of change in direction. These places are highly diverse, ranging from migrant shelters and border communities to police raids. This paper engages with the language that we use for these places of im/mobility, and how this language may shape our understanding of these places. Anthropological writings have described them in terms such as interfaces; intersections; chokepoints and depots. Each of these and other terms may generate a different kind of image and knowledge, in particular, regarding the ways in which these places are embedded locally. Drawing on fieldwork in Panama and Costa Rica, the paper introduces the term ‘node’ for the more-or-less permanent migrant shelters along the route of African migrants who travel through Central America. It considers these nodes as part of migration infrastructures and builds on Carse’s (2014) assertion that infrastructures are embedded in active environments, generate both connection and disconnection, and require continuous maintenance. The paper explores the value of the term node for the coming into being and the functioning of migrant shelters in particular localities, as nodes refer not only to mere intersecting (of people, experiences, localities) but also to something new and ‘knot-like’ that this intersecting produces – like the 'swelling' where new branches of a plant emerge.