Arts and Culture
She cries twice during our interview. In her beautiful home in one of the cosy, quaint old houses in Shanghai, Julia explains her move out of Hong Kong. In between, she exudes a deep sense of loss when she volunteers to lay bare fragments of her personal life that, gently and sharply, take the shape of two of her beloved: her father in Hong Kong and her best friend who just left Shanghai. I am urged by my encounters with creative workers like Julia to enquire after the struggles, disruptions and inequalities that emerge in their new, trans-local, experiential geographies. This paper argues for the inclusion of personal, affective experiences to complicate the fluidity, the ease, the resolve that are usually assumed in the imaginary of being mobile. I argue that any examination of affective labour may expand from the affect in labour, to how labour affects; from affective labour to labour affects. This inquiry brings to mobility studies the resonances between moving (geographically) and being moved (affectively), supplementing cultural studies’ critique of creative work with precarity of a different category, that of the affective. The empirical section presents the affective accounts of three re-located creative workers. They show us that mobility is never as frictionless as it sounds, and doing what people love may well come at the cost of losing those whom they love. I tease out three themes for further connections with affect: ethos and values, gender, and technology.