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Title: PANEL: Theorizing (im)mobilities: Anthropological takes on an emerging metanarrative
Authors: Salazar, Noel B. #
Issue Date: Dec-2009
Publisher: American Anthropological Association
Host Document: American Anthropological Association Abstracts vol:108
Conference: Annual Meeting edition:108 location:Philadelphia, USA date:2-6 December 2009
Abstract: Mobility, noun:
(1) ability to move or to be moved;
(2) ease or freedom of movement; and
(3) tendency to change easily or quickly.

It is fashionable to imagine today’s world as being in constant motion, with people, cultures, goods, money, businesses, diseases, image, and ideas flowing in every
direction across the planet. The scholarly literature is replete with concepts and metaphors attempting to capture altered or intensified spatial and temporal realities:
deterritorialization and scapes, time–space compression, the network society and its space of flows, cosmopolitanism, and the possibility of leading bi-focal and multi-focal lives in several locations simultaneously through transnational migration. Sociologists and geographers enthusiastically talk about the ‘mobility turn’ in the social sciences, stressing the breaching of boundaries by migration, mass communication, and trade,
and suggesting the emergence of novel forms of identity, economy and community. For the self-critical discipline of anthropology, which has accused itself in the recent past of representing people as territorially, socially, and culturally bounded, this perceived new reality is thought to be theoretically and methodologically challenging.
If mobility is the new mantra to be chanted, the chorus line might be older than most scholars want to acknowledge. The idea that everything is in constant motion was already developed by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus (ca. 540-480 BCE), who became known for his doctrine that change is central to the universe and that ‘all things flow’. Long before globalization, transnationalism, or cosmopolitanism became academic buzzwords, anthropologists knew about such mobilities as experience experts (although they not necessarily acknowledged them in their writings). With the present hype over global fluxes and flows, we tend to forget that many of anthropology’s founding scholars, including Franz Boas and Bronislaw Malinowski, were themselves migrants and that the latter put transcultural mobility at the heart of ethnographic practice. Not only the experience of “being there” produced invaluable insights that shaped the discipline, but also the act of traveling “out of place” played a determining role. At the same time, critically engaged ethnographers have been among the first to point out that the very processes that produce global movements and linkages promote immobility, exclusion, and disconnection.
In line with the 2009 Annual Meeting’s general theme, “The End/s of Anthropology”, this panel aims at discussing the analytical purchase of (im)mobility as an overarching conceptual framework to study and understand the current human condition. Individual papers will advance anthropological theorizing by addressing the following questions: Why has the distinction between mobilities and immobilities, in their various forms, gradually become one of the central dichotomies in social theory (with the former usually being a priori positively valued)? Why is movement (not) a better metaphor to conceptualize the contemporary world than primordialism? Which role do conceptualizations of (im)mobility play in anthropological theories, both today and historically? How are anthropology (as a discipline) and anthropologists (as ethnographic practitioners) positioned in relation to issues of
(im)mobility? Why is mobility (not) the next grand narrative in anthropology or the social sciences at large?
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Interculturalism, Migration and Minorities Research Centre
# (joint) last author

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