Crossings: Journal of Migration and Culture vol:1 issue:1 pages:53-68
Human mobilities, whether horizontal or vertical, internal or boundary-crossing, are infused with cultural meaning, manifested in metacultural discourses and imaginaries. While cultural elements clearly have an impact on people’s mobility, the way people move across borders also exerts strong influence on their culture and society. Studying the interaction between culturally rooted imaginaries of mobility and real physical movements, a relation coloured by global media images as well as personal accounts, helps us understand the multiple meanings behind contemporary migratory phenomena. Cultural anthropology, as a discipline situated between the social sciences and the humanities, is ideally suited to analyse critically the complex dynamics between mobile cultures and human mobility. This article, based on longterm fieldwork in Tanzania, exemplifies what an anthropological take on the interplay between culture and mobility may look like. Placed in their wider historical and socio-economic context, I discuss migratory movements and their cultural representations in Tanzania. An analysis of the ethnographic data reveals how imaginaries and social relations concerning mobility are materialized, enacted and inculcated. The particular case of the Maasai people, who are entangled in an intricate web of cultural mobilities, illustrates the complexity of the issues at stake.