Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power vol:18 issue:6 pages:576-598
At the roots of many travels to distant destinations - be it in the context of tourism or migration – are historically laden and socio-culturally constructed imaginaries. People worldwide rely on such imaginaries, from the most spectacular fantasies to the most mundane reveries, to shape identities of themselves and others. These unspoken representational systems are powerful because they enact and construct peoples and places, implying multiple, often conflicting, representations of Otherness, and questioning several core values multicultural societies hold, by blurring traditional territorial, social and cultural boundaries, and creating hybrid forms. What are the contours of power, agency, and subjectivity in imaginaries of transnational mobility and the intersecting social categories those visions both reify and dissolve? Ethnographic studies of human (im)mobility provide an innovative means to grasp the complexity of the global circulation of people and the meaning-making images and ideas surrounding these movements. As a polymorphic concept, mobility invites us to renew our theorizing, especially regarding conventional themes such as culture, identity, and transnational relationships. This paper critically analyses some preliminary findings of an ongoing multi-sited research project that traces how prevalent imaginaries of transnational tourism to and migration from the “global South” are (dis)connected. I suggest anthropology has unique contributions to make to the current debate in the social sciences by ethnographically detailing how mobility is a contested ideological construct involving so much more than mere movement.