Perspectives from the Humanities and Social Sciences

Entangled Mobilities – A Proposition of a Methodological Framework

Emmanuel Charmillot, Janine Dahinden, Oliver Pederson, Anna Wyss

In this paper, we propose a methodological agenda to explicitly recenter the focus on how different forms of mobilities are and become mutually entangled – how certain forms of mobilities engender, limit or shape other mobilities across different scales.
We use ‘entangled mobilities’ as an analytical lens to study specific global and transnational processes and the ways they are locally situated, materialize in specific mobilities, bordering practices, life trajectories, and evolve across times and spaces. Building on migration and mobility studies, we propose three pragmatic entry points to explore how and why different forms of mobilities are entwined: 1) focusing on specific localities, 2) studying intersections and interdependencies, and 3) following people’s trajectories. Using examples from two ethnographic fieldwork projects conducted in the Faroe Islands and Switzerland, we aim to demonstrate what researchers might learn from studying the entanglement of human as well as non-human mobilities.
We argue that such an approach is crucial for unveiling inequalities and interdependencies caused by and shaped within different regimes of mobility (Glick Schiller and Salazar 2013), which are structured by social divisions (e.g., gender, nationality, race, class), and situated in historical, socio-economic, and political contexts. In other words, such an approach equips researchers to better understand the embeddedness of specific mobilities within asymmetrical power relations.

Emmanuel Charmillot is a PhD researcher at the Maison d’analyse des processus sociaux (MAPS) and at the nccr on the move at the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. His research interests focus on everyday and informal practices of bordering and boundary making related to different mobilities. His dissertation thesis is based on an ethnographic approach and explores forms of (entangled) mobilities in peripheral areas.

Janine Dahinden is Professor of Transnational Studies, director of the MAPS (Maison d’analyse des processus sociaux) and project leader in the nccr-on the move, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. She is interested in understanding processes of mobility, transnationalization and boundary making, and their concomitant production of inequalities linked to ethnicity, race, class, religion or gender. She is the co-director of the Standing Committee of »Reflexivities in migration studies« of IMISCOE.

Oliver Pederson is a PhD student at the institute of Psychology and Education at the University of Neuchâtel. His research centers on the development of imagination as people and ideas move across times and spaces, through an ethnographic exploration of entanglement mobilities and immobilities on the island of Suðuroy.

Anna Wyss is a postdoctoral researcher at the Maison d’analyse des processus sociaux (University of Neuchâtel) and at the Faculty of Law (University of Bern). She currently works in a research project, funded by the ‘nccr – on the move’, which explores how diverse and entangled mobilities shape small localities on the peripheries of Europe. Her interests include mobilities and migration, the governance of migration, mechanisms of in- and exclusion and anthropological approaches to law and the state.

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Potentials and Dilemmas of Im/Mobilities in Mongolia

Ines Stolpe

This talk provides comparative perspectives on potentials and dilemmas of im/mobilities in Mongolia. Until the late 1950s, a majority of the population was leading a mobile way of life, and the unique modernization of the then Mongolian People’s Republic was decidedly based on a mutual integration of spatial and social mobility, the latter being more and more associated with ambition and progress. Today, more than half of Mongolia’s population resides in cities, and many citizens live abroad. The concentration in Ulaanbaatar is due to largely centralized opportunities for social mobility. One way of addressing challenges of the rural-to-urban migration was the emergence of nutag councils (nutgiin zövlöl), which have developed unique figurations of mobility and mobilization.
While I am writing these lines, people worldwide share localized experiences with Covid-19-induced im/mobilities. Recognizing dimensions of inequality is expressed in the concept of »Bounded Mobilities« (Gutekunst et al. 2016). Although Mongolia is one of the few states which so far curbed the pandemic successfully, new forms of »bounded mobilities« emerged since early 2020. In this talk, I plan to briefly touch upon a range of examples with a focus on modernity and mobilization.

Ines Stolpe is Professor of Mongolian Studies at Bonn University, Germany. After studying Comparative Education and Mongolian Studies in Berlin and Ulaanbaatar, she obtained her PhD on interdependencies of social and spatial mobility in contemporary Mongolia. Her research includes topics such as education and migration, the history of concepts and discourses, development paradigms, facets of animal husbandry, changing meanings of symbols, elements of nature and festival calendars, hygiene campaigns, educational philosophy, memory cultures, nutag councils, politicization of administration, inequality and sustainability, Mongolia’s approaches towards the COVID-19 pandemic, and some aspects of the recent history of Mongolian Studies in Germany.

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Indigenous Im/Mobilities: Settler Colonialism, Displacement, and Memory in Washington, DC

Elizabeth Rule

This paper explores sites of Indigenous importance in Washington, DC and, in doing so, analyzes the ways in which practices of claiming Indigenous space and making Indigenous place in the settler state seat of power reveals settler colonial im/mobilities and entanglements. Drawing on my book manuscript, Indigenous DC: Native Peoples and the Nation’s Capital, I begin this paper with an exploration of of DC as the ancestral homelands of its original Indigenous inhabitants, transition to discuss the history of tribal diplomats who made their way to the capital city to represent the political interests of their Native nations, and then discuss the legacies of Indigenous peoples and movements within Washington, DC as made evident through the built environment, national monuments, architecture, and more. I conclude with a discussion of my public humanities project, »Guide to Indigenous DC«, a freely-accessible iOS mobile application with digital and virtual mapping systems that geolocates users in relation to sites of Indigenous significance throughout the District of Columbia. Launched in July 2019, the app has generated over 12,000 impressions, 4,000 tours, and 2,000 downloads, and the Washington Post wrote that the Guide to Indigenous DC exists as a way to »correct the Native American narrative in the nation’s capital«. Thus, taken as a whole, this paper showcases the ways in which mapping Indigenous history, contemporary community, and resistance in the settler state capital illuminate entangled Indigenous im/mobilities.

Dr. Elizabeth Rule (enrolled tribal citizen, Chickasaw Nation) is Director of the AT&T Center for Indigenous Politics and Policy at George Washington University. Rule’s research on Native American issues has been featured in the Washington Post, The Atlantic, and NPR, and she has published in American Quarterly and the American Indian Culture and Research Journal. Rule has presented more than 100 public speaking engagements on Native issues across three continents and in seven countries. Previously, Dr. Rule was a Postdoctoral Fellow at American University, Ford Foundation Fellow, and Predoctoral Fellow at MIT. Rule received her PhD from Brown University.

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Narrating Im/Mobility and Identity in Contemporary Road Novels by Paul Collis and Tara June Winch

Michelle Stork

Indigenous mobility, and particularly indigenous automobility, has been largely overlooked by the field of mobility studies. In fact, fundamental texts, such as John Urry’s »System of Automobility« (2004), predominantly locate the field in an American setting. In my paper, I will look at how automobility is conceptualized in allegedly ‘other’ contexts by drawing on literary works by two Indigenous Australian authors – Paul Collis’s Dancing Home (2017) and Tara June Winch’s Swallow the Air (2006).
My paper focuses on showing how im/mobility and identity are thought together in these two novels. Arguably, being on the road enables the main characters to reimagine their place in a seemingly static social hierarchy. While the experience of being on the road is marked by racial tensions and local politics of exclusion that continue to mark the Indigenous experience on the Australian continent, the novels portray complex Indigenous characters whose experience of (auto)mobility is fraught with contradictions. Rather than fulfilling the promise of absolute freedom, the road is narrated as a space marked by past and present conflicts, gender inequalities and fluctuating power relations. Both novels end with spatially immobilized but arguably more accomplished characters, suggesting a revision of the genre’s underlying narrative of open-ended movement. Thus, the novels provide valuable insights into Indigenous transformations of the road novel genre and allow for a more nuanced understanding of the im/mobility dichotomy.

Michelle Stork is a PhD candidate at the Department for New Anglophone Literatures and Cultures at Goethe University Frankfurt. Her PhD project on ‘Transculturality in the Contemporary Anglophone Road Novel and Road Movie’ examines road narratives in fiction and film across the Anglophone world from a transcultural perspective. She studied English Studies, Moving Cultures, Comparative Literary Studies and History of Art at Goethe University Frankfurt and Universiteit Utrecht. Since November 2020, she holds a scholarship with the German Academic Scholarship Foundation.

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