Accepted Paper:

Mobile culture and immobile anthropology: towards an anthropology of the roads and flows  


Dimitris Dalakoglou (Vrije University Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

This is a paper on an anthropology of the roads and flows. It examines the reasons anthropology had neglected the phenomena of cultural flows and their material culture: the roads, for many decades of disciplinary history.

Paper long abstract:

Roads are one of the earliest types of material culture: they appear in any given historical period, but they have been relatively underestimated in anthropology. Roads provide a unique entry point into the study of spatial mobility, being on the one hand the very means and mode of both objects and person flows and yet often in themselves materially static, some even following on Roman lines. In spite of their various interesting aspects they are remarkably neglected by anthropologists. My paper examines theoretically the epistemology behind this neglect. Beginning from the works of classical anthropologists, analyzes the framework of the old anti-road and anti-mobile anthropology which is not sustainable today. It suggests the study of roads and motion in anthropology as an alternative paradigm to understand the dialectic and dynamic character of culture - including material culture in a time when human condition is increasingly diverse, mobile and transnationally formed.

Panel IW01
Mobility: frictions and flows