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Accepted Paper:

The exotic immobile subject  
Barak Kalir (University of Amsterdam)

Paper long abstract:

While setting the analytical gaze on those who are or were on the move, migration studies often caution us not to exaggerate mobility, and remind us that most people stay put. I shall argue that such a view is based on a very selective and narrow account of mobility. First, this view often neglects internal migration of all sorts, most notably rural-urban, but also urban-urban (changing a city, an apartment, a working place), and more recently urban-rural. Second, this view takes as the essential unit of analysis the moving individual, and often considers the setting in which the individual moves to be stable, for example, the village, the city, the state. By following ethnographically the life history of Sheng, a forty-year-old Chinese who comes from a small village in Fujian province and has been on the move internally and internationally for most of his life, I account for mobility as a dialectic process between changes in Sheng's outlook and material and social surroundings. I shall show that most relevant factors for understanding the life course and decisions of Sheng have all been "on the move", that is, in a constant process of reshaping. Realizing the omnipresence of movement in our lives, and taking my cue from Hegel's claim that comprehending reality does not mean grasping a given state of affairs but understanding the process of change, I shall argue for a reversal move in migration studies towards the canvassing of the stationary as the peculiar exception to the rule.

Panel W001
A new virtue? Imaginaries and regimes of mobility across the globe
  Session 1