(Hi)Stories of people who move around: mobility at the margins of the state
Oliver Tappe (University of Cologne)
Pierre Petit (Université libre de Bruxelles)
Wednesday 11 July, 14:30-16:15, Thursday 12 July, 9:00-10:45 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

This workshop will discuss the complex entanglements between states and upland peripheries. It takes a perspective from the margins and mobility as main thread by focusing on historical accounts of upland peoples in relation to space.

Long abstract:

Although imagined as key aspect of the globalised world, mobility may also, when it comes to unplanned movements of marginal populations, produce bureaucratic anxieties. This applies all the more to upland peoples, who have gained particular renown in historical and anthropological literature as being mobile, evasive, and egalitarian. In his "The Art of Not Being Governed" (2009), James Scott has analysed upland social structures and livelihoods as 'anarchist' reactions to the state's pressure. In this workshop we will rather stress the complex entanglements between states and upland peripheries, seen from the latter's point of view and taking mobility as main thread. We argue that the history of upland-lowland interactions is characterized by both state evasion and deliberate negotiation with the various political, cultural, and economic forces emanating from centralised lowland states.

We will focus on historical accounts of upland peoples in relation to space - myths of origin, topological ethnonyms, and spatialised memories of interactions with the state. How do uplanders perceive their 'mobile' history in relation to the apparently 'immobile' yet intrusive state? How do stories of origins, pioneering and migration contribute to cultural self-assertion in changing environments? How do uplanders conceive the present-day large-scale migrations in comparison to their own movements in the past? How about affective bonds to an alleged 'homeland', and how about expectations of return? Such analysis of upland mobility with its inherent tension of autonomy and uncertainty shall shed new light on the question of historical agency at the margins of the state.