This panel explores the role of circulating objects in producing social and spatial fields. Combining material culture and mobility studies approaches, it investigates the power effects of material circulations on human relationships, from questions of belonging to transnational politics.
As Julie Chu states "mobility can do little on its own until it is materialized through people, objects, words, and other embodied forms" (Chu 2010: 65). Whether tourism, migration or transportation, human mobilities are entangled with non-human and extra-human mobilities. The exchange and circulation of commodities, gifts and technologies affect both mobile and immobile people, as well as their respective social and material environments. The political, spatial and sociocultural power effects of things are some of the many legacies anthropology leaves us (Appadurai 1988; Malinowski 1922; Mauss 1954; Mintz 1986). Recently, through a material culture and mobility studies lens, these social processes and material circulations have increasingly been emphasized as co-constitutive (Basu and Coleman 2008; Burrell 2008; Miller 2008). Within this panel we propose to expand on this scholarship by exploring the role of materiality in shaping specific transnational social and spatial fields. Seeing the production of these fields as ostensibly political, we are interested in the power effects of objects in a mobile context. As historic anthropological research has shown, power need not be relegated to institutions and nation-states, but can also be seen in the micropolitics formed out of kinship, belonging and cosmologies produced by the circulation of things and people. Consequently, we welcome papers dealing with, but not limited to: the political-economy of commodities, remittances and souvenirs circulated by migrants and tourists; the effects of symbolically loaded objects that maintain kinship and belonging over long distances; or the consequences of such circulations in transnational political relations.