Accepted Paper:

Mobility and the region/homeland: travel within and beyond central Gujarat, India  


Sanderien Verstappen (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the intersections between internal and transnational mobility through a discussion of mobility and the region/homeland, drawing on travel-along ethnographic research among local residents with a ‘regional’ outlook and transnational migrants visiting the ‘homeland’.

Paper long abstract:

The academic division between 'internal' and 'international' mobility has had a profound impact on discussions on the 'region' and the 'homeland'. On the one hand, scholars studying the region have shown how experiences of mobility within the region contribute to conceptualising it. On the other hand, scholars interested in the homeland have highlighted how experiences of transnational migration reconfigure the sense of spatial belonging, referring to the homeland as a place of origin and potential return. Is it possible to develop a more comprehensive view on how mobility (re)constitutes spatial orientations and experiences?

The paper approaches this puzzle by developing a notion of the region/homeland as emerging alongside 'pathways' of travel at both local and transnational scales. Based on a case study of the Vohra Gujarati community, it draws on 'travel-along' multi-sited ethnographic research among local residents with a 'regional' outlook, and among transnational migrants visiting the 'homeland' and investing in regional development.

Vohras are a community of Indian Muslims, who identify the Charotar region of central Gujarat as their homeland. Despite the political, social and economic marginalisation of Muslims in India and the violence against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, Vohras at home and abroad still narrate their community history as a regional one and continue to cultivate social and economic ties with the region/homeland. Displacement, rural-urban linkages, and transnational exchanges produce a region at the intersection of new and old pathways.

Panel P030
Mobilities, ethnographically connected: beyond the 'gap' between internal and transnational migration [ANTHROMOB]