Social mobility in the neoliberal age: practices, relations, expectations, and desires 
Heidi Härkönen (University of Helsinki)
Luisa Steur (University of Amsterdam)
Hope Bastian Martinez (Colegio San Geronimo de la Habana)
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Anne-Christine Trémon (Université de Lausanne)
Tuesday 14 August, 10:30-12:15, 13:15-15:00 (UTC+0)

Short Abstract:

This panel explores the practices, relations, expectations and desires with which people navigate differential fields of power while seeking social mobility in this age of neoliberalism. How do people experience and imagine social mobility? What happens when mobility backfires?

Long Abstract

The current, neoliberal moment of global capitalism encourages people to seek social mobility as an individual and spectacular endeavor. Some seek fast, immediate routes to becoming rich in talent contests, pyramid schemes or entrepreneurial start-ups. Others project their expectations of social mobility onto the narrative of migration (Kalir 2013, Pelican 2013), hoping to convert geographical mobility into a radical economic break-through. In practice, however, social mobility is increasingly rare (Piketty 2012) and highly structured by class, race, and gender (Wilk 2017). It is moreover almost always a longer temporal process, highly dependent on social relations. Structures that go far beyond the individual shape particular projects of seeking social mobility, complicating them in unexpected ways.

This panel explores the types of practices, relations, expectations and desires with which people navigate differential field of power in their quest for social mobility (Glick-Schiller and Salazar 2013). How do people experience and imagine social mobility? Under what circumstances is mobility imaged as an individual versus a collective effort? What happens when mobility stalls, backfires or goes around in circles? How do processes of social (im)mobility affect relations within families and wider social networks? How are particular trajectories of mobility gendered, racialized, sexualized and shaped by age or access to citizenship? Possible topics include social mobility and marriage, the promise of mobility in the education business, experiences of (im)mobility through migration, the quest for social mobility through criminal activities, or the imagining of social mobility through changing daily routines and spiritual transformation.

Accepted papers: