Moral Economies of (Im)mobility: Cultivating Entrepreneurial Value(s) in Serbia
(University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores meanings of (im)mobility for young Serbian entrepreneurs caught up in the politics of brain drain.
Paper long abstract:
What does it mean to stay in a context so many others leave? My paper will investigate this question in relation to the "problem" of brain drain from Serbia and the solution proffered by the country's political elite: entrepreneurship. Attention to the cultural meanings of mobility in Serbian has tended to emphasize desires for "escape" (Erdei 2010) from conditions of "entrapment" (Jansen 2009). Yet it is significant that this framework reflects conditions in the country before liberalization of the European visa regime in 2009. My research, based on 15 months of fieldwork in Belgrade in 2014-2015, has shown that the recent shift in the conditions of possibility of travel also marked a shift away from the idiom of escape toward more nuanced stancetaking in relation to mobility. In focusing on young entrepreneurs resolved to stay in Serbia but with experiences of international travel, this paper takes up the panel's invitation to explore how "stuckness" is embedded in mobility. My interlocutors have had experiences of travel that would have been impossible a decade earlier. How do such travels shape expectations of life at home and efforts to materialize economic opportunities? How do those who embrace entrepreneurialism as value system and lifestyle take up or reject the political discourse that posits entrepreneurship as solution to brain drain? This paper homes in on the multidimensional meanings of (im)mobility for a generation that came of age when Serbia was considered an international pariah but who have taken advantage of renewed opportunities for travel.
Stuck in a mobile world: the agentive potential of immobility