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Accepted Paper:

‘Lifeline’ ferries  
Christina Bosbach (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper reflects on changing experiences and debates around ferry mobility on the Isle of Coll (Scotland) during the pandemic. It looks at how islanders strategically negotiated restrictions on mobilities and perceived the ferry as both a ‘lifeline’ and an infection risk.

Paper long abstract:

This paper reflects on how people on the Isle of Coll (Scotland) experienced and debated ferry mobility during the pandemic. In the absence of Covid-19 cases on Coll, the ferry connection to the mainland was the focus of heated debates and of pandemic policymaking for the islands. However, even when the strictest measures were in place, island life relied on extensive mobilities, making the ferry a necessary ‘lifeline’ and an infection risk. In this paper, I focus on the ‘essential’ mobilities of islanders travelling to the mainland to obtain services they could not access on Coll. On the one hand, I show that the pandemic highlighted the dependency of island life on mobilities in the context of depopulation and service withdrawal in the region, emphasising islanders’ limited control over the mobilities that sustain their everyday lives. Islanders were forced to continue being mobile, and experiences of mainland journeys shifted from routine to being framed by worries and fear of infection. On the other hand, I argue that some islanders used ‘essential’ reasons for journeys strategically to see mainland family and escape feeling stuck. In doing so, they regained a sense of control over their mobility and experienced journeys as adventure and excitement, turning ‘essential’ into existential mobilities. In a community without police presence to enforce pandemic policies, this way of negotiating restrictions created a locally specific regime of mobility, combining policy-makers’ category of essential travel with islanders’ existential reasons for journeys into what islanders considered ‘essential for island life’.

Panel P010a
Navigating hurdles and pacing (im)mobilities in times of corona [AnthroMob Network] I
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -