Keywords, as concept-metaphors, play a crucial role in theorizing human mobility. This panel critically disentangles the culturally distinct use of words and discourse associated with the mobility of people.
Concept-metaphors of mobility, from 'flows' to 'nomads', function as buzzwords in contemporary social theory. While such key concepts have been used abundantly across the social sciences and humanities, as of yet a working vocabulary of these has not been fully developed. Given this context and inspired in part by Raymond Williams' Keywords (1976), this panel presents ethnographically informed conceptual contributions that critically analyse mobility-related keywords. Popular English keywords related to mobility include transnationalism, cosmopolitanism, motility and freedom. In this panel, we are interested in comparing this with conceptualizations in other languages and cultures. The Japanese concept of 'tabi' (travel, journey) or 'kanko' ('seeing light'), for example, may be different from English 'tour' and 'tourism'. The English term 'migration' does not find any satisfactory Japanese counterpart. Or in recent Japanese urban tourism, emphasis is on 'machiaruki' (town walking), a concept that may resemble Walter Benjamin's 'flâneur'. In his formative work, Williams sought meanings to formerly understood words through examination of general discussions and separated disciplines, a process which "posed new questions and suggested new kinds of connection" (1976:12). Focusing on keywords of mobility in a comparative cultural perspective, this panel explores the epistemology and ontology of human mobility in more enriched, general terms beyond the currently dominant Western concepts. By design, the focus of each presentation on a particular keyword will form the foundation of an intellectual conversation about the complex interrelationship between ethnography, these concepts, and their analytical value for anthropological knowledge production.