EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

Mobilities, ethnographically connected: beyond the 'gap' between internal and transnational migration [ANTHROMOB]
Location U6-7
Date and Start Time 21 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2


  • Tilmann Heil (University of Leuven) email
  • Bruno Riccio (University of Bologna) email

Mail All Convenors

Chair Prof. Bruno Riccio
Discussant Prof. Dr. Michaela Pelican

Short Abstract

Internal and transnational mobilities are connected, sometimes in counterintuitive ways. Taking the various directionalities and power relations into account, ethnographically grounded theoretical work will deal with this anthropological legacy in contemporary settings.

Long Abstract

Recent socio-economic transformations have pushed migration studies to explore the effects of the contemporary economic crisis on people's mobility strategies. The long-standing mobilities both within regions, states and continents, and across global administrative and political divides are continuing relentlessly. In this context, the division between internal and international migration theories and methodologies was critiqued from different conceptual viewpoints (King and Skeldon 2010).

Contemporary research on international migration has parallels with earlier studies of circular labour migration in Africa and beyond (Mitchell, 1956; Mayer 1961). Organisational solutions crucial for transnational mobility were developed during internal migration, which often relied on kin, religious or ethnic networks (Manchuelle 1997). However, while transnational social fields in many ways appear to be extending translocal ones, the influential power relations on different contextual scales need to be taken seriously as forces shaping mobility regimes (Glick Schiller and Salazar 2013).

We ask, how are the different kinds of mobility, ranging from local and regional to transnational, historically connected, displacing a simplistic one-way conceptualisation? What kind of counterintuitive interconnections exist? How does onward migration happen? Protagonists of internal migration may be former transnational migrants and seemingly cosmopolitan transnationals may end up in small villages after all. Ethnography is particularly apt in exploring the everyday social accommodation and navigation of such multiple, intersecting and seemingly contradictory (im)mobilities.

To recover the anthropological legacy on variously connected (im)mobilities, the panel welcomes papers which stem from ethnographically grounded theoretical work with the aim of a comparative discussion.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Commonalities, continuity and contrast in internal and transnational Senegalese mobilities

Authors: María Hernández Carretero (University of Oslo)  email
Jørgen Carling (Peace Research Institute Oslo)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines internal, cross-border and transnational mobilities in and from Senegal. It seeks to highlight connections between the two and continuities and contrasts in the interpersonal dynamics and patterns of immobility that foster and result from these different forms of mobility.

Long Abstract

This paper examines attitudes to and experiences of internal, cross-border and transnational mobilities in and from Senegal. It seeks to highlight connections between them as well as continuities and contrasts in the interpersonal dynamics and patterns of immobility that foster, allow and are shaped by these different forms of mobility. Internal and transnational mobilities are connected in that the former may be a prelude to, or undertaken in expectation of, the latter. Similar negotiations of interpersonal and financial interactions moreover underlie and result from both internal and international migration. Moving away from one's family and community can be expected to entail benefits for accumulation because of better earning opportunities but also fewer requests or opportunities for spending and better conditions for business as compared to being among one's relatives. Transnational mobility represents greater advantages in those respects, but carries interpersonal trade-offs. The prevalence of internal migration in Senegal means spousal separation is not unique to international migration but bears different implications. For women, a husband in Europe may be a better provider, but also a more absent one that cannot be visited. Lastly, in both internal and transnational migration, the mobility of men to cities or abroad, whether seasonally or for longer periods, is accompanied by the permanence of women, children and the elderly at home. This permanence allows the men a high degree of mobility also abroad: alone, they are flexible to relocate between regions following emerging opportunities in a similar way to seasonal mobility within Senegal.

(Im)mobile families: regional and transcontinental Somali family networks

Author: Tabea Scharrer (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email

Short Abstract

This presentation will discuss the importance of class for migration, using the example of regional and transcontinental Somali family networks. The argument will be based on fieldwork in Kenya, especially on genealogical and social network data.

Long Abstract

This presentation will discuss the importance of class (in the sense of the socio-economic foundation of 'life chances') for migration, using the example of regional (East African) and transcontinental Somali family networks. Even though the range of actual possibilities and perceived options for migration play a highly important role in the migration process, these factors are often neglected in the debate.

When the Somalian exodus started at the beginning of the 1990s, most refugees fled to the neighbouring countries including Kenya. Later on many Somalians moved to Europe or North America either legally by resettlement programs, or illegally by airplane (for those with more financial means) or over the Mediterranean (for those with less). In the last couple of years Somalians 'return' to Kenya, most of them are well off families or young adults with 'western' passports. But a great number of people stayed in Kenya, moving back and forth between the refugee camps, Somalia or the Kenyan cities. Those who stay in the region and those who have far reaching intercontinental family ties seem however to be strangely disconnected, especially when taking into account two important elements of the Somali society, its segmentary structure as well as the primacy of the extended family, which should act as uniting factors.

Using data derived from interviews, genealogies and network research conducted during fieldwork in Kenya with Somalian refugees as well as with Kenyan Somalis, it will be shown that class matters more than clan for the praxis and experience of migration.

"My grandfather gave me the money to come…long ago he worked here…he was a migrant": the presence of the past in contemporary Zimbabwean migration

Author: Treasa Galvin (University of Botswana)  email

Short Abstract

Migration is a historical and contemporary reality in Southern Africa. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Swaziland, South Africa and Botswana this paper considers the continuities and discontinuities between past and present that shape contemporary Zimbabwean migration patterns.

Long Abstract

Contemporary migration flows from Zimbabwe to countries in the Southern African region and beyond have coincided with a prolonged period of economic and political difficulties within the country. In this context, it is all too easy to suggest a simple cause and effect relationship between the economic and political difficulties of the post-colonial state and outward migration flows. Yet, internal and transnational migration is not a new feature of Zimbabwean society. In the Zimbabwean context today, migration occurs within a complex reality that involves historical processes, the importance of enduring social and cultural forms, livelihood strategies and the dynamic nature of migration as a process.

This paper considers the ways in which continuities and discontinuities between 'past' and 'present' shape current patterns of mobility and immobility in Zimbabwe. Based on fieldwork among Zimbabwean migrants in Swaziland, South Africa and Botswana, the paper examines the ways in which current migrant strategies and strategems are shaped by the legacy of past migration patterns, the continual importance of social and cultural forms such as kinship and ethnicity, multiple livelihood strategies, arbitrary borders and immigration regimes. The paper also examines the ways in which discontinuities with the past emerge because migration patterns are the fluid and dynamic response to ever changing social realities. This paper argues that, current Zimbabwean migration is best understood as a process in which the past influences the present while both past and present interact with new dynamics and changing socio-cultural and economic realities.

Framing and assembling borders

Author: Selenia Marabello (University of Bologna)  email

Short Abstract

Exploring the biographies, trajectories and narrations of Ghanaian migrants to Italy, this paper focuses on representations of borders within Italy and Europe. It aims to analyse how borders are experienced by examining obstacles to mobility, contextual opportunities and power disparities.

Long Abstract

This paper is based on ongoing ethnographic research on internal migrations within and to Italy comparing the perspectives and trajectories of Ghanaian migrants, Italians and so-called new Italian citizens. This presentation, however, concentrates exclusively on Ghanaian research participants to analyse how the borders between Italian regions and European countries are imagined and experienced.

Although in reality Italian regions, cities and local places have very different social histories and degrees of economic development, the country is commonly represented as being divided in two parts, the North and the South. Historical and structural factors have shaped this internal border and in various moments of Italian history have triggered internal migration (commonly from south to north) as well as international migration toward different destinations around the world.

How do Ghanaian migrants represent and/or reproduce this internal Italian border? Do they navigate the present-day economic crisis by strategically exploiting economic and legal disparities between Italy's north and south? How do individuals living in Italy perceive mobility to other European countries? Does their postcolonial legacy figure in their representations of European internal borders? How do they map social and geographical mobility within Europe by imagining a future for themselves or their sons and daughters? Empirical data describing mobility regimes (Glick Schiller, Salazar 2013) allow us to address these questions by observing how borders are fashioned and re-framed in migrants' life experiences and representations.

Ethnographies of mobility in rural Romania: practices and representations in times of crisis

Author: Pietro Cingolani (University of Turin)  email

Short Abstract

The Romanian population has a long experience in internal and international migration. Various practices of mobility are consolidated and closely interrelated within households; they have produced and still produce conflicting representations and different relations of power at local community level

Long Abstract

Domestic and international mobility are two phenomena that have long involved the Romanian population and have been the basis of social organization of many domestic groups (Mihailescu and Nicolau 1995). Depending on the historical period, on the economic development level and on the kind of political restrictions, one phenomenon has prevailed over the other. During the socialist period, when the Western borders were closed, much of the rural population was involved in internal migration towards industrialized urban centres (Sandu 1984). The international migration to Western Europe started by the early 90s and it has become increasingly important, although internal migration did not stop. At first the return to the countryside appeared, followed by a new internal mobility to more developed urban centres (Diaconu et al 2013). Today the heavy economic crisis pushes expatriates to come back to Romania and this return often is followed by new movements within the country. This phenomenon favours a link between areas of research (studies on domestic and international mobility) that have remained for a long time clearly far apart one from the other. This essay is based on years of ethnographic research conducted in some villages in north-eastern Romania; it explores how international and domestic mobility practices have been experienced and narrated by people, the social consequences they had and how they were and still are represented at the collective level. A complex interplay of relations emerges, where the individual lives are conditioned by different mobility regimes and the physical mobility does not always correspond to social mobility

Observing the multiple intersections between internal and transnational mobility through "return migration" in the Italian Alps

Author: Melissa Blanchard (Aix-Marseille Université/CNRS)  email

Short Abstract

Examining in a critical perspective what is generally called “return migration” from Latin America towards the Italian Alps, this paper will show how internal and transnational migration are interweaved before and after such backwards mobility.

Long Abstract

Researches on the alpine area, building on the legacies of ecological anthropology, have shown that historically in this region immobility was rather an exception, as alpine families shared what has been called a "culture of mobility" (Albera and Corti 2000; Viazzo 1989). The alpine valleys were part of a socio-economic system based on seasonal mobility of skilled workers at a regional level. In the XXth century this small-range circular mobility turned into long-distance international migration.

Building on an ethnographic fieldwork carried out with emigrants and emigrants' descendants coming back from Latin America in the Trentino region, this paper will analyze the complex relation linking internal and transnational migration, and the different power relations orientating it, observing mobility on a household basis and over generations. When emerging economic opportunities in South America became attractive, the professional networks and kin ties that framed previous regional mobility proved crucial to shape transoceanic emigration. From 1980 onwards, as South American countries' situation deteriorated and Italy became economically more appealing, a privileged legal status linked to the possibility to recover ancient citizenship allowed emigrants and emigrants' descendants to "come back" as nationals. Economic reasons shape their return mobility patterns more than social ties, as they settle in small alpine villages or head towards other locations in the same region "of origin", according to economic opportunities. What is generally called "return migration" (a term which will be discussed critically) can thus show how internal and transnational migration are interweaved before and after such "backwards mobility".

Ethnographic itinerary: the migration journey of the ZBI

Author: Ravit Talmi Cohn (Tel Aviv University)  email

Short Abstract

The immigration of Zera Beita Israel from Ethiopia to Israel is viewed as a placemaking and timemaking journey through four stations. ZBI mobility was examined in a seven-year, multi-sited ethnographic study by the anthropologist in each journey station.

Long Abstract

"I've been on the go most of my life. I lived in the village, then we moved to Gondar, eight years later we moved to Addis Ababa. Three years later we moved to an absorption center Soon we'll move into our own home. I'm like a bird, moving from place to place" (Derese, 2008).

The immigration experience must be examined as part of a journey and movement, as I will demonstrate in this presentation. I base this claim on an ethnographic study designed to show how the internal and external immigration of Zera Beita Israel (Feres Mura) from Ethiopia to Israel is an ongoing journey and dialogue among the various stations within Ethiopia and Israel and en route, between the two countries. The journey's two main aspects - placemaking and timemaking, were used to construct a picture of the complexity of movement and immigration. Placemaking is the construction of a place in the unique context of immigration, and timemaking - creating being time and meta-time, both unique to immigration. Each of the places affects the dynamic, nonlinear immigration process and is affected by it.

This lecture is a product of a multi-sited ethnographic study conducted in 2005-2012. Based on long-term participant observations, questionnaires and interviews conducted in each of the journey's stations - villages of origin in northern Ethiopia, transit camps in Ethiopia, absorption centers in Israel, and permanent dwellings in Israel. The double lenses of placemaking and timemaking served to gain a perspective of mobility throughout this journey.

Where transnational and internal migration converge: gated communities in metropolitan India

Authors: Ellen Bal (VU University Amsterdam)  email
Kathinka Sinha-Kerkhoff (Asian Development Research Institute, Patna, Bihar, India)  email
Ratnakar Tripathy (Asian Development Research Institute, Patna, Bihar, India)  email

Short Abstract

This paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork among high-skilled return migrants in India. It focuses on the so-called gated communities in different Indian metropolises, where these returnees are residing. We study these sites as hubs of convergence between transnational and local migration.

Long Abstract

Our fieldwork amongst foreign-returned knowledge workers in Hyderabad and Pune in India, indicated that the gated communities in which they tend to cluster, could be studied as places where transnational and internal migration converge. In the paper we analyze (1) the component of internal migration in the life trajectory of the transnational and highly skilled migrant and his/her kin and (2) the migratory journeys of their staff, typically maids, drivers, security personnel and plumbers. The latter are employed by these return migrants at their residential (gated) communities, and provide narratives of internal/regional/local and even transnational migrations and (3) we analyze the broader significance and impact of such migratory convergence. We reflect on the differences between these forms of migration but simultaneously underscore their mutual dependence.

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

Author: Sanderien Verstappen (Leiden University)  email

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’.

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.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.