CFP AAA 2013 Panel: Critical Anthropological Engagements with Mobility

This is a call for papers for a session at the 2013 AAA Annual Meeting.
*** Apologies for cross-posting ***




Critical Anthropological Engagements with Mobility

American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting

Chicago Hilton, Chicago, November 20-24, 2013



Noel B. Salazar (University of Leuven):

Kiran Jayaram (Columbia University):


Panel Description

Each paper in this panel will critically analyze one of the keywords in mobility-related research, including: (im)mobility, motility, capital, imaginaries, infrastructure and regimes.



Boundary-crossing human mobility has been prevalent throughout history, though recent discourses of globalization have conjured up novel metaphors of “flow” through images of unfettered movement.  Purposeful mobilities, usually of the temporary kind, are widely accepted as a desirable and even normative path towards success: career achievement through educational exchange and work experience “elsewhere,” and well-being or quality of life achievement through tourism and lifestyle migration.  Across the globe, such forms of geographical movement are made meaningful by being variously linked to the accumulation of economic (resources), social (status) or cultural (cosmopolitanism) capital.  Partly influenced by neoliberal and free market imaginaries, translocal mobilities have become one of the newest stratifying factors, leading to a global hierarchy of movements, for as more people cross physical borders and social boundaries, authorities resort to various infrastructures and regimes of mobility to maintain control over these movements. 

In the past decade, social scientists investigating boundary-crossing flows (primarily non-US anthropologists and US non-anthropologists) have been developing a field of research that focuses on the multiple and distinct movements of people, things, and ideas, the meanings of these, and the associated experiences and imaginations of them.  Mobility studies, with its emphasis on agency, capital, regimes, and stratification, enriches current understandings of globalization, capitalism, and circulation across the planet, but as of yet, certain key ideas have not been fully conceptualized.  Inspired in part by the (cultural) Keywords (1976) of Raymond Williams, this panel seeks original conceptual contributions that critically analyze mobility-related keywords such as (im)mobility, motility, capital, imaginaries, infrastructure and regimes.  By design, the panel presentations on each of these will form the foundation of an intellectual conversation about the interrelationship between these concepts and their analytical value for anthropological knowledge production (and the social sciences at large).         

Questions addressed include:

  • (Im)mobility: What is the (analytical and empirical) relationship between mobility and immobility?
  • Motility: What social and cultural processes facilitate the connection between motility and (im)mobility, and how do people experience this?
  • Imaginaries of mobility: What are the contours of power, agency, and subjectivity in imaginaries of translocal mobility and the intersecting social categories those visions both reify and dissolve?
  • Mobility capital: How could the notion of mobility capital be enriched by drawing upon the notion of capital as process (Marx) rather than capital as a static commodity (Becker, Bourdieu)?  Does all mobility produce mobility capital?  Are there qualitative or quantitative differences in mobility capital?  How is it possible to be mobile and lose value?  How do people, both those who move and those who don’t, use mobility capital?
  • Infrastructures of mobility: What are the various infrastructures put in place (legal-rational, financial, cosmic, etc.) for managing the boundary-crossing flows of people?
  • Regimes of mobility: Assuming there are various regimes of mobility, what are the dynamics of them?  Do race, gender, and sexuality figure into these?  How are these manifest?  Where is the regime of mobility located?  How does it construct space and to what ends?


If you are interested in participating in this innovative panel, contact both organizers by 10 March 2013.
Please submit your name, your affiliation, your contact details, a title, and an abstract limited to 250 words. Clearly indicate which mobility-related keyword you want to analyze. The earlier you contact us, the more chance you have that the keyword of your choice will still be available.
More information about the AAA Annual Meeting in general is available online:


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