RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2018

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160 Interrogating relationships between spatial and social mobility in the Global South (2)
Affiliation Population Geography Research Group
Developing Areas Research Group
Convenor(s) Marta Bivand Erdal (Peace Research Institute Oslo, Norway)
Chair(s) Marta Bivand Erdal (Peace Research Institute Oslo, Norway)
Timetable Thursday 30 August 2018, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
Room Sir Martin Evans Building - Physiology B Lecture Theatre
Session abstract This session interrogates the variegated relationships between spatial mobility and social mobility in societies in the Global South. For the purposes of this session, spatial mobility includes rural-to-urban migration, internal and international migration, whether regionally or further afield. Social mobility, in turn, is understood in contextual, emic terms, as improvement, in terms of quality of life, the realization or promise of prospects for life, including but not limited to securing material wealth. For several decades the relationships between (international) migration and development have received substantial attention, notably foregrounding the roles of remittances. Scrutinizing the ways in which migration interacts with development processes, one conclusion appears to be that migration is an integral component to social change, whereas its exact functions and dynamics are highly context-dependent. Meanwhile, there also appears to be potential for moving the understanding of relationships between spatial mobility and social mobility further. This session seeks to push such understandings further by drawing on scholarship at the intersections of geography, development and migration studies. The papers build on empirical cases from Asia, Africa and Latin America, and consider past, present and future spatial mobilities, and their interplay with different iterations of social mobility.
Linked Sessions Interrogating relationships between spatial and social mobility in the Global South (1)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2018@rgs.org
Imagining London: social class and the role of the geographical imagination in migrant subjectivity and decision-making
Daniel Robins (University of St Andrews, UK)
Employing a qualitative, biographical approach, this paper aims to probe more deeply into the motivations and subjectivities behind Brazilian international migration to London. It explores how the geographical imagination, how migrants imagine both destinations and origins, shape migration decision making and the experience of migration. Taking a Wittgensteinian (Wittgenstein 1953; Arjoranta 2014) approach to descriptors such as 'class', It argues that for many middle class Brazilians, their motivation to migrate is couched in terms of ‘societal alienation’ (Dashefsky & Lazerwitz 1983): a feeling of distance from the place of origin resulting from a lack of identification and trust in its institutions and the very culture of the place itself. This is in contrast to the more popularly understood concept of migrating due to ‘material alienation’ (Marx 1867): migrating to access a higher level of material consumption or to acquire financial capital to use ‘back home’. For those who migrate due to ‘societal alienation’ the impetus to move stems from a desire for the cultural and institutional, aspects of the ‘quality of life’ of the migration destination, which become a kind of commodity in their own right. It argues that class is a key marker of constructed difference between these two types of geographical imaginary.
Links between caste and historic and contemporary mobility patterns: the case of an Indian hill village on the Indo-Tibetan trade route
Madleina Daehnhardt (University of Cambridge, UK)
Tejam village, located on the historic Indo-Tibetan trade route in the Indian Kumaon Himalayas of Uttarakhand, used to be a bustling trade centre prior to the 1962 Indo-China war. In this article I contrast historic data on the area with oral histories collected from residents in Tejam. These histories present different interpretations of history among the social groups residing in the village, who are now classified as scheduled tribes (Bhotiyas or Johari Shaukas) and scheduled castes (SC or Shilpkars hereafter). The existing written trade history hardly includes any representations of the professional artisan groups who travelled to Tibet assisting the leading Bhotiyas in trade-related work and such oral histories provide a new contribution to the literature. This article looks at ST-SC-general caste dynamics though the lense of migration, and addresses the research question of how today’s mobility patterns from the village are linked to historic migration patterns. After presenting different accounts of the trade history, I shall demonstrate how heredities, both in terms of social class and gender, are interrelated with contemporary migration patterns. Despite the historical rootedness of contemporary migrations, at the same time, I argue that contemporary migration can also challenge historic caste hierarchies. The study of the village, which is based on extensive primary fieldwork during village residency in 2015-2016, presents a striking case of how patterns of migration according to caste are simultaneously reinforced and contested.
‘To live like people’: transnational migration and social mobility in a Bolivian urban neighbourhood
Tanja Bastia (The University of Manchester, UK)
Migration is usually strongly influenced by a desire for improvement. However, what ‘improvement’ actually means is always context-specific and relative both to the situation in places of destination as well as that of other people living in the same place of origin. Migrants may undertake their journeys because life is unbearable and it is only through migration that they see a possibility of ‘living like people’. Through the migration process, migrants and their families can achieve social mobility, usually in their places of origin but sometimes also at destination. Their successes will then spur others onto undertaking their own migration journeys. Despite their journeys being seemingly similar, migrants may seek to achieve different objectives and fulfil different dreams. These, in particular, are highly gendered and influenced by how men and women think about a ‘good life’. This paper aims to address the relationship between migration and social mobility by taking a transnational approach. Conceptually, it will draw on the literature on the geography of migration, the development-migration nexus and indigenous development, to think about migration, culturally-sensitive ways of understanding ‘social mobility’ and, through transnationalism, help conceptualise life across national borders. Empirically, it will draw on longitudinal and multi-sited ethnographic research with a group of Bolivian migrants in Argentina and Spain to begin to explore how we might conceptualise the relationship between spatial and social mobility for cities in the Global South.
Mobility in the rear-view mirror: changing spatial practices of ‘getting ahead’ among Filipinos
Deirdre McKay (Keele University, UK)
Entanglements between migration and development are complex, especially as lived through individual lives. At the national level, international migration tends to continue after national development has produced a new middle class (De Haas, 2010). From the individual perspective, international migration may seem the best route to social mobility long after the comparative financial returns generated by investing in migration start to decrease. This has happened in the Philippines. Here, the social mobility generated through international migration has typically been secured through linked spatial mobility to both rural frontiers (McKay and Brady, 2005) and urban peripheries (McKay, 2016). In this paper, I ask my long-term respondents to look back on their spatial and social mobility strategies and consider the options now available to their children and grandchildren. I rehearse their retrospective evaluation of their mobility decisions to identify their current understandings of the strategic, spatial patterns which create successful international migration-led mobility, exploring their ideas of ‘frontiers’, ‘pioneers’ and zones of strategic rule-breaking. Building from an analysis of these past patterns of mobility, I outline the limits to migration-led development now being encountered at both the individual/household and national levels.
James Esson (Loughborough University, UK)