In celebration of its 20th anniversary, the ASSR will hold a multidisciplinary conference on "mobility" on 26th - 27th January 2007. This conference aims to attract scholars from across the globe who are specialists in the disciplines pursued at the ASSR; namely history, anthropology, sociology and political science.
Throughout the past two decades, globalisation has been one of the most prominent, or perhaps notorious, concepts to be used in not only academic circles, but also in political and social life. So much so that the concept has been simultaneously employed to draw attention to both 'the causes' and 'the consequences' of almost all contemporary social processes. There have been countless and contradictory attempts to clarify this elusive concept. It would, therefore, be a formidable task to achieve a common understanding of the concept of globalisation. However, 'the notion of increasing the mobility of almost everything' can be easily agreed upon as one of the 'causes' and/or 'consequences' of globalisation, regardless of how it is conceptualised by different disciplines or academics. It is for this reason that the ASSR has chosen to organise this conference.
The conference aims to examine the notion of mobility from different perspectives, while avoiding the compartmentalisation of this debate into the distinct spaces of different academic disciplines. It thus seems desirable for the notion of mobility to be deconstructed into three (or more) categories such as the mobility of people, the mobility of goods and money and the mobility of ideas, and, to focus on these categories instead of debating 'mobility' in its entirety within discipline-based clusters. In this way, it should be possible to bring together the different insights offered by distinct disciplines.
Although the purpose is to permeate the entire conference with this interdisciplinary approach, a special emphasis will be placed on the analysis of mobility from a truly historical perspective in order to be able to assess the extent to which the past two decades may be considered as special in terms of 'increasing the mobility of everything'. Historians will thus be encouraged to participate in the conference and provide a comparative analysis of the present-day content and scope of mobility (of people, goods and money and ideas, etc.) with the past.
The conference will last for two days and includes six 'theme based' panel sessions during which the participants' papers will be 'briefly' presented and 'widely' discussed. Following the opening of the conference by a distinguished academic, participants will be able to join these parallel sessions in accordance with their own interests.
After the conference, selected papers will be chosen for a book on the multidisciplinary analysis of mobility.
I. Mobility of People
The past two decades can be considered as an era of tourism and immigration. The expansion of these two different types of human mobility clearly indicates contradictory aspects of the modern world. On the one hand, at least in some parts of the world, having a good holiday in a remote foreign country ceased to be the sole preserve and privilege of the wealthy as tourism began to emerge as an industry, which could save the (third) world. In this process, images of 'exotic destinations' were extensively propagated by the media, while short vacations to these exotic places became affordable to the middle class in the developed world through a complex network of travel and tourism agencies. In this way, almost anyone living in the developed world could take the dual liberty of 'forgetting' their real world and 'ignoring' the problems of the exotic holiday worlds.
On the other, for an increasing number of people, the idea of going elsewhere to be able to live decently began to emerge as the only feasible life-project, as poverty became natural feature of the landscape in some parts of the world. Increasing opportunities for mobility were thus regarded as offering hope to some people, while the same idea began to be perceived as menace by others, who believe that their resources are being unjustly exploited by illegally mobile aliens . Consequently, while the mobility of people has been promoted as the engine for economic growth, it has almost simultaneously been discouraged given that it is viewed as an impediment for the worsening economies of both host and home localities.
The conference will explore this dual process in two different ways. Firstly it will be able to tackle the question of how to theorise the causes and consequences of human mobility in the modern world without excluding any of the contradictory aspects of this concept. Secondly, it shall address the question of how to study human mobility in its entirety on empirical level given the practical difficulties involved, (particularly) with respect to the issue of illegal mobility.
II. Mobility of Goods and Money
As the merits of an invincible free market economy were promoted worldwide and advances in technology offered new opportunities for connecting demand with supply (regardless of the distance in between these two), both money and goods have started to move more quickly than anything else in the modern world. With respect to goods, not only the conditions of their consumption but also the locus of their production has started to shift. Interestingly, the fact that many people are routinely able to consume almost any product, which has been produced somewhere else in the world, in their own homes has been accompanied by a subtle fear of unemployment due to the better production opportunities, which have emerged in other places. The simultaneous mobility of production and consumption of goods have thus engendered both the idea of belonging to a global community and the fear of being isolated from it.
On the other hand, the movement of money across the world proved capable of undermining consolidated financial systems. Companies not only had to act in accordance with the trends in the product markets, but were also obliged to be sensitive to fluctuations in the financial markets in order to be able to satisfy their shareholders, who may indeed move their resources elsewhere if dissatisfied by the companies' value. Yet attracting these mobile resources has become the utmost priority for those countries that seek rapid development. These developments ignited the fear of a new world in which capital may dictate everything while the labour force is forced to submit without any resistance. This conference will analyse the role of the mobility of (the production and consumption of) goods in relation to people's identity and shall address the question of whether the mobility of money has led (or may lead) to a world of over-powerful capital and hopelessly weak labour.
III. Mobility of Ideas
Advances in technology and the increasing mobility of people have inevitably paved the way for the rapid circulation of ideas around the world. Moreover, global organisations have used their capabilities in order to promote certain ideas (free market, peace, environment friendliness, fear of terrorism etc.) to the extent that the same ideas started to be employed in order to refer to and explain the developments, which occurred at remote locations. This situation may be considered as evidence for the increasing unification of humankind throughout the past two decades, at least with respect to a few basic issues. However, one can also argue that the separation of ideas from the places and circumstances that generated them may have created a fissure between reality and discourse: as people attempt to comprehend reality with ideas, which have been generated without any heed to local particularities, they may confuse the discourse with reality and gradually replace the reality with discourse. In the course of this process, what is important may be obscured by what is supposed to be important and the priorities of 'here' may be determined by the dynamics of 'there', while the only connection between here and there remains an imagined one.
The conference may proceed in two different ways: on the one hand, the problem of identifying and analysing the influence of globally circulating ideas on remote localities can be addressed by case studies; on the other, the conditions under which an idea may be globally circulated can be examined.
15th March 2006: Deadline for registration and abstracts (email@example.com)
15th September 2006: Deadline for full papers (firstname.lastname@example.org)
26th -27th January 2007: Conference on Mobility (20th anniversary of ASSR)
ASSR/Universiteit van Amsterdam
1012 CX AMSTERDAM
Fax: +31-20-5252446 Email: email@example.com
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