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CCIG/IKD Asian Mobilities Workshop

Wednesday, 10 June 2009, 09:30 - 17:00

The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes

Asia has become a region of increasing interest in a range of disciplines as it comes to be associated with dynamism, mobility and change. In economics notions of emerging dynamic markets that China and India are seen to offer, and their ability to invest in other regions such as Africa, have meant that they are coming to be seen as the economic powerhouse in an otherwise sedentary economic outlook. This dynamism is materialized in the goods and services that Asians have produced and are circulating through the global market place. While capital and goods investment have led to social mobility within Asia, the delivery of services has led to the increasing presence of many Asian migrants in non-Asian countries, populating a variety of occupational sectors such as ICT, nursing and domestic work. These forms of mobility are thus being embodied and materialized through the capital, goods and populations of the region.

Yet this mobility is neither new nor homogenous. Asian goods, capital and people have been traveling the globe for centuries, a process that intensified in the colonial period. This trade also underpinned the mobility of colonizers to Asia and through Asia. Asia thus becomes not the originary site for mobility but a point in a network of mobilities in which Asia plays an increasing part. Moreover, intra-Asian mobility has also been strengthened because of uneven ‘development’ within Asia. These networks of mobility are co-constituted with and through inequalities that range from the differential value that male and female labour may accrue in international labour markets, leading to the migration of women, say, rather than men, through to the inequalities that shape rural-urban migration and international boundary crossings.

Yet there has been little interdisciplinary research that focuses on the nature of mobility from, in and through Asia. Although individual disciplines have focused on capital mobility, population migration and the migration of cultural products such as film, there is little explicit theorizing about the nature and forms of mobility or indeed of the kinds of ‘Asia’ that this invokes. This multidisciplinary workshop aims to address this gap. It will bring together a range of OU and non-OU academics in the UK and internationally whose research focuses on aspects of mobility at different times and places.

Some questions that the workshop will address:

  • How have institutional formations of regionalism and nationalism shaped mobilities in Asia? How are particular forms of ‘Asianness’ represented imagined, and reflected in mobility narratives? How is the mobility of differently skilled individuals and groups represented and regulated differentially at the national and transnational levels?
  • What are the competencies/skills needed to be mobile and what skills does mobility create and foster?
  • What is the impact of mobility on specific sites, organisations and governance in Asia? How does mobility interact with existing and new forms of social inequality and difference? And how does it create new forms of belonging, loyalty and membership?
  • How does the notion of Asia as economic powerhouse enable differential mobility of individuals and groups (according to skill, gender, nationality, class)?
  • How do contemporary forms of mobility relate to historical precedents?

Convenors: Giles Mohan (IKD), Nicola Yeates (CCIG)


By invitation only.