CfP Privileged mobilities and urban transformation

Date: November 05, 2020

By: Franz Buhr

The 2021 annual conference of the International Sociological Association Research Committee 21 on Urban and Regional Development will take place in Antwerp, from Wednesday 14 until Friday 16 July 2021.

The general theme of the conference is ‘Sensing and Shaping the City’, focusing on how citizens experience the fragmentary, unequal and contradictory realities of global urbanity. You can read the conference call here.

Eve Bantman, Christine Barwick and Hila Zaban have launched a call for papers on privileged mobilities and urban transformation. The call is now open and will close on December 4, 2020.

This session looks at privileged mobilities and urban transformation. We are interested in the pathways of incorporation of mobile groups and how they lead to urban change.

Recent studies have focused on the role played by mobile actors—intra-EU migrants, lifestyle migrants, and tourists—in processes of neighbourhood transformation globally (see Hayes & Zaban’s forthcoming special issue in Urban Studies). Simultaneously, urban sociologists have refuted the claim that mobile people are free-floating, no longer in need of a ‘home’. They found that mobile individuals still engage in the city or neighbourhood. Mobile people are thus not the ‘new barbarians’. At the same time, members of the (upper) middle classes also have strategies to dis-engage or exit from the neighbourhood or city. To illustrate, when it comes to the education of their children, they might opt to stay in a mixed neighbourhood but partially exit it to send their children to a private school. At the same time, they might use public services and have a local network.

At a theoretical level, our primary focus is on issues of class and ethnicity, and the extent to which short- to long-term mobilities may help redefine these key terms. To give but one example, lifestyle migrants are often regarded, including by local authorities in destination countries, as capital bearers. Yet, research has shown that many are working class or lower middle class. However, their position in the global economy—the fact that they are from developed countries and hold top passport—gives them an advantage and positions them as privileged. Notwithstanding, they often choose to immigrate for economic reasons. What’s more, lifestyle, as Benson wrote, characterises many migrants, not just lifestyle migrants. From the perspective of diverse, fast changing neighbourhoods where mobile people settle, privilege, we argue, should be considered in more nuanced ways.

Looking at residents, migrants and tourists simultaneously invites a different perspective on mobilities, migration, and processes of urban transformation in the city or neighbourhood of destination. This calls for a different approach to the notion of privilege, attached to mobile individuals and fundamental in the study of urban transformation. Importantly, new research should question the role of policymakers or institutional players in favouring one mobile group over another, thereby defining who is privileged and who is not. Recent research has produced evidence of differentiated migration regimes that affect processes of urban change. Do these political representations and imaginings affect neighbourhood change? This is all the more interesting to investigate since many supposedly privileged migrants are former economic migrants too, as well as minority members (Hispanic and African American migrants from the US or French Arabs to North Africa, for example).

While we focus on middle class mobile persons, their nationality and ethnic, racial or religious background might well influence arrival and settling in the new place. The ‘prestige’ associated to different groups differs between countries and is oftentimes highly political.

We encourage papers that address urban transformation caused by privileged mobile people, such as intra-EU migrants, short- and long-term lifestyle migrants or tourists. We welcome papers that adopt an intersectional perspective and ask, for example, how dimensions such as social class, gender, religion, ethnicity and race influence a mobile person’s experience of arriving and settling in a new place, and the power and possibilities to shape a city or neighbourhood. To what extent do political definitions of privilege shape urban change? To what extent do ideas on privilege and ethnicity affect the sense and essence of communities? In which ways do mobile people affect local places and transform them?

Our regional focus extends to any world region that is transformed by privileged mobility. We welcome theoretical or empirical papers, including papers that adopt different methodological perspectives such as visual methods or network analysis.

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