Multiple Mobilities Research Cluster II

Co-Directors: Miriam Ticktin, Victoria Hattam, Radhika Subramaniam, Laura Liu, Rafi Youatt and Abou Farman

  ZIMM support has allowed us to combine the new research in, and insights of, mobility studies—which includes the study of infrastructure, mobile devices and movement within territories—with a continued attention to questions of migration and borders. This is especially relevant at a time when, contrary to earlier predictions regarding globalization, borders whether physical, territorial or legal, are paradoxically proliferating across scales, creating vast global and local differentials that are exploited to facilitate the flow of resources, data, capital, labor, skills while, at the same time, create forms of immobility. Using mobility as part of our framework makes it possible for us to consider borders not as static demarcations of territorial boundaries but as liquid, flexible, and mobile modes of filtration and facilitation, and inclusion and exclusion, surveillance and neglect. In the U.S.-­‐Mexico instance, the border is literally liquid and mobile since the 1848 Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-­‐American war placed the border right in the middle of the Rio Grande where it moves with the changes in the flow of the river.

  Our simultaneous attention to multiple forms of mobility and migration is important because movement and mobility in general are now being understood in terms of passages of disparate but inter-­‐related entities—human and non-­‐human, material and immaterial—that may fall outside the realm of sovereignty and yet have been folded into the greater ecology of territorial management. Thus, CO2 or birds, for example, are not legal subjects of the state yet what CO2 does (cause air pollution across man-­‐made boundaries) or what birds carry (viruses, DNA) or even birds themselves (qua endangered species) are now subject to regulation by national and international institutions and laws. In the US, the jurisdiction of border control agencies such as the US Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, officially extends to everything from preventing terrorism to safeguarding cyberspace. There are multiple mobility regimes (regulations, norms), operating at different levels (underground, global, territorial) and controlling different entities (people, biological agents, information, things). Increasingly, these mobility regimes order social life throughout a territory and beyond. Accordingly, new forms of passage and metaphors of movement are created that facilitate or circumvent this regulation: corridors, flyways, tunnels, containers, hubs, lanes, chains and so on. We hope that the paradigm of multiple mobilities will provide us new ways to depict and understand these complexities, to examine the situated and contingent modes and events that create the ecology of the border and the effect of bordering.

 In our second year, we will further this interdisciplinary research practice: we will not only continue to do research together (ethnographic, theoretical, archival, sensory) but will do so while reflecting explicitly on what this form of collaboration means; part of this involves writing about the nature of collaborative research. There are precedents for collective and collaborative work both in the arts and in social science scholarship. The Matsutake Worlds Research Group, which deals with multi-species cultural and ecological encounters that pivot around the matsutake mushroom, is one such collaborative platform. Composed of scholars from different universities as well as filmmakers and designers who participate in various component projects, the research group collaborates in producing a varied array of scholarship and engagement across different platforms. We are propelled by the urgency produced by unexpected tangents of questioning and the aggregation of different modes of inquiry that are generated by our collaborative practice.

 We also raise the question of methodology because our ongoing research forces us to ask: what is appropriate methodology when mobility is so fluid or even immaterial—when, for example, international data (for finance, surveillance, etc.) is transmitted via satellite, crossing multiple boundaries (including the biospheric), protocols, technologies and nodes of control? What is the appropriate methodology when modes and technologies of control cross from immigration enforcement to local law enforcement to military deployment? What is the appropriate method for dealing with multidirectional flows and transplanetary processes that also manifest at very specific nodes and local experiences? The questions raised by mobility also demand varied vocabularies. Just as the term mobility transforms the engagement with migration, so do the prospects opened up by multi-­‐disciplinary investigation so that we feel that new metaphors and lexicons must be explored that more fully represent and illuminate the processes at work.

  This year (2015-­‐16) we will return to do further fieldwork at the border, but we will also begin presenting our research at conferences, and applying for grants.

  • We will return to Brownsville, to explore the above themes and to ground our interdisciplinary conversat Reading together in fall 2014 took us part way in our collaboration, but the research trips facilitated a substantially different level of cross-­‐disciplinary engagement as we were able to approach common objects from our very different vantage points. To continue this, it is vital that we go back to the field. While in Brownsville we will follow up with some of the stakeholders whom we spoke with earlier as well as pursuing new venues for questions that have emerged after our first trip. Specifically, we would like to talk to Ernesto Reyes at the US Fish and Wildlife Service, to Michael Seifert of the RGV Equal Voice Network again, to Scott Nicol of Sierra Club who provided us with a significant orientation to the issues, as well as other area NGOs and activists. We also plan to visit one of the nearby field offices of the International Boundary and Water Commission in Mercedes, TX. We also want to gain access to the ship breaking yards and talk with the Army Corps of Engineers. We propose a 5-­‐day trip as before which is feasible in terms of finances and university schedules.
  • We will create a panel for the Border Studies conference, to take place in San Francisco in 2016. We have already been in touch with a political scientist from UT Brownsville, Guadalupe Correa-­‐Cabrera, president of the association, who encouraged us to appl
  • We will also apply for a SAR (School of American Research) workshop, which would provide a 5-­‐day retreat to discuss our research and explore further outcomes.