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Everyday Geographies, Geographies Everyday: Mundane of Mobilities Made Tangible


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In this photo essay, a group of six academics contributed to a cross-disciplinary conversation about immigration, mobility and circulation. We tasked ourselves with subverting crisis narratives attached to global migration by exploring the habitual, mundane, and everyday aspects of migration, as well bringing into focus the bodily, intimate and affective dimensions of mobility. Each co-author selected one or more photographs they had taken of an object or daily practice that illustrates the immediacy, tangibility, and materiality of global mobility, migration and circulation from their perspective as an academic or practitioner in their own discipline. We each also wrote mini-essays to contextualize and explicate these photographs. The result is part photo-essay and part collage. As the various pieces juxtapose with one another, themes of temporal stretching, melancholy, dis/orientation, and the rhythms and cycles of everyday life that are altered and interpenetrated by the mobilities and circulations of people and objects arose. This collective piece also registers the blurring boundaries between everyday life and research practice, individual and collective conversation, work and pleasure. The practice of producing this collective photo-essay was not only the result of the convening of an interdisciplinary study group on immigration, mobility and circulation, but also of a deliberate experiment with practicing promiscuous scholarship and slow scholarship.
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Everyday Geographies, Geographies Everyday:
Mundane of Mobilities Made Tangible
Laura Bisaillon
University of Toronto Scarborough
Leah Montange
University of Toronto
Alberto Zambenedetti
University of Toronto
Paolo Frascà
University of Toronto
Lina El-Shamy
University of Toronto
Tamir Arviv
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology
Creative | Alternative
Everyday Geographies, Geographies Everyday 1026
In this photo essay, a group of six academics contributed to a cross-disciplinary conversation about
immigration, mobility and circulation. We tasked ourselves with subverting crisis narratives attached
to global migration by exploring the habitual, mundane, and everyday aspects of migration, as well
bringing into focus the bodily, intimate and affective dimensions of mobility. Each co-author selected
one or more photographs they had taken of an object or daily practice that illustrates the immediacy,
tangibility, and materiality of global mobility, migration and circulation from their perspective as an
academic or practitioner in their own discipline. We each also wrote mini-essays to contextualize and
explicate these photographs. The result is part photo-essay and part collage. As the various pieces
juxtapose with one another, themes of temporal stretching, melancholy, dis/orientation, and the rhythms
and cycles of everyday life that are altered and interpenetrated by the mobilities and circulations of
people and objects arose. This collective piece also registers the blurring boundaries between everyday
life and research practice, individual and collective conversation, work and pleasure. The practice of
producing this collective photo-essay was not only the result of the convening of an interdisciplinary
study group on immigration, mobility and circulation, but also of a deliberate experiment with practicing
promiscuous scholarship and slow scholarship.
Circulation; everyday; immigration; intimacy; materiality; mobility
This multi-authored photo essay stands as an expression of feminist praxis, pedagogy and
interdisciplinary scholarship and partnership. It is the fruit of a dedicated process through which we put
the “tools of social science, friendship, and the power of conversation” to use to produce a scholarly
contribution greater than the sum of its parts (Mountz, 2016, 207). We are members of an interdisciplinary
group called the (Im)migration, Mobilities and Circulation Collective. This scholarly group was co-
chaired by University of Toronto faculty members Professors Laura Bisaillon, Elizabeth Harney, and
Rachel Silvey during the 2016-17 academic years. The rationale that brought us together was a shared
curiosity in exploring how interdisciplinarity—as a scholarly commitment, deliberate intellectual
approach, and set of accompanying practices—valuably enlivens and expands our substantive focus on
human migrations, movements and mobilities.
Our photo essay traverses the multilocal and multilingual spaces connecting historic and
contemporary Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East, North and the East Africa, and North
America. The living and working conditions of our lives, in our role as academics, but also as friends,
family members and colleagues, likewise sentient, carnal and mobile human subjects, provide the
empirical basis for our discussions and analyses. We unabashedly “practice intellectual promiscuity”
(Bisaillon, 2017, 28) by drawing from myriad intellectual resources from the social sciences and
humanities. We seek to pique the interest of and stimulate dialogue with social geographers and
social scientists of other stripes that share our penchant, proclivity and preference for imaginative
scholarly promiscuousness. As the reader will discover, we deliberately deploy and exploit instances
and interchanges of contradiction, tension and dissonance we have noted around us over time and
across space and place as the massively vital analytic resources that they are, unquestionably. We set
photographs and maps in dialogue with each other, inviting the reader to share and contemplate the sets
ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 2019, 18(4): 1025-1053 1027
of embodied experiences and taken-for-granted or mundane new knowledge that we offer on the subject
of mobilities, migrations and circulations of various kinds.
 Wehaveorganizedourphotoessayintothreeparts.Werstidentifyanddiscussourscholarly
project to provide the reader with grounding to understand our Collective and its work. Secondly, we
present a series of six mini-photo essays through which we hear the voices of all authors. These pieces
are at once each of our contributions and a collective photomontage produced in culmination of an
of the bodily, intimate, and affective dimensions of human migrations, movements and mobilities, we
took these as our analytic starting points. In doing so, we created a collage of analyses questioning
representations of the body, intimacy and affect, while marshaling and extending our engagement
withthem.Lastly,wereectontheendeavourofboththeCollectiveand this photo essay.Wehope
our contribution encourages communities of scholars, students and practitioners variously located to
understand the immense personal pleasure and professional productivity that come from transgressing
and subverting disciplinary and other imposed boundaries. Doing so opens up possibilities to learn from
each other, spark new friendships, build communities of practice, support each other’s creativity, and
birth robust scholarship.
PART 1: Mobility, Rhythm, Time: From Slow Scholarship to Promiscuous Scholarship
Our Collective’s meetings took place during the moments in time of so-called refugee ‘crises’
and forced migrations from the Global South into the Global North, including into the country we all
resided in, Canada. The overarching conceptual organizer of our group was to engage with the ideas
of time, rhythm and pace that were our sponsor, the Jackson Humanities Institute’s annual themes. We
were also wedded to examining emergent visions and imagined spaces, which we had selected as our
thematic subtitle. And so, from the beginning of our year together, we explored how these ideas might
poke and probe, align with, invert or subvert the notion of human migration as de facto crisis or disaster.
In this pursuit, we brought forward and discussed contributions from contemporary visual arts,
with the desire to encounter emerging visions and imagined spaces, and the transformative politics
global migration detention and also the concept and exercise of slow scholarship. We read the manifesto
“For Slow Scholarship,” in which she and a collective of fellow North American feminist geographers
argued for the urgent need to approach and practice our scholarly work with slowness and with an
orientation that values care, creativity and collaboration (Mountz et al., 2015). Up for discussion was
how to bring to life intellectual space in an academic institution so as to enable creative, collective
scholarship through commitments to sociability, support and stepping away from a world addicted to
and commitment to practice mapped out in Mountz et al. (2015).
Our monthly meetings were structured with the theme of slow scholarship in mind: they were
low-stakes encounters that involved a modest amount of preparation. We sought to deliberately push
back and challenge “the unsustainable pace of work by changing engagements with [scholarly] time”
(Mountz 2016, 216) while we also ventured into substantive questions connected with the eld of
migration studies. We convened over dinner at the end of the working week, and, following short
presentations on our scholarship by guests and group members, we engaged in high-spirited, open-ended
discussions of our initiation or that we had a hand into organizing. Our twenty-eight members included
women and men faculty members, Canadian and international postdoctoral fellows, undergraduate and
Everyday Geographies, Geographies Everyday 1028
Figure 1: Some members of the Immigration, Mobilities, and Circulation Working Group.
graduate students from the University of Toronto and nearby academic institutions (such as Wilfred
Laurier, York, and Ryerson Universities), as well as one faculty colleague who participated via Skype
from University of California-Irvine. We met eight times between September 2016 and April 2017.
Our monthly gatherings were milieus of scholarly sociability. We had common interest in
approaching substantive research areas through interdisciplinary experimentation and boundary
transgressing. This buoyed our individual and collective spirits, and enhanced our efforts. In the way
that the collective that wrote “For Slow Scholarship” reported feeling fatigued and strained when they
and commuting, among other roles and responsibilities. Out of respect for the various demands that we
knew to be placed on each other outside our monthly haven, we put effort into ensuring that our meetings
offered at once vibrant, and low-stakes, low-demand commitments for thinking, feeling, listening and
Our work together was anchored by an angle of analysis that saw migration, mobility and human
circulation not as crisis or something out of the ordinary, but as a mundane and everyday occurrence.
What happens when we refuse to consider migration, mobilities and circulation as crises, but rather,
as situated within a genealogy of habitual and historically patterned human ow? In our focus on the
mundane, we contemplated how individuals perform and create spaces of meaning, representation, and
home for themselves in, for example, Asian seniors’ residences and within various diasporic LGBTQ
communities in Toronto. We learned about contemporary forms of adversity and trauma experienced
by nationals from Iran, Italy, and Iraq and people of their diasporas. We were confronted with forms of
immobility and people’s quiet resistance within a totalitarian regime in Eritrea. By focusing on these
cases, our members were able to construct wider imaginaries and generate insights about the meanings
of mobility and displacement. Through this lens, the politics of fear, security and the management of
trauma, and the everyday practices through which people mediate and cope with their cross-border
mobility. We argue that the methodological and substantive cross-fertilizations and insights that we made
ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 2019, 18(4): 1025-1053 1029
in slow scholarship. But such an approach also promulgated in our work a promiscuous scholarship,
one where the blurring of boundaries, cross-fertilization, sociability, and a gaze towards the everyday,
intimate and personal deeply reverberates through our tone and the themes we take up.
In the six mini-essays below, the results of this experimental exercise are manifest. From
the larger membership of the Collective, a small group of us were able to commit to taking July and
August 2017 to explore themes that had emerged during our year together. We tasked each other with
contributing a small set of photographs of objects or practices that evoked emerging temporalities
and spatialities relating to the three words in our Collective’s name: (im)migration, mobilities and
circulation.Weeachprovidedthephotosofobjects:adoor,a ag,akeyboard,abag,anavocado,a
document. We wrote explications of these photographs that also engaged our own personal narratives.
We intentionally focused on objects in order to focus our attention on the everyday rather than on crises
and spectacles, but this ultimately meant we would all introduce themes that were personal, and even
intimate: what we came across during a family trip, in our correspondence, or when on a retreat; or,
works. The emphasis on everyday rhythms imbued our work, as the photo selections and their attendant
scholarship. During this time, we read each other’s work, discussed, and provided each other with
collegial guidance, commentary and suggestions for change. Speaking across disciplinary boundaries,
and working slowly, we deliberately directed our attention to what was personal both in substance and
in tone. The six of us took up this challenge, and in so doing, troubled the waters of dominant framings
of mobile people and their circumstances.
Everyday Geographies, Geographies Everyday 1030
El Immigrant: Linguistic Terrorism and
the Materiality of Being In-Between
photo and essay by Lina El-Shamy
Part 2: Six Photo Essays
This is a photograph of my keyboard (Fig. 2), where the Arabic alphabet stickers that I purchased
on eBay are slowly peeling away from my monolingual Latin alphabet keyboard. It is also a photograph
IusedinmydocumentarylmEl Immigrant (2015) to symbolize the struggle of not losing a mother
tongue and being tied between two languages and cultures. I still remember what triggered me to
look at my keyboard—something that now seems so apparent. Having decided to start a project on
theimmigrantexperience,I felt confused as towhereIshouldlookrst.Researchingtheimmigrant
experience entails engaging with many different ideas about identity and assimilation, a lot of abstracted
theoryonthe‘in-between’anddiasporicliving,anddifcult stories of border-crossingand survival.
But, where was I to begin?
My teacher, Patricio Davila, encouraged me to look at the material world around me, and to go
from there. Immediately, that is what I did. My laptop was right there and I did not need to go far in
I searched more closely around me, not beyond me: family members, a university classmate, a local
entrepreneur, a local dry cleaning worker, friends, a friend’s father, a local taxi driver, a high school
Figure 2: Keyboard with two alphabets.
ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 2019, 18(4): 1025-1053 1031
teacher, and a friend’s elementary school teacher, among many others. They all came from completely
different worlds that I imagined could never intersect, but the forced juxtaposition of their stories
(through the power of montage) revealed compelling frictions. For instance, in one shot I interview an
elementary school teacher from Iran who is struggling to enter the Canadian education system, followed
by a shot of a current elementary school teacher (whose interview with me had nothing to do with
immigration) advising everybody to never give up on their dreams, that “you have to do what you want
to do, or you won’t be happy.”
The title, El Immigrant, is a linguistic hybrid that reects the hybridized language that all
immigrants everywhere begin to speak upon arriving. ‘El’ means ‘the’ in both Arabic and Spanish.
In the slow process of losing their mother tongue, immigrants hold on to simple words and phrases
internalized feeling; it is a lived, material reality: the languages our tongues (are allowed to) speak, the
professions we (are allowed to) practice, and the alienation resulting from the physical and linguistic
distances created between generations. This is why, in my lm, I decided to conduct all interviews
not in the interviewees’ mother tongue. I found that communicating in English, which is sometimes
their second or third language, might tell a more realistic story—might indeed better demonstrate the
problem of linguistic barriers. Does a story change in any way if it is communicated in a language that
Chicana cultural theorist, Gloria E. Andzaldúa, explored the idea of linguistic terrorism in her
semi-autobiographical book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1999). She freely switches
between English and Spanish as a way to express her ties to a multitude of cultures. In her essay “How
to Tame a Wild Tongue,” she labels the critique of and hostility towards a person’s accent or language as
‘linguistic terrorism’, since linguistic identity and ethnic identity are intertwined. Linguistic terrorism is
found in the imperialist imposition of the English language, the universal language that everyone should
deciding to conduct all interviews in English, only.
My experience with such an imposition happened to me as a child growing up in the Arab world.
I attended an international school that taught an American curriculum, with all the subjects (except
‘Arabic’) taught in English. Outside the classroom and at home was where Arabic would be used—or,
where we were allowed to use it. English was the language of professionalism and academia (and
‘coolness’, of course), whereas Arabic was the language of domesticity and emotions. Our textbooks
spoke a completely different language than the one we spoke at home. It was quite a task to reconcile
what the textbook said with what our parents said. Our math textbooks used dollars, dimes and nickels;
moved to Canada, I remember thinking how the snow was a miracle, as though my old science textbooks
came to life.
 Usingmyownstoryasanimmigrantwasanafterthoughtformylm;Iwasoriginallyresistant
to do so. I deemed my contribution to be not as original as other people’s stories. Then I realized that
thisisexactly why Ishouldincludeit in mylm.Thisstoryis not original; it is every immigrant’s
story. As I type these paragraphs, the Arabic alphabet stickers that were once on my keyboard have
completely peeled off. Maybe I will order another set, and maybe not.
Everyday Geographies, Geographies Everyday 1032
Immigration Detention: Circuits of Waste/
Value, Abject/Human
photos and essay by Leah Montange
Figure 3: My purse, made by a man
detained by Immigration Customs
Enforcement in the US.
A man detained at one of the largest immigration prisons in the US made the bag in this photo
(Fig. 3) for me out of folded green and silver soup wrappers, woven and sewn together with thread made
out of garbage bags. We had been pen pals for about six months, emailing each other weekly through
an email system that allows family and friends (for a fee) to stay in touch with people incarcerated
in prisons and detention centers that subscribe to the service. I wrote with this man not for research
purposes, but simply as a way to maintain a practice of solidarity with those affected by violent and
neoliberal state systems back home in the US while I embarked upon graduate studies in Canada. Over
the course of our exchange, my pen pal was taught by other men in his unit how to “make stuff” out of
of political economies of migration and detention and the politics of contestation in detention centers.
According to data published by the National Immigration Justice Center in 2018, the US
immigration detention system is massive and complex: on an average night in 2017, 44,442 migrants,
asylum seekers, and non-citizens who lost status were detained in a combination of contracted beds in
ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 2019, 18(4): 1025-1053 1033
Figure 4 (a,b): Crafts made by detained artist on display
at art gallery.
local jails and dedicated detention centers that are
either federally run or privately operated. In 2017,
about 70% of all immigration detention beds in
the US were privately owned and managed, and
these include the beds at the facility where my
pen pal resided. Food served by the for-prot
detention center is of low quantity and quality.
Still hungry after an unappetizing meal, detainees
will often buy supplemental food, such as soup
packets and a variety of snacks, at the overpriced
commissary. This has been the focal point of
ongoing hunger strikes and struggle at various
detention center; for example, shortly before we
composed this photo-essay, in June 2017, 35
women went on hunger strike at the Northwest
Detention Center in Tacoma, WA. Among their
demands were improved meal plans that include
fruit, and a lowering of commissary prices. But
this situation also yields a variety of practices
beyond such ruptures and outward signs of
resistance. Some detained people will collect the
remnants from commissary food—the various
coloured wrappers—and fold them into a variety
of objects: picture frames, decorations, and
handbags. These can be sent to family members
or relatives as gifts or can be sold in order to
make more money to spend on phone calls and
at the commissary. The economies of detention,
and the bodily experience of these economies,
resonate through my bag, in a process akin to
what Hiemstra and Conlon (2016) have called
“the intimate economies of detention,” or the up
close and personal circulations of material objects,
immigration detention.
The pen pal who made my bag has presented his creations in two different art exhibitions with
themes of border control and immigration enforcement. Their inclusion in these shows (Fig. 4) urged
me to begin to consider and interpret my bag differently. The temporalities of detention are expressed
here. From one of my pen pal’s artist statements: “It is sad that there is not much we can do here. When i
was in prison i made metal art, wood art, leatherwork, Native American beadwork and so much more. In
[detention] it feels like my hands are tight.” In prisons, time is cumulative – one can count down the days
until one is released. Depending on the facility, one can participate in programs and earn degrees and
byindenite or indeterminateperiodsofwaiting. Daily schedules,timetables,and mobilities within
the detention center are highly regulated, but at the same time, detained people won’t know and cannot
plan for when their detention will end or where and when they will be transferred. Scholars such as
Papadopoulos, Tsianos and Stephenson (2008) and Andrijacivic (2010) have emphasized how detention
Everyday Geographies, Geographies Everyday 1034
and deportation decelerate migration processes, regulating the temporality of migration by forcing
people to pause, temporarily immobilizing them or redirecting their mobility. The creations of detained
people are an intervention into these temporalities, a way for people to structure their own time and
body, to invest themselves into something, and create. Crafting and making is one strategy for dealing
with this temporal regulation, with the stretching and wasting of time, with the waiting for decisions,
for court dates, for deportation dates.
 Wecanalsopeelbacktheeconomicrelationscongealedinmybagtondmultipleiterationsof
a waste-value relation at work here: migrants are racialized through their border-crossing, and exposure
to policing, racial proling and exclusion; they are gured through that racialization as disposable
people who can be exposed to dangerous, precarious, and risky forms of employment and economic
marginalization (De Genova, 2010). But, that which was de-valorized and made into waste can be re-
produce value by sorting, warehousing and disposing of (deporting) them. Furthermore, the detention
center where my pen pal made my bag is located within a superfund site—a 12 square mile area of
landand shallow waterthattheUSEnvironmentalProtectionAgencyhas identiedascontaminated
with hazardous waste. In 2004, a portion of this wasteland found its “highest and best use” in the
of surplus bodies being warehoused and sorted on contaminated land by a private corporation seeking to
waste, who are using this wasted time in their lives, to make things out of discarded wrappers. It is such
a sharp illustration of the relation between waste and value, and also between the abject and the human.
Indeed, though writing of a different context, Vicki Squire (2014) came to a similar conclusion, that
“struggles to transform ‘desert/ed trash’ into objects of value are nothing less than contestations over the
very category of ‘the human’ itself” (p. 20). That is, considering the wrapper purse in its imbrication in
detained peoples’ temporalities and the circuits of waste/value in detention reveals something different
about detention and the process of objectifying a human: that process involves a relation between the
sovereign power and the detained subject that, though asymmetrical, is not unidirectional, and the
tension between the abject and the human is therefore unresolved.
ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 2019, 18(4): 1025-1053 1035
On Being ‘Young and Deant’ in Asmara
photos and essay by Laura Bisaillon
 ThoughIhaveafteen-yearhistorywiththeHorn ofAfricaregion,thatisDjibouti,Eritrea,
Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan, I had never been to Eritrea (Fig.5). This changed in July 2016 when I
travelled there to attend a family wedding and take part in the Second International Conference on
Eritrean Studies. Committing to slowing down and being rather than doing in a place opens up wonderful
opportunities to see, hear, smell, touch and taste the features of a place and all that happens there (Mountz
et al., 2015). The unhurried pace and my insider-outsider position (Contreras, 2015) meant that I had
much time and opportunity to observe in ways that were particularly informative and interesting. I was
in most frequent usage in Eritrea. Yet, I have also been accepted as a member of my husband’s family,
people of both Ethiopian and Eritrean lineage, and, as such, I felt myself belonging to a community in
Figure 5: Eritrea faces the
Red Sea in the Horn of
Africa region.
Everyday Geographies, Geographies Everyday 1036
I took the four photos in this essay, during our month stay in Eritrea. During my time in there,
I interacted with resident (as opposed to diaspora) people of various ages, histories, and social classes,
all of whom were urbanites. I learned about the events and circumstances of their lives, both past and
present. They mused to each other and me about their futures. I conceived of my interlocutors as expert
knowers of the events of their lives and local worlds, since “only the experiencer can speak of her or his
experience,” including that which the person experiences as enabling and disabling (Smith, 2006).
In recent years, television sets across the world, including those in Eritrea, have broadcast the
sites and sounds of human suffering and death, as well as people’s relief and safe passage in various
land and water spaces connecting Africa with Europe. Eritrea has a small population estimated to
bevemillioninhabitants.Thismeansthattheuprootingandeeing work that Eritreans who leave
the country do cannot but be felt in the country. Their absence does not go unnoticed. Eritreans are
overrepresented in deaths in the intercontinental crossings I refer to above (Médecins sans Frontières,
2017). The material scarcity and variety of oppressions that my friends and family in Eritrea endure
are, in a word, troubling. These arrangements have serious effects on people’s wellbeing. As I watched,
learned and listened to the people I met, I began to contemplate and, in dialogue with them, explore
answers to the following questions: What sort of politics and social commitments do people that do not,
cannot,or choosenottoleaveEritreaexpressandenact?Specically,howdoes itfeeltobesocially
young, that is, either unmarried or without children (Clark-Kazak, 2011), and held back in a state that
does not permit young people to exit, lawfully, except under exceptional circumstances (Riggan, 2014)?
Immediately below, I explore the contours of answers and analysis I proffered from these encounters
through two vignettes that emphasize people’s practices.
‘Saloning’ as practice
There is a long-standing coffee drinking and coffee house culture in Eritrea. In the evenings,
it is common to see young people strolling leisurely along the streets and gathering to chat in cafés
inAsmara.Inthephoto above, sixmen,veofwhomarelong-standingfriends, shareadrinkanda
meal (Fig. 6). They meet daily, when possible. They are close. On the occasion pictured here, I am
invited to join, and conversations take place in both Tigrinya and English. During their ‘salon’, the men
Figure 6:
Eritrea because of collectivist understandings of family and kinship relations.
ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 2019, 18(4): 1025-1053 1037
Figures 7 & 8:
Being erased.
explore topics personal and social. They use humour, irony and parody in equal measure. Talking about
of the latter. Our evening is lively. When I am not present, I am told that updates are shared about whom,
among the people they know, has left the country, and who was caught and/or jailed for attempting to do
so. While naturally each of these men has aspirations about the future, if one were preparing to leave, I
am told that he is unlikely to divulge. In the year that preceded my taking of this photo, twelve buddies
gathered around the table regularly. The bodies of friends unseen here, those who were successful in
their “illegal” emigration, (Khosravi, 2010) are conspicuous in their absence. This night, the men talk
about them. In doing so, they deliberately remember their friends. The il/legality of crossing Eritrea’s
national borders is the reason I concealed the men’s faces in this photograph. As I took it, and also as
friends seated escaped from the country, making it into Ethiopia through Eritrea’s southern border.
visa to pursue graduate studies abroad.
‘Social autopsy’ as practice
I talked with and listened to family and friends while enjoying coffee ceremonies during our
month in Eritrea. At one of these services, a group of young women and men talked about their position,
as youth, in their country. They talked about the human exodus from Eritrea and its consequences for
their families and society. They also spoke about their erasure as a matter of social fact: that they were
being actively erased was as evident to them as the faceless woman and man depicted in this pair of
photographs (Fig. 7 & 8). These are photos of two washroom doors in an Asmara café. The paint is
visibly worn and tired. The padlock that fastens the women’s door can be used to keep people in or out.
According to these youth, in the eyes of the country’s administrative leaders, they are more potentially
disruptive and harmful inside the country than outside. From their understanding of how their society
1959, 2000), this group of urban youth makes sophisticated and empirically traceable connections
between personal struggles, family biographies, and social problems. Through such “social autopsy” or
analysis, (Klinenberg, 1999) they elucidate lineaments of ruling relations governing them. For example,
Everyday Geographies, Geographies Everyday 1038
outside of Eritrea. Some families have no other income. Families whose elders have had professional
licences forcibly revoked by the state live very precariously. I was told that these arrangements are
limiting, not liberating. We see that youth are being positioned to feel strain in an ongoing way over
time and across space.
‘Saloning’ and ‘social autopsy’ as discussed here are practices of quiet contest through which
the people I met are dealing with the pain of being resident Eritreans. While not necessarily audible,
personal loss, sorrow, and melancholy are indeed manifest in what we do. Victoria Bernal (2014, 2017)
and I both focus attention on silence and talk to uncover subtle and obvious ways that chronic loss,
material deprivation, and social and structural violence shape the lives of Eritrean inside and outside the
country. The urban youth I met dispute, if not fully reject, the state’s idea that they need to continue to
suffer for the country. Their imagined futures involve supporting families from outside the country. They
live and work to ‘illegally’ exit, while imagining tomorrow’s lived elsewhere, anywhere elsewhere.
In his illuminating ethnography entitled Young and Deant in Tehran (2008), Shahram Khosravi
explores the work of urban youth in Tehran, Iran’s capital city. As I write these words, being “young
analytic attention to the spoken and unspoken. It also means problematizing people’s taken-for-granted
practices, and prioritizing “views from below” (Haraway, 1988). From these vantage points, we can
identify and explore how young people are asserting their personhood in practice. Here, we see that the
young featured here are raising questions for their present. They are also engaging in acts of “community
citizenship”, where civic responsibilities are expressed through acts of solidarity with people close to
them and of their choosing, with whom they have affective relations, rather than with the state or
another amorphous or distal actor (Mamdami, 1996).
ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 2019, 18(4): 1025-1053 1039
Notes on (the Absence of) Paths
photos and essay by Alberto Zambenedetti
“The Absence of Paths,” Tunisia’s national pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale, is a piece
of performance art staged in three points across the island for the duration of the massive 2017 art
exhibition. On a hot early summer day, I queue up with other visitors at the Arsenale booth, where a clerk
hands out applications for a “Freesa,” a Universal Travel Document—the portmanteau combines “free”
and “visa” into a provocative bureaucratic impossibility. The blue box at the top of the application form
such as “Where do you belong?” The Freesa form also invites the applicant to “Circle Home” on a small
image of a stylized Pangea (the original supercontinent)—the online version using a conventional world
map and physical address (Fig. 9).
With its purposefully incongruous pairing of dry, bureaucratic boxes and colour scheme and
its personal, even emotional line of questioning, the form succeeds in disorienting me. I don’t know
how to reconcile those things, so I trace a circle around the entirety of Pangea, smugly attempting to
circumvent the issue. The clerk, brushing off my embarrassed sarcasm with disarming sincerity, says
responds in English—the suffocating tourism industry in Venice prompts most operators to default to it.
Figure 9: The Freesa
application form.
Everyday Geographies, Geographies Everyday 1040
Figure 10: My Freesa, with the “Only Human” stamp
and my thumbprint.
Figure 11: My mobility map.
Then I switch to English while he politely moves
to Italian. We generate unnecessary confusion in
our brief interaction: true to form, the bureaucracy
of borders is never straightforward, not even as
performance art. He inks my right thumb and
presses it on a piece of paper, a procedure I am
all too familiar with because of my own mobility.
Henallyissuesmeablue passport that is very
similar to another one I used to have, a US Re-
entry Permit—Form I-327, a document that
allows permanent residents to leave the US for
extended periods of time without abandoning
residency. The Freesa is rubber stamped with the
seal “Only Human.” My status: “Migrant.” The
clerk directs a blue light onto the Freesa, revealing
With the Freesa in my pocket, I
continue to wander through the Biennale. A
recent experience comes to mind. One month
earlier, I attended the “Space and Culture” 20th
Anniversary Conference: The Idea of Place, in
Edmonton, Alberta. At this point, Canada had
been my new place of residence for less than a
year. The conference was a professional gathering
of sociologists, so I was very much out of my
element, but so were some of the geographers,
urban planners, and other media scholars in the
room. The crowd was eclectic, and I had been
assigned to chair the rst session of the day, in
which I was also presenting my own work—
something to do with photography, space, and
temporality. Taking an active approach, the rst
panelist, a local artist named Brittney Roy, invited
the international (and sleep-deprived) audience to
think about place by charting their own mobility.
She handed out Sharpies and standard-sized
drawing (Fig. 11).
After I was done, I realized that I
represented Europe and North America as a
nine-box grid, the different squares standing in
for the countries where I have been employed,
in some capacity, over the last twenty years. My
mind rushed to the places, the jobs, the friends,
the streets, the paycheques, the phone cards, but
mostly to the immigration documents. The black
ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 2019, 18(4): 1025-1053 1041
lines separating the locations, arbitrary obstacles for the arrows to overcome, reminded me of the
hoursspentlling out forms,queuingatconsulates,signing waivers tosurrendermyprivacy,being
my freshly-inked Freesa.
In 1999, the same year I became a so-called mobile subject, Ahiwa Ong published Flexible
Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality. In that pre-9/11 world, Ong described a form of
privileged mobility that “refers to the cultural logics of capitalist accumulation, travel, and displacement
(6). In her view, these relations were “shaped within the mutually reinforcing dynamics of discipline
and escape” (19), and they dealt with the problematic nature of identity in late modernity, in which
“exibility, migration, and relocations, instead of being coerced or resisted, have become practices
to strive for rather than stability” (19). Looking back at those words, in the midst of the largest surge
of human mobility since the Second World War, we realize that the paradigm has shifted, and that the
Freesa exposes its absurd new logic: “In crisis, nation-states pit protection of their own citizens against
a broader commitment to protect human rights. Contradictory projects are carried out daily in the name
of vague security agendas” (17), observes Alison Mountz (2010), whose work examines borders and
Also in 2017, the website Migrants of the Mediterranean launched (Kerpius, 2017). It is a
staying with my family. She has returned to Italy many times since then, exploring every corner of
the country. Once she reached Lampedusa in 2016, she was struck by the apparent divide between the
different forms of mobilities that meet on the small island: tourism and migration. Since then, she has
been travelling regularly from New York to Lampedusa, spending long stretches of time talking to
migrants who crossed the Mediterranean on overcrowded boats and rubber dinghies. She documents their
conversations on the website and through its various social media offshoots on Facebook, Instagram,
andTwitter.Theseprojectshelpmigrantsto gain an Internet footprint,and to counterofcial media
accounts that depict them as a horde of indistinguishable people moving through Italy. Migrants of the
Mediterranean focuses primarily on their harrowing journeys to reach Lampedusa.
In the 2018 Italian general election, Italy’s politics moved decidedly to the right. The current
government is openly hostile to migrants, with Matteo Salvini leading the charge against new arrivals.
After a summer spent shutting down ports (Borrelli, 2018), the newly-minted Minister of the Interior is,
at the time of writing, occupied with drafting a law that seeks to restructure Italy’s immigration system.
As the particularities of the law, which seeks to eliminate refugee claims and retract residency permits
already granted, begin to emerge in the national press, Salvini’s Twitter feed is adorned with the banner
“Italians First”—a campaign slogan that parrots the 2016 presidential election in the United States. In
this climate, I return to Migrants of the Mediterranean with an urgency I had not experienced before,
reminding myself that in my Edmonton chart, the migrants’ stories were the blank square below Italy,
their voyages an arrow hopping over the bottom line. In Pamela’s project, they are given a chance to
themfrom the nationaldiscourse.Allowingmigrants to drawtheir own onlineashcard,or atleast
giving them a metaphorical Sharpie is a necessary, albeit desperate, act of resistance, until their Freesa
acquires legal status.
Everyday Geographies, Geographies Everyday 1042
The Al-Quds Rally in Toronto–Breaking Boundaries
photos and essay by Tamir Arviv
I took this picture (Fig. 12) on a sunny Saturday afternoon in late July 2014 during the Al-Quds
Day rally held outside the Ontario Legislative Building in downtown Toronto. The Al-Quds Day (Al-
Quds is the Arabic name for the city of Jerusalem) is an annual, international event initiated by the
Islamic Republic of Iran following its 1979 Revolution. It was created as an expression of solidarity
with the Palestinian people and exists in opposition to Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day in Hebrew),
an Israeli national holiday commemorating the establishment of Israeli control over the “Old City”
District in the aftermath of the June 1967 war. Al-Quds Day rallies are held across the Muslim world,
as well as in various cities in North America and Western Europe. In recent years, the Al-Quds Day
rally in Toronto has become a site of affective clashes between local pro-Palestinian groups calling
for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against the State of Israel, and local pro-Zionist groups
whose members are, for the most part, Jewish-Israeli immigrants to Canada.
The polarization is very visual and evident in the photograph, as is the ‘neutrality’ of the Canadian
police force and Canadian state standing in between the two poles. The emotionless expressions on the
protesters (left) and the pro-Israeli protesters (right) against each other. The picture also captures the
Figure 12: At the Al-Quds Day Rally.
ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 2019, 18(4): 1025-1053 1043
Figure 13: My
personal and familial
journey of migration.
the pro-Zionist/Israel protesters chanted slogans such as “Israel’s values are Canadian values”; “Israel:
where freedom and tolerance live”; and, “Support for Israel is support for Canada.” This group also
accused the pro-Palestine/BDS protesters of being sympathizers of radical Islamic terrorism. Dividing
the global political terrain along Orientalist cultural ‘civilizational’ lines (Said, 1978), between the
so-called ‘liberal West’ and the so-called ‘fundamental Islamic world’ (Huntington, 1996), the pro-
Israeli activists were able to stake their claims of belonging to both Israeli and Canadian societies,
thus assuming a role of defenders of ‘Western civilization’ in Canada. In contrast, member of the Pro-
Palestine/BDS groups chanted slogans that equated the State of Israel to ‘an Apartheid State’ and all
Israeli Jews to (white) settlers in the Middle East. These slogans, in turn, have allowed pro-Palestine/
BDS protesters to assume the role of anti-racist and anti-colonial human rights advocates.
As I watched this scene and captured it with my camera, I felt caught between these two
identity and racialized embodied experience in Israel and in Canada. On the other hand, the messages
circulating among members of the BDS group during the rally, which were framing the conict in
Israel/Palestine as an instance of colonization by fundamentally alien white (European) settlers, did not
resonate with me, either.
My diaspora identity and sense of belonging in Toronto is tied to my personal and familial
journey of migration. My family journey starts in Tripoli, Libya. Both of my parents were born there
during Italian occupation. Their families had lived there for countless generations; they moved to Israel
as part of the mass migration or displacement of Jews that took place in the Arab world between the
1940s and 1970s. They were young when Mussolini’s Fascists brought Nazi-inspired anti-Semitic laws
to Libya under the 1938 Manifesto della razza (Charter of Race). Following the liberation of Libya
attheheartofacountryandregion in intense ux.AsanewandexclusivelyArab national identity
gained traction, the Jews of Libya found themselves subjected to violence and attacks orchestrated by
members of nationalist groups. Like many Jews living in newly independent Arab countries including
Libya, Libyan Jews responded favourably to the solicitations of Zionist emissaries who promised a
better future in the newly formed State of Israel, and thus accepted to relocate.
My father arrived in Israel with an Aliya or immigrant movement of Libyan youth shortly after
World War II, and my mother arrived with her family in 1949. Most Jews of Middle Eastern and
North African origin know as Arab Jews or Mizrahim, including my parents and families, lost property,
passports, and their social standing within their societies of origin, arriving in Israel impoverished and
Everyday Geographies, Geographies Everyday 1044
destitute. From their emic perspectives, their arrival and resettlement in the “Land of Israel” was a
movement within a singular, familiar Middle Eastern space in which they were already unquestionably
indigenous (Shenhav, 2006).
In their rst decades in Israel, they were dependent on the Ashkenazi-dominated (Jewish
European) Labour Zionist state’s institutions and policies relating to welfare, housing, and settlement.
Furthermore, in the new, European-oriented State of Israel, they were also forced to reject key elements
of their Mizrahi cultures and identities. Certainly, as Israeli citizens and Jews in a Jewish state, Mizrahim
haveenjoyed signicantprivileges vis-à-vis Palestinians.Yet,theyfound themselvessystematically
channeled to the socio-cultural, economic, and political margins of Israeli Jewish society (Shohat, 1988;
Shenhav, 2006; Chetrit, 2009).
I was born in Israel in 1979, and grew up in Or Yehuda, a small, working-class town, where most
of the population, like myself, was Mizrahi Jews. Consistent with many members of Mizrahi second
and third generation people, my experience of racialization - within the context of persistent social and
cultural oppression and marginalization of Mizrahi Jews in Israeli society—comes to combine with
a cross-generational transfer of loss of culture, language, identity, property, passports, and standings
inthe community(Yosef,2011,74).Atthesametime, ‘MiddleEastern’andArabicinuences were
always present during my upbringing in Or- Yehuda—more than the Western or European ones that are
normalized in Ashkenazi-dominated spaces, including elite Israeli university campuses, where, because
of my background, I often felt out of place. While my parents stopped speaking to me and my brothers
and sister in Arabic at home, they spoke Arabic with my grandparents. They maintained other aspects of
a distinctly Jewish-Libyan identity and culture at home, and in particular with respect to Libyan cuisine
and Jewish-Libyan religious rituals.
At the age of 30, I left Israel for Toronto in September 2009. During my encounters with non-
Israeli Jews and non-Jewish Canadians alike, I found myself facing curious questions about my ethnicity
and religion. I soon learned that as a dark-skinned, Mizrahi, Jewish, Israeli man living in Toronto, I was
expected to explain the ‘contradictions’ in my identity. To those who are curious, I explain that the Arab
and Mizrahi-hybrid cultures are inseparable parts of my Israeli diasporic identity in Toronto, and of my
Jewish identity. Israel is my homeland - but is intimately connected to my parent’s homeland in Libya,
and my presence in Canada.
My familial and personal journey of migration crosses racial, cultural, and political boundaries
that were represented by both pro-Zionist and pro-Palestinian protesters during the Al-Quds Day rally.
Obviously, the current situation for Mizrahi Jews and Palestinians are not comparable. The depth of
racial and colonial violence against the Palestinians prevalent in Israel/Palestine, as well as the agency
and complicity of Mizrahi Jews relating to the subjugation of the Palestinians in Israel/Palestine, is
undeniable (Shenhav, 2006). Yet, the historical circumstances of Mizrahi Jews, who have also lived
through colonialist, nationalist, as well as Zionist upheavals in the Middle East, complicate the dualisms
and binaries of native versus immigrant/settler. Indeed, the hybrid identities of these Jews considerably
challenge the Jew versus Arab dichotomy (Shohat, 2003). The tendency among Zionist and anti-Zionist
scholars and activists in North America to represent the politics in Israel/Palestine as cohesive, and
fundamentally a matter of religious, racial, and ethno-national bloc differences, as per the Al-Quds
Rally in Toronto, erases Mizrahi and Arab Jewish historical-geographies and elides features of their
ongoing struggles. A truly inclusive anti-colonial and anti-racist activism about Israel/Palestine and in
Canadamustembracehistorical-geographies,thespecicitiesofMizrahi concerns, and the contexts of
Palestinians and other marginalized groups in contemporary Israeli and Palestinian societies.
ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 2019, 18(4): 1025-1053 1045
Contemplations on Mobility and (A)Political Existence:
An Attempt to Escape to Nature
photos and essay by Paolo Frascà
“The body must be regarded as a site of social, political, cultural, and geographical inscriptions,
production, or constitution. The body is not opposed to culture, a resistant throwback to a natural
past: it is itself a cultural, the cultural product.” (Grosz, 1994, 23, emphasis in original)
 Grosz’sinsightherelaysthefoundationformyreectiononhumanmobilityandtheimpossibility
of shedding political and material histories from one’s subjectivity. The critical meditations in this piece
explore the desire to “escape” from the city to a more natural landscape, as well as the disillusion that
such an escape can occasion the return to what Giorgio Agamben (1998) describes as “natural life”
(105), a life free of political existence.
In July of 2017, I wanted to escape the city of Toronto and from a few people in it. I booked
a “Mongolian-style yurt” in Mattawan, Ontario on the popular AirBnB website, rented a car from
Enterprise, grabbed some clothes, books, food, and my phone, and went. I brought Louis, a Chihuahua,
with me. While I did escape Toronto, I became tangled in networks of movement and exchange different
than those in the city. Renting property and a vehicle from multinational, multi-billion-dollar companies,
bringing items produced in different countries with me, and having my animal friend come along on the
trip all complicated my “escape” to “nature.” My own identities as a scholar, a gay man, an immigrant
to and citizen of Canada deeply shaped my four-hour overland trip, which was to be a “simple” and
Figure 14: July 2017 in Mattawan, Ontario.
Everyday Geographies, Geographies Everyday 1046
Figures 15 and 16: Pin location of
Mongolian-style Yurt and Ontario
First Nations Territories.
therapeutic venture into the woods. These complications condensed around three main issues: the (im)
possibility of a true escape from the social and political self; the implications of carrying objects and
animals originating in different parts of the world; the possibility of accepting and functioning amid the
troubled networks of modernity.
My personal and professional experiences with migration and marginalization have tuned me
that the territory of Mattawan is situated on the colonized land of the Nipissing First Nation (Treaties:
Robinson-Huron #61, 1850 and Williams, 1923). The red pins on the maps below show where the
Mongolian-style yurt I rented is located (Fig. 15), with reference to the different Indigenous territories
of the region (Fig. 16). It was interesting and important to be aware of the political and geographical
history of Mattawan, but this meant that I could no longer see it as the bucolic destination I originally
envisioned. The land and resources all around me were imbued with a history, sometimes painful. My
this as problematic. Here, I was not numbed by the overstimulation and confusion of the city— also
The structure my small animal-friend and I would call “home” for the next few days had no
electricity, no cellular signal, no Internet, no running water. Perhaps, this would allow for an escape. I
hoped that being technologically disconnected would grant me a sense of freedom. I wondered whether
or not I could simply feel gratitude for this experience, without concentrating on the fact that this place,
in the middle of nowhere, was actually a node of history, and its silence, unlike the cacophony of the
ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 2019, 18(4): 1025-1053 1047
city, was waiting to be asked questions about all it had witnessed.
I took the photo (Fig. 14) above soon after my arrival. The photo makes palpable the intersections
of history and movement in which I was immersed. In the image, Louis the Chihuahua, is standing in
front of the property he had already marked as his. He shares the deck with two avocados (“ahuacatl”,
the original name of the fruit, means “testicle” in the Nahuatl language of the dog’s and fruit’s native
México) that I had rested there to ripen. Louis’ own ahuacatls are right above them—a coincidental
homage to the fruit’s etymology—as he safely guarded this Mongolian-style lodging. The photo was
taken with an Apple iPhone designed in California and assembled in China. I took the photo: a Southern
Italian whose not-so-pale skin reminds me that my genes have a diverse history, one that my citizenships
fail to represent.
The structure my small animal-friend and I would call “home” for the next few days had no
electricity, no cellular signal, no Internet, no running water. Perhaps, this would allow for an escape. I
hoped that being technologically disconnected would grant me a sense of freedom. I wondered whether
or not I could simply feel gratitude for this experience, without concentrating on the fact that this place,
in the middle of nowhere, was actually a node of history, and its silence, unlike the cacophony of the
city, was waiting to be asked questions about all it had witnessed.
I took the photo (Fig. 14) above soon after my arrival. The photo makes palpable the intersections
of history and movement in which I was immersed. In the image, Louis the Chihuahua, is standing in
front of the property he had already marked as his. He shares the deck with two avocados (“ahuacatl”,
the original name of the fruit, means “testicle” in the Nahuatl language of the dog’s and fruit’s native
México) that I had rested there to ripen. Louis’ own ahuacatls are right above them—a coincidental
homage to the fruit’s etymology—as he safely guarded this Mongolian-style lodging. The photo was
taken with an Apple iPhone designed in California and assembled in China. I took the photo: a Southern
Italian whose not-so-pale skin reminds me that my genes have a diverse history, one that my citizenships
fail to represent.
While immersed in the woods of Mattawan, I knew that my presence there was part of a
movement that unsettled dusts of political identities, hierarchies, histories, and privileges. But, all I had
wanted was to stop moving my body and moving things, and to be peacefully surrounded by quiet and
nature. Instead, what I wore, what I ate, what I touched, what and where I was all carried an important
history of movement, even in the stillness of the forest. These contemplations in the middle-of-nowhere-
now-middle-of-everywhere made me wonder if different types of movements can be considered gentle,
healthy, and natural and others violent, unhealthy, and unnatural. Was it ok to be where I was, and to
bring all I brought with me? Which of the strings in the network of movement that I was entangling
myself in were more painful or harmful than others, and painful to whom? What violent, unnatural
movements have contributed to my existence and my being there, and what violent movements have I
contributed to? Who is to judge all of this?
Escaping the everything of the city, and entering the everything of the forest was utterly
frustrating because it was no escape at all. In fact, being in the forest, alone with Louis and my things,
made the network of mobilities I was caught up in more discernible. Not even in the off-grid yurt could
theChihuahuaandI nd ourselves freeofattachmentstotheglobalthreadsthatconnect,puppeteer,
“natural life,” because that possibility “was taken from us forever” (Agamben, 1998, 105).
Should we accept the loss of our natural lives, and should we learn, instead, to “stay with the
trouble,” as Donna Haraway (2016) words it? Today, we cannot hope for purity, for true liberation from
modernity, technology, and the law, so we may wish to learn to live with the trouble of the unreachable
authenticity of beingness. Haraway explains that we must learn to be “truly present, not as a vanishing
Everyday Geographies, Geographies Everyday 1048
Born and raised in a 3,000-population town in Southern Italy, and citizen of Canada, I was
temporarily living in a Mongolian-style yurt on colonized Indigenous territory, with a dog and fruits
native to Mexico, reading a book printed in the UK, documenting it all with a phone made in China,
amongst other things. To be able to be there, I had given money to two multinational companies and
I had needlessly polluted the environment. Participating in movements that I believe cause harm to
others and the planet felt disquieting, and the silence of the forest was making the trouble heard. Those
were certainly not the feelings I had sought by going, though I soon realized I had no other choice
but to welcome them. A pithy observation by Alexis Shotwell (2016) reminds us “if we want a world
the constitutive situation of our lives, rather than as things we should avoid” (8, emphasis in original).
While seeking stillness, I found myself in the midst of a storm of irregular movement, I was enveloped
in stories of journeys told by every being and object around me, as well as by my own body and
existence. My presence there, in nature, with my things, was anything but natural; it was political.
ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 2019, 18(4): 1025-1053 1049
Part 3: Discussion and Conclusion
Through this photo essay, we have done two things. Firstly, we explored the mundane of
mobility—the material, affective, and everyday elements of migration and transnational movement—
throughcross-disciplinary slicesof life andeldwork. Rather thanconstruct anargumentabout the
and experiences. We grounded our analyses in visual media to forefront and tether our inquiries to the
tangible practices that people do. To do this, we attended to language, ideas, our bodies, the objects we
use, and activities we do, daily.
We drew together things, people, places and practices that, in various ways, spoke to contradictions
and frictions arising from migrations, mobilities and circulations of various sorts. From the worn away
letters on a keyboard to the fading sign on a bathroom door, and from the scene of a tense political
demonstration to the scene of a peaceful remote retreat, the traces of cross-border mobility wore and
wove their way into our lives. We see these traces represented in the high art at the Venice Biennale,
and in the folk art and crafts made by a person captive in immigration detention. We behold, feel, and
embody these traces in our scholarly work and in situations of daily living that are unconnected to what
we do to earn a living and support our families.
Our contributions walk the line between research and life. We troubled the boundary between
and qualitative textures of mobility: the indeterminate time in a detention center; the time it takes
for words in our mother tongue to slip away from memory; the “work of waiting” for an anticipated
emigration of immigration (Kwon, 2015, 495); the subtle practices engaged to resist authoritarianism;
In contemporary times, mobilities across borders have become, somehow, ordinary for many. At
the same time, this freedom to move is not evenly or equitably experienced. As ambulatory, academic
subjects, we encounter mobilities in our everyday lives. In preparing our essays, we explored how
our role in the academy, social class, life histories, sexuality, age, and citizenship statuses, among
others, informed and enlivened our interpretations of mobility. We were acutely aware that as academic
labourers, we strive to educate and mentor students; we travel to discuss ideas at workshops and
conferences; we journey to and immerse in faraway eld sites; and, we attend universities outside
our home country. Thus, in bringing our subject positions to bear in our photo essays, we blurred the
boundaries between sites of inquiry ‘out there’ and those people, places, politics, as well as nagging
problems, that are parts of who we are as people in our private and professional realms.
Secondly, through this photo essay, we enacted and embraced slow scholarship as a practice
for our own well-being, and one that allowed for cross-disciplinarity. We did this by collaborating in
mutually agreed upon and purposeful ways, which pooled our disciplinary and experiential knowledge,
and allowed it to intermingle. Creating this photo essay was interesting, restorative and gave us pleasure.
We hope that our commitment to practicing slow scholarship will be understood as a challenge to the
dominant paradigm in Canadian academia, and in places beyond that are similarly organized within
relations of competition, of thinking and writing accomplished in isolation, and of narcissism. We were
very aware of collaborating in a moment in time where professional life has colonized personal life to
an extent that there are both noted patterns of mental illness in the academy (Peake and Mullings, 2016)
and there is seemingly endemic and endless depletion and anxiety (Mountz, 2016) (experienced more
seriously for some subjects more than others: [Ahmed, 2013]). Through this essay, we talked back to
this troubling and harmful situation, and we did so by disrupting through our collective process.
Everyday Geographies, Geographies Everyday 1050
In this broader context, then, we desired to “make connections across lines and barriers, refusing
to be tied down” Said (1993, 76). Collective, creative academic work that enriches as it transgresses and
subverts norms through relations of “care and affection” (Said, 1993, 82), is something we do because
we want to and because we must. Over one year, we did just that: staking out space in our personal and
professional lives for each other, as situated within scholarly work that sustained, produced community,
enriched rather than impoverished, and which, ultimately, birthed this photo essay.
Dr. Laura Bisaillon thanks the Jackman Humanities Institute for funding to support the Im/migration,
Mobilities and Circulations Working Group that she co-chaired (with Professors Rachel Silvey and
Elizabeth Harney) during the 2016-17 academic year. The authors thank fellow members of this Working
Group who, during their year together, cooperated to cultivate an inspiring scholarly, supportive and
social community of practice. This provided a superlative example to Dr. Bisaillon’s undergraduate
students, as well as to graduate students and faculty and invited guests from various universities, of
what academic life can look and feel like. The contributions of all of these people have an organizing
presence on our essays. Lastly, we thank Levi Gahman for his editorial leadership, and also two
anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments that boosted the caliber of our contribution.
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... She identifies various tensions that stem from her family's immigration to Canada, discussing how these emerged as responses to the organization of social and institutional life in their new society. As she writes, "identity is not just an abstract, internalized feeling; it is a lived, material reality: the languages our tongues (are allowed to) speak, the professions we (are allowed to) practice, and the alienation resulting from the physical and linguistic distances created by generations" (in Bisaillon et al. 2019Bisaillon et al. 1031. Her intervention corrects popular misconceptions that immigration only ushers in opportunities for people. ...
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Tens of thousands of Eritreans make perilous voyages across Africa and the Mediterranean Sea every year. Why do they risk their lives to reach European countries where so many more hardships await them? By visiting family homes in Eritrea and living with refugees in camps and urban peripheries across Ethiopia, Sudan, and Italy, Milena Belloni untangles the reasons behind one of the most under-researched refugee populations today. Balancing encounters with refugees and their families, smugglers, and visa officers, The Big Gamble contributes to ongoing debates about blurred boundaries between forced and voluntary migration, the complications of transnational marriages, the social matrix of smuggling, and the role of family expectations, emotions, and values in migrants’ choices of destinations.
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