Thinking about the notion of mobility: a trans-disciplinary exercise
20th-21st March 2014, Paris, France
In Paris, during two days, researchers from different disciplines and various places presented papers about mobility in order to suggest a definition for this complex notion that is mobility.
Organised by the University of Paris Descartes (Chaire d’ethique sociale), Poitiers University and Laval University (Quebec), the CNRS and Sorbonne, this international conference gathered around 30 researchers. They dealt with research completed, underway and soon to start in sociology, geography, economy, history and anthropology – revealing the variety of disciplines that use this concept.
Several objects were viewed under the microscope of mobility: amongst them were migrants and their movement, the daily mobilities, urban mobility, speed, transportation, the negative impacts of mobility, the ‘forgotten’ of mobility studies such as prisoners, disabled people, women, teenager’s mobility, and the view at the mobility turn. At the end, all these communications really gave the participants a picture of what mobility in the social sciences is – one of the most positive aspects of the conference.
Five keynote speakers gave a conference: Peter Adey about evacuation, Stephanie Souche about urban mobility and fairness, Catherine de Wenden dealt with globalisation and regionalization of mobility, Chris Bertram explained the right to freedom of movement and finally Vincent Kaufmann about mobility as a total social phenomenon. These five presentations allow for deeper reflection about mobility and show some polemics surrounding the notion in question.
This conference was interesting for various reasons. First, the gathering of several disciplines allowed the exchange of knowledge and references amongst speakers. Then, it underlined the different use of the term ‘mobility’ in the scientific community: knowing them is a necessity to cross the frontier between disciplines or simply to have a more accurate series of questions regarding any hypothesis. The talks and questions slowly helped clarify the notion of mobility. But as Vincent Kaufmann suggested during the last presentation, mobility is a large and complex notion (a systemic notion) that is difficult to grasp.
This conference starts the gathering of researchers from different disciplines regarding mobility studies and I think that’s a good thing. Is it a field of research on its own? Should it be? Why shouldn’t it be? Personally, I wonder, what did each of us really retain from these two days, I mean concrete element other than references. We may need some reflection and a much larger historic perspective to debate these questions. Thankfully, it seems that the organising committee have the desire to go further into these debates with additional publications and conferences.
Postdoctoral candidate, Neuchatel University