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Movimiento es vida: Some reflections on mobility and sedentarism

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Yudowitz Lecture Theatre, Wolfson Medical School Building, University of Glasgow

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Movimiento es vida: Some reflections on mobility and sedentarism in light of the "refugee crisis"

Prof Colin Clark, University of the West of Scotland

Wednesday 19th April, 3.15 - 4.30pm (tea/coffee and cakes served 3.15pm, talk starts 3.30pm)

Yudowitz Lecture Theatre, Wolfson Medical School Building, University of Glasgow

Recent events across Europe have starkly illustrated that movement is not always life, despite Brad Pitt’s well-intentioned advice to a terrified family in the Hollywood film World War Z. Indeed, the ongoing refugee ‘crisis’ has shown borders for what they truly are, as well as the successive political failures of European governments to address what is one of the most significant challenges facing the world today. Such inaction and posturing has been as transparent as it has been inexcusable; point-scoring, victim-blaming and finger-pointing has failed to prevent scenes of human life being washed upon our bordered shores and fleeing people barricaded into cages and treated like animals in a zoo. Tear gas, batons and water cannons arm Europe’s welcoming parties who stand behind higher barbed-wire fences and thicker walls whose symbolic and actual suggestion is all too clear: keep out.

Prof Clark will take a small step-back from the immediate and, building on the work of Irish scholar Robbie McVeigh (1997) - himself leaning on the seminal Egyptian sociologist, Ibn Khaldun (1980) - will critically examine the idea and practice of ‘movement’ and how this apparently jars with highly racialized notions of sedentarism (hereby defined, more or less, as an ideology and practice of anti-nomadism). Using the example of the current “refugee crisis” and how it is being played-out within and outside the EU, it might be argued that it is the latest example of a ‘crisis’ of Western (‘civilised’) sedentarist states in the face of the mobility of (‘barbaric’) Eastern ‘others’. Bearing in mind the overall themes being raised, two key questions will be tackled:

  1. To what extent is the current European “refugee crisis” a contemporary example of anti-nomadism, along the lines argued by McVeigh and Khaldun?
  2. To what extent does an ideology of sedentarism infiltrate/permeate notions of (‘acceptable’) refugee movement and settlement across European borders and territories?

References

  • Khaldun, I. (1980) [1377] The Muqaddimah: an introduction to history. Trans. Franz Rosenthal. NY, Princeton University Press.
  • McVeigh, R. (1997) ‘Theorising sedentarism: the roots of anti-nomadism’, in T. Acton (ed.) Gypsy Politics and Traveller Identity, Hatfield: UHP. Pp7-25.

Professor Colin Clark teaches sociology and social policy at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS). His research is mainly located within the fields of Romani studies and Ethnic and Racial Studies, with a special interest in issues of identity, migration and citizenship. Colin has published widely in these areas and supervises a number of PhD students. Outside of UWS, Colin sits on the Board of Directors of the Glasgow based anti-racist organisation the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights and he is also a Trustee of the Roma Rights group Friends of Romano Lav. Colin ‘tweets’ as @profcolinclark

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