As we witness multiple ways people are on the move, by desire or by force, crisscrossing oceans, mountains, skies and at times borders, we note that the unceasing movement may be accompanied by a surge of assertions about fixity of people, importance of sustaining traditions and the naturalness of ethnic or national boundaries. These are often projected back into history as the norm. As movement increases, voices proclaim desirability of the opposite – and with it emerge stories of pause and homelands – real and imagined. It could be that we are faced with just such a moment now in the 21st century.
An emphasis on locality and homeland, while living in an age of intense mobility, is not an uncommon paradox. It does not disprove the mobility thesis, and may even confirm it – we cannot get away from the immense impact of movement in our evidence. Yet, it is a response that gives prominence to stasis rather than motion as the basis for understanding transformations of human relations with each other and the natural world around us. This view has affected how we interpret societal forms, the creation of institutions, formation of boundaries and modes of cultural interaction and belonging. If, however, we accept the fact of a mobile rather than a stable society, our understanding of the dynamics of change alters. Migration becomes a constitutive presence and not a challenge to an otherwise naturally static state.
The historical paradigms we will explore in this lecture series with international guests and ROUTES network (Exeter, UK), touch on different moments in time, providing a long-term perspective on contemporary concerns by locating them in rival contexts. In these dynamic situations human mobility is sometimes thought acceptable, and sometimes perceived as anathema, and the person coming from elsewhere may be welcomed or repelled simply for being from elsewhere.