These are some of the considerations about waiting I presented as the keynote speaker recently at the ANTHROMOB international workshop on Mobility and the Future of Work.
Immobility and waiting have been often disregarded as irrelevant topics of study. In fact, waiting is often attached to those called left-behind, people who do not migrate but are part of families with migrant members. In particular women have often been perceived as “waiting penelopes” (Mata-Codesal 2016) from Homer’s Odyssey and the image of Penelope, who waits for her traveller Odysseus. The so-called Odysseus and Penelope syndromes are particularly illustrative of this: the former to name the feeling of displacement experienced by migrants, while the latter refers to the sense of abandonment experienced by migrants’ relatives. The impossible situation of waiting is sublimated and poeticized in this ancient epic, where love and faithfulness are able to overcome twenty years of separation. Penelope as the ‘left behind’ is commonly portrayed as passive, subordinated and lacking agency in their relatives’ mobility decisions. However, recent research questions the passive nature of the so-called left behind, and show the necessary roles they play in their relatives’ migratory projects and the development and maintenance of transnational social fields (Mata-Codesal 2015). People’s waiting for their relatives’ return may not just entail a passive inertial situation, in some cases we can even consider their waiting agential, active and intentional (Gray 2011), fulfilling essential tasks for the success of the migratory project.
I am honoured to be giving the keynote at the ANTHROMOB workshop on November 6th from 18.30 to 19.30 at University of Barcelona. I will be thinking aloud about im/mobility and waiting in times of uncertainty.
Migration studies were slow to incorporate immobility and non-migrants as proper research topics. There are by now convincing calls to continue with the incorporation of the motivations to, meanings of, conditions under which, and strategies to staying put vis-à-vis similar explorations regarding different types of spatial mobility (not only the one that crosses international borders). The need for this articulation is captured in the increasingly popular term im/mobility. The Mobilities perspective recognized from very early on that mobility requires “moorings”. The research agenda this turn set in motion became however too focused on developing a “nomadic metaphysics” and “mobile methods”. Consequently, stasis and the lack of movement have not received as much research attention as it was anticipated. In this presentation, I am concerned with the idea of waiting. In our era depicted as hyper mobile, and “owing to a predominant academic attention for ‘kinetic’ promises of transport and mobility”, waiting has not deserved much academic attention. At the best it is conceived in a very simplistic way as a waste of resources. But, can there be different ways of waiting? Can waiting, similarly to immobility, be a proper research object? And finally, can waiting be a useful concept to address life strategies and im/mobility decisions in a period of growing work precariousness and life uncertainty?