Category Archives: Uncategorized

Precarietat i im/mobilitat al Primer Congrés Català d’Antropologia

1ACTE INAUGURAL: Hegemonies, precarietats i dependències: els contextos de producció del coneixement antropològic

La taula de debat inaugural té com a objectiu plantejar una discussió sobre el marc actual de la recerca antropològica situant-la en el seu context social, polític, econòmic i afectiu d’emergència. Es tracta de visibilitzar i reflexionar sobre un conjunt de pràctiques que no conformen simplement el context exterior de la producció del coneixement, sinó que són una part indestriable d’aquest procés. Això implica pensar com, d’una banda, les condicions laborals, els requeriments de les convocatòries de finançament, l’oferta de places i llocs de treball, els criteris d’acreditació i avaluació de la producció científica i, de l’altra, l’increment de la burocratització, però també les trajectòries individuals, familiars i afectives, o la mobilitat acadèmica i personal, entre d’altres, són condicionants que determinen l’orientació i el desenvolupament de la investigació. Com es relacionen aquestes condicions de producció del coneixement antropològic amb les nostres pròpies recerques? Com les afecten? Com es construeixen i són travessades per determinants de gènere, de classe o d’origen ètnic, entre d’altres? A partir de la intervenció de tres persones amb trajectòries diferents dins d’aquest context, pretenem obrir un espai de debat i de reflexió conjunta sobre les circumstàncies que ens afecten col·lectivament com a comunitat professional i científica.

Diana Mata-Codesal Doctora per la Sussex University. Antiga investigadora postdoctoral a les universitats de Deusto, UNAM i Pompeu Fabra. Forma part de l’Observatori d’Antropologia del Conflicte Urbà (OACU) i del Grup de Recerca en Gènere, Identitat i Diversitat (GENI).
Giacomo Loperfido Doctor per l’EHESS i la Università degli Studi di Bergamo. Ha tingut una Post-Doctoral Research Fellow a la University of Fort Hare i una beca postdoctoral a la University of the Western Cape (Sud-àfrica). Ha estat investigador contractat pel projecte Grassroots Economics (GRECO) de l’European Research Council.
Jordi Gascón: Doctor per la UB. Ha treballat des del 1995 en l’àmbit de la cooperació internacional, on ha estat coordinador de l’àrea de projectes de la Xarxa de Consum Solidari i de l’àrea d’anàlisi del Foro de Turismo Responsable. Actualment és professor lector a la Universitat de Barcelona i forma part de l’Observatori de l’Alimentació (ODELA).
Modera: Camila del Mármol (UB)

Can we afford waiting?

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.

queingIn a context portrayed as a time of increasing speed and mobility, waiting has not deserve much academic attention. In words of Robin Kellerman, a transport scholar, “owing to a predominant academic attention for ‘kinetic’ promises of transport and mobility” (Kellerman 2019), wait is at the best conceived in a very simplistic way as a waste of resources, a waste of time. This was all too familiar to what I have encountered when I started thinking about immobility in contexts of high mobility. Sometimes I wonder if we are not falling again into the same trap as with international migration and methodological nationalism, and just focusing on what the neoliberal project promotes, labour flexibilization, uncontrolled or imposed mobility, incremental speed, acceleration… and disregarding anything that did not adjust to that frame as remains to be soon erased, elements from the past or temporal faults of the system, instead of conceiving immobility, waiting and similar categories as possible alternatives or even acts of resistance.

The more I think about the concept of waiting, the more I see the parallelism between the two pairings, migrating and staying put, and moving and waiting. Initially immobility had not deserved much academic attention as we had seen, as it was portrayed as a by default situation that did not need to be explained. Recent research has shown however how in fact immobility is as complex as migration and that there are many different ways of staying put. It seems to me that waiting as a research topic is still facing the same type of academic disregard, while holding great promise to shed light onto a great number of situations in this era of growing precariousness. If we think about it, precariousness and waiting are closely related. Precarious labour often means waiting times between short-time jobs, long working hours of waiting bodies in 24-hours cafés or off-licences, blurred job schedules that translates into a total availability of workers whose family, leisure and social spheres must always wait for the job to be done… The service-on-demand economy requires completely availability, and that can only be achieved with the presence of waiting bodies and minds, being constantly on call as a state of tense waiting….

There are many different questions that come to my mind when I think about waiting. Are we always forced to wait? Is waiting by definition a passive situation? Is it just an act of despair and lack of choice? Can waiting become an act of resistance in a context where mobility is praised as the essence of our times? Is waiting always synonym of being stuck? Can be consider waiting as a marker of class? Who can afford waiting? When is waiting a privilege and when is it a burden one cannot escape from? What means waiting in a context of accelerated mobility? Who chooses to wait? Who is forced to wait? Do we know enough about waiting?

I guess for most of us here, the first image that comes to our mind when thinking about waiting is a bus stop. We have all spent many hours waiting for undergrounds, buses, trains, flights and all sort of public means of transportation. Interestingly then, given the amount of time we are waiting to get somewhere else (sometimes the waiting time well exceeds that of the movement itself), there are very scarce projects focusing specifically on the experience of waiting. As David Bissel noted almost ten years ago “waiting through spaces of mobility is an often-inevitable and frequent experience woven through the fabric of the mobile everyday [but it is] strangely absent from the current and burgeoning mobilities literature” (2007: 277).

There is interestingly a fairly amount of research about waiting carried out by psychologists and economists on queuing and waiting lists. I recently learnt that there was an area of inquire called “queuing psychology” that shows that how people feel while waiting seems to matter more than the length of the wait. As research on queuing and the social organization of access and time management have shown, being forced to wait in a queue is a way of body governance, a filtering mechanism where some are allowed to pass through without further delay while others need to wait in long queues. We are all used by now to the classification of bodies in airports in fast priority lanes that go quickly through security checks while most of us wait next to them in long and slow queues.

A specific case of waiting is that of the waiting lists for life-saving surgeries. The ordering mechanism and the way a person is assigned a position in the list is literally of vital importance. There are all sorts of studies to show how to make more efficient those waiting lists, as well as studies that show how the ordering criteria may be biasing health appointment scheduling (e.g. Samorani et al. 2019; ). Waiting lists for health treatments and access to other public services also have priority lanes. The increased times in waiting lists for all public services is a consequence of the neoliberal dismantling of social security mechanisms which is closely linked to the state of growing life precariousness for many of us.

We can also think of more serious cases of waiting reported in the literature, particularly when a migratory project is not completed, and even when it cannot even start, and the migrant becomes stuck in some sort of immobility (Carling deals with involuntary immobility (2002); Ostbo with secondary immobilities (2012) and Suter with waiting in transit (2017)). With extremes cases being those ethnographic accounts of refugees and other groups in camps, detention sites or offshore processing spots as “lives of never-ending imprisonment” (Condon 2011: 356) waiting for a resettlement or the asylum seeking process to proceed. As we know from some of the narratives of refugees and asylum seekers in camps, life can just be hopeless waiting, a constant feeling of being stranded, without any control over the situation, no signs of the end of the waiting that leads to no hope for the future. Waiting as putting one’s life on hold, when that hold is imposed and there is no certainty that the hold would even finish. However, even in these extreme situations people keep on with getting in love, marrying, having children, eating, gathering… while waiting (Mountz 2011: 390).

On the other hand, we find those people who can afford to wait for the right opportunity to arise. In Economics there is a theory called the “option value of waiting” that explains by in the event of wage differentials, people still do not migrate or take longer to migrate that one would expected (Burda 1995). This is a modification of the so-called gravity models that explain migration as a way to restate wage equilibrium in different locations, but taking into account uncertainty and information deficits. The basic idea that underlies this option value of waiting is that in a context of uncertainty where there is no perfect information the more time goes by, the more information about a situation or an opportunity a person gets to gather. Economists have realized that waiting, for whoever that is possible and in a context of uncertainty, may entail positive consequences, making waiting and non-migrating a preferable option. This makes me think that waiting, being able to remain settled, can also be considered a valuable asset, or even a privilege that only some can afford. Waiting for the crisis to go away, waiting for better times to come, waiting to get offered a proper job…

The experience of waiting is probably shaped by the degree of voluntariness of the act of waiting. The pairing hope-uncertainty is important as hope may shape how people assess their future and develop their expectations (Müller-Funk 2019), and it may in turn affect the decision to wait and the experience of waiting itself. The despair and hopelessness attached sometimes to waiting is more related to the uncertainty than to the waiting itself. It is not the same to wait when one knows something will happen, than when the outcome is completely unpredictable. One can endure the current waiting as long as there is hope that something will come up in the future. Election and hope as two basic elements that shape the actual experience of waiting. In fact, we can see the element of election and voluntariness deriving from the assessment of how much one can afford to wait. I completely agree with Marco Di Nunzio when he states that: “those who wait are often those who can wait” (2019: 15). I also find interesting Marina de Regt’s work and her suggestion that gender, as with migration and immobility, seems to shape waiting: “Women seem to wait less; they do not have the time and possibility to wait and sit still, hoping that a change will come” (de Regt 2019). However, this is a narrow understanding of waiting, sitting still, that may not cover all the possible ways in which waiting is experienced. Waiting does not necessarily implies passivity or an exclusionary nature that prevents the development of simultaneous actions. In fact, if we think about it, doing nothing while waiting is a rather unusual thing. If waiting to get the work visa, one can still work. If waiting for the bus, one can still engage in small chat with whoever else is in the bus stop. If as a waiter waiting on for a customer to order a coffee, one can spend the time chatting with a friend over the phone. If waiting for the crisis to go away, some people can still live a perfectly complex and full of action life. I quote here Brenda Gray: “waiting is not something that takes place in suspended time or outside of “doing” things, but instead as an active and intentional process, integral of constructions of subjectivity and significantly shaping the lived life” (Gray 2011: 421). However, we are guided by binary notions of waiting vis-à-vis productivity that do not leave space to thinking waiting as active or intentional (Condon 2011: 357).

Waiting has a definitive time dimension, it projects itself into the future: it definitively a future-laden concept. Waiting is a form of anticipation. It is often understood as a trade-off between now and later; to be at hold in the present for something else in the future. However, this derives from a time linearity that can be questioned. “Within the linear and ‘productivist’ time perception of Western societies, waiting times are primarily perceived as causing economic as well as psychological costs […] Concealed by an inflationary attention for movements and masked by a ‘modernist’ passion for concepts of high‐speed and tempo” (Kellermann 2015: 3). We want things and we want them as soon as possible. And this can be read both, for waiting times for transport, but also for life changing projects. Immediacy as the supreme goal of our fast-speed world. If it was ever true, we have missed by now the pleasures of waiting. But, what if we change the perspective and instead of only focusing on what people wait for, expand it to include also who people wait with and what people do while waiting. What if we look around, to the people we wait with? How resistance and activism can appear while waiting? “What is ‘waiting with’ as a form of experience?” (Mattingly 2019: 18). So similarly to how immobility can be a desired situation, requiring life strategies to be able to stay put, waiting can be an active and intentional situation with time for other doings to take place, including a collective and even activist element if waiting with someone else.

It is clear that waiting seems to afford “considerable conceptual, social and political breath” (Condon 2011: 355) and that there is much to be learnt from looking at the ambiguities of waiting, including how waiting can be actively experienced and the fact that activism can take place in waiting (Condon 2011: 355). So good things may or may not come to those who wait, because as it is often the cases, there are different ways of waiting.

Im/mobility and Waiting in Times of Uncertainty

anthromobI 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?

Academy Colloquium ‘Renewing the migration debate: building disciplinary and geographical bridges to explain global migration’. Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam, 16–18 October 2019


I am so happy that I will be discussing the future of migration research with colleagues in a truly interesting event next 15th October in Amsterdam. I will be talking in the session about “Migration as a function of aspirations and capabilities – new conceptual developments of micro level migration drivers”. It is an honour to be able to share with Jorgen Carling (PRIO) and Karily Schewel and Hein de Haas (UvA) the future of two-step models. For those interested in this approach, the paper published by Carling and Schewel in 2018 provides a good overview of the state-of-the-art and challenges facing this approach.

It is however ironic been discussing the future of migration research in a moment I am forced to leave Academia. I hope it is only temporary.

Differentiation processes between non-native groups in a Barcelona neighbourhood

ersWho can be from a place where virtually everyone –or at least everyone’s parents or grandparents– come from somewhere else? Who are “we”, in such a context? And, what resources can such “we” claim rights over? Over two years, from 2016 to 2018, I explored these questions in a peripheral neighbourhood in the city of Barcelona. The area, which was traditionally subjected to territorial stigma, was built in its current shape by internal migrants coming to the city from other parts of Spain in the second half of the twentieth century. More recently, at the turn of the millennium, people coming from abroad moved in to this part of the city. In such a context, how do the more established groups differentiated themselves from the more recently arrived?

The research identified the boundary-work carried out by the more estabished group and how it is substantivized thanks to the Barcelona-wide “civic ideology”. This way the project  showed how concrete public policies and the rhetoric used to justify them serves as a resource for the articulation of social boundaries at the micro level.

By focusing on the discursive construction of we and them between internal and international migrants, the research contributes to the denaturalisation of the sometimes problematic clear-cut categorization between internal and international migration as King and Skeldon did in their fantastic 2010 article Mind the gap! Integrating Approaches to Internal and International Migration, and which is one of the negative consequences of the well-spread methodological nationalism in Migration Research (Wimmer and Glick Schiller 2002).

The article is coming soon in the prestigious journal Ethnic and Racial Studies!

CfP Participatory Methods in Migration Research

Call for Papers




[You can download the pdf version of the CfP here]


Human mobility is a highly interdisciplinary and complex issue which has been approached from diverse national academic traditions and methodologies of investigation (DeTona et al 2010). Although the study of migration was initially dominated by empiricist-positivist approaches, there is by now a well-established tradition of qualitative studies (Iosifides and Sporton 2009). More recently, within the realm of feminist, critical and experimental scholarship, there has been an upsurge of new and creative methodological developments. These include a diversity of participatory approaches, ranging from social action-research, to research involving different types of participation (Arnstein 1969). This is particularly relevant at a time when not only scholars but also different institutions are currently promoting participation and societal involvement in research. This work has questioned well-established separations such as those between researcher and research participants, or between academia, activism and social work (Pereira et al. 2016). So far, though, these studies have not received systematized attention and to a large extend remain as scattered small case studies. Trying to redress this situation, this special issue aims to showcase overall connections and developments by providing an updated account of participatory approaches in migration studies, and to provide a fora to reflect on the possibilities, limits and challenges of making use of participatory methods in migration research.

We particularly welcome articles reflection on one or more of the following topics:

  • The nature of scientific knowledge and participatory methods:

Given that participatory projects often imply the use of artistic or non-textual elements, they compel us to consider the nature of scientific research, and how to accommodate other forms of knowledge production and dissemination. These include but are not limited to, considerations about how to account for the inclusion of the body and the sensorium into this type of research.

  • Gender dimension of participatory research:

We are particularly interested in works that reflect on the possible existence of a gendered aspect of participatory methodologies. Some elements found in many participatory projects (e.g. nurturing in research, carrying projects in personal time, non-conventional publication venues) may even contribute to the gender productivity gap in Academia and therefore work against already disadvantaged scholars (peripheral, female or early career researchers). In particular, we welcome considerations about if, and how, these methodologies may link, contribute and interpellate the postulates of the Slow Academia and feminist approaches to academic life and purpose.

  • Participation and power:

Participatory research is an umbrella term under which sits a wide-ranging variety of projects, therefore the need of studies on definitions and core features of participatory research and methodologies. These may take the form of review articles that report on the appearance and development of participatory projects in different disciplines (as long as they have any relation with migration), or works that attempt to advance conceptual clarity by mapping participatory projects. We are expressly interested in the power dynamics between different parties taking part in participatory projects, and in particular on the power dynamics that lead to define who is to participate and what participation actually means.

  • Structural obstacles:

Finally, we welcome accounts of the limiting and enabling forces around the possibility and sustainability of these type projects over time. Reflections on how to come around the issue of problematic access to funding particularly when involving open research agendas are needed. We foresee that comparative studies or projects carried out in areas or scholarly traditions other than Anglo-Saxon or European ones, may provide insights on the structural features of academic research that hinder or bloom the possibility of carrying out participatory projects.

Ideally, we envisage articles that present specific participatory projects from any discipline and covering any geographical scope and migrant group, but which go beyond the case-study at hand and provide broader theoretical reflections.


Contributors are invited to submit 500-words abstracts which address any of the topics above or is coherent with the broad theoretical conceptualization of the Special Issue by December 15th, 2018. All submitted proposals should not have previously been published or be currently under review for publication. Proposals need to be submitted by email to all the SI editors:

Diana Mata-Codesal,

Concha Maiztegi,

Laure Kloetzer,

Authors will be informed about the outcome of the pre-selection process by 15th January 2018.

Full drafts of 3,500-4,000 words excluding references, tables and graphs will need to be submitted by 1st April 2019. Please note that full articles will have to undergo double blind peer review in order to be accepted into the final publication.


Migration Letters is abstracted and indexed widely, including by SCOPUS and Web of Science. It is ranked as a Q1 journal in ScImago. It is the first ever letter-type journal in migration studies following a strict double blind peer review policy for research articles. It is published four times a year in January, April, July and October. For more information please see the journal webpage

Cuerpos malolientes

A lo largo de la historia ciertos cuerpos han sido descalificados como malolientes. Los cuerpos de los mendigos, los extranjeros, los pobres, judíos, gitanos, prostitutas… todos ellos han sido en algún momento rechazados por hediondos. Los cuerpos explotados en trabajos físicamente demandantes, huelen siempre a sudor, indendientemente de lo limpios que en realidad estén, porque el olor es un marcador simbólico: oler es estar sucio, tanto física como moralmente.

Los grupos malolientes cambian según las necesidades del contexto pero los mecanismos de descalificación que utilizan el olor como marca de inferioridad se mantienen. En general lo que comparten todos los grupos calificados como malolientes es su localización marginal en el orden social. Algunos están en la parte inferior de la jerarquía, otros directamente están fuera de la clasificación social. Los otros, los inferiores, los diferentes, los marginados, los excluidos, huelen.

Texto originalmente escrito en catalán para La Directa:

Disponible en español en el blog de OACU:

Si te interesa el tema tal vez quieras leerte el artículo en AIBR-Revista de Antropología Iberoamericana El olor del cuerpo migrante en la ciudad desodorizada. Simbolismo olfativo en los procesos de clasificación social.

Aquí huele a capitalismo

Me decía un amigo que había vivido en Suiza en los tiempos de la emigración española a Europa allá por los años sesenta, que entonces eran los españoles los que olían mal. Obligados a vivir hacinados en condiciones precarias, el gueto español desprendía olor a chorizo y cebolla. Décadas después estas representaciones parecían no haber existido y la convivencia con esos migrantes del sur de Europa en los paises europes como Suiza o Francia se presentaba como libre de tensiones. En 1991, el entonces alcalde de París y futuro presidente de la república francesa Jacques Chirac hizo un polémico discurso en el que, además de la ya clásica referencia acusadora a la supuesta buena vida que se ve que da vivir de las ayudas sociales, mencionaba el ruido y el olor [le bruit et l’odeur] que salían de las casas de algunos inmigrantes en Francia como un motivo que justificaba las quejas racistas de algunos trabajadores franceses (blancos). El discurso no tiene desperdido. Entre otras cosas decía Chirac que “Puede ser verdad que no hay más extranjeros que antes de la guerra, pero no son del mismo tipo. Es cierto que había españoles, polacos y portugueses trabajando aquí, pero eso generaba menos problemas que tener musulmanes o negros”. El mal olor que se atribuía a les espagnoles  desaparece de los registros sustituído ahora por el de los inmigrantes árabes y africanos. De hecho, en cada momento, los cuerpos explotados en trabajos físicamente demandantes, huelen siempre a sudor, indendientemente de lo limpios que en realidad estén, porque el olor es un marcador simbólico: oler es estar sucio, tanto física como moralmente.

Puedes seguir leyendo el texto aquí está el texto original publicado en La Directa (en catalán):

En español en el blog del Observatorio de Antropología del Conflicto Urbano: