Why is mobility relevant to us?

Packing a suitcase and moving to a new place is not a fact of fiction. Academically speaking, ‘mobilities’ are understood as movement of people, objects, spaces and information. So, in reality when one moves to another country they are packing more than just their suitcase.

What I am trying to find out is why and how young adults on the youth mobility scheme (YMS) of the UK immigration policy travel, live in the UK and make sense of this experience; not just in their physical but also their ‘virtual’ (online) lives.

While I was working on a migration research project looking at migration of women domestic workers with the Centre for Development Studies, India, I discovered that most of the literature on gendered migration used the lens of economic purpose/ family reunification. I was curious to understand migration and mobility for leisure and the role of gender norms and identities in it. This curiosity took me to literature on backpackers, travellers and those on working holiday. I realised that there was a gap within academic research to understand travellers on temporary migration and how their mobility is affected through the pathways of contemporary border control policies. Postill and Pink (2012: 1) call for a renewed approach to internet research moving beyond the traditional paradigms of network and community to focus on ‘routine, movement and sociality’, bringing social media ethnography within the orbit of the ‘mobilities turn’ in the social sciences (Urry, 2007).

I aim to present my ongoing doctoral research through the methods of ethnography, semi-structured interviews and participant observation to understand the lives and experience of participants on the youth mobility scheme (YMS) of the United Kingdom immigration policy. I will be drawing from several theories on work, gender and border technologies while I will be aiming to map out the connected lives and the importance of the same in their mobility.

I also aim to understand through my research the gendered patterns of ‘mobile’ lives that brought me to realise the significance of connectivity and social media in contemporary mobility and migration pathways.

List of References:

    • Hannam, K., Sheller, M., & Urry, J. (2006). Editorial: Mobilities, immobilities and moorings. Mobilities, 1(1), 1-22
  • Postill, J. and Pink, S. (2012). Social media ethnography: The digital researcher in a messy web. Media International Australia.
  • Urry, J. (2007). Mobilities, London: Sage

Image credits: PROMatthias Ripp (CC BY 2.0)

Elsa Oommen
Doctoral Researcher at Department of Sociology, University of Warwick |

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