The Trade, Transit and Travel team held its first public panel in Ottawa at the CASCA/IUAES conference 2 May 2017, entitled “The roads most travelled: ethnographic approaches to buffer zones, crossroads and spaces in-between.” Patricia Scalco and Laia Soto Bermant wrote the abstract and planned it. It was also an opportunity for me to explore some new research ideas concerning quarantine and location.
A PDF of the panel and the abstracts is below, which outlines what Patricia Scalco, Laia Soto Bermant and I discussed in the first half of the panel, and also shows how three others, inspired by the ideas in the panel, interpreted what we were doing. One paper was based on fieldwork involving following bus routes that took passengers between Armenia and Turkey, given that the border between those two countries is closed (it involved a detour through Georgia); another was on the rise of populist nationalism in Sicily in the wake of high numbers of undocumented migrants arriving on the island, and the bizarre way in which a luxury housing estate in the countryside ended up being used to provide shelter for these people; and the third was about the German-Polish border (a border between two EU countries that are in the Schengen zone, so the border should not matter very much), in which Polish people move into Germany to ensure their kids get a German education and learn a foreign language, and then move back again. That latter one definitely demonstrates that we need to expand our lexicon: these are not really migrants; they are no members of a diaspora; actually, they have practically not moved at all. Fascinating.
In terms of our ongoing projects, this panel was enlightening. The one idea all three ‘visitor’ scholars caught onto immediately was the concept of ‘locating regimes.’ Less clear for them were the ideas of ‘relative locations’ and ‘crosslocations’. In addition, everyone likes the idea of shifting the concept of identity away from the main focus, so as to see other things going on in relation to people and location.