Keywords of Mobility: Critical Engagements.

Author:Nelson, Katie
Position:Book review
 
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Keywords of Mobility: Critical Engagements Edited by Noel B. Salazar and Kiran Jayaram New York: Berghahn Books, 2016, 188 pp.

Keywords of Mobility, edited by Noel Salazar and Kiran Jayaram, offers an important methodological and analytical contribution to the literature on studies of human mobilities. The framework for the volume is inspired by Raymond Williams's seminal Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1976), which explored the changing meanings and historical constructions of important terms used in studies of culture and society. As such, the volume presents ethnographically informed discussions of eight key terms related to mobility: capital, cosmopolitanism, freedom, gender, immobility, infrastructure, motility, and regime. Grounded in anthropology and informed by trans-disciplinary mobility studies, the authors rely on ethnographic analyses from a refreshing combination of both American and European perspectives. Each chapter interrogates the genealogies of a keyword and its (often) contradictory meanings and provides ethnographic examples. Together they offer penetrating critical perspectives on mobility that are at once method and theory, a formidable praxis on the study of mobility.

The introduction by Noel B. Salazar is perhaps one of the strongest sections of the book. He outlines the approach the book takes and deftly summarizes the scholarship on mobility, which he defines as an assemblage of movement, social meanings, and the trans-local connections made by people as they experience geographic and other movement. In chapter 1, Kiran Jayaram provides a decidedly Marxian analysis of the keyword capital. In particular, he critiques the term mobility capital as it is frequently used in mobility studies, suggesting instead that we consider capital as a process. This, he offers, allows scholars greater opportunities to interrogate the "capital-mobility nexus," as he calls it, to fill in the incomplete scholarship on these topics. In chapter 2, Malasree Neepa Acharya traces the multiple meanings as well as the genealogy of the term cosmopolitan She discusses the ways it has been used as to indicate mobility and the potential for mobility but also addresses the pitfalls of its elitist connotations and uses. She suggests, instead, that cosmopolitanism holds the possibility for reflexivity and de-centring its normative power. Her conclusion points to the subversive potential of plural definitions of cosmopolitanism by...

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