Journal Articles

Shock Mobilities During Moments of Acute Uncertainty

Mukta Naik
Biao Xiang, William L. Allen, Shahram Khosravi, Hélène Neveu Kringelbach, Yasmin Y. Ortiga, Karen Anne S. Liao, Jorge E. Cuéllar, Lamea Momen, Priya Deshingkar


July 25, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic and interventions addressing it raise important questions about human mobility that have geopolitical implications. This forum uses mobility and immobility during the pandemic as lenses onto the ways that routinised state power reacts to acute uncertainties, as well as how these reactions impact politics and societies. Specifically, we propose the concept of “shock mobility” as migratory routines radically reconfigured: emergency flights from epicentres, mass repatriations, lockdowns, quarantines. Patterns of shock mobility and immobility are not new categories of movement, but rather are significant alterations to the timing, duration, intensity, and relations among existing movements. Many of these alterations have been induced by governments’ reactions to the pandemic in both migrant-sending and receiving contexts, which can be especially consequential for migrants in and from the Global South. Our interventions explore these processes by highlighting experiences of Afghans and Kurds along Iran’s borders, Western Africans in Europe, Filipino workers, irregular Bangladeshis in Qatar, Central Americans travelling northwards via Mexico, and rural-urban migrants in India. In total, we argue that tracing shocks’ dynamics in a comparative manner provides an analytical means for assessing the long-term implications of the pandemic, building theories about how and why any particular post-crisis world emerges as it does, and paving the way for future empirical work.

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